Málaga Province - Archidona

Archidona nestled in  the foothills of the Sierra de Gracia © Michelle Chaplow
Archidona nestled in the foothills of the Sierra de Gracia

In the north of Málaga Province, about 50 kilometres from Málaga City (and 20 kilometres from Antequera), at the foothills of the Sierra de Gracia, is the welcoming village of Archidona. Bordering on the Granada Province, Archidona sits at the very centre of Andalucia, 660 metres above sea level. This rural community dominates the valley over which it presides. It is at the meeting point of east and west Andalucia and with the advent of the excellent new road systems now in place, it is easily accessible and yet still picturesque and tranquil.

The municipality covers an area of approximately 187 kilometres and has a population of around 10,000. Although, as with many Andalucian villages in the 1970's, there was a grand exit from the countryside and into the larger cities, Archidona is once again a thriving little town, whose economy still depends to a large extent on the olive groves that surround the area, which yield a very high quality of olive oil.

Geographical location

(Latitude 37o 03' - Longitude -4o 23')

From Recent Past to Present

Although Archidona has grown from a tiny village into a small town, many of today's inhabitants still remember the days when they played marbles and hopscotch in the narrow streets. In the area knows as "Los Caños de las Monjas", older residents in Archidona reminisce about gathering together in the hope of finding work in the olive groves, being paid at the rate of 15 pesetas a day. Woman took their washing to "Los Caños" - the public wash place. In those days, if a widow or widower remarried, the young people of the village would stand outside the house of the newly weds and make a dreadful din, often resulting in the groom chasing them down the road, firing rifle shots in the air to scare them off. Things have changed in Archidona and there is more modern housing and good facilities, but the general layout and structure of the town has remained largely unchanged.

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The Town Hall has recently initiated a Microbus service, providing public transport around the town and to the outlying districts of Huertas del Río and Estación de la Romera. The Microbus takes 16 passengers and to begin with will be operating only in the mornings. The journey cost is around 80 cents (60 cents for senior citizens) and it makes living in this small town even more appealing to those who do not drive. The local authorities have also recently received a proposal to build a large complex for senior citizens in the Huertas del Río area. If this is approved, it will provide residences and apartments, with clinic, restaurant and laundry area, plus nearby hotel for relatives. The promoters hope to be able to go ahead with their project, since they expect interest from residents of many countries.

House prices are generally lower in this area than those along the busy Costa del Sol nearby and landscape with the high mountain peak backdrop and the sloping meadows and undulating olive groves, make it a perfect countryside retreat. The natural surroundings and interesting historical monuments from a rich and ancient past also make this a popular area for the rural tourist, with an annual level of visitors of around 3,000 people. Favourite beauty spots and picnic areas are in the area of the lakes Grande, Chica and Hoz de Arroyo Martín and amongst the many places of historic interest to visit are the Virgen de Gracia Sanctuary, which is built on the ruins of a Moorish Mosque and the San Antonio Hermitage dating back to the 18th century.

History

The history of Archidona goes back as far as prehistoric times. Traces have been found of the existence of the Turdulo people from about 1,500 B.C., with the Phoenicians following on and giving the place the name of "Escua" meaning the "Principal Head". It is the Phoenicians who are said to have begun the construction of the protective walls of the town. This defensive barrier, led to it being called '"Arx Dómina" at the time of the Roman period. Later still the Moors called it "Medina Arxiduna", and hence to its present name of Archidona.

The end of the 9th and beginning of the 10th Century saw witness to the Mozarab rebellion, led by Muladj Omar Ben Hafsun between the Muladíes and the Berbers. Archidona also played host to the start of the Omeya dynasty in Andalucia - an important era in Spanish history.

The first Caliph of Cordoba brought peace back to the town under the rule of Abd el-Rahman III. Archidona benefited from the Cordoban influence and affluent times followed, with healthy trading and agriculture for the people. However by the end of the 11th century, under the rule of Taifa, the town came on hard times, finally resulting in much of the land being abandoned. The resurgence came in the first part of the 13th century when Archidona came under the rule of the Nazari Kingdom of Granada. The silk trade brought prosperity back to the town. But then, with the Christians moving in to the area in the 14th century, Archidona - like many towns and villages in the area - suffered badly from looting and pillaging. The shape of the town today is traced back to the 16th century, when the first main urban centre, Villa Baja, was built by the Ureña family.

This short resume of the village's long and eventful history gives an insight into why the inhabitants are proud of their heritage. In 1980 Archidona was declared a Village of Historic and Artistic Interest.

Monuments & Places of Historical Interest

Moorish Castle
At the time of the Moorish occupation it was impenetrable, with its three layers of ramparts protecting it and with an imposing rock face behind it.

The Hermitage of La Virgen de Gracia
This hermitage (ermita) and sanctuary is dedicated to the devotion of the patron saint, La Virgen de la Gracia. This is a unique site in Andalucia because it has been built on the original site of the Arabic Mosque, while all others were destroyed.

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The Santa Ana Church
This was the first church built in Villa Baja at the beginning of the 16th Century and then rebuilt in the 19th Century. The Church stands out with its triangular tower and is well worth a visit to see both the wealth of artistic and religious heritage inside the church.

Plaza de la Victoria
This is main pulse of the village, where main social events are held. Two important buildings looking into the square are the Town Hall (previously housing the co-operative granary) and the Church of la Victoria, with its notable bell gable.

Convento de las Míninas
The nuns continue to live their simple and reclusive life within the walls of this old building and their church has a sense of deep, intimate devotion. On the outside, you can see the brick work of the baroque tower with its splendid green and white ceramic spire.

The Church of el Nazareno & Escuelas Pías
This is both church and training school for the Nazarene brotherhood. You can be seen these devotees in processions during Easter week. Founded around the middle of the 18th Century, the main door of the college and the clock tower are distinctive.

Plaza Ochavada
The unusually designed octagonal plaza was built in the 18th Century and in the French style. Inside this 'Andalucian Patio' red brick contrasts with the bright white wash of the walls, reflecting the style of the local architecture.

Hermitage of San Antonio
The hermitage (ermita) dates back to the 18th Century.

Fiestas & Festivals

In typical Andalucian style, the "Archidoneses" celebrate many colourful fiestas throughout the year.

Carnaval
At the beginning of February, as in all towns and villages of Andalucia, Carnaval time is celebrated, with special parties organised and people dressing up in fancy dress.

Semana Santa (Easter Holy Week)
A perfect time to visit Archidona and see the beautiful processions going through the streets, with the whole town looking on.

San Isidro
The 15th of May is the day of the Patron, San Isidro.

La Feria del Perro
At the end of May or the first weekend of June Archidona celebrates a three day dog show, "La Feria del Perro". This is a big event on the calendar and national and international champion show dogs are brought to compete from far afield. There are all sorts of exhibitions, such as the Police dogs being put through their paces and demonstrations of the amazing skill of sheep dogs and their trainers. This wonderful canine event began in 1993 and has become increasingly popular each year since then. It is a must for all dog lovers and for anyone who enjoys a really interesting day out.

Fiesta of San Antonio
From 13th to 15th June is the fiesta of San Antonio.

San Juan
On June 24th is the celebration of the night of San Juan, with a fireworks display marking the start of the fiesta around midnight on the 23rd.

Fiesta of San Aurelio
Towards the end of July (around the 27th) there is the fiesta of San Aurelio.

Village Fair & Fiestas of the Virgen de Gracia
August the 14th to 18th sees the main village Fair and Fiestas of the Virgen de Gracia (Patron Saint of Archidona).

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The Tourist Office (Oficina de Turismo)

Plaza de Ochavada No. 2. Tel: 952 716 479
Opening hours:
Tuesday - Friday 10:00 - 14:00
Saturday & Sunday 11:00 - 14:00
CLOSED MONDAYS

Local Gastronomy

Amongst the many typical dishes you can try while you are in Archidona are:

Gazpacho (delicious and nutritious cold soup), "Gachas de Mosto" (sweet pancakes with grape juice and nut mix filling), "Guiso de patatas" home made potato stew, "Porra" (a thicker version of Gazpacho and served with chopped up boiled egg, Serrano ham and diced bacon).

Art Gallery

The Casa del Pósito, a 16th-century granary now the town hall and where the Municipal Museum is located, exhibits a wide collection of documents, paintings, photographs and sketches relating to the town's heritage.
Plaza de la Victoria. Tel. 952 714 48.

Shopping

You will find some handmade baskets, articles made of cane and picture framing. There are also some factories that make wooden doors and furniture and workshops which produce wrought iron gates, garden furniture, etc.

Madertapia
Furniture & Fittings, 500m2 of all styles of furniture on show.
Polígono Industrial, Parcela 17, Archidona
Tel: 952 717 523

Sillero
Wooden Doors, etc
Poligono Industrial, Parcela 36-B, Archidona
Tel: 952 714 982

Bars & Restaurants

Restaurante Las Viñas
Specialises in roast meats and typical home made dishes. Also caters for groups and large celebrations up to 600 people.
Ctra. Jerez-Cartagena, Km 181
Tel: 952 714 941

La Carbonería (Tavern / Bar)
Specialises in roast meats, lamb, pork, cured ham and cheeses, Rioja Wine.
Calle San Jose, 6, Archidona
Tel: 952 716 525

 

Hotels & Accommodation

Escua
Hotel / Restaurant (2 Stars)
Ctra Sevilla-Granada Km 176, Archidona
Tel: 952 717 142

Hostal Cervera
(One Star Hostel)
Avda Pablo Picasso, 38, Archidona
Tel: 952 714 827

Cortijo Sureco
(Rural Accommodation)
Ctra Salinas-Villanueva, Archidona
Tel: 952 393 443

Hostal Megías
(1 Star Hostel)
Bda. La Estación, Archidona

Hostal Las Palomas
(1 Star Hostel)
Ctra Jerez-Cartagena, Km 177, Archidona
Tel: 952 714 326