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.
THE ROUTE OF THE MOUNTAIN AND OLIVE GROVES takes you through the villages of Vinuela, Alcaucin, Periana, Alfarnate, Colmenar and Riogordo , and has a strong personality perhaps the strongest in the Province of Malaga.
The Sierras of Alhama del Jobo and Camarolos protect the district from the cold north winds. The olive trees on this land are the Verdial variety, producing the best olive oil in the world, with a special colour and aroma. In Periana they produce some of the best peaches in Spain. In Alcaucin nature lovers’ can take a country walk to the Loma de las Monjas de las Viboras in the Alcazar nature park. Nearly the whole village takes part in the passion play in Riogordo at Easter.
COLMENAR, the capital of the Malaga Mountains is only 35 kms from Malaga and gets its name from the countless beehives which surround it thanks to the wide variety of plants, bushes and shrubs which grow in profusion in the area.
In 1485 COLMENAR 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 Hermitage of Ntra Sra de la Candelaria in Colmenar dating from XVII c was erected by some Canarian sailors in thanks for being miraculously saved when a storm threatened their boat off Malaga coast. Why they came so far inland still remains a mystery. 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 mts 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.
Just outside the village is the Venta Alfarnate, an inn dating from 1691 and claiming to be the oldest inn in Andalucia. The venta recalls an amusing tale about a visit by one of the 19th century’s most notorious bandits, El Tempranillio. His most famous saying is ‘The King may reign in Spain, but in the Sierra l do’ There were plenty of cutthroats in the area in the past and during the 1940s left wing rebels roamed in the mountains in a vain bid to challenge Franco’s regime. From the venta the road climbs to the Los Alazaores pass and into the border of Granada province.
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.
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 mts the highest in the La Axarquia. It marks the boundary between Granada and Malaga provinces. 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. The Arab baths at Las Majadas is where you can bathe in the sulphur water. In the 16th century the innkeeper, El Mellao and his wife were murdered by outlaws. This provoked such Christian reprisals that the local Moriscos(moors converted to Christianity) rose up in revolt. 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 founded in 1761 and rebuilt in 1884 by a devastating earthquake is now a prosperous and flourishing town due to the olive oil considered the best in the province and the peaches having the most outstanding taste and quality. Legend has it that Periana got its name from two feuding families, both of whom wanted the village to be named after them, Pereiro and Santana families. Eventually a deal was made to merge the two to give the town its name “perei and ‘ana’. The town’s coat of arms bears the words’ni Pereiro ni santana’, meaning neither Pereiro nor Santana.
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. A fiesta is dedicated to the peach every year at the end of the harvest.
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
The Arab bath remains at Vilo were in use until the XIX c and the ruins of Zalia, a Moorish fortress. Continue up and through the narrow gap in the mountains to the road of head of the pass known as Boquete de Zafarraya, once an important way station for muleteers and stage coaches. In 1983 a jaw and other bones belonging to a Neanderthal were discovered in caves near ZAFARRAYA, which is famous for its ‘boquete’ or ‘hole’ in the mountains on the border of Malaga and Granada provinces. The discovery of ZAFARRAYA MAN, as he is known, has helped scientists and archeologists to ascertain that Neanderthals living in Andalucia lived longer than their contemporaries in other parts of Europe.
THE RAISIN ROUTE takes us through the small villages of Moclinejo, Almachar, El Borge, Cutar, Comares and Totalan with their special charm and clearly Moorish structure and architecture. The vines and the “paseros”, the typical frames where the raisin, which are the basic element of the typical grapes. Festivals of “verdiales” are often held on the farms in these villages.
According to a local legend, as the Catholic King and Queen, Ferdinand and Isabella reached TOTALAN 1483 during the Reconquista, a violist played his instrument from the top of the village tower to warn the Moorish inhabitants of the imminent attack, The tower still stands and a mosaic plaque showing a violin is displayed on a wall next to the tower explaining the legend.
El BORGO 'S radical past and present is well-documented. The town fought against Franco in the SPANISH CIVIL WAR and, after Málaga fell to the Fascists in 1936, republicans used the Axarquía as a base to carry out guerilla raids. There is a street named Republica and another one Che Guevara. But it is inside the Posada del Bandolero, the Bandit Inn and museum, that EL BORGE'S best legends abound. For the museum is a tribute to the infamous El Bizco de El Borge, the cross-eyed bandit of El Borge, and his gang. Regarded as Robin Hood heroes, during the second half of the 19th century the Cross-Eyed One and his merry men held up royal troops all over the Axarquía. Located near EL BORGO and owned by the town hall the Hotel Posada del Bandolero is the birthplace of the bandit El Bizco de El Borgo, one of the 19th centuries most notorious bandits, The hotel has a fascinating museum of banditry and is well worth a visit.
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 a tourist 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. Around the 12th century the Moors created a wide hole in the hillside leading to a gallery of intersecting passages forming nine compartments with dome ceilings. These were used to store water. Mazmullar is some four kilometres from the village and worth a visit.
THE SUN AND WINE ROUTE takes us through the villages of Torrox, Algarrobo, Sayalonga, Competa, Canillas de Albaida, Nerja and Frigiliana. It takes ups past a beautiful stretch of coastline with cliffs and small bays as well as wide well-cared for beaches The hillsides are dotted with vines, small farm houses and small houses where they make the local wine, like the wine from Competa which has given the place fame since as far back as Roman times.
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.
NERJA has become a tourist centre with its famous Balcon de Europa and its caves. The village of Torrox is situated on the gentle slopes going down toward the sea, its coastal strip has the best climate in Europe Looking over the mountains and sea Algarrobo still has a definite Moorish air about it.
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.
SAYALONGA is situated near the natural parks of the Sierras of Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama. 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).
THE MUDEJAR ROUTE takes us through the villages of Arenas, Archez, Salares, Sedella and Canilla de Aceituno. Through the richest cultural, artistic and architectural periods of the Axarquia, it is a delight for visitors who know how to appreciate the beauty of past glories. The Mudejar towers of Sedella, Canillas de Aceituno and the Parish Church of Sedella raise their heads above the Moorish architecture of the white houses of the villages. The Bentorniz Palace in Arenas evokes times gone by.
There is a legend in SEDELLA that says any young unmarried woman who drinks from the villages Fuente del Chorillo will marry soon after. On the other side of the road visitor are greeted by the statue of an emigrant. He is carrying a suitcase and the statue was inaugurated in 2017 to pay tribute to the many men of Sedella who were forced to leave their families in search of work during the last century, The men typically found employment in Germany or Switzerland and sent money home for their families returning only at Christmas or for the village’s annual feria in August.
SALARES situated on the edge of the Tejeda National Park 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.
THE SUN AND AVOCADO PEAR ROUTE goes through the villages of Rincon de la Victoria, Macharaviiaya, Velez-Malaga, Benamocarra, Iznate and Benamargosa. It is the nearest to the city of Malaga, it goes through Velez-Malaga, the main town of the Axarquia with many interesting monuments to visit, the coastal resort of Torre del Mar comes under the jurisdiction of Velez-Malaga, its long Paeso Maritimo is one of the most attractive in the whole of the Mediterranean coast.
Just along the coast is the fishing and pleasure port of La Caleta de Velez, this route takes you past the long ample beaches of Rincon de la Victoria and to the inland village of Macharaviaya, the birthplace of the Galvez family, Benamocarra, Benamargosa and Iznate, white villages full of sun and surrounded by avocado pear plantations which have given this route its name.
IZNATE is known as "The Paradise of the Muscat grape", where grapes, almonds, avocados and olives are produced. 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.
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. We have property for sale all over the Axarquia, your new home in one of pretty villages is just waiting for you.
Kayangan – a mythical world where fairies play and magic happens, a place where beauty abounds and dreams are fulfilled, you can see a sunset and believe you have witnessed the Hand of God.