Immediately to the north of Marbella, at the southern tip of the Parque Natural de la Sierra de las Nieves, the Sierra Blanca is associated in most people’s mind with one emblematic mountain: La Concha. Wherever you are on the stretch of coast between San Pedro and Marbella its gracious, shell-like southern face rises like a multi-layered cake, providing a stunning backdrop to the villas that dot its lower slopes.
Behind La Concha’s denuded, sea-facing slope a more verdant swathe of sierra stretches between Istán and Ojén and north and south from the former hunting lodge of the Refugio de Juanar. Stands of repopulated pines, ancient groves of olives, almonds and chestnuts are interspersed with forest of holm and cork oak along with two small stands of Spanish firs.
Hiking up La Concha
Climbing Marbella’s iconic peak is a popular activity. It stands 1,200 metres above sea level and the actual walking part is eight kilometres from the Refugio de Juanar, which is in the Sierra Blanca natural park.
To get there, take the A-7 direction and exit at signs for the Centro Comercial La Cañada-Ojen (A-355). Continue for 11 kilometres along this road and turn left at the sign for El Refugio de Juanar, where you will need to drive another five kilometres to the starting point of the mountain trail.
Once you’re on the trail you’ll find signs directing you through the forested areas, lined with olive groves, walnut trees and bushes laden with berries (depending n the time of year). You might even spot some local wildlife in the form of goats, eagles and owls.
For many families this is an enjoyable weekend activity. A number of local residents also use the La Concha climb as a means of raising funds for charity, and some people even like to take their clothes off when they reach the top and look out over Marbella lying beneath—quite sure that nobody can see them up there, apart from the odd passing bird.
If you do plan to climb this beautiful mountain, make sure you go well equipped. Bring water, sunscreen, a full charged mobile phone (emergency services 112) and let someone know where you are going. There is one section of the walk that is slightly exposed around ‘El Salto del Lobo’, and care needs to be taken here, particularly on windy days. However, as the walk is linear you can turn back at any point. And, don’t forget to wear shoes or boots suitable for hiking; leave your flip-flops for the beach!