Walking guide and author Guy Hunter-Watts chooses one of his favourite hikes in the mountains close to Marbella, the ascent of the Cruz de Juanar. The walk is one of 40 described in his book Coastal Walks in Andalucía.
Cruz de Juanar’s pyramidal peak (1185m) is one of the most distinctive landmarks to the north of the Costa del Sol. The peak is topped by a cross and a shrine to the Virgin to which an annual pilgrimage takes place.
This challenging hike up to the cross begins just north of Marbella. Within minutes you find yourself amidst wild, mountain scenery as you climb steeply up towards to the towering outcrop of Cruz de Juanar. A short diversion takes you to the spectacular viewing point of El Macho Montés from where a sandy path leads back down to your point of departure.
The Nitty Gritty
Time required 5-6 hours
Getting to the beginning of the walk
From the A7 motorway, exit for Marbella/Ojén on the A355. Continue towards Ojén passing two roundabouts, then turn left at a sign Cementerio where there’s parking space to your right.
With your back to the cemetery car park, turn right following a sign La Cascada. Just before you reach the Cascada restaurant cut right and climb north past a villa marked Libra then the ramshackle buildings of Casa Marqués de Guaro. Head on past the forlorn-looking entrance to Finca Minza Manzah al Kamd where a signboard details the route you’ll be following. Tarmac turns to dirt as you pass a metal barrier. Passing a spring the nipple-like peak of El Juanar comes into sight as the track runs on between pine, carob and eucalyptus, parallel to the bed of the Vertiente de la Laja stream. Reaching a fork branch right and continue up a steep, stony track: stone steps to its right make the climb easier. Swinging left the track reaches a white hut (40min). Here, go right up a narrow path which zigzags upwards, cobbled in parts. To your left you’ll shortly see a spectacular overhang, a popular destination for rock climbers.
Zigzagging past a hollow in the rock face, at times close to the water channel, you reach a pass at Puerto Rico Alto. Continue straight on following a sign Juanar. The path runs level through pine forest before reaching another junction. Here go left, following a sign Casa del Guarda. Drop down, cross a stream bed then follow a sandy footpath up to the abandoned forestry post of Casa del Guarda (1hr 45min).
Heading straight past the ruin, after 150m you reach another junction. Here cut right. The path runs up towards Cruz de Juanar before angling down across the hillside then once more beginning to ascend. Bearing left and passing above a cliff face you reach a swathe of exposed rock. Here angle sharply right, across the smooth surface of the rock, then continue up the narrow path which runs up into a stand of low-growing pine and juniper.
The path now adopts a northerly course along a ridge top before it cuts right towards a rocky outcrop. Passing through a breach in the rocks you reach the pass of Puerto Juan Benítez. Here, cut left at a sign for La Concha along a sandy path that climbs in a northwesterly direction to a junction at the pass of Puerto Los Allanes from where you should angle right then follow a steep path up to the peak of Cruz de Juanar, topped by a metal cross and a tiny oratory containing a small statue of the Virgin (3hr 5min).
Legend tells that a fishing boat was lost in heavy seas and dense fog when the sky miraculously opened to reveal the Juanar peak, thus allowing the sailors to plot a safe course back to port. In gratitude a shrine was built to the Virgen de Carmen, the patron saint of sailors, on top of the peak. From the cross, retrace your footsteps for a few metres. Reaching a rock daubed with paint angle right, then right again, to pick up an indistinct path which zigzags down the eastern side of the peak. The path becomes clearer as it levels and runs across a swathe of clearer ground before entering a stand of pines. A few metres before the path runs up to a broad track you reach a sign Puerto de Marbella (3hr 30min).
Here continue straight ahead. Bearing right along the track for 200m you pass a first viewpoint then reach the Mirador del Macho Montés from where there are vast views out across the Mediterranean and eastwards along the Costa del Sol.
From the mirador head back to the wooden signpost at 3hr 30min then cut left following a sign Marbella. From here a beautiful sandy path leads down through the pine trees to reach the valley floor, where the tree cover becomes somewhat denser. Passing a spring with a low stone wall the path crosses a (dry) stream bed then runs on through the forest to reach the junction you passed earlier in the walk on your ascent to the Casa del Guarda. From here head back to Cortijo Rico Alto. Here, deviating from the path you followed earlier, cut left at a sign GR249 Ojén along a clear path which climbs gently across the hillside.
After descending and crossing a (dry) stream the path resumes its ascent before once more running down and crossing a second stream bed before reaching a junction. Here, cutting right at a sign for Marbella, drop back down to the track you followed earlier in the day then turn left and retrace your footsteps to the Marbella cemetery (5hr 30min)
Guy Hunter-Watts is the author of Walking in Andalucía, The Mountains of Ronda and Grazalema, The Andalucían Coast to Coast Walk and Coastal Walks of Andalucía.
All books are available via Amazon or his own website www.guyhunterwatts.com which also has details of his guided walks in the Grazalema Park.