It did not take us long to reach the amazing El Torcal Nature Park Reserve from Antequera, an extremely interesting area of eroded karst (limestone) rock formations in a weird variety of shapes. The rocks originated from layers of sediment deposited on a shallow seafloor until, about 100 million years ago, the entire area was up-lifted by violent movements of the Earth's crust as the plates shifted. What you see today is the result of wind, rain and freezing actions gradually eroding these layers of sediments over the years since they were exposed above the sea. Being one of the most spectacular landscapes of its type in Europe, this 17 square kilometre area was declared a Natural Site of National Interest in 1929 and subsequently a Nature Park Reserve in 1978. Topping out at 1336 m (4383 ft), its highest peak is Camorro de las Siete Mesas.
After arriving at the visitor centre, we immediately walked out to its nearby viewing area looking toward the Mediterranean coast where we could enjoy both the rock formations and the long distance views. The last photo shows the small community of Villanueva de la Concepción below in the Guadalhorce valley which stretches off into the distance. We could actually see the Mediterranean Sea off Malaga 35-40 km away, in that bright area on the horizon at the right!
I regretted that our time in Torcal was so short that we could not properly enjoy the outstanding landscape scenes that were assaulting our eyes! The shapes of the rock formations are amazing enough even though they are beside the road - I can only imagine what they must be like if you manage to get some time to hike there. Even in winter there was green vegetation showing between the various rock formations.
I guess the ruggedness and high altitude of El Torcal made it an ideal place in which to settle during pre-historic times - possibly explaining the Neolithic remains that were found in one of its caves, now known as the 'Cave of the Bull'. Evidence of more 'modern' habitation (by the Romans) has also been uncovered in the park.
Whatever it's history, after two hectic days of dealing with traffic and 'big city' life in Granada, I was more than ready for the short but tranquil time we spent just enjoying the scenery of El Torcal Nature Park!
This October we went to the dogs (hehe). We actually went to watch a dog agility show held at the the bog hotel where there is a golf course in Antequera. Where all sorts of dogs from mini poodles to border collies followed their owners commands to complete a very difficult course of jumps, tunnels,see-saws and such like. It was completely free and a lot of fun.
I believe it is held every year.
There is even an area or street they call the Albaicin like the Arabic quarter of Granada. There are also Arabic influenced buildings dotted all over the town; Not to mention the Alcazaba which is an old Arabic fortress.
In the photo you can see an Arabic designed building. You have to remember that this area was once under control of the Islams which came across from Africa.
Antequera has a wealth of history to explore, and some beautiful monuments, buildings and churches. The best thing to do when you arrive is walk. Get a map from the tourist office (at the top of Plaza San Sebastian, or the Coso Viejo), and take the suggested walk. You'll see the baroque church of Santa Maria, the ruins of the Roman baths, the lovely Porticuelo and other churches, fountains and statues. Don't miss the Museo Municipal. It runs small guided tours every half an hour or so (if you're early, or just miss one, take coffee at one of the three cafes that ring the plaza), and houses a wealth of Roman antiquities, including the celebrated Efebo, and un montón of religious art and treasures. The walk will also take you to lookout points where you can see into the countryside of olive groves, and admire La Peña, the rocky outcrop in the shape of a face, said to be the site of the joint suicide of a pair of crossed lovers.
Hojiblanca is one of the oldest Olive Oil producing companies in Spain and their headquarters are on the outskirts of Antequera, where they have recently finished building their own museum dedicated to the heritage of Olive Oil production.
It hosts many artefacts including an impressive 17th century beam press and plots production history using scale models of implements and presses. Produce is available to sample and buy too.
The Municipal Museum is located in an 18th century palace and has a good collection of art, sculptures and archaelogical finds. It's most renowned exhibit is the first century bronze sculpture of a boy 'Efebo de Antequera'.
Closed on Mondays. Entry 3 euros.
Don't waste your time hanging around Antequera Tuesday morning, just so you can 'do' the local market....it really has little to offer unless you're self-catering and want to pick up some fruit, olives, bread etc........ Stalls offer mainly cheap, tatty clothes and shoes, plants, fruit and veg. No handicrafts, local art, ceramics, sorry folks! Check out my Shopping Tips for better alternatives.
I had to give this picture its own tip, as it just seemed so much a picture of the Andalusia of the people, not the tourists. What I take to be a working-class area, west of the centre, newer houses but still very much in keeping, life being lived.
The week I stayed had a record cold snap in the middle, the coldest for about forty years, I think. So whilst I started and ended the week sunbathing on my balcony, in the middle the weather was front page news in the regional papers. "Costa Del Sol - Costa Del Frio!", as one headline had it. Nightime temperatures actually dipped below freezing in Malaga. It still mostly seemed pretty warm to me, actually: only one day I didn't have my shorts on (my day in Antequera). Meanwhile, the locals were bundled up in hats, gloves and big coats.
Antequera, being inland and much higher up, was a lot cooler though. The sun kept shining, but no cloud cover meant any heat would soon dissipate. According to newspapers, the night before my visit was -7C, the night after -12C!
So if you look closely at the photo, you will see, under the statue and where the sun did not reach, a fine selection of icicles.
(Still, the north of the country was harder hit, -7C daytime, and blizzards. The news programmes carried footage of football stadia buried under snow: I think the Spanish literally could not believe that their football games were cancelled due to snow on the pitch. It even made the TV news back home.)
When ever I am anywhere, I spend a bit of time just wandering the streets and looking at what things are like for the ordinary residents. Actually, I often enjoy this as much as gawping at the tourist sites.
Here is a typical street, with sign and antique (well, antique-style) street lamp. This is situated somewhere between the bus station and football ground. I think this is an oldish (without being 'the old') part of town. The next picture is in the same general area, whilst the third is a recent area, indeed there was quite a bit of building around town.
Walking around the back of the Alcazaba gives view out to the mountains to the south of the town. The journey from Malaga is quite a climb through the Sierras. Somewhere out there are the prehistoric dolmens - about 5 km I think. There are signposts for the energetic to walk to them, unfortunately I did not have enough time.
Although it was an unusually cold few days (see icicles tip) at this stage the sun was shining brightly and I was even able to take of my fleece, produce a chilled cerveza from my pack, and sit on a rock and enjoy the view.
In contrast to the mountain, I've included a pic of the view north; once you are up, it's pretty darned flat.
A fair sized Moorish fortification atop the town, with views over Antequera and its many spires. As with many, recycled to include a church (cathedral, even?). Also Moorish gardens.
Free to enter, there are a couple of shops and a (pricey) restaurant, even a few houses inside the walls.
In several places in the south of Spain, I have seen orange trees planted along the sides of streets. Even in Torremolinos. The trees are laden with fruit, even surrounded by fallen fruit. Why aren't people collecting them? Well, pick one, peel it, and take a bite. Owww! Whilst very juicy, it is tart as it is juicy. You will get some starnge looks from any locals who spot you - hey, only a crazy tourist would do that.
Maybe they sweeten up later in the season, though I doubt it - after all you are not so far from Sevilla, home of the marmalade orange (though actually, it took a Scot to invent marmalade).
If so, come and see my house that we've just finished renovating! It's a very large, 3 storey, traditional townhouse with a big garden and terrace and great views.
See my Antequera travelogue for all the info and pics. There's no agency fees included so this is a fair and realistic price.
We also include a 'set-your-new-life-up-in-Spain package at no extra cost....