The tiny village of Árchez is the smallest in the Axarquía and second smallest in Malaga province. It is nestled in the mountains near to Cómpeta and Canillas de Albaída and in the foothills of the Sierra de Tejada, Almijara and Alhama natural park.

Of a population of just 475, according to the most recent census (Padrón), roughly 23 per cent is foreign. Brits top the list, but the compact pueblo is also home to Scandinavians, Dutch, French and more.

Árchez is a wonderful example of Mudéjar architecture and there is no better place to start to take in the town’s Islamic inheritance than the fourteenth century tower, which stands proudly in the centre. It was given special status (Monumento Histórico-Artístico del Patrimonio Nacional) in 1979 and is said to be one of the best remaining examples of its type. The red brick stands out from the surrounding white houses and legend has it that during its construction, a lizard fell onto the bell, leaving its imprint forever. It is said that if someone looking for love touches or kisses the lizard they will find love within a year.

The tower now forms part of the town’s church, Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación, which in turn is said to be built on the site of a former mosque – further hints of the importance of Árchez during Muslim rule in Spain. The church itself contains a high number of religious iconography and this is because local and foreign residents have brought back statues of Virgins, Saints and Jesus from their travels abroad as gifts for the church.

Both the tower and church are usually locked, however it easy to arrange a visit (particularly if you are looking for love!) by contacting the town hall in advance and asking them to open the buildings up at an agreed time.

Other insights into the history of Árchez can be seen at the Molino de harina Eulalio (flour mill), which was powered by the river running alongside it. It is now privately owned by a German family, who hold annual art classes, in conjunction with a German art school, in summer.

The River Turvilla, which flows from Canillas de Albaida, plays a key role in the town of Árchez – not only was it central to the mills (the ruins of a further flour mill can be seen in the town – Molino Martias) but it also means that the town is much greener than most of its neighbours and, according to the town hall, keeps temperatures down, particularly at night in summer, so while the rest of inland Axarquía is struggling to sleep in July and August, the residents of Árchez are being cooled down by the presence of the river. While it is hardly the Amazon and some may argue that it’s little more than a stream, locals say that it always has water all throughout the year. However, apparently the best days to go are Thursdays and Fridays when there is more water as watering the mangoes and avocados takes place further down in Sayalonga, meaning there’s more water flowing through Árchez. So, depending on whose turn it is to water, the Turvilla has more water or less!

Going back to painting, it’s not only the Germans who come to paint this green beauty spot – the Finns are also regulars and thanks to Finnish residents Krisse and Jukka Sulonen, who run a regular painting course from their house in the town. Every year the group display their work as part of the Árchez cultural week and the town hall keeps one piece, while the rest get sent back to Finland for an exhibition there. Árchez cultural week will take place from 28 May to 3 June 2018. The week has a day for children, older people and as of last year, residents, with the aim of celebrating the different nationalities that have chosen Árchez as their home.

Out and About in Árchez with The Directory magazine – Photographs by Rob Bell PhotographyOther celebrations that take place throughout the year include a procession for Kings’ Day on 5th January, San Antón in February (Sunday 4th in 2018), Easter Week (Thursday, Friday and Sunday), Feria over the second weekend of July (in 2018 it will be on 6,7 and 8 July), a race, which will take place on 15th October this year and has various routes for children, older people and those who want to do the full eight kilometres, taking in some of the mountains that surround the town.

The most important celebration for Árchez is that of San Antón. It’s when the Romeria takes place and the statue of the saint is pulled through the town by ox and cart. There is a street market, paella, chorizo and black pudding tastings, music, dancing and exhibitions.

Forming part of the festivities is of course, the local sweet wine, which is produced by the Ribera del Mudéjar bodega, owned by the López Martín brothers, who have owned the bodega for around 25 years. They produce sweet, medium dry and dry wine from local muscatel grapes as well as a red and sell the products from the bodega, which is located at the entrance to the town, as well as in some of the local bars.

One of the wines the sell, Out and About in Árchez with The Directory magazine – Photographs by Rob Bell Photographythey claim, is the origin to the expression ‘honeymoon’ or ‘Luna de Miel,’ in Spanish. It is described, on the back of the bottle as ‘the drink of the gods’ and legend has it that it was given to newlyweds during the 16th century, to drink for one lunar month after the wedding, so that their first-born would be a boy. The wine is sweet and described as tasting of honey, hence ‘honey moon.’

Árchez has a primary school, at which 17 children are currently on the register. For secondary school they go to Cómpeta. The town also has a municipal gym which provides free classes for children and older people, a swimming pool, a number of bars and restaurants and two small convenience stores.

Written by Jennie Rhodes

Photographs taken by Rob Bell Photography