It’s named after the Griffon Vultures that live high up on the craggy sides of the gorge.
The gorge has been created by the erosion of the limestone rock over millions of
years by the river Guadiaro that passes on through the beautiful town of
Ronda. At points the canyon sides rise to 200 metres high – very impressive.
The starting point is Estación de Cortes de la Frontera, and if you have a 4 x 4 you can actually get much
closer to the canyon without such a hike, (probably cut it in half) but we were
walking with a group organised by the Grazalema Natural Park (find them on face
book under ‘Parque Natural Sierra Grazalema’), so it was a full day’s activity.
We met at the small railway village of Estación de Cortes de la Frontera, west of Ronda. This
once sleepy railway cuts right through the valley up to the canyon, and is now
forming part of Europe’s strategic freight network, so has been massively
upgraded in recent years – so the inter-village service that passes through
this beautiful countryside is running on shiny, state of the art rails!
The start of the walk passes through some small
farmsteads and ‘huertas’ – quite homespun residences with plenty of hens,
goats, donkeys etc outside together with plenty of paraphernalia. I couldn’t
help by think of ‘Withnail and I’ and their cottage in the Lake District!
Before long the track passes through open countryside and you get some amazing
views of the valley.
I only had my iphone so did take many shots, but you
can see more on Matt’s blog here and also elsewhere online.
There is a derelict cottage on the route with old twisted
fig trees outside; the bark had fascinating textures.
The route is easily until the last bit. Once you reach
the derelict cottage, the track becomes little more than a narrow, steep path
leading to very steep rocks that you have to climb down. Yet it is so worth it,
as then you get to the ancient narrow bridge that passes over the gorge at one
of its narrowest points, where you can see the water rushing through the gorge,
and even in early winter, there is vibrant plant life.
After the foot bridge, originally used by the mules carrying products through the sierra, there is a low tunnel that leads out on
the other side of the gorge.