It is said, rightfully, that the Axarquía lands are like a small province of Málaga itself, in other words: mountain, valley and coast. It is a labyrinth in the mountains, of olives, almonds, vineyards and, above all, towns and farmhouses which speckle the beautiful landscape filling it with life; life that grows everywhere in the crops that go into the narrow valleys, climb up the slopes and lays on the sunny passages.
In the Axarquian valleys, it turns into fruit and vegetable grows that go along River Vélez upwards; lemon and orange trees by River Benamargosa and River Guaro, which reach the very feet of the mountain range. Up there, it becomes mountain looking over the sea, with lovely moorish mediterranean towns which lean sometimes on the slopes or crouch in deep hidden valleys, the mountain on their backs and the blue Mediterranean at their front. The region is, as well, land of springs that are a blessing to its inhabitants; springs that nourish streams and water crops.
On the coast, the Axarquía is a landscape of high cliffs and deep coves, of watchtowers, beaches, vegetable crops and, last but not least, tradition and tourism.
Like other Malagan regions, the History of La Axarquía goes back to Palaeolithic times, which is proven by the remains found in the mountain ranges of Alhama, Tejeda and Almijara. There, some cave paintings were also found as well as some household implements from the prehistoric humans who inhabited the area. The Caves of Higuerón and La Victoria, the latter one on the municipal territory of El Rincón de la Victoria, not to forget the Caves of Nerja, are excellent examples of those primitive cultures.
Other civilizations also left their mark: Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks and Romans. In the municipal territory of Trayamar, nearby Algarrobo, there are some remains of a Palaeo-Punic necropolis, with a tomb that is dated from the VIII century b.C., being one of the most remarkable and important of the whole western European continent. In Torrox, we can find some remains of the Roman Baths, as well as a necropolis at the Roman Calviculum, as it was Torrox known at the time. From the many artistic and architectural examples of moorish times we can outstand the minarets in Arenas, Salares and Archez or the watchtowers that can be seen along the coast of Malaga province.
When, aided by the whole of Castillian Noblemen, the Catholic Monarchs reconquered the Axarquía region in 1487, they first took the town of Vélez-Málaga, which came under the Kingdom of Granada. During the 400 years of recent history, from the 15th century up to present times, the region has been shaping its way of living. Inland villages are are mainly agricultural but the coastal towns and villages have suffered a dramatic change over the last 25 years because of the tourist development. However, the inland villages have maintained their rich and varied historic legacy that past civilisations left them. Their culture has, indefectibly, its roots in the Moorish period, as architecture, gastronomy, folklore, arts, crafts and agriculture prove.
Every Axarquian town or village, no matter how small, has its own festivities, whether religious, secular or simply, traditional, have their origins in the region’s history, agriculture or the sea and that go back to the beginning of times.
If we look at them chronologically, Candlemas, on February 2nd is the first relevant festivity that takes place in Colmenar, Benagalbón, Rincón de la Victoria, Torrox or Frigiliana. The main feature of this festival is the light of the bonfires.
Then, Easter displaying all the magnificent wooden sculptures on religious processions all over the region. In Rio Gordo, its inhabitants enact the Passion of Christ for the benefit of locals and visitors. From the beginning of May until the end of summer there are popular pilgrimages (romerías) to local shrines or sanctuaries on the festivity days of a Saint Patron or Virgin. Amongst many, we can list some of the local pilgrimages: San Antonio in Torrox ; San Isidro in Nerja, Almachar, Lomas de la Vaca and Frigiliana ; San Marcos in El Borge and Alfarnate, Alcázar and Alcaucín, and the Patroness festivity in Colmenar.
Another remarkable festivity, although it is not a bank holiday in all towns, is the May Crosses Day is celebrated on May 3rd in Vélez-Málaga and in Nerja, although it is a work day, people take part in a contest to see which cross is the most beautiful and best ornamented.
With the exception of Nerja, that celebrates its Saint Patron Festivities in October (Nerja Feria), all towns have their own during summer. In July, the festivity of Our Lady of El Carmen takes the wooden sculpture of Our Lady on a sea procession to bless the waters and make fishing plentiful. These sea processions take place in all the coastal towns, from Rincón de la Victoria until Nerja.
On the night of St. John, June 24th, a dummy of Judas Iscariot is burnt on large bonfires, a long time tradition; in Alfarnate and Benadalid, the Festivity of Moors and Christians take place. In Competa, on the night of 15th August, the Night of Wine is celebrated and, in Comares, they have the Night of Candles in September. During summer months, there are also flamenco festivals and folk dances ("Verdiales"), especially popular in Vélez-Málaga, Colmenar, Comares and Macharaviaya. At the end of July, the Caves of Nerja Festival, world wide kown, takes place at the Caves of Nerja. In December , the small town Torrox invites everybody to try their local "migas"; this is the last one in the local annual festivities.
La Axarquía is full of traditions which indeed come from their special way of being, of their understanding of life, their customs and celebrations in all its towns and villages. They are based on everyday life, such as cultivating their vineyards, making their excellent wine or drying their well-known raisins. Its more than varied gastonomy, its festivities, religious celebrations, arts and crafts, dances and Verdiales
Our region is rough and uneven. The mountain ranges of Alhama, Tejeda and Almijara border the province of Granada.Their foothills go down until they meet the sea, forming cliffs and small coves, from which outstand Maro and Cerro Gordo surroundings. The varied landscape of La Axarquía stretches from the high mountain peaks down to the peaceful beaches.
Mother Nature has shown all her generosity when creating this wonderful place. One of the most beautiful places is the mountain range Sierra del Alcázar Nature Park, just above Alcaucín. There are small waterfalls of crystal clear water, streams and pine forests where you can get lost without fear in the woods of the mountain range Sierra Almijara. She left her mark on the villages of Cómpeta, Canillas de Albaida, Sedella, Salares and Canillas de Aceituno.
On the way from Torrox to Frigiliana, the visitor can enjoy the view of beautiful ravines, as all around these villages the views are just magnificent. At the source of River Sayalonga, the Mediterranean thicket makes the mountains look extremely beautiful at Casa de la Mira. Springs at Sedella, Alcaucín and Las Majadas; theFajara cave or the natural Rahige pretty spot at Canillas de Aceituno. The Caves of Nerja is, undoubtedly, the major example of Cavern magnificency in Andalusia and Spain. The La Viñuela lake looks like a mirror at sunset opening towards the Boquete de Zafarraya. In winter, the high peaks of the Axarquía mountain ranges a usually crowned with snow while far below you can bathe in the warm waters of the blue Mediterranean.
The climate that we enjoy in the Axarquía is basically Mediterranean with mild winters and hot summers; of heavy rains that coincide with the equinoxes. The uniqueness of this eastern region of the Malaga’s climate is due to its geographical situation, as it is protected from the cold northern winds by the Alhama, Tejeda and Almijara mountain ranges. Its sub-tropical latitude is one of the main reasons why it enjoys about three thousad sunny hours per year.
The influence of the Mediterranean on temperatures means that they hardly vary excessively, both ambiental and sea water temperatures are pleasant in all seasons. The Axarquía rises from sea level in its south, to high peaks that go up to 2.000 metres in its north
There are three different sorts of climate at La Axarquía. Although there is not much difference from one to the others. The coastal area between Malaga and Nerja enjoys an exceptional climate, with temperatures that go from 10ºC in January to 25ºC in August. Inland valleys have a slightly different climate, with colder winters and hotter summers. Villages and towns that are located higher than 900 metres on the mountains have cooler winters with temperatures around 10ºC or even a little lower, and the summers are not as hot as the coast ones.
The eastern area of the Costa del Sol-Axarquía offers locals and visitors 30 kilometres of magnificent beaches that stretch from Rincón de la Victoria to Nerja, the boundary with La Herradura, already province of Granada. It is slightly different from the rest of Malaga province in both the way beaches are used and the kind of tourism the region attracts. Torre del Mar, Torrox and Nerja enjoy long sandy beaches; around Nerja and at Maro the cliffs form small hidden coves where there is a beach only for nudism-lovers. The sea is crystal clear and the beaches are all fairly near the main road N-340, that makes access very easy. Tourism here is very different the one at the cosmopolitan western Costa del Sol. Visitors who want to explore the Axarquian villages can easily combine sunbathing and swimming with an appetiser in the popular beach restaurants or "chiringuitos", as we call them. They are, very conveniently, right on the beach, making easier meeting with friends for a chat and sharing a dish of delicious shellfish, paella or a portion of our famous “pescaíto frito” (fried fish). On our beaches, sailing, windsurfing, fishing or scuba diving is possible, as well as playing all kinds of ball games. There are a large quantity of cafeterias, restaurants and bars all along the Paseos Maritimos (Sea Promenades) at Torre del Mar, Torrox and Nerja – which are most ideal location for a drink while listening to the sound of the waves. On the Axarquian beaches you can still see fishermen bringing back their fishing nets full at sunset or very early in the morning; lovely beaches where one can enjoy beach parties around a bonfire with sardines on skewers being cooked; beaches to watch the stars on short summer nights.
Most of them are directly in contact with Nature. One of the most unforgettable experiences to have is going on an excursion into the mountains of the Sierras de Almijara and Tejeda. Uncredibly enough, it is still possible to find places almost untouched by humans, with exceptional animal specimens,k from which we can remark the mountain goat. Some of the towns and villages organise trekking excursions for those who want to contact directly with the mountains. No matter where you are, you can always look down and see the Mediterranean coastline. Near the coast there are trails where you can go horseriding. About what golf is concerned, Añoreta and Baviera Golf, near Rincón de la Victoria and Torre del Mar respectively, are major courses where one can relax; there are courses in project in Nerja and Torrox. In some towns there are excellent sport facilities that are for the benefit of locals and visitors; in Torrox an Olympic sports centre is being projected. On each one of the more than 200 urbanisations scattered all along the eastern area of the Costa del Sol the visitor can enjoy swimming pools and tennis courts, without forgetting that windsurfing can be practiced off all the beaches. When it comes down to scuba diving fishing, there is no other place better than the coves at Nerja and Maro.
Undoubtedly, the origins of the Axarquian rich cooking lay in the Moorish culture. The basic ingredients of most of the dishes are produced in the very region, being their basis olive oil and wine. There are five recommended tourist routes and four of them refer to the local produce : the Sun and Avocado Route, the Sun and Wine route, the Raisin Route and Olive Oil and Mounts Route. Popular celebrations are organised around local dishes, such as “Migas”Day in Torrox or "Ajoblanco" Day in Almáchar. In Cómpeta, the Wine Night is celebrated and, in Benamocarra, they enjoy the Avocado Day.
Axarquian cuisine is as varied as the region itself, but we can differentiate the one from the inland villages where flavours are combined: almond is mixed with garlic, thyme and other aromatic herbs are used to make rabbit stew or hare casserole, but the Axarquian specials is no doubt goat’s kid; "migas", gazpacho, "ajoblanco" and all sorts of stew.
On the coastline, the main ingredient is the fresh fish caught by local fishermen off the coast. Sardines are cooked on a skewer over a bonfire right on the beach. You can enjoy delicious paella, marinated fish or any of the many fish on skewer. Cooking is one of the means of expression that peoples have, therefore, when travelling, the best way of getting to know a new culture is stopping at any of the large amount of restaurants, bars, taverns, "ventas" or beach restaurants to sample the local delicacies. In Macharaviaya and Iznate, try the "Maimones" soup and gazpachuelo ; in Vélez-Málaga and Almachar, "ajoblanco" soup and the bitter orange "cachoreñas" soup ; cabbage stew and "migas" in Benamocarra ; kid in sauce and almond and olive oil tarts in Algarrobo village ; crackling pork in Sayalonga ;when visiting Cómpeta, give a try to country-styled liver and fennel stew, washing it with the excellent local wine. "Migas" and rabbit casserole in Torrox ; sweet potatoes cooked in honey in Frigiliana ; fennel with rice in Archez; at El Borge, gazpacho with broad beans; small cakes from Alfarnatejo and Riogordo and doughnuts from Alfarnate. But please don’t take our word for it – give it a shot - and good appetite!
OUR ARTS & CRAFTS
The traditional Axarquian crafts also have their origins in the Moorish population that settled down in this region of eastern Malaga. It is common finding craftspeople at inland villages making lovely art works out of wood, pita, esparto grass, wrought iron or giving their special touch to clay, turning it into ceramic pieces. Vélez-Málaga is considered the regional centre for crafts, so craftspeople from other towns take their work there to be sold. At flea markets valuable things like some laces, carvings or utensils made of tin plate can be found. In some of the inland towns and villages you may still find the beautiful bobbin lace works that some of the local elderly women have made.
It would be unfair forgetting to mention the long standing tradition of artist painters from La Axarquía or more precisely, from Vélez-Málaga town, called Veleña School. The exceptional kind of light of this region has inspired a whole generation of local artists, who have gained international recognition, such as Paco Hernández, Evaristo Guerra or Vicente Hernández.