In search of wild orchids

There are information panels on the walking routes.
There are information panels on the walking routes. / K. S.
  • The walks, which are unique in Malaga province, are also accessible from the Great Trail and the Fray Leopoldo Route

  • Jimera de Líbar now has seven walking routes along which people can see up to 20 different species of orchid

Jimera de Líbar is in the Guadiaro Valley in the Serranía de Ronda; it may be small, with only 400 inhabitants, but the surrounding countryside is spectacular, not least because it is home to 20 different types of wild orchid. Until now, very few people other than local residents have been able to enjoy them, but the council has recently set up seven walking routes to make it easier to see these beautiful treasures of nature, which have existed for 20 or 30 million years.

Orchids are normally associated with exotic countries, but nobody from this region needs to go to Madagascar, Thailand or Peru to discover them. Manuel Becerra, the author of a guide to the wild orchids of Andalucía ('Guía de campo de las orquídeas silvestres de Andalucía') says this area contains 45 per cent of all the species catalogued in Spain and 60 per cent of all those in Andalucía. Orchids belong to the Orchidaceae family, which contains 850 genera and about 20,000 species, although different experts put the figure between 17,000 to 30,000. Orchids have spread over most of the planet, apart from the Poles and deserts.

“In our region you can see as many as 20 species at different times,” says the mayor of Jimera, Francisco Javier Lobo. None of the orchid routes are more than two kilometres long. “They are accessible and unchallenging, have been officially approved and make it easy to photograph these beautiful, highly protected orchids. You can join the routes from the village, because they are all in the surrounding area,” he explains.

The routes are called: La Vereda del Tesoro, La Trocha, La Cañada del Olivar, La Cuesta de la Barca, La Dehesa, El Camino de Atajate and La Vereda de las Huertas. “If someone is doing the Great Trail of Malaga (Gran Senda) or the Fray Leopoldo route, they could make a diversion and see our wild orchids,” says the mayor.

The idea of creating the orchid walks came from a local resident, Pedro Sánchez, and the Saepo Association of nearby Cortes de la Frontera. “Pedro is very interested in wild orchids and has studied them. He and the Saepo Association suggested that we make it easier for people to see them. So we set to work,” he says.

Attracting tourism

Jimera de Líbar lies within the Sierra de Grazalema natural park, but is in Malaga province. The council is interested in attracting more tourism to boost the local economy. “There are no other orchid routes like ours in Malaga province, so we are sure they will bring many more people to Jimera,” says Francisco Javier Lobo.