BOOM! The ancient cannon at Torrox Costa

Sunset behind the cannon at Torrox Costa, Spain

I was down on the seafront at Torrox Costa a couple of weeks ago, just as the sun was going down.

Playing around with the settings on my camera (I have a Nikon D3200), I managed to capture this beauty (ISO 200, f/9, 1/320 if you’re interested).

I love how it looks like the cannon has just fired!  

Have YOU ever been in the right place at the right time, for that perfectly timed shot?


Sandstorm from the Sahara hits Spain


For the past couple of days, we have been experiencing a weather phenomenon, known in Spain as a Calima.  This is a sand and dust-laden wind, originating in the Sahara desert in North Africa.

A Calima wind generally raises temperatures but lowers visibility due to the fine yellowish-brown air-borne dust.  You could be forgiven for thinking this was fog or industrial pollution and, indeed, a strong Calima may cause respiratory problems in humans.

Sand storm over Spain via Nasa

This amazing photo by British astronaut, Tim Peake, from the International Space Station shows the huge sandstorm currently engulfing the Iberian peninsula.

The University of Athens forecast of the extent of the Calima

The University of Athens forecast of the extent of the Calima

But it’s not all bad news.

The particles contain vital nutrients and minerals which are good for fertilising both the land and the sea.

Sand settled on the car

This weather phenomenon normally occurs around this time of year and lasts a few days leaving lots of cleaning up to do.

The good news is that the situation should improve by Thursday of this week, as a cold front introduces clearer air.


Have YOU ever experienced an unusual weather phenomenon?


Earthquakes in Málaga: How likely are they?

Two weeks ago, at 5.23am on Monday 25th January, I was jolted from my slumbers by a noise in the bedroom. My initial thought on awakening was that we had intruders, but I quickly realised that the noise I could hear was the wardrobe, moving and creaking. Once the bed started shaking, it became clear that this was an earthquake – the first I have ever experienced.

The whole episode only lasted for about ten to fifteen seconds.

Earthquake near Malaga, Spain

Measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale, the quake was centred 162 kilometres south-east of the city of Málaga, in the Alborán Sea, off the coast of Morocco. Over the course of the next week or so, we were to experience hundreds of smaller aftershocks – some of them gently obvious, whilst most passed without notice.

Almost five years ago, in May 2011, nine people were killed as two earthquakes struck in quick succession, bringing down scores of buildings in the historic city of Lorca, some 200 kilometres east of the Axarquía region.

The most deadly earthquake in modern Spanish history struck in Arenas de Rey (in Granada province) at 9pm on Christmas Day 1884, with an estimated magnitude of 6.5 on the Richter scale. As a result of that quake, which lasted just twenty seconds, 839 people were killed and 1,500 were injured. More than 14,000 homes were destroyed or damaged over an area covering 6400 square kilometres in the provinces of Granada and Málaga.

Houses of Moorish construction fared better than their more modern counterparts, due in part to construction methods, but there were devastating consequences for the Axarquía region, with sixty per cent of the houses in the village of Periana damaged and the nearby hamlet of Guaro reduced to rubble. There was substantial structural damage to property in Vélez-Málaga, Canillas de Albaida and Cómpeta.

Poor communication and the remoteness of the affected villages delayed news getting out, making the task of providing rescue and assistance for the victims extremely difficult.

In January 1885, King Alfonso XII visited many of the sites devastated by the earthquake, showing his concern for the plight of inhabitants and helping to obtain much-needed aid for local people affected.

A bronze statue to commemorate the King´s visit at that time can be seen leaning on the railings of the Balcón de Europa in Nerja.

King Alfonso XII stands on the Balcón de Europa, Nerja

All these earthquakes occurred in a seismically active area near a large fault line beneath the Earth’s crust, where the Eurasian and African tectonic plates brush past each other.

There are frequent micro-quakes (known as tremors) in southern Spain – almost every day in fact, but as they rarely exceed 4 on the Richter scale, most go unnoticed. It is only occasionally that an earthquake with a magnitude of 6 or more occurs.

As such, according to the European Seismic Hazard Map, the risk to the Iberian Peninsula is classed as “moderate”.

Seismic Hazard risk in Europe

Although science has no way of determining exactly when an earthquake is going to occur, statistical evidence plays a vital part in any earthquake prediction. Historical data and close analysis of other earthquake zones are the only real indications of impending earthquakes. Such evidence suggests that Spain suffers a relatively serious earthquake once every 100 years, which in reality means that there is little ongoing awareness of the small but potential risk, as no-one is alive who remembers the last one.

Spain is hit by about 2,500 micro-quakes a year, but only a few are strong enough to be considered important.

Velez-Malaga and Torre del Mar

The beauty of the landscape in the Axarquía, to the east of Málaga, is due to natural changes over millions of years, earth tremors being just one of them.

So, let´s keep this in perspective. Hundreds of people die on the roads every year yet we continue to jump into our cars every day, don’t we?

I remain, your intrepid reporter – shaken but not stirred!


Axarquía leads the way for adapted beach access in Málaga

Torre del Mar's wide promenade and adjacent seafront gardens

Torre del Mar’s wide promenade and adjacent seafront gardens

Who doesn’t love to head down to the beach to feel the warm sand between their toes, or to take a dip in the water?  I know I do!

Clearly this is harder to achieve if your mobility is impaired, and is especially difficult for wheelchair users.

The seaside town of Torre del Mar which sits midway along the coast of the Axarquía region is leading the way in the provision of adapted beach access for residents and visitors with reduced mobility.

Not only does Torre del Mar have a beautiful wide promenade and attractive, accessible seaside gardens, the local council has put considerable effort into upgrading their adapted beach access.

Around 200 metres west of the Sailing Club and known as “Playa Adaptada 1.0”, the scheme provides a denominated circular concrete parking area and ramp access to concrete pathways – one of which extends to the water’s edge.

There is also a large wooden structure providing a shaded picnic area with tables and benches, changing facilities and wheelchair storage, toilets, lowered signage (also written in braille), seated showers and drinking fountain, special wheelchairs and floatation equipment for use in the water, as well as support staff during the bathing season.

Various other adapted access points can be found along the length of the promenade at Torre del Mar, all with concrete paths and showers, and all of which extend as far as the Sendero Litoral (a hard, compacted sand pathway used by walkers and runners, but which would also be usable by wheelchair users), thus giving access to pretty much the full length of the town’s beach.

Adapted access point, Torre del Mar, Spain

Adapted access point

Other towns to the east of Málaga with adapted beach access (though not necessarily with all the facilities described above) include: Nerja, Torrox Costa, Caleta de Vélez, Benejarafe, Rincón de la Victoria, Cala del Moral.  You can see a PDF (in Spanish) from the Town Hall here, showing all the facilities (with photos).

That’s great news for residents and visitors to La Axarquía (as well as families with pushchairs)!


What’s the adapted beach access like where YOU live?


Related articles:

49 COOL reasons to visit the Axarquía this winter

The King and I on the Balcón de Europa, Nerja



49 COOL reasons to visit the Axarquía (Málaga) this winter


For those of you who don’t know, the Axarquía means “land to the east” (of Málaga city) – hence the name of this blog, East of Málaga.

La Axarquía is roughly a wedge-shape of land extending along the coast as far east as Maro, with a northern edge close to Antequera, and bounded by mountains on each side.

Acknowledged as having one of the best climates in Europe, the weather rarely gets too cold in this part of Spain, even in January and February. You’ll still need to bring a jacket, but you’ll probably be able to cast it off when you sit eating your lunch in the sunshine.

White arches on the Balcon de Europa, Nerja

Of course, it’s always a great time to visit Málaga province with the Festival of San Isidro in May , the Passion play at Riogordo and the amazing parades during Semana Santa (Easter week) or the San Juan fireworks and festivities to welcome the longest day in June.  But, when the skies are grey and the weather wet and wild in northern Europe – here are forty-nine COOL reasons to visit the east of Málaga this winter:

1.   Beautiful clean beaches which you might not get all to yourself – but in many places you will.
2.  Sunrise and sunsets are particularly spectacular during the winter months.
3.  Walk down the streets and there are oranges on the trees – how cool is that?
4.  We have some of the prettiest white villages in Spain, and here are just three – Frigiliana, Comares and Cómpeta
5.  Ski-ing in the Sierra Nevada snowy mountains is only one and a half hours away, now that there’s motorway all the way to the final turn off near Granada.   You really can ski in the morning and sunbathe on the beach in the afternoon.

Frigiliana, Spain

The white mountain village of Frigiliana

6.  Eating fresh fish on the beach – the local delicacy is espetos (or fish-on-a-stick!)
7.  Forget your stereo-typical image of the Costa del Sol.  This is authentic Spain.
8.  Cost of living is low compared with many places around the world (and Europe) meaning your holiday money will go much further.
9.  There are flowers in bloom all year round, with beautiful Birds of Paradise, hibiscus and bougainvillaea to brighten up the place.
10. If you fancy a fiesta, we have them in December and January, too.
11.  Gaze at the boats in the Marinas in Málaga, Caleta de Vélez and further east along the coast at Marina del Este.

Bird of Paradise flower

The Bird of Paradise is in flower, right now

12. You can see snow on the mountains whilst you are basking in sunshine.
13. Buy a ticket for the biggest lottery in the world – El Gordo (in December) and El Niño (in January) – you never know your luck!
14. It’s usual to be given a free tapas with each drink you buy.
15. We have almond blossom in January and February.
16. There are loads of places to visit for day trips including El Torcal, the Dolmens, Granada, and Málaga.

El Tornillo rock formation at El Torcal, Spain

El Tornillo rock formation at El Torcal

17.  Málaga was founded by the Phoenicians almost 3000 years ago, and later settled by the Romans and the Moors – and we have some of the architecture to prove it!
18.  It’s family friendly (and safe) – you’ll see all the generations out together taking their evening stroll.
19.  We have some amazing food markets and street markets.
20.  You can try some delicious local wines, which are very good value.
21. Climb to the top of the highest mountain in Málaga province. La Maroma stands 2066m and looks majestically over the Axarquía.
22. Enjoy a walk around the scenic Lake Viñuela or up Rio Chillar.

Rio Chillar views, Nerja, Spain

Enjoy a scenic walk along the Rio Chillar in Nerja

23. Visit the Buddhist stupa near Vélez-Málaga – you didn’t expect to see one of those, did you?
24. We have some great hiking routes offering stunning views.
25. If cycling is your thing, we have steep mountain roads and La Vuelta de España visits Málaga each summer.
26. You’ll probably encounter a herd of goats on the road as you drive near some of the white villages.
27. There are fewer tourists around at this time of year.

Fancy walking through this archway in Canillas de Aceituno?

Fancy walking through this archway in Canillas de Aceituno?

28. See the hand-built wooden jabegas (traditional local fishing boats) on the beach.
29. Walk along the gorgeous pebbled streets – with each village having their own unique design.
30. Meet up on the Balcón de Europa in Nerja, with views across the Mediterranean Sea.
31. See the traditional farming methods still used here – with oxen and mules.
32. Count the old men sitting on benches under the shady trees, watching the world go by.
33. See the hillsides terraced with vines, almond and olive trees.

El Acebuchal

Mountains and hillsides of La Axarquia

34. There are rugged cliffs and secret coves.
35. Stunning natural park areas, both inland near the mountains and even extending out into sea.
36. Every town and village has their own Christmas lights, but the display in Málaga each December just gets better and better.
37. There are around 320 sunny days every year.
38. There are hot-chestnut sellers on street corners.

Malaga's gothic Christmas lights 2014

Malaga’s gothic Christmas lights 2014

39. If you love star-gazing then the countryside around the Axarquía is the perfect place.
40. On clear winter evenings, as the sun sets we can sometimes see another continent –  yes, the Rif mountains in Morroco, Africa.
41. For all you culture-vultures, there are many world-class museums in Málaga including the Centre Pompidou, the Russian museum and, of course Málaga’s most famous son – Picasso.
42. Gorgeous, long promenades along the coastline to stroll along in the winter sunshine.
43. The sales (rebajas) start in the shops on January 7th, where you’ll find leather shoes and bags made in Spain, and cheaper prices in Mango, H&M and Zara than anywhere else in Europe.

East of Malaga: Making paella

Making paella on the beach

44. Eat paella on the beach.
45. If you enjoy watching football, Málaga CF are in the top Spanish league, La Liga.  Buy some tickets to experience match-day or at very least watch the match on TV for free in one of the bars.
47. There are usually special offers on budget flights such as Easyjet, Ryanair, Vueling, Norwegian and many more airlines.
48. Sit outside on a sunny terrace, to have a drink or meal, without your coat on!
49.  It’s the perfect place to base yourself for a tour of classic AndalucíaCórdoba, Granada, Seville, Jerez, and Ronda are all on the doorstep with good road and rail links.

REMEMBER: Before somewhere becomes your favourite place, it’s a place you’ve never been before.

What are you waiting for?  When will YOU be visiting Málaga?