Wednesday, January 21, 2015

White hill towns, Andalucia

Arcos de la Frontera
While the big resorts and apartment blocks have multiplied along the beaches of the Costa del Sol and swallowed the traditional fishing villages, the hill towns have basically remained as they were hundreds of years ago. It seems the locals have once again taken to the hills. In days gone by, being in the hills afforded them some protection from marauders, Barbery pirates and the like. These days they are in the hills to protect themselves from another invasion - tourists and golfers! This time, however, they have taken advantage of the situation and provided the more intrepid tourist with something to spend their money on.
Main street of Benahavis
Bridge separating the moorish side from the "new" town of Ronda
Windy streets, pokey little shops, small bars and eateries and plenty of lime washed buildings are the hallmark of these towns. Some have capitalised on the fact that they are close to the tourist resorts and have a lively restaurant area, such as Benahavis. This is a relatively small town full of quaint charm and some really good restaurants hidden from the main thoroughfare. Ronda, on the other hand, is further away, up a very winding steep road, but quite large, with the "modern" town on one side of the bridge and the old Moorish one on the other side of an impressive canyon and bridge. The modern side is the main shopping hub while the old side has typical narrow streets, big churches and hotels and restaurants full of character and charm. Grazalema, close to Ronda through a grove of cork trees, is just small - but full of charm and a lovely place to spend a relaxing afternoon drinking Sangria and eating tapas at a local bar while overlooking the church plaza. Afterwards a stroll through the streets can lead you to boutique shops selling local produce such as olive oil and cheese.
Above Torremolinos, of James Mitchener fame, is the hill town of Mijas. This is still quite touristy but has a charm that has been kept alive by such things as donkey (burro) led carts and also donkey rides up the relatively steep slopes of the town. Mijas also has an amazing view of the coast, highlighting the number of apartment blocks that has sprung up along the coast in the last 30 years.
Estepona and Marbella from Manilva

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