Monday, June 12, 2017

Spain's Endangered Species

SPAIN’S biodiversity is one of the richest in Europe but it is also among the most fragile.
Climate change, urban development, human encroachment and hunting are all taking their toll on the country’s majestic fauna, including some you may never even have heard of.
Some wonderful conservation work is being carried out but there is a long way to go before Spain’s endangered species are safe. Check out 11 native species still living life on the edge.
You never know you could see one of these great creatures on one of our walking holidays in Spain.
Iberian lynxIberian_Lynx
The world’s most at-risk species and Spain’s most impressive success story to date. Once dead cats walking, combined efforts by the government, EU, WWF and other NGOs brought the lynx back from the brink of extinction in the early 2000s to more than 400 adults today. There is still work to be done though, as the lynx is still classed as endangered, with both illegal hunting and road kill continuing to take their toll.
Iberian Wolf60_1iberian_wolf__c_
Wolves roamed the Riberano peninsula until the 1900s but Franco started an extermination campaign in the 1950s and 60s, when they were classified as vermin.The campaign wiped them out from all of Spain except the Sierra de la Culebra in the north west. Numbers are beginning to stabilise but are still nowhere near previous levels. Conservation efforts have often been hampered by hunters and farmers who see them as a threat to their livestock.
Cantabrian brown bear

Cantabrian brown bear
Cantabrian brown bear

This Eurasian bear dwells in the Cantabrian mountains of the north. It’s a timid animal, and will avoid human contact where possible. The hunting of these bears was legal until the 1960s and the population diminished to just 80. They were finally granted protection in 1973 and have clawed their way back to more than 200.
Spanish imperial eaglespanish imperial-eagle
Unlike its migratory Eurasian cousins, this noble bird is a permanent resident of central and south-west Spain and parts of Portugal. The species was shot, poisoned and caught in traps until there were only 30 pairs left in the 1960s. Numbers have revived to around 300-400 but the eagle is still vulnerable to hunting, deforestation and chemical contamination
Sierra Nevada blue butterfly

Sierra Nevada blue butterfly
Sierra Nevada blue butterfly

One of four endangered butterfly species endemic to Spain, the females are dark brown and the males a brilliant blue. But it is losing habitat to overgrazing, development of ski resorts, climate change and people trampling vegetation on pathways.
Broom hare

Broom hare
Broom hare

This heathland-loving hare is another species endemic to the Cantabrian mountains. It lives high up among the peaks,but comes down in winter to escape the cold and snow. Their biggest threat is hunting, especially while they are isolated during the winter.
Pyrenean desman

Pyrenean desman
Pyrenean desman

A small, semi-aquatic nocturnal mammal related to moles and shrews, the Pyrenean desman is one of Spain’s more unusual species. It is under threat from the construction of dams, pollution, mining and the invasion of its habitat by the invasive American mink.
Black vulture

Black vulture
Black vulture

Seriously threatened in the 1970s when numbers were reduced to just 200 breeding pairs, conservation has led to a healthy increase although this south west native is still listed as endangered. Illegal toxins used by farmers to kill rabbits and foxes make their way through the food chain to cause a serious threat to the black vulture. The birds also meet a gruesome end in collisions with wind turbines which are constructed on elevated areas, their main habitat.
Mediterranean monk seal

El Hierro giant lizard
Mediterranean monk seal

Living across the Mediterranean and on the southeastern coast of Spain, this is the rarest seal species in the world. In the past, monk seals used to congregate on open beaches but threats from human sun worshippers have led them to seek shelter in less-easily accessible caves.
El Hierro giant lizard

El Hierro giant lizard
El Hierro giant lizard

Unique to a tiny four-hectare area on the island of El Hierro in the Canaries, this large-scale wall lizard which can grow to two feet in length was only discovered in 1974. Now classified as critically endangered due to predation by feral cats and dogs, the population stands at 300 to 400.
Canary big-eared bat

Canary big eared bat
Canary big eared bat

These moth-eating winged mammals are primarily found in elevated woodland areas and mainly hang around in caves and abandoned buildings. They are threatened by deforestation, pesticides and building renovation. Endemic to the Canary Islands, only two colonies are known, one on La Palma and one on Tenerife.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Marsh Harrier Bird Population In Andalucia On The Increase

According to the Junta de Andalucia - A total of 693 Marsh harrier nests have been recorded this nesting season. That is the second highest recording of nests since 2004.

The findings are a big boost for the Junta, which has been working with ecologists, volunteers and farmers to bolster the numbers of the bird, most commonly found in the south of Cadiz.

Teams have carried out a number of measure to increase the population, including leaving trees near nests untouched, delaying ploughing until the chicks have grown, moving the nests to safer places and rescuing chicks.

The birds can be found in all Andalucian provinces bar Almeria, with Sevilla home to the largest population overall.

You can see these birds in Grazalema and the Sierra Nevada on all our guided and self guided walking holidays in Andalucia, Spain.

The Marsh Harrier
From Wikipedia:-
The western marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus), often simply called the marsh harrier, breeds widely across Europe and Asia. It is migratory except in the mildest regions, and winters mainly in Africa. It hunts small mammals, frogs, fish, insects and birds, surprising them as it drifts low over fields and reedbeds. Its long legs allow it to pluck frogs and fish from the water mid-swoop. The western marsh harrier is a typical harrier, with long wings held in a shallow V in its low flight. It also resembles other harriers in having distinct male and female plumages, but its plumages are quite different from those of its relatives. The male has wings with grey and brown sections and black wingtips. Its head, tail and underparts are greyish, except for the chestnut belly. The female is mainly brown with a cream crown and cream leading edge to her wings. It is 19-22 inches long and weighs 1-2 lbs

Granada Perfume Museum

A perfume museum has opened in a 17th-century Renaissance palace in Granada.

As the palace historically had a laboratory dedicated to perfume making, essential oil extraction and ceramics, it makes perfect scents.

Now the opulent building is open to visitors who wish to discover the techniques used in creating the fragrances.

A 45-minute guided tour of Patio de los Perfumes is available from 10am to 8pm during which visitors can view perfume exhibitions. There are also workshops for those who would like to create their own unique scent, run under the guidance of a professional perfume maker.

Ethnobotanist and perfumier Christian Pamies and natural cosmetics specialist Valérie Sabini, both from France, are the brains behind the new olfactory opportunity.

You can add this visit to any holiday guided or self-guided walking holiday in the Sierra Nevada and Las Alpujarras.

(from the

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Newsletter January 2017

 Happy New Year to one and all. We have been very busy getting the new website running and organising all the holidays for the 2017.
A full year ahead with lots of holidays still available to join or walk self-guided at any time of year.

Our next walking holiday in our beautiful Walking In Blossom short holidays. Staying in the beautiful Alquiera De Morayma hotel for 4 nights, all transfers, all meals and 3 guided walks.
Walking In BlossomLOW23/02/174554 PLACES LEFT        
Walking In Blossom LOW 02/03/174552 PLACES LEFT 

You can see all our guided walking holidays on our new website here - Guided Walking Holidays.  We also have all our self guided itineraries available to reserve to start on any day or date.

Please contact us for more information for availability on any of our holidays.

Looking forward to seeing you in 2017...
New Granada Experience!
We have now a Granada experience available for you to add to self-guided or guided weeks in the Sierra Nevada. This includes Alhambra tickets, a 6 course meal at the fabulous Mirador de Morayma and Flamenco at the best show in Granada. We also use a lovely hotel 10mins walk away from the Alhambra and just 5 for Granada centre.
The name Alhambra comes from an Arabic root which means "red or crimson castle", perhaps due to the hue of the towers and walls that surround the entire hill of La Sabica which by starlight is silver but by sunlight is transformed into gold. But there is another more poetic version, evoked by the Moslem analysts who speak of the construction of the Alhambra fortress "by the light of torches", the reflections of which gave the walls their particular coloration. Created originally for military purposes, the Alhambra was an "alcazaba" (fortress), an "alcázar" (palace) and a small "medina" (city), all in one. This triple character helps to explain many distinctive features of the monument.
There is no reference to the Alhambra as being a residence of kings until the 13th century, even though the fortress had existed since the 9th century. The first kings of Granada, the Zirites, had their castles and palaces on the hill of the Albaicin, and nothing remains of them. The Nasrites were probably the emirs who built the Alhambra, starting in 1238.
The founder of the dynasty, Muhammed Al-Ahmar, began with the restoration of the old fortress. His work was completed by his son Muhammed II, whose immediate successors continued with the repairs. The construction of the palaces (called Casa Real Vieja, "old Royal House or Palace") dates back to the 14th century and is the work of two great kings: Yusuf I and Muhammed V. To the first we owe, among others, the "Cuarto de Comares" (Chamber of Comares), the "Puerta de la Justicia" (Gate of Justice), the Baths and some towers. His son, Muhammed V, completed the beautification of the palaces with the "Cuarto de los Leones" (Chamber of the Lions), as well as other rooms and fortifications.
The Alhambra became a Christian court in 1492 when the Catholic Monarchs (Ferdinand and Isabel) conquered the city of Granada. Later, various structures were built for prominent civilians also military garrisons, a church and a Franciscan monastery.
Emperor Charles V, who spent several months in Granada, began the construction of the palace which bears his name and made some alterations to the interior buildings. These measures were to cause interminable controversy often motivated by political agendas. The remaining Austrian kings did not forget the monument and have left their own more discreet impressions on it.
During the 18th century and part of the 19th, the Alhambra fell into neglect and was to see its salons converted into dungheaps and taverns,occupied by thieves and beggars. "Thus bats defile abandoned castles, and the reality of Spanish criminals and beggars destroy the illusion of this fairy palace of the Moors;" writes Richard Ford. As the crowning blow, Napoleon's troops, masters of Granada from 1808 until 1812, were to convert the palaces into barracks During one retreat they mined the towers and blew up part of them. Two of them, the Torre de Siete Suelos and the Torre de Agua were left in ruins. And so the incredible neglect continued, until 1870 when the Alhambra was declared a national monument. Travellers and romantic artists of all countries had railed against those who scorned the most beautiful of their monuments. Since that date and up to now, the Alhambra, protected, restored, cared for and even improved, has been preserved for the pleasure and admiration of all.The Alhambra became an UNESCO World Heritages site in 1984. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Cabo De Gata 2016 - Trip Report

Cabo de Gata a Marine Natural Park just 40 mins to the East of Almeria.

This was our first walking holiday here so the group we picked up from Almeria airport were guinea pigs! The group were all friends who had walked with Ibex before so that made it easier.

We started the walking holiday in Agua Amarga (bitter waters)a small whitewashed seaside village - quiet but with enough bars to keep you happy. We stayed at the homely Hotel Family. The rooms here are large and comfortable with a lovely swimming pool. The food is excellent, some of the best I have had in 10 years in Andalucia. Marcs(the owner) wife is Moroccan and the tajines of lamb and chicken that were on offer were fantastic large tasty portions. The breakfast was even larger with a whole host of foods on offer from pancakes to eggs anyway you liked, all freshly cooked and with an array of homemade pickles and jams.

The first days walk was a 11km circular trip. We walked away from the coast and inland into the desert like landscape. The whole area is an ancient volcanic landscape with valleys eroded over millennia forming parts of it. The walk took us through a large peach orchard and onto the old mineral train track, which we followed on a very level path back into Agua Amarga. The bitter water name comes from the mineral mining that was processed just outside Agua amarga. We walked to the old processing plant high above the beach before our final descent to the village. We were finished for 2.30 so plenty of time to explore the village more, swim and have a few drinks!

After another excellent evening meal and huge breakfast it was time to move hotels. Our luggage is
moved by a local taxi driver to the next hotel and we walk to the next hotel along the coast. The walk today is 16 km and with more ascent and descent, it will take a very steady 8 hrs to get to Las Negras. Setting off at 10am we walk South-West following the coast. Walking pass small coves and beaches, we stop at Cala Del Plomo for a paddle, drink and snack before we climb up to the cliffs that bring us along, with some great views, to the bohemian beach of San Pedro. There is a fair descent down to Cala San Pedro(Cala meaning Cove) using an eroded path. After a bit of scrambling we make it to the beach were we find some shelter from the sun and have a picnic lunch. San Pedro is overlooked by an impressive old moorish watchtower which makes it a beautiful beach. It is inhabited by an alternative population that seem to scratch an existence out of the few tourists that make it too the beach along the 3km cliff top path. Trying not to be put off my lunch by male tackle swinging down the beach we make our way to one of the small bars on the beach for a cold drink. We are met by a motley crew of Pirates of The Caribbean extras who serve us a few cans of fanta limon before we are away on our walk again.
Walking along the cliff top we finally make it onto the vehicle track that takes us down to Las Negras and to the Cala Grande hotel - an out of place Ibizan esk hotel in what is a small fishing port. Lovely hotel  though and lives up to the 4* rating. Good food and a very spacious room with a trendy pool and bar to sit at.

Only one night here before again our luggage is taken on to the next hotel in Rodalquilar - the 4* Hotel Naturaleza. The walk today is around 12km with a detour up to the lighthouse that is one of the highest points in the park for some great views. We walk again along some beautiful deserted beaches where we stop at least once a day for a swim. climbing up from the Playazo Cala Castillo we then take a path that leads us up to the lighthouse for lunch before the final descent along the service road to the hotel. An easier day than the day before but still with some rewarding views.
The hotel Naturaleza is set around a courtyard and a swimming pool. A good meal in the hotel.

We spend 2 nights in Rodalquilar and we use the van to get us to the gold mines that are to the North of the town. We then take a 12km circular path pass the Cortijo De los Frailes, the setting of the Blood Wedding by Garcia Lorca. A great view over the Peninsula of the Cabo de Gato, we then descend through the gold mines. You can see why Steven Spielburg used this landscape for the Temple Of doom. An interesting walk full of history and information about the recent gold mining her. After 4-5 hours of walking we make it back to the van and decide to go to Isleta de Moro for lunch. We have a lunch of freshly cooked seafood platters before going to the beach for an hour of swimming and relaxing. Another nice meal in the hotel.

After breakfast it was time to walk to San Jose the most popular town in the area. The walk was
supposed to be a 16km walk from the hotel but after talking to the receptionist the walk now goes along the main road for 4km to Isleta de Moro, where before it went through the countryside . I gave the group the choice of walking along the road or we could drive to Isleta de Moro and start the walk there. The latter was chosen. We walked from Isleta and continued South West along the coast to Los Escullos, where we stopped for a coffee. We then took the vehicle track from here up and pass the highest peak in the Cabo De Gata - Los Frailes, the Friar. Descending to San Jose and to the hotel La Posada De Paco. Nice modern hotel with a good sized swimming pool on the main street in San Jose. The hotel here only has a breakfast room so we were eating out. We had a great meal in the El Faro restaurant, a few of us had Parrillada De Pescado a selection of fish on a platter. It was excellent and the fish could not have been fresher.

The final days walk was an easy 8km walk to the beaches of Monsul and Genovesses. These are more popular beaches but still very beautiful with crystal waters and soft golden sand. It was a perfect walk for the last day, a bit of a rest and a swim.
We ate out that night at the 4 Nudos restaurant at the port in San Jose. Speciality is rice dishes which are extremely well prepared.

After a few late drinks it was a late check out on the Saturday so dropped back to Almeria Airport and me back to the Sierra Nevada.
A brilliant week and a complete contrast to everywhere else we walk. The accommodation and food were excellent. The weather was 20oC to 30oC depending on cloud cover.
Overall really enjoyed it and we will be running this week again in the near future.

Hi Dan,

We're all back safe and sound.
Thanks for a very enjoyable. easy walking week.
I really enjoyed the heat and swims and snorkelling and company of course.
We'll have to decide if we're up for something more energetic next time, which would put your guiding and nurturing skills to the test. Something that we couldn't do without you!

Liz & Friends Oct 2016

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Newsletter March 2016


Warming up nicely now for a full packed holiday itinerary available this Spring. The walking is good after a relatively dry winter, the paths and tracks are all in good shape. The temperatures are warmer than average for this time of year 20oC by the weekend but will feel a lot warmer in the sun.

We have only a few holidays left with availability :
We are offering 75 euro off or free single room supplement on all these guided holidays.

There are also 2 places left on the Iceland Trip in July.
We also have all our self guided itineraries available to reserve to start on any day or date.

Please contact us for more information for availability on any of our holidays.

Have a Good Easter!
Good Friday in Granada
Semana Santa in Ronda

Semana Santa in Andalucia 

SEMANA Santa marks the week when the Spanish love for procession, pageantry and communal expression reaches its zenith.

This incense-scented week of penitence and processions is most keenly observed in the orange-blossomed streets of Sevilla. Vast thrones (pasos) supporting ornate religious effigies are paraded through the city.

But although ostensibly a religious festival, Holy Week’s long nights and packed streets have much in common with any Spanish fiesta.

Families burn the midnight oil to watch the parades, the odd drop of vino is usually on hand to help lubricate proceedings and it’s as much through local pride as religious piety that Sevillanos call out ‘Guapa!’ when the Virgin’s statue passes.

The presence of Roman centurions at the parades adds to the theatre and underlines that this is an occasion for everyone (in Spain, even the dastardly Romans who were responsible for it all are invited to commemorate Christ’s crucifixion). Nevertheless, for the first-time observer, the hooded ranks of Nazarenos – the week’s defining image – can be a little startling. Their beautiful medieval robes are co-ordinated in the colour of each religious brotherhood, or cofradia, but their conical hoods, with slits for eyes, have an almost menacing solemnity.

Down in Gibraltar, British and Spanish traditions are fused as Easter revellers gobble up bollos de hornazo – a sweet bread made with eggs, sugar and aniseed – as well as hot-cross buns and Cadbury’s Cream Eggs.The cofradias organise the processions and the task of carrying the thrones is highly sought after, with the costaleros – or ‘sack men’ – carrying out this role. Until the 1970s, sturdy dock workers were hired to perform the sinew-straining job.

The sheer scale and length of the occasion can be a little overwhelming, but if you are lucky enough to be in Andalucia during Semana Santa you will be right at the heart of one of Spain’s most extraordinary events.

Semana Santa by numbers

March 20 – 28: Spain celebrates Semana Santa
1500s: Celebrations of Semana Santa begin in southern Spain
14: The hours a procession can last
50: The number of costaleros it can take to carry the floats bearing images of Christ and the Virgin Mary.
70: Cofradias involved during Sevilla’s Semana Santa.
1,000,000: Visitors who come to Sevilla for Semana Santa
50,000 : Nazarenos parading through the streets of Sevilla
Six to nine: The number of processions in Sevilla each day
400,000: Jobs created in Spain during Semana Santa, according to Adecco
One: Every Semana Santa, a convicted criminal is released from prison through a collaboration with Jesús Resucitado y María Santísima de la Asunción
5,000: The weight in kilos of the heaviestpasos carried through Malaga
Five: The length in metres of the longest floats in Malaga
10,000: Number of people who attend the Passion of Christ tradition, El Paso, at the El Calvario outdoor auditorium in Axarquia

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Newsletter November 2015

November 2015
Ibex Trex Walking Holidays
Great Walking, Blossom And The Picos
Our Walking In Blossom winter sun walking holiday, commences on the 25/02/2016 and 03/03/16 -  455 Euro imagesfor 4 nights full board
in the fantastic Alqueria De Morayma. Walkng through the pinks and purples with the snow capped Sierra Nevada as the background is a great walking holiday.

Please contact us for more information.

Another busy year has finished with just a few self guided walkers to have their holidays. We have had a great year and I always say this but have met some great people on our holidays.
We are constanlty trying to improve our holidays and find new areas to walk in - we hope people will enjoy the Picos - it really is a beautiful and dramatic place. There will be a Picos guided holiday this September and I will keep you informed when we have the dates organised.

We will also be launching Cabo de Gata self guided walking holiday next year as well (after it has been sat on the shelf for the past 2 years!) and hopefully have a guided week there in the winter 2017.

Our Iceland holidaysfor 2016 is on the 04/072016 and we only have 6 places left with a week before already full. So if you are interested please book soon.

Once again thank you for making my job so enjoyable and hopefully see some of you soon.


Dan Shaffrey
Ibex Trex Walking Holidays
Our holidays in 2016 have a great early booking discount of 50 euro per person for all reservations made before the 31/12/2016.

All our 2016 dates are live and you can book now to receive your special offer.
NEW Picos De Europa
We have been up to the North of Spain and walked in the Picos de Europa, where we have designed a new 7 night guided and self guided itinerary. Walking across the central and eastern massif; it is a packed week staying in good hotels. We believe we have designed an excellent walking holiday, that gets you walking the some of the best bits of the Picos. You can view the itinerary on our blog before it goes live on the website. This is available from June 2016 - October 2016.

We are looking for past clients who would like to be the first to walk here and are offering a great 25% off of the holiday for the first two takers!Contact me for details