Axarquia - The Sun and Avocado Route

By: Rudi Van Der Zalm

Next to Malaga, in Rincon de la Victoria, we set out on this route of the sun, thus called because it follows a long stretch of the easternmost Costa del Sol, reaching Torre del Mar. From there, it turns inland, passing through fertile warm valleys and plains, becoming a country route as it reaches the region's capital, Velez-Malaga, and continues on to towns with undeniable rural charm, such as Benamargosa, Benamocarra or Iznate.

Thus, this route is the perfect balance between the two most outstanding features of the coast and the tranquillity of such beautiful spots as Macharaviaya. It shows us how this land has managed to blend its cultural and monumental past with the present-day reality o a traditionally welcoming hospitable people, Rincon de la Victoria, Bezmiliana, of Arab origin and the Higueron Cave (also known as the Treasure Cave), containing cave paintings, the Moslem remains of Bezmiliana Castle and, next to the mouth of the river Velez, Phoenician and Carthaginian graves that corroborate the site of the ancient Mainake.

From here and after passing through a series of charming towns, we come to the place where most of the region's monumental heritage is to be found: Velez-Malaga, the capital of La Axarquia. The recently restored Fortress or the Citadel remind us of its undeniable Moslem origins, the solid walls contrasting with the whitewashed houses that spread down the hillside from the foot of these two monuments. Among the rooftops the towers of the various examples of religious architecture poke through: the Church of San Juan Baptista and Nuestra Sra. de la Encarnacion, and the church of Santa Maria la Mayor, both from the 16th century and, as virtually all of them, built on the site of ancient mosques.

Other outstanding examples are the Convent of San Francisco, nestling among the maze of narrow Arab streets in the Jewish Quarter, the Convent of Las Claras, the convent of Las Carmelitas, the Sanctuary of La Virgen de los Remedios, the Palace of the Marquises of Beniel, the San Marcos Hospital, the Fernando VI Fountain or the House of Cervantes. They all form rich historical and monumental heritage that has, quite rightly, been declared of Historic and Artistic Interest. Back on the coast, during the annual Sea Procession of the Virgen del Carmen, we can experience the magical light of the dawn, one of the most deeply-rooted traditions of La Axarquia, whose inhabitants go out in their boats to accompany and honour the Virgen of the Mariners. It is a spectacle of unbeatable colour and beauty.

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