Nestled within the municipality of Tarifa, the Algarbes-Betijuelo trail is one of the most spectacular hiking routes that you can find within the Parque Natural del Estrecho (Campo de Gibraltar). The journey begins at the Lothar Bergmann monument, commemorating the man who discovered over 60 Palaeolithic and Neolithic shelters with cave paintings in Cádiz, and who coined the term “Southern Art”.
In fact, the route begins at an ancient site, steeped in history: The Necropolis of Algarbes; one of the most well-preserved Bronze Age burial sites in Andalucía.
At the moment, the area is fenced off and can only be entered with pre-authorisation from the Junta de Andalucía’s Ministry of Culture, which has recently launched a project to conserve and enhance this unique site.
From here, your pathway ascends between aromatic eucalyptus and other local fauna such as mastic and palm hearts, to Betijuelo village, where you will traverse through a beautiful pine forest which stretches to the highest reaches of the Sierra de Betis. The vast forest will be your company throughout your journey.
During your adventure, you are likely to come across different animals such as cows, goats, donkeys, horses. You will also be able to observe many different species of birds, like the griffon vulture.
At this point, behind us, panoramic views of the Valdevaqueros inlet will open up as we ascend the trail.
A “geodesic vertex” (the VN10) marks the highest point of the route, which is 331 metres above sea level.
From the top of this wind whipped vantage point, the views are breath-taking, especially towards the west on a clear day when one can appreciate the Valdevaqueros beach, the Chapatal pine forest, Bolonia Cove, the Camarinal lighthouse at Cape Gracia; the slabs of the Cerro de San Bartolome and the Strait of Gibraltar with the imposing silhouette of the North African Continent.
From this peak, the trail will descend between the pine trees towards the Paloma Baja chaparral; where the path will become sandy and surrounded by other native plant species like junipers and broom.
Just before reaching the final stretch of the route, you will see the spectacular dry riverbed known as El Arroyo del Puerco, where water erosion has exposed the roots of mighty pine trees over time, whose ghostly figures remain hanging from the walls of the deep ravine.
From here, a small track will lead you to a forest house at the end of a signposted pathway.
Whether you’ve left your car next to the Punta Paloma campsite or next to the Valdevaqueros beach, you’ll still need to walk a further stretch which can be done entirely via the road that is sometimes be cut off by the famous sand dune (which has been declared a National Monument) or make part of the journey back along the white shores of this pristine beach – which is also considered to be one of the best beaches in Spain.
5,000 Years of History
The Necropolis of the Algarbes, which dates to the end of the 3rd millennium BC (more than 5,000 years ago), is one of the most important archaeological sites dating back to the Copper Age and Bronze Age in the Province of Cádiz, and even in Andalucía.
According to the Ministry of Culture, the site is made up of fifty structures and caves which were built by our ancestors for burial practises: with circular chambers and entrances on various levels.
Two of these structures lie on both sides of a wide corridor carved into the sandstone rock, like large lintelled pieces, typical of megalithic covered gallery burials.
There are also “domed” graves with lateral access, and others with a vertical entrance, similar to a well or silo. The site also houses two anthropomorphic graves which are totally different to the rest.
The necropolis was excavated by Carlos Posac Mon between 1967 and 1972, where an abundance of burial items was found, including ceramics.
Bronze, ivory and gold pieces were also documented, as well as stone tools, both carved and polished, ornamental objects like pendants and perforated discs, made of mollusc shells. Phoenician, Roman, Arab and Medieval remains from different occupations make this site completely unique and rich for archaeological and anthropological study.