“Fabricas de Luz” (“Light Factories”) is one of the most unusual routes that the Campo de Gibraltar has to offer; you will walk along the Guadiaro River, see the oldest fully functional hydroelectric power plant in Spain and explore an abandoned worker’s town.
As published by the Jimena de la Frontera City Council, the route begins in the Camino del Molino (in San Pablo de Buceite town) and finished at the old working village of El Corchado after crossing a dam which controls the flow of the Guadiaro River. This is the same location of a 20th century hydroelectric plant which is still in operation to this day.
The route is detailed in the “Ecotourism Itineraries Network” (which is part of the Territorial Museum of Migrations Project). It is a linear, gravel road of about 3.5 km (about 7 km both ways) and is therefore classified as a low-difficulty hike, suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels.
The San Pablo de Buceite Municipal District Board and the Jimena City Council regularly organise tours along this route in collaboration with the hiking associations.
Guided walks were temporarily interrupted by government restrictions during the pandemic but these have recently opened up again for small groups thanks to the situation improving.
Along the path you will come across traditional Spanish orange orchards in the surrounding areas of the Guadiaro river, which occupy vast areas of the plain. Many of these orange groves are gradually being phased out in recent times to make way for avocado farms which are more profitable.
Continuing with our tour, we’ll cross the Carretero stream and a small channel which serves as a guide along the route, and orchards will begin disappearing as you enter the eastern limits of Los Alcornocales Natural Park, which is surrounded by typically Mediterranean plants.
Local wildlife includes insectivorous (insect-eating) birds like the so-called “mosquito net” birds, and granivores (seed-eating) like the Verdigris and finches, who find refuge and an abundance of food in this area. These kinds of birds are in turn sought after by carnivorous predators like hawks.
Along the trail you will come across a suspension bridge where you will be able to take a rest and a swim in the Guadiaro River (the name Guadiaro deriving from the Arabic words “wad auro”, i.e., “river of gold”) and will end in the old town of El Corchado on Mount El Arrayán. The Jimena City Council, Andalucían Government and the Cádiz Provinciall Council have been working on improving and restoring this unique place for a few years, and the results are beautiful.
This now ghost-town once served as accommodation for workers at the hydroelectric plant that was built next to the Guadiaro River in the end of the last century in the 1980s.
The goal is to transform this former working colony into a tourist attraction and a complex of rural accommodation which would well be finished at the end of 2021 or during the beginning of 2022.
One interesting fact about the hydroelectric power plant, which was promoted by the Larios Family (later acquired by the “Sevillana de Electricidad” and which is close to the municipality of Gaucín (Málaga), began producing electricity in 1906. This plant supplied energy to remote urban areas and became the oldest one of its kind in Spain that is still fully functional.
Another fascinating fact, according to local blog Buceite.com, is that this stretch of the Guadiaro River was featured in the famous “El Che” film which stars Benicio del Toro.