Hidden behind the Aljibe visitor centre is one of Alcalá´s greatest treasures - a secret garden, with a stone path spiralling through specimens of all the native trees, shrubs and wild flowers of the Alcornocales natural park. It is so poorly signposted that unless you actually drive past it down the A2228 from Alcalá to Benalup, you would never know it was there. We've visited several times when there was nobody else around at all (bliss!)
There does seem to be a bit more activity going on on the promotional front now, with monthly newsletters and a series of exploratory tours for the public over the coming weekend (10.30 and 12.30 am, 26-28 February). Maybe one day they will even have their own website and one of those big brown tourist information signs on the motorway ... in the meantime, enjoy it while it's quiet!
The garden is now in its fourth year, and the cork-oaks and wild olive trees are fully mature, offering a haven for various varieties of songbirds, butterflies, dragonflies, amphibians and reptiles. We once saw two large green ocellated lizards, wrapped in each others' arms, rolling over and over along the bank of the stream - I'm still not sure whether they were mating or fighting.
There is also a geological zone, with samples of the different types of rock found in the area, all gradually becoming clothed with indigenous rock-plants and lichen.
The Jardín Botánico El Aljibe is located behind the Centro de Visitantes El Aljibe, just off Exit 42 from the A381 towards Benalup. It is a 45 minute walk from the town centre. In the Centre itself there is a bar and a gift shop, as well as lots of exhibits about the Alcornocales and its activities.
Download the information leaflet here (in Spanish)
More photos and a video tour of the garden