You might not have thought that Andalucía has it’s own Space Programme, but that’s what I always tell our visitors as we head along the motorway from Málaga airport towards our home in the Axarquia. It sounds so much much better than telling them that what they can see in the distance is the concrete factory at La Araña.
Until recently, I had never really thought of La Araña as being anything other than “the place where the monstrous concrete factory is” – apart from the Andalucían Space Shuttle, of course!
How wrong was I!
On the Mediterranean side of the road artery to-and-from Málaga and forming part of the GR-92 (Sendero Litoral Este de Málaga) coastal walkway, lies a beautiful stretch of coastline, popular with walkers and mountain bikers, which is well worth a visit.
If you park in the village of La Araña and head in the general direction of Málaga, you will first come across El Torre del las Palomas (Tower of the Pigeons), one of the many watchtowers dotting the Axarquían coastline, at one time used to help in defending the area from invaders.
From here, as you walk towards Málaga, you will see the iconic El Peñon del Cuervo (Raven’s Rock), with a tunnel nearby, which once formed part of the coastal railway, linking Torre del Mar with the city of Málaga.
The palm-tree lined walkway widens out to a lovely beach area, popular with locals during the summer months. There is a parking area and BBQs available for public use.
Next time you are on your way to Málaga, surprise yourself like I did, and spend an hour strolling along this scenic but hidden stretch of coastline.
Today, bringing a whole new meaning to the winter blues, on my East of Malaga Facebook page we are celebrating the “Málaga Blues”.
This is a series of photographs taken around Málaga province, showing skies, sea and doors in various shades of blue.
One of the best ways to cool down on a hot summer´s day is to take a walk along the Rio Chillar from Nerja. Unusually for Andalucía, this route is suitable for walking during June, July and August, as there is plenty of shade, plus the river to keep you cool.
Closer to Frigiliana in terms of distance, this mountain hamlet is a world away from the hoards of holiday-makers visiting the Costa del Sol. You can discover this delightful blue door in the Lost Village of El Acebuchal.
Held every year in August, the Málaga feria is one of the largest fairs in Spain with millions of people joining the fun throughout the week.
In 1979, a cave was discovered near to the Zafarraya Pass, with a subsequent archaeological dig unearthing the best preserved remains of Neanderthal man (radiometrically dating back 30000 years) ever found in Western Europe.
This house with it’s heavenly views can be found in the upper part of the white village of Frigiliana. There is no motor vehicle access up the steep streets to this part of the village, which remains largely how it must have looked hundreds of years ago, when the village was occupied by the Moors.
Last summer I had fun photographing the colourful sails of the catamarans at the sailing club in Torre del Mar.
Lying in the shadow of the largest mountain in the Axarquía region, there has been a settlement on the site of Canillas de Aceituno since the Moorish occupation in the 8th century, when the main industry was the growing of mulberry trees for silk production.
My final image is from my home village of Cómpeta, showing a pretty balcony, filled with flowers, against the deep blue painted windows as their background.
Head over to Facebook, join in with the fun – and post your own Malaga Blues onto the page, if you have any!
El Acebuchal isn’t so much a village as a 17th century hamlet within the unspoilt mountains and natural park of Sierra Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama.
Situated close to the border of the provinces of Granada and Málaga and coming under the control of Cómpeta, El Acebuchal is actually nearer to Frigiliana in terms of distance – yet a world away from the hoards of holiday-makers visiting the Costa del Sol.
The name comes from the Arabic “acebuche” meaning olive, and even though we know of its existence since 17th century, it is thought to have been inhabited long before then.
El Acebuchal was an important staging post on the ancient mule-trading routes between Competa, Frigiliana, Nerja and the inland city of Granada.
Fresh fish caught on the coast and locally grown crops including tomatoes and raisins were traded for chickpeas, wheat, lentils and other goods not easily available in the nearby mountains.
Life was hard for the inhabitants, as it was in most of rural Andalucía, but became even more difficult when they were caught between the Franco regime and guerrillas in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. Authorities had long suspected the villagers of supporting Republican rebels hiding out in the mountains, by providing them with food and refuge. In truth, the villagers were literally caught in the crossfire, and hassled from both sides.
In the summer of 1948, the villagers paid a heavy price for their isolated location in the mountains when the Guardia Civil ordered that El Acebuchal be cleared of its 200 inhabitants, who were forced to flee, leaving behind their homes, belongings and livestock.
The abandoned mountain hamlet soon fell into disrepair and eventually into ruins, becoming known locally as “The Lost Village” or “Pueblo el Fantasmas” – The Village of Ghosts.
Fifty years later in 1998, Antonio García Sánchez, son of one of the original villagers, returned with his wife, Virtudes and family to restore a couple of houses in the village. Once these were completed, they rebuilt a further five houses and the tavern when they noticed an increase of rural tourism in the area.
People were starting to return to El Acebuchal.
This family’s adventure became contagious as other former residents turned their attention back to their old family homes to begin their restoration, so that today, all 36 houses, the chapel, tavern and cobblestone streets have been returned to how they once were.
If you head to El Acebuchal and discover the tavern during the morning, you will probably find Antonio and some of his family gathered on the shady terrace opposite, performing some of their duties. The tavern restaurant serves dishes appropriate for the mountain environment: choto (kid), lamb, wild boar, rabbit and venison, with delicious home-made cakes and bread.
Step inside the tavern and you will find the walls proudly lined with old photos of El Acebuchal and its former residents. Whenever I visit, I always find myself lingering a while, trying to imagine what life must have been like for these people.
With only a handful of permanent residents, most people you see around the streets are visitors, hikers or holidaymakers staying in one of the village rental properties.
The countryside near to the isolated hamlet is almost deserted except for the crumbling ruins of long-abandoned cortijos. There are plunging ravines, tinkling streams, mountain slopes covered with pine trees and the rocky crags of the mountain tops reaching up to the blue skies above.
This area is ideal for visitors who want to get away from it all …. and you can certainly do that in El Acebuchal as there is no telephone reception, no shops, credit cards or internet.
Rural tourism has breathed life back into the village which has risen like a phoenix from the ashes.
How to get there:
There are main two routes to El Acebuchal. You can get there from the Cómpeta-Torrox road (A7207), where you turn off near to the Km 8 road marker. Follow the direction signs for El Acebuchal. Here you will face a 6.5 kilometre un-made mountain track to the village. It’s not for the faint-hearted as there are no barriers, but it’s certainly drivable – and you don’t need a 4-wheel drive to do it. Along the way you will drive through a stream and see spectacular scenery. It’s quite an adventure!
Alternatively, the more popular and shorter route is from the village of Frigiliana. Take the scenic back-road towards Torrox, and after two kilometres you will see the turn-off sign to Acebuchal on your right. This road is asphalted – except for an easy 1500 metre section near to the village.
Tell me – would YOU dare to drive along an unmade mountain track with no barriers?
During the festive season, the Christmas Lights in Málaga are always a great place to visit, but this year they have really surpassed themselves.
They are nothing short of spectacular!
Each evening, Calle Marqués de Larios, the main pedestrianised shopping street is crowded with people enjoying a party atmosphere with balloons and street performers to entertain them. What I particularly love here in the city, as in every village and town across Spain, you will see all the family generations out taking their evening stroll together.
Whilst they are still open, the shops, as well as the bars and restaurants are brimming over with people either doing their Christmas shopping or just soaking up the festive atmosphere.
The stars of this particular light show are shining brightly on Calle Marqués de Larios (famous for being paved with marble), and this year’s display has a Gothic feel, with a cathedral-arched frame dominating the street.
Most surrounding streets have a more modest display of lights too, so have a wander around and see them, but don’t forget to look up at the beautiful buildings, too.
You’ll see bright red poinsettias everywhere – planted on the roundabouts, hanging from lamp posts and displayed in huge cones around Calle Larios.
There’s a huge choice of bars and restaurants to tempt you – many with their gas-flame heaters burning outside to keep you warm. If you have to drive back home again later, you might prefer to try the best chocolate and churros in Málaga, at Cafe Aranda in Calle Santos. The light, crispy churros and thick, creamy hot chocolate to dip them in are absolutely scrumptious!
Afterwards, wander down Calle Larios to the main road through the centre, Alameda Principal, to see the beautifully lit trees and the flower stalls or turn left and walk along the edge of the Paseo del Parque to enjoy the many Christmas stalls lining the route.
Marvel at the huge Christmas tree in Plaza Constitución, with the Gothic arches peeping at you from Calle Marqués de Larios, inviting you to come closer.
It’s easy to be fooled by the blue skies and warm sunshine, but yes, it’s only two weeks until Christmas Day.
You can really get in the mood for Christmas by visiting the outdoor skating rink in front of El Corte Ingles, or go to see one of the many the Bélens (crib and Nativity scenes) around the city – of which the best (in my opinion) is in the Town Hall.
Malaga’s Christmas lights shine from 6.30pm – 2am daily, until 6th January 2015
What’s YOUR favourite thing to do or visit at Christmas?