Being asked the ‘any suggestions what we should do today’ question we often advise our guests to go for a walk in the El Chorro area. A dream destination for rock climbers and geologists, Malaga’s lake district of El Chorro is a popular Sunday rural escape for city folk and villagers alike, looking for a chance to enjoy a BBQ with a waterside view. The area is big enough to accommodate everyone whether one the peace of hiking alone or a laugh with friends and family in a busy restaurant (as the Spaniards prefer).
The area has some of Europe’s most extraordinary gorges and geological features, and of course the now iconic ‘Camino del Rey’; the precipitous elevated walkway that took its name from a royal visit by King Alfonso XIII in the 1920s. I wrote about it in this blog post. It’s now closed (awaiting the end of its renovation early 2015) and is only really enjoyed by adrenalin-junkies and climbers.
At the turn of the twentieth century, the area was developed for hydroelectricity and reservoirs for Malaga city. Interestingly, today El Chorro remains important ‘grid energy storage’ for the nearby wind turbines; Vast quantities of water are pumped up from the iconic gorge to a high altitude reservoir at times of excess production. The water is then released to recover the energy at times of high demand in the Malaga area.
It is also home to a remarkable Mozarabic church at Bobastro; a Mozarabic fortified settlement established by Omar Ibn Hafsun. He was a military leader in the Emirate of Cordoba, he converted to Christianity and defected. He set up a base in these isolated mountains and there created, over a millennia ago, a Christian church.
Climbing up there you will have the pine forests of the foreground and out towards farmland, with the ancient town of Ardales in the distance, at the foot of a dramatic outcrop of rock, topped by a Moorish tower. The setting is peaceful, relaxing; really regenerative.
Not only is the site culturally unique, but it is also architecturally unusual too. The church was built out of the solid rock, and then finished with bricks and timber. This remarkable feat of construction means that although we are now exploring the site over 1100 years later, the church remains recognisable. A good section of the carved rock remains, with amazing Islamic inspired carved arches. It clearly has three naves and a beautifully carved circular sacristy.
This period of Andalucía’s history is full of surprises. The Christian Arabs known as Mozarabs integrated to a large extent into the dominant Arab culture and are distinct from Moriscos of the later centuries.
If you haven’t made it up here yet, then add it to your ‘to do’ list as it’s a rewarding day. It’s close to the village of Ardales and not far from El Guarda as well (45 minutes). We have some nice hike routes available for our guests and it is somehow off the beaten track, until a lot of people start writing posts about it like this….