Ventana del visitante of the protected nature areas in Andalusia

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Ventana del visitante of the protected nature areas in Andalusia
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NATURAL AREA TORCAL DE ANTEQUERA

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The Torcal de Antequera Natural Area is home to one of the most impressive areas of karst (limestone) landscapes anywhere in Europe. Its name comes from the dolines or "torcas", strange rock formations in the shape of circular depressions.

Limestone dominates at El Torcal. This rock is 150 million years old, formed by marine sediments that are highly susceptible to erosion. The slow but constant action of rain, snow and wind on this material gradually shaped this characteristic landscape. Its caves and fissures are the perfect environment for caving and potholing. Some of these caves, such as El Toro and La Marinaleda I, contain marks left behind by prehistoric man.

Two routes are ideal for exploring this city of stone. The path that leads from the Torcal Alto Visitor Centre, known as the green route, will show you the most spectacular karst formations. Here you can walk along the "Callejón Oscuro" and the "Callejón del Tabaco", some of the many narrow walkways produced by the sinking of fractures in the rock. The rock here forms an ensemble of natural sculptures, some with strangely familiar forms, such as ¿El Tornillo¿ (the Screw), a designated Natural Monument, "El Sombrerillo" (the Little Hat), "El Cáliz" (the Chalice) and "El Dado" (the Die). There are many more just waiting to be defined by your own imagination.

This area combines great beauty and a rugged appearance, and also contains rich, varied vegetation with some unique species. Here, holm oaks, Portuguese oaks, rowans and maple trees grow alongside plants adapted to living in fissures in the rocks. This is known as rupiculous vegetation, and the Torcal Bajo area is the perfect place to see it.

There is a wide variety of bird life, such as the griffon vulture and eagle owl, as well as mammals like foxes and weasels. Along with this Torcal Bajo area, there is the Ventanillas Viewpoint that looks out over the Campanillas River, offering beautiful views of the landscape and the village of Villanueva de la Concepción.

Close to El Torcal is the city of Antequera. Its position at the geographical centre of Andalusia led to the passing of many cultures who left their mark here. The walls of its castle, and the many towers and monasteries/convents stand out amidst the city's traditional architecture of roofs with Moorish tiles and whitewashed façades. To this day, the convents produce exquisite traditional sweets such as "alfajores", "angelorum" and "bienmesabe". In terms of gastronomy, don¿t miss the city's famous "molletes" (soft bread rolls), "ajoblanco" (cold garlic and almond soup) and "porra antequerana" (similar to gazpacho). Antequera's long tradition of work in precious metals has given way to other crafts in wicker, esparto grass, glass, iron and wood.

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