La Axarquia - A land of myths, bandits, miguelitos & above all beauty
The region known as LA AXARQUIA has been mute witness to the comings and goings of many civilizations, for ever since prehistoric times this area has been coveted by man. The Axarquia region is threaded between two mountain ranges and there is much to discover in the quaint villages which still retain the simple way of life. Here you will find friendly people, cobbled narrow streets with white-washed houses, stunning scenery, majestic mountains and even a lake.
COLMENAR is the capital of the Malaga Mountains. In 1485 this village was a complex of country houses owned by Hamet el Zuque the governor of Comares, but today it is a beautiful white village, hanging to a small hillock, on the side of a mountain and divided into two parts. The village is totally Moorish in appearance with lots of steep, twisty streets and consist of the high district (El Cerillo and the low (La Plaza). Many of the houses have tiny shrines that date from the 16th century on their outside walls.
The main monuments are the Jesus of Nazareth Shrine and the 16th century church of “Virgen de Gracia". The folklore of the Verdiales plays a dominant role and the Virgin de la Candelaria, on February 2nd, and the procession on the following Sunday, are great days not to be missed. Tradition has it that the Hermitage of Ntra. Sra. de la Candelaria from XVIIC was erected by some Canariana sailors who thus thanked the Virgin for having survived a storm which caught them off the coast of Malaga.
A short drive from Colmenar takes you into the beautiful pine forests and Natural Park of the Montes de Malaga. Just 5 km north of Malaga city the Montes de Malaga Natural Park is a region of dense pine forests covering a gently rolling area of 4,996 ha crossed by small valleys and water courses, fast flowing in winter and waterfalls. Here you can walk for miles undisturbed and be at one with nature.
Situated at the northern end of La Axarquia and 928 ms above sea level, ALFARNATE is sheltered on the N.E. by Mount Gallo. The area is mainly agricultural and the village has been in existence since the Muslim period, remembered every September 12th with the Moors and Christians feast of Ntra.Sra de Masalud. Only 3 kms from Alfarnate is Alfarnatejo a village of approximately 500 inhabitants sheltered to the west by the peak of the Chamizo and to the east by Gallo and Vilo. It was a popular place for highwaymen to shelter due to its topographical position. The history of the village goes back thousands of years and bordering the villages are the remains of an Arab Castle.
RIOGORDO is a very pretty village near Lake Viñuela with the dramatic mountain backdrop of the Sierra del Rey and Alto de Gomer. This is an area of stunning natural beauty. The village was named after the river La Cueva that runs through it - the waters were "fat" with (full of) minerals. Here the Route of the Oil and Mountains finishes, and where in the past, the Phoenicians, Romans and Muslims chose to settle and then later the French. 3 kms from the town are the Arab remains of Castle Aute and also the Hermitage de Jesus Nazareno erected in XVIIC. Riogordo is famous for its El Paso – Passion of Christ, performed every Holy Friday and Saturday with more than 400 locals taking part. It is an extremely moving and unforgettable experience that will move you to tears.
LA VINUELA, 19 kms inland from the coast at Torre del Mar, is where the Route of the Oil and Mountains commences. At the end of XVIIC it was an important place on the Malaga-Granada route for carriages to stop. The inn Venta la La Viña, has offered respite to the weary travellers on their way to and from Granada since the 18th century, it is still a favourite place for locals to gather. Nearby is a dam and beautiful lake where swimming, fish and small boats are permitted.
ALCAUCIN, the name comes from the Arab Al-Cautin which means "The Arches”, is flanked on one side by the peak of the Maroma at 2,080 ms the highest in the La Axarquia. In the Boquete de Zafarraya is a natural passage at the border of Granada Province where in August 1983 a jawbone of a Neanderthal man was discovered. There is also a castle and Arab baths of sulphur waters at Las Majadasas just outside. In the Alcazar Mountains is a Nature Reserve offering all kinds of activities and where the Romeria during the celebrations of San Isidro on May 15th takes place.
PERIANA is a prosperous and flourishing town based on two products, oil; considered the best in the Province, and the fruit, especially the peaches, having the most outstanding taste and quality. An Arab fiesta is dedicated to the peach every year at the end of the harvest. Situated at the north of the lake at La Vinuela the nearby Guaro River provides water for the reservoir and the surrounding land is green and verdant providing a perfect climate for citrus fruit.
Gently rolling hills sit below the sharply contrasting jagged grey mountains which tower above like sleeping giants. This village, like so many within the Axarquia, has had its fair share of tragedy. In 1884 an earthquake destroyed many homes and took just under 60 lives, the phylloxera plague killed the vines and floods ravaged part of the area. However, the Periana we see today is a bustling village alive and well and blessed with the most fantastic views of La Vinuela reservoir and the distant coast at Torre del Mar.
The Church of San Isidro dominates the skyline and can be seen from many rooftops. It was built after the 1884 earthquake and there is a marble plaque telling the story of this horrendous time when at 9pm on Christmas Day 106 villages were destroyed, 1,253 people were seriously injured and 736 people died. All the roads were blocked by snow making help difficult. But King Alfonso XII raised 6,456,097 pesetas to repair and rebuild homes and in the new Periana this parish church emerged in the Plaza Alfonso XII
There are plenty of bars and restaurants in the village which boasts a helicopter landing pad! Just down the road are the Vilo thermal baths, where the temperature remains a constant 21 degrees all year round, just the place to visit on a cold winters day.
COMARES the highest white villages in Andalucía at 739 metres above sea level can be spied for miles around, rising high above the surrounding countryside and resembling a natural extension to the craggy rock face. First time visitors may still find the approach baffling in the fact that the village keeps disappearing from view as the windy country roads dip and curve.
Despite being breathtakingly pretty Comares is often missed by tourists which is a shame as it is a very pleasant place for a stroll and there are a number of interesting monuments to see. It is very tidy and has an exquisite small hotel on the main plaza. Throughout the village, there are colourful ceramic plaques depicting Comares´ important place in history, which can be traced back to the third century BC. The village was one of the principle defensive bastions of Omar Ben Hafsun and during the early times of the Moorish caliphs in Cordoba, protected what are now the ruins of the local capital on the Mazmullar plateau, some four kilometres from the village and worth a visit.
The town of COMPETA known as the “Pearl of the Axarquía” is one of the best bases for a stay in the Axarquía. Located seven hundred metres above sea level with stunning views of the surrounding mountains, countryside and Mediterranean, Competa is best known to many for its locally produced wine, available both dry and sweet, as well as being plentiful and cheap. One of the most popular annual fiestas here is the Noche del Vino (Night of the Wine) on the 15th August which features a programme of flamenco and Sevillana music and dance, plus plenty of free-flowing vino.
7 kms north of NERJA is the typical “Pueblo Blanco” of FRIGILIANA which sits high on a mountain ridge overlooking the sea with spectacular panoramic views. Named as the 'Prettiest Village in Andalucía' by the Spanish tourism authority, Frigiliana is also important from an historical viewpoint. El Fuerte, the hill that climbs above the village, was the scene of the final bloody defeat of the Moors of La Axarquía in their 1569 rebellion. The hill is topped by scanty remains of a ruined fort from which some of the Moors reputedly threw themselves rather than be killed or captured by the Spanish. It is said that bones and rusted weapons dating from this encounter still lie among the scrub on El Fuerte.
The village is a tangle of narrow cobbled streets lined by white-washed houses, their wrought-iron balconies filled with planters of brilliant red geraniums. Small plazas provide shady seating while the village bars are popular with visitors who come here to taste the locally produced wine. There are also several excellent shops selling pottery and ceramics, including decorative plates with their distinctive Arab design.
One of the towns within the Comarca of Axarquia, IZNATE is known as "The Paradise of the Muscat grape", where grapes, almonds, avocados and olives are produced. Iznate also belongs to Ruta del Sol y del Aguacate. In this town, visitors can walk along the steep, narrow, winding streets, typical of a Moorish urban settlement. Houses have carefully whitewashed facades adorned with pots of geraniums and other flowers.
SAYALONGA is situated near the natural parks of the Sierras of Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama. It is also part of the Ruta del Sol y Del Vino, a route that passes through various towns of the Comarca. As in the other white hill towns of the Axarquia, you'll notice Arabic influence here - the town is famous for its associations with El Cid and its nispera fruit (loquat - small, oval and yellow).
SALARES situated on the edge of the Tejeda National Park is part of the Ruta Mudejar. It is one of many towns in the Axarquia which shows its Arabic heritage clearly, with steep, narrow streets; in some places steps have been added to replace dangerously uneven surfaces. Other Arabic features are the white-washed house fronts, often decorated with tiles representing the different mysteries of the cross.
There are many other villages in La Axarquia to explore and discover their hidden treasures; these are just some of them. Travel inland to this historic, beautiful mountainous regions and meet the friendly people and sample their cuisine in the local bars & restaurants.