How to climb Marbella’s La Concha

DIFFERENT WORLD: Walkers atop La Concha

LA Concha is to Marbella what Table Mountain is to Cape Town or the statue of Christ the Redeemer is to Rio de Janeiro. 

DIFFERENT WORLD: Walkers atop La Concha
DIFFERENT WORLD: Walkers atop La Concha

Wherever you are, its 1,215-metre shell-shaped peak rises up before you like a talisman, its colour changing with the angle of the sun.

If you haven’t been tempted to climb it yet, you will be.

The mountain is best reached from the north, diverging off the main road up towards the Refugio de Juanar.

Set amid pine trees, the wonderful old hotel and restaurant – once a Parador – could be a perfect overnight base camp for your ascent which, truth be told, is no pushover.

However, anyone used to hiking and not afraid to get their hands dirty should have no problem, and the soaring panoramic views are definitely worth it.

Former cavalry office James Hewitt, he of Lady Diana fame, once told the Olive Press he regularly climbed it (there and back) in ‘well under three hours’, and not at a forced charge.

But, being realistic you should leave four hours to include a couple of nice breaks and to enjoy the view at the top, which is really something else.

The peaks of Africa’s Atlas mountains can be seen in the distance, as can the Rock of Gibraltar down the coast, sticking out into the shimmering sea.

Below, walking guide Guy Hunter Watts, gives a breakdown on the way to the top.

For more information and walks see

The Walk

From the Refugio de Juanar, descend 100m to a junction, then turn right at the ‘Mirador’ sign.

Looping up through the pines you reach a parking area, then pass a green metal gate and continue along the track following the sign, GR243.1 Istan.

After passing a ruined stone hut you reach a sign that says PR-A 168 La Concha, pointing right off the track. (20 mins)

Cut right away from the track towards the green mesh fence of Cortijo de Juanar, then angle hard right down through an olive grove for 100m to a four-way junction.

Cutting left into a stand of pines you come to a three-way junction. Here, angle left following another sign that says PR-A 168 La Concha.

Reaching the top of the ridge, head straight on for a few metres, then angle right and continue along the ridge, now heading almost due west between low-growing oaks.

Having run just left of the ridge, the path cuts up right to its highest point and passes a large cairn (1 hr 10 mins) before descending for a short distance.

Cairns mark the way from here.

Angling slightly left, the path passes beneath a steep cliff face, El Salto del Lobo, where there are steep drops to the right: care should be taken on this section.

Zigzagging steeply up left (a hands-on approach at this point will be useful) it then drops steeply back down to a more level path running towards La Concha.

Cairns still mark your path as you head on just south of the ridge, before angling back up to the top.

A massive panorama opens out to the south as you reach a cairn where you’ll see blue and red stripes on a rock. At this point you’re actually a few metres higher than the official summit of La Concha.

From here, angle down left following cairns and red and blue way-markings, sticking close to the ridgetop. The Istan reservoir comes into view to the west.

The path runs a few metres beneath the ridge, on its southern side, before cutting up to a three-way marker post. (1 hr 45 mins)

Here, carry straight on, following a sign saying ‘La Concha 15 mins’ along the ridge to a large cairn.

Here the path angles right, descends, then picks up the continuation of the ridge before climbing steeply once more. (You may feel safer using your hands from time to time, as there are steep drops to your left.)

Red and blue flashes still mark the way and lead you up to the summit of La Concha (1,215m). (1 hr 55 mins)

After enjoying the amazing panorama, retrace your footsteps back to the Refugio. (3 hrs 45 mins)


Iona Napier

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