General Description: A linear walk with fantastic views and a surprise at the top.
Distance: 10 kilometres, 3.5 hours
Grade: Difficult due to steep inclines.
Essential: Wind and waterproofs, boots
Start: Take the Benahavis road from the N340/A7 between Benavista and San Pedro. Park on the main road into Benahavis.
The route out of Benahavis is not marked and the first part takes you through new construction works that seem to have destroyed the first part of what was the Camino Monte Mayor. It is now possible to drive along a new road for about 1 kilometre and cut out the first steep slog. The entire outer way is uphill the only respite being less steep uphill bits. The last part should not be attempted unless you have good boots and a companion, it's a long way down from a narrow, and, when wet, slippery, path.
From your car walk into Benahavis along the Avenida Andalucia until you reach Calle Monte Mayor on your left. Turn left here and walk until you see Restaurante La Cartuja on your right. Turn left here and at the top of this street you will see a road sign for Castillo de Monte Mayor pointing right. Follow this sign and the road takes you up out of the village. This new road winds steeply up to a roundabout that is the limit for cars.
From the roundabout turn right down a wide track with posts where a chain used to be. You will soon reach a fork where you bear left up a rough track that clings to the side of the hill and brings you out in a clearing with the first of the views towards La Concha and Marbella ahead. You should see an isolated tree growing from a hummock where you bear right and take the path ahead. If in doubt just choose the steepest uphill path.
At a fork you will see a yellow mark on a rock to your left. Bear left here until you reach a 'T' junction on a ridge with a steel post either side of the track. Turn left here.
Continue until you reach another junction. To your right are the gates to a large villa perched on a hill. Turn left and immediately right to continue heading uphill. You will see a concrete building ahead and a fork in the track. Bear right. At a fork a short way further bear left and walk up on top of the ridge. Off to your right you will see Los Reales and down the coast to Gibraltar and Africa and to your left La Concha and Marbella.
The ridge takes you to the foot of Monte Mayor and the path continues up behind a gnarled old cork oak tree. From here the path is narrow and winds right the way to the top. There are no shortages of excuses to get your breath back here. The views inland towards Ronda and Torrecilla are stunning. It was also on this section that we found the rare Narcissus cantabricus and a pretty Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) with both edible berries and blossom growing on the tree at the same time.
Finally clambering to the top you find yourself in the ruined Castillo de Monte Mayor. This 11th Century fortress was built by the Sultan Havis to take advantage of the commanding views of over 100 kilometres of coastline from Gibralter to the lighthouse at Cabo near Fuengirola and allow adequate warning of invasion by pirates that was a common occurrence then. Sultan Havis built a second castle nearby for his son. Benahavis literally means Son of Havis.Having regained your breath look on the bright side, it's all downhill from here.
© Nicholas Craig Nutter 2004 - 2012. Nick Nutter asserts his rights as the author of this article and all associated images. This article and images may not be copied or reproduced in any way without written permission of the author.