Nestled on the western outskirts of Malaga lies the Paraje Natural Desembocadura del Guadalhorce (or Guadalhorce river estuary), a pristine natural area covering 122 hectares.
Bordered by the river’s final arms, this sanctuary boasts an exceptional variety of habitats, including lagoons, riverbanks and sandy coastal areas, providing homes for a diverse range of species all year round.
While the Guadalhorce estuary can be enjoyed by anyone and everyone, many people are attracted to visit because of the vast wildlife that can be spotted there.
It’s rich in biodiversity and offers ample opportunities for wildlife observation and appreciation.
The landscape is adorned with a mix of vegetation, from towering poplars and elegant tamarisks along the riverbanks to unique coastal species thriving in the dunes.
The estuary is especially popular with birdwatchers, as it serves as a vital stopover for migratory birds travelling between Europe and Africa.
With over 260 bird species recorded, including rarities like the Audouin’s gull and marsh harrier, the estuary is a paradise for ornithologists and nature enthusiasts alike.
Species such as ospreys, flamingos and kingfishers frequently find refuge here, too.
Throughout the year, the estuary undergoes seasonal transformations, with peak birdwatching opportunities during spring and autumn migrations.
Also attracted to the area are mammals such as rabbits, foxes and otters. That’s because this botanical wonderland provides habitat and sustenance for various flora and fauna, contributing to the area’s ecological richness.
Despite its natural beauty, the estuary faces threats from human activities, including habitat degradation and salinisation.
Efforts to protect and restore the area are ongoing, emphasising the importance of sustainable management practices to preserve its ecological integrity.
Hiking and cycling in the Guadalhorce estuary
Visitors can easily explore the wonders of this nature reserve via clearly marked trails, such as Río Viejo and Laguna Grande.
These trails not only offer excellent opportunities for hiking and observing wildlife but are also perfect for cyclists.
Accessibility to the nature reserve has improved significantly in recent times since the completion of the Pasarela de Río Guadalhorce footbridge in 2020.
At 270 metres in length, it’s the longest wooden bridge in Europe and ensures visitors no longer half to take to the motorway to cross to the other bank of the river.
Getting to the Guadalhorce estuary from Malaga city centre
The Guadalhorce river estuary can easily be reached by public transportation.
Alternatively, you can start your visit from the western side of the nature reserve at Guadalmar.
Whether you’re exploring on foot or cycling, the journey to this natural haven is as rewarding as the destination itself.
Daryl is the co-founder of Malaga Guru. He is a copywriter, editor and translator who moved to Malaga a decade ago having first fallen in love with the city on his Erasmus year. After working for many years at local expat newspaper SUR in English, Daryl gained expert knowledge in life from the perspective of foreign residents and decided to co-found this site in 2016.