Out and About in Alcaucin

The breathtakingly beautiful municipality of Alcaucín is a must-visit for autumn. Now that the summer is over it’s possible to lure oneself away from the beach and into some of the inland beauty spots that this area offers. The valley of Alcaucín runs from the main town with the same name, down through a series of hamlets including Venta Alta, Venta Baja and ends with Puente Don Manuel, its southern-most point.

Although largely  ‘urbanizaciónes,’ or housing developments, these hamlets, for example Puente Don Manuel, offer a range of services aimed at the large foreign population that has chosen to live in the area including

The Indian Palace restaurant in the Buenavista area for delicious Indian food,  Rumours Hair and Beauty  Salon,  a fantastic  place to relax and be pampered.  Looking for a new outfit or a gift idea? Then call into Divas Boutique and Emporium and find what you are looking for.   Missing traditional fish and chips? Then call in The Town Frier for a taste of home. If you are thinking of moving to the area then give real estate agent Villa Solutions a call.

It is easy to understand why people want to live there; the panoramic views of the mountains and La Viñuela reservoir, as well as other whitewashed villages clinging to the sides of the mountains provide an unrivalled sense of space, fresh air and freedom.

Alcaucín can also claim the spectacular ‘boquete de Zafarraya’ as its own; a mountain pass that connects Malaga with Granada. The boquete, or hole, is clearly visible from many parts of the Axarquía and has an interesting history…

…from 1922 until 1960, a train ran from Vélez-Málaga, via Periana, to Ventas de Zafarraya, where passengers could change and continue to Granada. Today a tourist train goes back and forth along part of the old line and can be caught in Ventas de Zafarraya, just under 12 kilometres from Alcaucín. The scale model is a replica of the original steam train and takes tourists around the mountain and village of Ventas de Zafarraya. For further information as well as group bookings visit: www.el trendelllano.com

In 1983, in the same area, the jaw and other bones belonging to a Neanderthal man were discovered in caves, demonstrating that there has been human activity in the valley for hundreds of thousands of years.   The discovery of ‘Zafarraya Man,’ as he is known, has helped scientists and archaeologists to ascertain that Neanderthals living in Andalusia lived longer than their contemporaries in other parts of Europe.

Other reminders of Spain’s ancestors in the area include the ruins of the Arabic Zalia fortress and citadel,  located on the road leading up to the boquete.   

Although accessible, the fortress is not currently officially open to the public.

Alcaucín Town Hall is hoping to make both the fortress and the caves open to the public in the future.

The Alcazar national park,  just north of Alcaucín, offers fantastic walking and is one of various  starting points for the climb up La Maroma, Malaga province’s highest mountain at 2,068 metres.

The total population of the municipality is in the region of 2,500, although Alcaucín town has around 300 inhabitants and is made up of a series of rambling, hilly streets and the typical whitewashed houses, synonymous with this part of Spain.

The pretty town hall building is situated on Plaza de la Constitución, tucked away at the top of the town and near to the start of one of the ‘sendero’, or public footpaths, which lead up to La Maroma.

Alcaucín town is nestled in the foothills of the mountain, sitting at 500 metres above sea level and proudly overlooking its valley,  La Viñuela reservoir and the boquete de Zafarraya.  A focal point in Alcaucín town centre is the fountain, the ‘fuente de los cinco caños’ – five spouts – each one providing residents with fresh drinking water. The fountain is a permanent homage to San Sebastian, the patron saint of the municipality.

Festivals

Of course no town in Spain would be complete without its local fiestas and Alcaucín is no exception.  Highlights throughout the year include the annual Feria (fair), which takes place over the first weekend in August and celebrates Saint Sebastian.   A smaller feria, la Virgen del Rosario, happens on October 7 and over the first weekend in November the town celebrates autumn with the ‘festival de la castaña (chestnut). Up to 5,000 people are expected to come to the village every year, to sample the autumnal delights of roast chestnuts and baked sweet potatoes (boniatos), washed down with a glass of warming anís (anisette). This year, over the same weekend, Alcaucín will be hosting its first Xtrail race. The event is on the 5th & 6th November. The ‘plato tipical,’ or traditional dish, in Alcaucín may not be to everyone’s liking,  but chivo al ajillo, or suckling goat with garlic, is a popular delicacy in the Axarquía and is often eaten around Christmas.  It may also be served with an almond sauce.

How to get there

There are buses from Torre del Mar, Vélez-Málaga and Málaga to Alcaucín and the services run from Monday to Friday. Check on the Alcaucin website (www.alcaucin.es) for timetable information.  The best way to get to Alcaucín is by car in order to take in some of the hamlets and spectacular views as the road winds up the valley via a bendy mountain road.

The well-stocked tourist information office is open from 11am until 1pm, Monday to Friday and staff will be able to provide a wealth of information about what to do in the area. There are banks and a few shops in Alcaucín, as well as bars and restaurants, a municipal swimming pool and library.

The inland area of the Axarquía provides a stark contrast to the larger costal towns of Torre del Mar, Torrox and Nerja and a visit should be part of any tourist or resident’s itinerary, to see how the mountains play a part in everyday life here.

 

Photographs taken by Rob Bell Photography