Gorafe, Spain – Exploring the desert

The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.

This famous line, from the musical My Fair Lady about a lower class cockney girl who’s given speech lessons as part of a bet between two gentlemen of the upper class, is actually not true. However, you would wish that you had even a drop of rain for today’s upcoming adventure.

History

Gorafe is both the name of a town and a municipality in the province of Granada in southern Spain. While this area is sparsely populated (less than 500 recorded inhabitants as of 2010), the area actually has much to offer. The town of Gorafe and the surrounding area have been home to humans for thousands of years, although the exact number is unknown. The river Gor is the reason why. It flows through the surrounding desert area, naturally providing areas for agriculture as well as a source of drinking water.

Megalithic park

Gorafe is home to the megalithic park of the same name, which is one of the best examples of megalithic art in southern Spain due to its age and preservation. You won’t find structures like Stonehenge; dolmens (tombs with large flat stones laid on upright ones), like those in Great Britain and France, can are also here in Gorafe. At least 240 dolmens exist here, containing remains and items from the Bronze Age. You can see some of these dolmens as they have been excavated or have naturally fallen over the millennia.

The park self is also open to visitors and has a lot of information readily available on signs near the dolmens. As they stretch over an area of approximately 20 km, not all of the dolmens are easily accessible. Do not go searching for dolmens that aren’t easily accessible as the megalithic park is situated on the edge of the desert.

Looking north from the southern edge of the desert of Gorafe towards the Badlands of Negratín.

Desert of Gorafe

The desert of Gorafe, which extends from approximately the town of the same name to the badlands of Negratín approximately 10 km to the next, is like many deserts, dry and inhospitable to many forms of life. However, I have yet to find a desert that I consider it more beautiful (granted, I don’t make a habit of visiting many deserts).

The southernmost portion that I was able to see is somewhat reminiscent of the deserts and canyons of Arizona. Hardy grasses and tough shrubbery was the extent of the vegetation in this area. A desert road does wind through this area; don’t drive on them unless you have an all-terrain vehicles due to the rugged terrain and sheer drops down the cliff face.

On a clear day, la Sierra de Baza to the southeast along with the badlands of Negratín to the north is very easy to see. As rain is not common in this region, cloud coverage is very minimal. This means views of both are almost a guarantee.

Looking south-east from the Megalithic Park of Gorafe towards the Sierra de Baza. The megalithic park is bordered by arable land to the south, allowing for the fields shown here.

Both Gorafe and surrounding areas have many examples of Moorish architecture, especially of Arabic baths, due to a long history under Moorish rule. Additionally, there are other examples of architecture dating back to the middle ages. These include cave homes, known as Los Algarves, Gorafe Castle, and the fortress of El Cuervo.

Visiting Gorafe

If you have a car and are able to get to the more remote location and you enjoy nature or prehistory, I would recommend this area. We did not find the information given in the park necessarily to be helpful or interesting; the views alone were worth the trip. All in all getting to this area took about an hour from Granada by car. There is a bus service but as we had access to a car there was no need to inform ourselves about the buses. My guess is that there would be buses from Granada to the towns of Gor and Baza and then a second bus we need to be used from those locations.

Here are some more photos around Gorafe:

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