April 1, 2012

Day trip: Nerja caves, Frigiliana and the lost village of Acebuchal

<!--:en-->Day trip: Nerja caves, Frigiliana and the lost village of Acebuchal<!--:--><!--:en-->Day trip: Nerja caves, Frigiliana and the lost village of Acebuchal<!--:-->

Visit the world famous caves, following by a stroll through the picturesque nearby village of Frigiliana, maybe a spot of lunch, and on to a lost mountain village full of surprises!

From the Escuela, take the main road South and join the A7 motorway due East, in the direction of Nerja.  Come off 15 minutes later at the SECOND exit for Nerja, (also marked Maro). NOTE: BE CAREFUL AT THE TORROX TUNNEL, AND STAY WITHIN THE SPEED LIMIT, AS THERE ARE RADAR SYSTEMS IN PLACE THAT NEVER FAIL!  Follow the signs to the Caves (Cuevas de Nerja).


Nerja caves

These spectacular caves are classified as a national monument and its cathedral-like proportions and 63m long stalactites explain why!  And the story of the caves is very interesting.  In 1959 five local boys, aimed with curiosity and a sense of adventure, squeezed through a gap in the hillside to discover these incredible wonders of nature hidden from us since ancient times, known only to the local bats.  The discovery of the caves, ancient paintings and signs of early human life, caused a sensation adn the caves are now a tourist magnet and venue for numerous concerts held in the main cave.

The caves are open in the Summer form 10.00 to 19.30 at a cost of around 8.50€ per person (check www.cuevadenerja.com for up-to-date information).

At the entance to the caves you will find several bars and restaurants if you wish to take a refreshment before heading on to Frigiliana.


From the caves, follow the signs to Nerja/Frigliana, cross under the motorway and take the road inland to the village.  It is best to park on the outskirts of town.

A Frigiliana street

This village is known today for its immaculate streets decked with flowers and its many shops, cafés, bars and restaurants with spectacular views of the mountains and the sea.  It has as repulation for winning Best Kept Village of Andalucía and villagers today are proud of it!

Make you way on foot up past the ‘El Ingenio’ building, (once the centre of the sugar-cane industry in the village) and follow the narrow streets heading uphill to the top of the village.  There are many interesting shops and pretty restaurants with outdoor terraces ideal for lunch but especially beautiful at sunset, when you can sip the local raisin wine, “vino de Frigiliana” (comes in dry (seco) and sweet (dulce) versions) and if you are lucky, try the “chorizo al infierno” and watch the sun drop, blazing red, into the sea – very romantic!

If you are having lunch, find a shady table on one of the many terraces, relax and enjoy!!

Frigiliana may seem a picturesque tourist village, but it is here that you need to be ‘in the know’ about its quie different, not so distant past.  For after the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 39) this village, as were many others, became victim to a second, longer and devastating battle fought between the anti-Franco regime guerrillas (known as the “maquis”) hidden in the nearby mountains and the Civil Guard, who where hunting them out.  Many of the villagers fled deep into the Sierra at the end of the Civil War, but others, caught between fear and a desire to just get on with life, lived in silence, poverty and wary caution, both helping to support those hiding in the hills and being severely punished if caught.  Others, more loyal to the France regime, were on guard to pass on information and were severely punished by the “maquis”.  To read more about this fascinating moment in the history of Spain, from the mouths of the old folks themselves in the village, I recomment you read Peter Baird’s “Between Two Fires”.  It is a most enlightening and moving read.

This sets the theme nicely for the next leg of this day-trip, and move deeper into the magical mountains of which Frigiliana is the gateway, to seek out what is locally known as the Village of Ghosts, Acebuchal.


Acebuchal today

From Frigiliana, take the MA9102 running North West out of Frigiliana, and look out of the right-hand turn-off for Acebuchal, then follow the signs, winding your way deeper into the pine forests and into wilder countryside, until you come across this gleaming white, hidden little gem of a village!

There are two big surprises to find in this village.  The first, that although small, and so remote, it is STUNNINGLY beautiful!  I will say no more, as I do not wish to spoil the joy of discovering it for yourselves.

When you have walked around and no doubt taken lots of photos, head to the top of the village and the only bar in town, near the car park.  As you walk inside, take a look at the photos on the wall to discover the second big secret.

Whilst, back in the 1940’s, the “maquis” hid out in the mountains, they frequently used this remote, hidden hamlet with its quiet country folk, to stock up on supplies.  Family members from sugar-growing Frigiliana and the poverty-stricken fishing village of Nerja brought supplies here and took news back to relatives and friends.  The Civil Guard were constantly routing thorugh the village in search of guerrillas and blood was regularly spilled.  Then one day in 1949, the Civil Guard arrived in the village and ordered the entire population of Acebuchal to drop what they were doing and leave, never to return.  They were forced to leave everything behind, their homes, livestock and crops and the village was left empty, desolate and frequently guarded.  And so it remained, abandoned and falling into decay and eventually into ruins.  Only they ghosts of the past, they say, remained, and the wind ever-blowing through the pines, standing sentinel around it.

Acebuchal in ruins

It was not until 1998, 23 years after Franco’s death, that a local couple, Antonio and Virtudes, bought a large proportion of the village and set about restoring its houses and breathing life back into its streets!  And the result is today’s wonderful mountain gem!  Antonio’s family run the bar, so look at the photos and chat, if you can, to this incredible family!  You can stay here too, as many of the houses are now for holiday rentals.

If you enjoy this day and want ot know another trip into mountains and fascinating Spanish history ask us about “Venta Panaderos” (the Breadmakers’ Inn) and how to find it!

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