What to do in Ardales
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Ardales is a pueblo blanco located some 51 km from Malaga. Characterised by whitewashed walls (pueblo blanco means "white village") and reddish-brown roofs set against a backdrop of the rugged mountainside, it is easily recognizable even from a distance. It has an average temperature of 15ºC, receives about 2700 hours of sunshine every year, and a rainfall of about 400 l per sq. m.
Despite being quite far from Malaga, the provincial capital, it is easily accessible via the A-357. From Malaga, you can arrive at the center of Ardales in about 49 minutes. Upon reaching the entrance, you'll immediately notice the narrow, inclined streets, characteristic of Spanish pueblo blancos. This form of architecture is among the last vestiges of the long Moorish occupation in the region.
The first settlers in the area may have arrived way back during prehistoric times. This is evident from the archaeological finds in the vicinity, which have included Stone Age flint axes and bone needles. The first formal settlers were the Romans, followed by the Moors. During the Reconquista, the village was the center of see-saw battles between the Moors and the Christians, with the Christians winning the deciding battle sometime in 1454.
All those previous occupants have left historical monuments that are among the town's main tourist attractions. Some of these tourist spots are: the Casillo de Bobastro, the Parish Church of Ntra. Sra. de los Remedios, the Convent of Capuchinos, the Plaza de la Constitucion, and the Doña Trinidad Cave.
Aside from the numerous historical monuments, another reason why this village is frequented by visitors is its natural environment, which is ideal for camping. The Campsite Parque Ardales, which is near the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes (Gorge of Gaitanes), the Embalse del Conde de Guadalhorce (a dam) and other natural scenic spots, is a well-established camping haven.
For the same reason, many areas around the village are suitable for outdoor activities such as mountain biking, trekking, fishing, mountain climbing, rock climbing, and bird watching. The scenery, especially around those large bodies of water, is utterly stunning, so always bring your camera and some spare batteries.
History of Ardales
Since the discovery of ancient wall paintings at the Doña Trinidad Cave, which has been dated to the Palaeolithic Age (some 20,000 years ago), the earliest part of Ardales history has been traced back to the prehistoric times.
When the Romans came, they built a castle overlooking a vast plain, which served as a natural passageway to Malaga. Later on, a community grew around it, eventually evolving into the village now known as Ardales. The castle and village's strategic location made it a crucial defensive post in the region.
In the 1st Century, the Romans also constructed the La Morina Bridge, a stone bridge that crosses the River Turon, and which has been well-preserved even up to this day.
When the Moors came, they immediately saw the village's important strategic location. Under the leadership of the emir Alhur el Tagafi, the Moors captured the village and later on named it 'Ard-Allah'.
During most of the 9th Century and the early part of the 10th Century, the surrounding region served as the stronghold of Omar Ben Hafsun. The remnants of the Castillo de Bobastro, an imposing castle carved out of the rock, serves as a reminder of those violent times.
At the height of the Reconquista, the Christians and Moors fought lengthy sea-saw battles to get hold of this crucial post. The castle exchange hands many times. In the end, sometime in 1453, the Christians prevailed and the castle was ceded to Don Juan Ramirez, the Lord of Teba.
The castles of Ardales and Turon were then used to protect the rich agricultural lands in the surrounding area, which included Teba and Alora. Many religious structures were built from the 14th to 18th centuries. Among them was the Parish Church of Ntra. Sra. de Los Remedios, the Convent of Capuchinos, the Plaza de la Constitucion, and the Chapel of the Encarnacion.
Today, Ardales is largely dependent on its tourism industry, which is historical sites and the natural wonders of its surroundings serving as the main attractions. The large bodies of water in the area, comprising of lakes and dams, have evolved as alternative destinations for those who prefer the mountainside over the beach when seeking refuge from the scorching Mediterranean heat.
Monuments and Museums in Ardales
Ardales has a rich historical background that has left several sites offering a glimpse of the past. For a relaxing and informative day outdoors, we recommend you check out the following Ardales monuments & museums.
-Doña Trinidad Cave - Also known as the Cueva de la Calinoria or simply the Ardales Cave, this is the site of prehistoric wall paintings. Although the cave was initially discovered in 1821, the paintings, depicting deer, goats, horses, and fish, were uncovered only in 1918. They have been dated to 20,000 years ago, pegging their origins some time in the Upper Palaeolithic age.
-Castillo de Bobastro - Literally carved out of the rock, this extraordinary piece of militaristic architecture was once the fortress of Omar Ben Hafsun, the rebel leader who fought against the Emir of Cordoba, Abd-ar-Rahman. Because of its strategic location, the castle was the object of numerous battles between the Christians and Moslems during the Reconquista .
-Parish Church of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios - First constructed in the 14th century, this Mudejar-inspired structure underwent major restorations and renovations in the 18th century. The church, which features a Baroque portal, two aisles and a nave, was built on the former site of a mosque.
-Monastery of Los Capuchinos - Built in the 17th century, this monastery can be found near the former sanctuary of La Encarnacion and the Plaza de San Isidro. A tower, with battlements prominently positioned near the top, juts upward from the side of the monastery's church.
-Museo Municipal de la Historia y las Tradiciones - This museum contains information and artefacts about the history and traditions of the village. Most of the archaeological items provide links to the town's urban past.
Other museums found in the area are the Museo Municipal del Parque de Ardales at the Conde del Guadalhorce dam and the Museo Municipal de Ardales at the Plaza de la Constitucion. The former has exhibits of life-sized reproductions of the wall paintings found in the Ardales caves. The latter, on the other hand, displays Neolithic ceramic and household items as well as information of the flora and fauna in the region.
With its rugged and scenic landscape, Ardales entertainment usually comes in the form of outdoor activities. Here are some of the things you can do in and around town.
-Camping - The natural environment around Ardales is ideal for camping. Many campers go on vacation at the Campsite Parque Ardales, which is easily accessible even for big vehicles. The campsite features bungalows, a tent area, a snack bar, a swimming pool, restaurant, and even a shopping centre. Pets are allowed in the plots, some of which are equipped with electricity.
-Snapping pictures - This place is situated near picturesque spots like the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes (Gorge of Gaitanes) and the Embalse del Conde de Guadalhorce (a massive water reservoir), as well as other natural wonders. So, it doesn't matter whether you're a professional photographer or an amateur, your photos will all come out simply stunning.
-Mountain biking - If you're looking for challenging biking trails amidst awesome landscapes, then the hinterlands surrounding the dams/lakes in the northeastern side of the village are full of them. Among the popular ones are the Hippo Trail, La Mesa Descent, and El Moabo.
-Bird watching - The large bodies of water, forests, and elevated areas near the village has made its environs a natural habitat for a wide variety of birds. Some of the birds spotted here include griffon vultures, Egyptian vultures, warblers, black wheatears, great spotted woodpeckers, crossbills, jays, nuthatches, blue rock thrushes, and rock buntings.
-Rock climbing - Home to some of the best rock climbing spots in the world, the crags and cliffs near Ardales offer extremely challenging climbs that draw climbers from all over the globe every year. Two of the best sites are El Chorro in the northeast and Turon in the southwest. Many of the crags are very dangerous and all climbers are advised to be in full gear.
-Sight-seeing at historical monuments - If you plan to have a more laid-back day outdoors, there are numerous historical sites to visit. Among them are the Castillo de Bobastro, the Parish Church of Ntra. Sra. de los Remedios, the Convent of Capuchinos, the Plaza de la Constitucion, the Doña Trinidad Cave, and the Municipal Museum of History and Traditions, to name a few.
Restaurants in Ardales
Due to the influx of tourists, business-minded individuals decided to put up restaurants here. Ardales restaurants are mostly found either in the centre of town or near the lakes.
If you're looking for Spanish cuisine, the following restaurants are among the popular choices:
-El Cruce - Located along the road from Alora to Campillos, this restaurant is actually part of a hotel. So if you're staying here, the on-site restaurant is the most convenient place to dine in. phone number: 952 459 012
-El Kiosko - Located at Embalse Conde de Guadalhorce, this restaurant specializes in local cuisine. However, they also serve delicious Spanish dishes. This establishment is perched on a scenic spot beside the lake and is ideal for enjoying an afternoon beer. phone number: 952 112 383
-I Mirador - Also located at Embalse Conde de Guadalhorce, with phone number 952 112 400, El Mirador serves a wide variety of grilled meat. We also highly recommend their coles rellenas, a dish of cabbage and minced pork mixed in a rich Malaga wine sauce.
-Juan Vera - This restobar along Calle Andrade Navarrete has a good collection of alcoholic beverages as well as mouth-watering tapas to go along with them. phone number: 952 458 249.
-Restaurante La Alternativa - This establishment along Calle Real serves different kinds of international dishes. So if you're looking for a dish your palate might be more familiar with, you might find it here. phone number: 610 796 043
If you prefer to sample Andalusian or, more specifically, Ardeleño gastronomical specialities, these are some of the restaurants that serve them.
-El Oasis - at Embalse Conde de Guadalhorce, with phone number: 952 112 411.
-La Herreria - along Calle Fray Juan, with phone number: 952 459 240.
-Meson de Hardales - along Calle Cantarranas, with phone number: 952 458 337.
The local specialities include a variety of stews which usually consist of kid (baby goat) and pork. You'll also find gazpacho, a cold tomato-based soup, in practically all menus. For snacks or desserts, we recommend the following Ardeleño pastries: tortas de almendra, torstas de aceite (olive oil cakes), roscos de vino, and empanadillas con cabello de angel.
Pubs and Bars in Ardales
Ardales is known as a haven for people who love the outdoors. Since most outdoorsmen like to have a few glasses or bottles of their favourite beverage before going to bed, a good number of Ardales pubs and bars have thrived well here.
Among the best places to end a tiresome day spent under the scorching heat of the Andalusian sun is beside the lakes. You'll find numerous bars there.
For starters, you might want to check out Embalse Conde de Guadalhorce's El Kiosko. It is a riverside resto-bar that serves beer and other alcoholic beverages matched with delectable tapas. If you want to have a heavy meal first, they also have a nice selection of Spanish dishes on their menu. El Kiosko can be contacted through phone number 952 112 383.
El Cruce on-site resto-bar - If you're looking for a hotel with an on-site bar, then you might want to check out this place along the road from Alora to Campillos. An on-site bar is ideal if you don't want to leave your hotel for just a couple of drinks. Once you've had your fill, you can go straight to your room. (phone: 952 459 012)
There are of course bars in the town proper. One of them is La Herreria. You can find it along Calle Fray Juan. Just ask where the bus stops. The great thing about this resto-bar is that you get to sample local Spanish cuisine at very inexpensive prices. (phone: 952 458 337)
Juan Vera is another bar found in the town proper. It is located along Calle de los Andrades Navarrete. Like La Herreria, this place is a resto-bar. Here, they specialize in tapas, those finger-licking snacks/appetizers. Different tapas are each best enjoyed with a different kind of drink. That won't be a problem at Juan Vera since they've got a wide selection of tapas to choose from.
Can't get enough of those tapas? There are a couple of Ardales bars down at Plaza San Isidro where you can get your fill of those tasty finger-foods. One is Bar El Melizzo, the other is El Casino.
Hotels in Ardales
-Aparmentos Ardales - Located along Calle del Burgo, right in the heart of town, this property is made up of 17 apartments complete with amenities such as air conditioning, reception service, Internet access, satellite TV, parking, swimming pool, jacuzzi, solarium, laundry, and bicycle rental. Each apartment is given a personalized touch and has its own unique design. (phone: 952 459 466).
-Hotel La Posada del Conde - Situated in the far northeastern side of the Embalse Conde de Guadalhorce, this small hotel is only 10 km from Ardales. They have an on-site restaurant where you can sample Mediterranean specialities like lamb shoulder with honey and suckling pig. They also serve different kinds of meat and fish dishes. (phone: 952 112 411).
-Hostal El Cruce - This is a whitewashed two-story building located along the road from Alora to Campillos. Inside the premises are 11 double rooms, a social lounge with satellite TV, a playground, a function hall, an on-site resto-bar, and swimming pools. All rooms are equipped with a private bathroom and TV. (phone: 952 459 012).
-Campsite Parque Ardales - Yes, this is a campsite. However, that doesn't mean sleeping in a tent is the only option. There are also 1-bedroom apartments that can accommodate up to four people. Amenities include a restaurant, snack bar, children's playground, and a barbecue area. This is the best place to stay if you love the outdoors but, for some reason, can't stay in a tent. (phone: 951 264 924)
-Pension Bobastro - You can find this pension house beside Plaza San Isidro, right in the centre of town. It has 11 single rooms and 5 double rooms, enough to accommodate a total of 21 guests. Its location is easily accessible either by bus or car. (phone: 952 458 081)
-La Solana del Turon - This property, which is composed of two separate holiday villas, is located about 3 km from the town proper. Each house has its own bedroom, kitchen, sala, porch, and bathroom. The place is ideal for those who would like to enjoy the utmost privacy in a peaceful environment. As it is situated in a rural area, it is only suitable for guests who have cars. (phone: 634 536 059)
Shopping in Ardales
When it comes to your Ardales shopping needs, you have very little choices here. This is actually good for the town, as the presence of big commercial establishments would only cause the eventual ruin of well-preserved historical sites and pollute the verdant landscape.
However, If you're staying in a self-catering apartment or holiday villa, then you might want to know where you can find fresh meat and bread. Here are some of the local meat shops and bakeries:
-Casa Cuartel - a butcher's shop located beside Plaza de San Isidro, with phone number: 952 458 153.
-Carnicerias Encarna - a butcher's shop located along Calle de la Iglesia, with phone number 952 458 186.