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 The A to Z Of Rural Andalucia
Discover the History of Rural Andalucia
 Colmenar
COLMENAR - THE CAPITAL OF THE MONTES DE MALAGA.

Only 35 kms from MALAGA and reached by motorway part of the way and then by a very good road, COLMENAR gets its name from the uncountable beehives which surround it thanks to the variety of plants, bushes and shrubs which grow here.

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.

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 modern district with straight wide streets, and the old quarter, with twisty streets following intricate routes that are reminiscent of those Mudejar buildings in the hamlet when it was founded by Francisco Coalla at the end of the fifteenth century.

A short drive from COLMENAR takes you into the beautiful pine forests and Natural Park of the MONTES DE MALAGA. Here you can walk for miles undisturbed and be at one with nature.
 Alfarnate


ALFARNATE

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.

ALFARNATEJO

Only 3 kms from ALFARNATE this village has approximately 500 inhabitants and is 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

The village is totally MOORISH in appearance with lots of steep twisty streets and consists of the high district(El Cerillo) and the low (La Plaza). Most 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.

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 visit the Arab remains of Castle Aute and also the Hermitage de Jesus Nazareno erected in XVIIC. Holy Friday and Saturday more than 400 locals stage the EL PASO - Passion of Christ, an extremely moving and unforgettable experience that will move you to tears.

VINUELA

45 kms from MALAGA, this 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. There was an inn which soon became an ideal travellers rest, this was considered to be the first house in the village. Nearby is a dam and beautiful lake where swimming, fish and small boats are permitted.
 Alcaucin
ALCAUCIN

The name comes from the Arab Al-Cautin which means "The Arches". A village of approximately 1,500 inhabitants and flanked on one side by the peak of the Maroma at 2,080 ms the highest in the LA AXARQUIA. In the Boquete de Zarraya is a natural passage at the border of GRANADA Province in which in August 1983 a jawbone of a Neanderthal man was discovered.

ALCAUCIN also has the Castle and village of Zalia, and the Arab baths of sulphur waters at LAS MAJADASAS are worth a visit. In the Alcazar mountains is a Nature Reserve offering all kinds of facilities, join in with the locals for their Romeria to the Alcazar during the celebrations of San Isidro on May 15th

PERIANA

Take the road from ALCAUCIN to Puente Don Manuel and turn right and PERIANA is 13.5 kms along and 547 meters above sea level. In its territory the River Guaro is born forming a beautiful cascade.

This is a prosperous and flourishing town based on two products, oil, consider the best in the Province, and the fruit, especially the peaches, having the most outstanding taste and quality. A fiesta is dedicated to the peach every year at the end of the harvest, and don't forget a visit to the Arab baths at Vilo, which were in use until XIXC.
 Archidona

ARCHIDONA

Located in the northern part of the Province of MALAGA the urban area is situated at the foot of the Sierra de Gracia and surrounded by the Sierras del Conjuro and Grajasa. Phoenician, Roman, Carthaginian and Moorish cultures have left their traces and the gastronomy offers such dishes as Porra Archidonesa and Cazuelilla Moruna. The town is rich in history and traditions with many beautiful buildings, and close by are the lagoons of La Hoz del Arroyo Marin and Las Lagunas de Archidona.

VILLANUEVA DE TAPIA

Situated on the eastern border of the Province of Malaga between ANTEQUERA and the Provinces of Granada and Cordoba. After the Christian conquest of these lands the VILLANUEVA DE TAPIA area became the object of court action between IZNAJAR (Corobda) and ARCHIDONA, each of which claimed the municipality as its own. This is the reason for the other name of the municipality mentioned in the 16th documents now in the Municipal Archives in Iznajar: Entredicho, meaning split or under injunction.

To solve the problem the advisers of the Real Hacienda, at the beginning of the 17th century, decided that the municipalities would form part of the ROYAL HERITAGE, but Felipe 111, having decided that these lands were not showing enough profit, decided to sell them to a member of the Castile Supreme Advisory Body, named Pedro de Tapia, thus the complete name of the town.

There are a number of 18th century houses and curious buildings, like SANTA BARBARA INN, and a lovely parish church.
 Iznajar
IZNAJAR

A beautiful hilltop town sitting on a promontory in the River Genil valley & known as the MIRADOR OF THE GENIL VALLEY. It is the natural entrance to the Sierra SUBBETICA Natural Park & originally a prehistoric settlement. Its fortunes changed in the 8th century when the Arab settlers built a castle on the promontory and named it “Hins Ashar”. After many battles it was finally taken by the army of Abderraman III who supported the Caliphate of Cordoba which was then the capital of Al-Andalus. During the Christian Reconquest, after the fall of the Caliphate, it was under the rule of the Muslim-held Granada until 1431, when during the reign of the Catholic King Juan 11 it was returned to Christian rule at least 60 years before the fall of Granada in 1492.

In 1861 IZNAJAR became famous when the town supported an uprising against the monarchy led by Rafael Perez del Alamo. The results were of course devastatingly predictable.

Some years ago the town was transformed when the creation of a reservoir, which is 32 km long, was estimated to contain 900 million cubic meters of water destined for human consumption. This served to give IZNAJAR a waterfront overlooking an inland sea & many streets & indeed some houses have a lake view. There is a lovely sandy beach for swimming in the summer and walking in the winter, a good restaurant and activities on the lake in the summer months.

IZNAJAR CASTLE, built in the 7th century, is one of the oldest fortresses in the region & has squared towers on each corner, the highlight is the homage tower. It stands at the highest point on the promontory & what was then a primitive village tumbled down before the fortress. Like most towns the oldest houses are still near the castle & the most recent at the base. The castle ruins are now undergoing repair work.

Just outside the castle walls is what was the old agricultural depository from the time of Carlos 111. Since 1989 it has been used as the public municipal library. The Iglesia de Santiago was built in the 17th century & has beautiful baroque chapel behind the altar which guards the clay modelled statue of Santisma Virgin de la Piedad, Our Lady of Piety, whose statue is the oldest in IZNAJAR dating from 1460.

In the oldest part of the town just down from the castle walls the Calle Real is cross-crossed by Calle 9 Junio 1910. No-one knows why this street was given this name.
 Lucena
LUCENA

Under the CALIPH OF CORDOBA, Abd al-Rahman III in the tenth century, LUCENA was a prosperous community of Jewish merchants and enjoyed virtual independence. In the last days of the Kingdom of Granada, the Moorish King Boabdil was imprisoned in the Torre de Moral.

Nowadays LUCENA and the surrounding area is famous for furniture, pottery, brass and copper-ware. Take a short detour to CABRA where the architecture is reminiscent of the Moors. Near the castle is Asuncion Church, built in the 15th century over a mosque.
 Antequera

Located deep in the heart of Andalusia, ANTEQUERA has been an important crossroads since ancient times. The Romans established a settlement here and named it ANTIKARIA. A city full of history, churches, convents, monasteries and monuments, a climb up to the Alcazaba is a must. Pass through the 400 year old gate of Arco de los Gigantes to visit the 16th century Colegiata Santa Maria la Mayor. The fortress was a stronghold of the Moorish Kingdom of Granada before falling to the Christians in 1410. From the top there are excellent views over the city and the fertile plains. Antequera has numerous palaces, the most notable being the Palace of Najero now the Municipal Museum.
 El Torcal
Walk down any one of the streets and you will see ancestral homes with typical Andalusian patios, where the nobility settled during the Renaissance period. A visit to ANTEQUERA would not be complete without seeing the famous DOLMENS, ancient burial sites constructed 4,000 years ago by people of which very little is known. Try and figure out how the massive stone slabs could possibly have been transported from Cerro de la Cruz 1 kilometre away. See also the Roman and Arabic baths, and the Roman remains of the town of Singilia, and find time to visit the nuns at the Belen Convent and buy some of their delicious cakes.

Before you leave this beautiful spot take a drive to EL TORCAL natural park where, over thousands of years, the wind and rain has carved bizarre shapes. Visit the park at twilight and let your imagination run riot, but make sure that you do not get caught in the dark!

South of ANTEQUERA is the quaint hamlet of VILLANUEVA DE CAUCHE. Situated at the foot of the Sierra de las Cabrasa Mountains, Villanueva de Cauche was until a few years ago the last Spanish stronghold.

The whole village was owned by the Marquesa de Cauche and owners of the houses built on her land around the palace paid an annual rent of one hen, or two if they had a patio. In 1989 the Marquesa agreed to sell out to the tenant farmers for a nominal sum.

VILLANUEVA DE CAUCHE is located right on the Puerta Pedrizas high up where you can see beautiful landscapes. In the hamlet of narrow streets with their white house, stands the small 17th century church where the villagers celebrate the May Crosses.
 Fuente de Piedra

A short drive from ANTEQUERA takes you to the LAGUNA DE FUENTE DE PIEDRA, an ornithologists paradise. The lake is the second most important breeding area for FLAMINGOS in Europe.

After crossing into SEVILLE province you approach the traditional Andalusian town of ESTEPA, a jewel and a delight for the senses. It is an architecturally magnificent town of intoxicating aromas and natural beauty awaiting discovery.

The palaces, convents, churches, noble houses, walls and castle provide a monumental richness to this town, known around the world for its traditional CHRISTMAS sweets.

Visible by day and floodlit at night is the Cerro de San Cristobal, the fortified town which sits in splendour at ESTEPA'S highest point. Climb the steep street and meander the narrow streets to appreciate the panoramic splendour which unfolds at the highest point. Knock on the door of the 16th century SANTA CLARA CONVENT and reward yourself with delightful cakes which can be purchased directly from the Sisters.

A tranquil location is DE ROYA. Nestling within the majestic mountains on the outskirts of the town, DE ROYA is an area of outstanding natural beauty in which to walk and lose oneself in the stunning scenery. ESTEPA is both vibrant and tranquil as well as steeped in history and beauty. The waters of Manatial de Roya hold a 1000-year-old magic yet to be discovered .

Continue on to OSUNA, a small town with abundant evidence of its past grandeur. Old palaces dot the streets dating from the times when the Dukes of OSUNA ruled. A beautiful Renaissance church has been carefully restored and beneath it is the Pantheon still used by the Osuna family. Take a walk down San Pedro Street and admire the impressive house facades including the Counts of La Gomera.

Continue on to OLVERA in Cadiz province which is a picture perfect town towering over the rolling hillsides and jagged rocky peaks of the Sierra Gaditana. Formerly a feared bandit hideout OLVERA was a notorious outpost for some of the Andalusian outlaws just 200 years ago. Incredibly the once isolated settlement granted asylum to criminals if they pledged to take up arms in its´ defence and the arrival of bandits to this remote frontier post soon gave rise to the adage “Kill a man and go to Olvera”.

Described as a wedding cake cascading down a high hill the town is seen from miles around. The magnificent church and 12th century Moorish castle, which once held the line for the Mastrid Kingdom of Granada against the advancing Christians from the north, dominate the skyline. OLVERA has become one of the main breeding grounds for the JAMON IBERICO and with Jerez and Seville airports just one hour away is now a popular area to live in.
 Washington Irving
THE ROUTE OF WASHINGTON IRVING is one of the vital links of Al-Andalus routes.

Through Malaga, Seville and Granada it joins two outstanding essential cities in the Hispano-Muslim civilisation. Followed by the romantic traveller WASHINGTON IRVING in 1829, the legendary feature is that in the 19th century it was famous for contraband and highwaymen such as the well known Siete Ninos de Ecija, (seven children from Ecija), and Jose Maria, EL TEMPRANILLO (The Early-bird). Along the way are numerous small towns and villages with countless Mudejar and Barroque buildings and churches. There is an old saying that the reason why the horses in the countryside of Seville are so fleet of foot is because the mares are made pregnant by the wind.
 Osuna


Take time to visit some of the lovely towns such as ESTEPA where, above the ancients walls, is a complex of convents and churches. Knock on the door of the 16th century Santa Clara convent and buy some delicious sweets made by the nuns. From the castle on top of the hill there are splendid views of the countryside.

OSUNA is a small town with abundant evidence of its past grandeur where old palaces dot the streets dating from the times when the Dukes of Osuna ruled. A beautiful Renaissance church has been carefully restored, and beneath it is the Pantheon still used by the Osuna family. Take a walk down Calle San Pedro and admire the impressive house facades including the Counts of La Gomera.

In ILLORA, so-called "Granada's Darling", on the slopes of the Sierra de Parapanda, visit the great fortress around which the village grew.

MORALEDA DE ZAFAYONA, an old Ibero-Roman settlement, where the cliffs and gorges of the Cacin river spread throughout Moraleda and make for a unique troglodyte habitat.

You must not miss a visit to the birth place of FEDERICO GARCIA LORCA - FUENTE VACQUEROS. Born here in 1898 his family home is one of the most visited spots in the world. The village grew up around a fountain and used to be part of Solo de Romo, a Royal game preserve that the Cortes of Cadiz presented to the Duke of Wellington in perpetuity in recognition of his services during the War of Independence. LORCA wrote " I had my first dream of remoteness in this village".

Lastly to MONTEFRIO, crowned by the "Iglesia de la Villa", and chosen by Nasrid King Ismail 111 to set up court, surely the areas real gem. From the church you will see one of the most spectacular and treasured views in the area, the nearby archaeological and historical site of "Pena de los Gitanos" (Gypsies Rock), one of the largest in the Province, is proof of habitation through the ages.
 Poniente Granadino


The Western region of Granada is known as PONIENTE GRANADINO and is the last frontier of Al-Andalus. AL-ANDALUS, also known as the Moorish Iberia or Islamic Iberia, was a medieval Muslim state occupying at its peak most of what are today Spain, Portugal, Andorra and part of southern France.

Following the Muslim conquest of Hispania, AL-ANDALUS was divided into five administrative units, corresponding roughly to modern Andalusia, Galicia and Portugal, Castille and León, Aragon and Catalonia, and Septimania.

As a political domain, it successively constituted a province of the Umayyad Caliphate, initiated by the Caliph Al-Walid I (711–750); the Emirate of Córdoba (c. 750–929); the Caliphate of Córdoba (929–1031); and the Caliphate of Córdoba's taifa (successor) kingdoms.

Under the CALIPHATE OF CORDOBA, Al-Andalus was a beacon of learning, and the city of Córdoba became one of the leading cultural and economic centres in both the Mediterranean Basin and the Islamic world.

For much of its history, AL-ANDALUS existed in conflict with Christian kingdoms to the north, who ultimately overpowered their Muslim neighbours after centuries. In 1085, Alfonso VI of León and Castille captured Toledo, starting a gradual Muslim decline until, with the fall of CORDOBA in 1236, the Emirate of Granada was the only Muslim territory in what is now Spain.

In 1238 the Emirate of Granada officially became a tributary state to the Kingdom of Castille. Finally on January 2, 1492, the Emirate of Granada was surrendered to Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II and this ended AL-ANDALUS as a political entity, though aspects of Islamic culture are still evident in the region.

It is the cultural and tourist centre made up of 16 municipalities full of Andalusian charm, friendly people and stunning landscapes.

Come with us to a few of the towns and see the beauty, history and countryside of Granada province for yourself.

LOJA was considered the door and key to the Kingdom of Granada by ISABELLA and FERDINAND and was once poetically described as “a city with a smiling face, the aspect of a charmer and a place of beautiful women able to cure ills of the heart”.

LOJA sits across the Genil River and the area has mid-mountains terrain which rises to dominate the countryside and low meadows. The Sierra de Loja offers hiking trails to such locations as Charco del Nego.

LOJA is known as the city of water with its many natural fountains and springs such as the LOS INFIERNOS magnificent waterfalls just outside the town on the Genil River.

A traditional Andalusian market town which retains its historical Moorish past, LOJA sits at the foot of the Sierra Loja mountains whilst being ideally located next to the A92 main Granada to Seville motorway. 

The town enjoys many local fiestas with Semana Santa (Easter) being of particular importance attracting many visitors to the town and when taken by the Christians it was named “flower among thorns”.

ALHAMA DE GRANADA where you can bathe in the natural hot springs. Remains of the Alcazaba stand with Christian bell towers on either side. Under the Phoenicians it was a trading post known as Tricolia and the Moors called it MEDINA LAUXA.

Make a detour to the trout producing village of RIOFRIO and have lunch at one of the many fine restaurants serving mouthwatering speciality trout dishes. A short stop at SALAR to see one of the most well preserved medieval towers in the area and on to ARENAS DEL REY in the valley of the Cacin river.

The area was destroyed by an earthquake in 1884 and reconstructed at the end of the century. In the foothills of the Sierra de Jata and near the EMBALSE DE LOS BERMEJALES, a perfect place to practice water sports, the Cacin waters are responsible for the phenomenon known as "Los Barrancos" - the gorges.
 Moclin


JAYENA, halfway between Moraleda and Alhama de Granada was one of the localities most severely hit by the earthquake. Deep in the heart of olive farming country you will come across ZAGRA, situated at the foot of one of the regions' most famous castles.

And talking of Castles, MOCLIN has a MAJESTIC one from Nasrid time with two distinct areas. The first one is in better state of repair and consists of tower, church and graveyard, the second has a citadel. There are many outlying watch towers offering the visitor superb views to the Sierra Nevada. We hope you are now as bewitched by Andalusia as countless people over the years have been.

In the area of La Loma the towns of UBEDA and BAEZA are separated by almost 9 kms of olive groves. Antonio Machado, a great poet, compared them and said BAEZA was a poor lady and UBEDA a queen and a gypsy.

UBEDA has many interesting monuments, 500 buildings listed as historical or artistic interest and a great number of private houses are noted for their beautiful patios full of light and flowers. At dusk the buildings and main square light up giving the impression that you have suddenly jumped back four centuries.

BAEZA is relatively small and is a city which boasts an impressive cathedral constructed by Ferdinand 111 on the site of an old Arab Mosque. From Los Alitores Gate there is a magnificent view over the whole Guadalquiver and the Majena and Cazorla mountain ranges. As twilight falls visit the Palacio de Jabalquinto, with a beautifully decorated facade and buttresses in Plaza de Santa Cruz, and let yourself be transported back over the centuries.
 Priego de Cordoba


Follow the ROUTE OF THE CALIPHS which runs between the two most important towns of Hispano-Muslim history, CORDOBA and GRANADA, and includes the frontier town of JAEN. Between both there is a land of legends, garrisons, watch towers, castles, customs, friendly people and remarkable towns. Come with us now and visit a few.

Situated at the foot of "La Tinosa", hidden in the Subbetica and on a small plateau lies PREIGO DE CORDOBA. This small kingdom of villages and sierras was once an Arabic citadel that has an Alcazaba in the highest part, surrounded by walls, facing the Medina with Mosque and fabulous architecture. Preigo was the ancient lock and key to the Kingdom of Granada. The Fuente del Rey (Kings' Fountain), is a must, where, for over 100 years, water has flowed into its 3 terraced pools. There is much to see in Priego with the jewel being the Capilla de Sagrario (Sacrament Chapel).

Just inside the Province of JAEN is ALCAUDETE, surrounded by olive trees, vineyards and orchards. There are lots of interesting places to visit, especially the Castle, churches and Fuensanta Park. CABRA is in the Subbetica Natural Park in the Province of CORDOBA and its architecture is reminiscent of the Moors and a short detour to CARCABUEY is a must. Near the Castle is Asuncion church built in the 15th century over a mosque. In the Castle is the "Ermita de la Virgen del Castillo" dating from 18th century. THE ROMAN DUNGEON, in the historic quarter is well preserved and the houses of the nobility in St.Majadella and Santa Ana are stunning.
 Zuheros

A visit to the area would not be complete without a trip to ZUHEROS, in the middle of an impressive gorge cut by the river Bailon and doubtlessly one of the most beautiful villages in the SUBBETICA. The Arabs left a fabulous legacy, a castle built out of rock, defending the frontier against the Kingdom of Granada. Take the high road to the Sierra for breathtaking views and visit the Cuevas de los Murceilogos which testify to prehistoric times with remains and paintings.

Wandering the streets and alleys under a blue sky you soon lose sense of time as tranquillity and enchantment washes over you.

Lastly we visit ALCALA LA REAL the frontier town, key to the valley of the Guadalquiver and the fertile plains of Granada, and its coat of arms has a key right in the middle. It was from here that FERDINAND and ISABELLA rode out in order to receive the keys upon surrender of GRANADA. Large rocks form part of the walls of La Mota Fortress which consists of Alcazaba and abbey church, here 7 doors lead down to the town where you find the old military quarters of the Muslim era and many other fascinating features.

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