The El Saltillo suspension bridge has been open for two years / e. cabezas

In just two years the El Saltillo suspension bridge route in the Axarquía has brought major benefits

The new hiking route has tripled the number of visitors to the local areas, the population of Canillas de Aceituno has increased by 300 residents and the number of hotel and catering businesses has also increased

Eugenio Cabezas

The 9.4 kilometre-long hiking route which includes the El Saltillo suspension bridge, connecting the Axarquía villages of Canillas de Aceituno and Sedella, has celebrated the second anniversary of its opening on 31 October 2020.

In its short life the bridge, which is located in the heart of the Sierras Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama mountain range, has put the Axarquía on the map and according to the Canillas de Aceituno town hall statistics, some 300,000 people have visited it in the last twelve months, three times as many as in the first year.

In addition, the infrastructure has led to a radical change in Canillas de Aceituno, where the population has increased by more than 300 residents since 2019, reaching 1,900, according to the councillor for tourism, Álvaro Hurtado. "We are very, very pleased with the balance of these first two years," he said, adding that hotel businesses have increased by 30 per cent, from seven to ten, the school has gained twelve pupils, raising its numbers up to 92 children and the nursery is up by seven, to 19 toddlers.

Further project

The town hall are finalising, together with the Junta de Andalucía and Malaga’s provincial authority, the Diputación, the development of a new 1.5 kilometre-long section, to connect the bridge with the La Rahíge beauty spot, located in the lower part of the Almanchares riverbed, close to the local road. "We want to create a circular route, with shuttle buses, to avoid people having to walk along the road," said Hurtado.

The town hall is hoping to be able to execute the project in 2023, with a budget of 300,000 euros, to condition the area, in which a kiosk for drinks will be opened and toilets will be built. "With this, the route will be about 7.5 kilometres from Canillas de Aceituno," explained the councillor.

In the last two years, El Saltillo has become one of the most highlights the Gran Senda de Málaga footpath. It is a section that take hikers to one of the three largest suspension bridges in Spain, at 54 metres long and 70 metres high over the Almanchares River.

Marking the two-year milestone, the mayor of Canillas de Aceituno, Vicente Campos said, "We are extremely proud of our Saltillo, which has turned our village into one of the major tourist attractions in our region.” He added, "It has allowed us to grow in many aspects and has had an economic impact on our residents." The mayor thanked the Diputación, which funded the initiative with an investment of 600,000 euros.

Criticism from environmentalists

Environmental group, the Gabinete de Estudios de la Naturaleza (GENA)-Ecologistas en Acción continue with their criticism of the commercialisation of the route and regret that the Junta de Andalucía “agreed to build this infrastructure in spite of expert reports that advised against its construction, due to its possible effect on the Bonelli eagle, a protected species that lives in the natural park.”

According to the coordinator of GENA-Ecologists in Action, Rafael Yus, the Junta argued that the eagle would not be affected, "but the reality is that this protected bird has not returned to nest in its usual nests, near the footbridge.” Yus went on to say, “Everybody goes there and takes a selfie. The footbridge was made to facilitate a section of the Gran Senda, but the solution that was provided by us and they didn't want to take it which was to use the old road from Sedella to Canillas," he argued.