“The best climate in Europe” boasts the tourist pamphlets
in Torrox and by all accounts this is a pretty accurate description of the weather in these parts. Boasting an average
temperature of 18°C with no drastic seasonal changes, the area is blessed with an extremely comfortable climate year round.
Although evidence of human presence has been detected in the area dating back
to the Neolithic period, it was the Romans who really put down roots here, with their settlement on the coast called
Caviclum. Probably a centre for the production of the foul smelling, yet revered garum paste, ruins of thermal baths and a
necropolis can still be seen. The Moors preferred to settle farther inland, protected to the north by the hills and valleys
of the Axarquía and to the south by the watchtowers which are spread all along the coast. In Torrox village, evidence of
Moorish occupation can be seen in an original Arab turret and gateway. Like most Andalucían villages, the narrow streets and
whitewashed houses are a throw back to Moorish times; another common feature being that the church was built atop the ruins
of the old mosque. In Torrox, the church is the 17th century Iglesia de la Encarnacíon. The Hermitage of our Lady and
Iglesia de San Roque are two other religious buildings that date back to the 17th century. More recent are the ruins of the
18th Century Hospital de San José and the elegant houses of La Moneda and La Hoya where King Alfonso XII spent the night
after the catastrophic earthquake of 1885. In the Plaza close to the house, an old mill has been converted and reformed and
now houses interesting exhibitions. To learn about the history of the village first hand the local authorities have
thoughtfully laid out a route where a circuit of handmade ceramic tiled murals tell the tales of old alongside signs with
English and German translations.
Torrox village, located just two kilometres inland, is steeped in history and surrounded
by some of Andalucía’s most beautiful countryside providing endless opportunities for walking and hiking and generally
getting out and enjoying Mother Nature’s earth. The coast too is packed with cultural sights as well as enjoying miles of
blue flag beaches and modern sporting and leisure facilities.
Perhaps the best way to see the Axarquía, as the Eastern Costa del Sol is
called, is to walk and rural tourism now plays a big part throughout the entire region. The first thing you need to do if
you are planning any sort of excursion into one of these areas is find out about them. A good place to start is your local
town hall or tourist office where guide books and maps are available. Although the majority of these guides are in Spanish,
some are available in German and English. The Internet also contains some useful information.
If you don’t fancy going it alone, there are plenty of walking groups and
tours throughout the area to enable you to join others and be guided through the wonders of nature – great if, like me, you
are not up to speed on your local flora and fauna. For example you could join the “Hiking School” of Torrox which organises
twice weekly walks with professionally guides. For the more adventurous, there are plenty of trekking routes, some newly
devised like the ones outlined in Elma Thomson’s excellent book “Twelve walks around Torrox and Torrox Costa” while others
are ancient routes used traditionally by vineyard workers, smuggling muleteers and even people fleeing from the horrors of
the civil war.
Some routes take in one or more of the little white villages which are
scattered over the breathtakingly beautiful countryside; some clinging unfeasibly to mountain sides, others nestling in
verdant valleys. These villages make wonderful stopping points when walking and can combine with the rugged terrain to
string together longer walks or treks of several days, stopping off for a plate of hearty local fare and / or to sleep.
Wonderful views of the coast and mountains are at every turn when walking in the Axarquía, along with old Moorish castles
like the Castillo de Bentomiz, at one time a true stronghold of the Moors. From here the views are amazing: the Axarquía
stretches out all around you; huge mountains, clusters of white villages, the far off Mediterranean, and in Spring complete
with fantastic floral display.
Andalucía is home to a wealth of natural beauty and is one of the best
natural habitats for flora and fauna in Western Europe. Due to the sub-tropical climate of the area, much fruit is grown and
throughout the Axarquía olive and almond trees cover vast areas of the land; the gnarled trunks of the former and pretty
spring blossom of the latter decorating the rolling hills beautifully. If you walk along river valleys you will be in the
shade of poplar, ash, willow, maple, elm and alder trees, which in autumn burst into every imaginable shade of red and gold
as they shed their leaves for winter. Look beneath your feet in autumn and you will find some 2,000 species of fungi
sprouting – many of which are edible and will appear on country menus and in markets. Others however are highly poisonous
so unless you are a master of mushrooms the identification is probably best left to the locals!
Thousands of animals and birds make the Axarquía their home and if you look
up you are sure to see sparrow hawks, harriers, common kestrels, buzzards and the acrobatic red and black kites. If you are
really lucky you might even spot the rare and emblematic Spanish imperial eagle. Lots of smaller birds fly the skies of the
Axarquía and bird watchers will certainly be kept busy for weeks.
It’s a good idea when visiting and walking throughout the Axarquía to try
and catch one of the local festivals. Many of the fiestas centre around the natural products of the area, the most famous of
these is the Dia de Migas celebrated on the Sunday before Christmas in Torrox. Migas are basically breadcrumbs and were once
the staple diet of the country folk of the area and an essential source of energy. On Migas Day, the locals gather to sample
migas prepared with different additional elements and the sweet, local wine. If wine is a favourite of yours (as it is mine)
then head for Cómpeta in August when the Noche de Vino sees the uncorking of barrel after barrel of the local wine.
Alfarnatejo pays tribute to the humble Gazpacho and Iznate celebrates the Moscatel grape. Olive oil, the mainstay of local
diets has its fiesta in Periana and the little orange fruit, the nispero, found only in Andalucía gets its turn in
Sayalonga. All these festivals and many more are celebrated throughout spring, summer and autumn.
Religious festivals are taken a little more seriously but are none the less
enjoyed by the local inhabitants. In Torrox, as all over the Andalucía, the townsfolk head for the beach for the Noche de
San Juan on June 23rd. Lighting fires on the beach, the combination of fire and water is said to banish evil spirits. Also
in June is the Romeria de San Antonio, which is celebrated in the Protegidas quarter of the town. In August Torrox goes mad
with days of celebration for its annual feria and in September La Candelaria is celebrated with bonfires, drinking,
dancing and singing late into the night.
Whether you want to delve into history or laze on a beach, walk on the wild
side and trek through the hills and villages of the Axarquía or dance till dawn at a village fiesta, Torrox and its environs
has it all. It is no wonder that the area continues to attract more and more visitors and also no wonder that those same
visitors often later become residents as they too fall in love with this perfect corner of Andalucía.
Jaqueline Roberts, Words & Pix