In 1485 Ojen and Marbella surrendered to the Reyes Catolicos and concurrently a law was established which obliged Muslims to live at a distance of at least five miles from the coast. One result of this was that many people left Marbella to become established in Ojen in order to avoid possible collaboration between the Arabs of Andalucia with the Turkish and Berber pirates. More than a decade later…
Nine kilometres separate the two towns. These days Ojen can be reached via the motorway however, for a more interesting and attractive drive, it is recommend to proceeed by the old road which gently winds up the mountain until you arrive at this beautiful white village, which hails as one of the best preserved in the province.
Our route starts from Avenida Ricardo Soriano in Marbella, where we first pass by the emblematic Parque de la Alameda before continuing through Severo Ochoa until we reach a bypass which, for many years, was the main road to Ojen. The road we need to take is the regional 337 which is just past the bullring, at which point it begins the mountain ascent.
At this stage, the spectacular scenery gradually unfolds. Looming ahead is the awesome sight of the Sierra Blanca, above which towers the Cerro de Nicholas at 1100 metres and the Pico de Tajo Negro at 1060 metres. Behind these lies the Valle del Juanar which is gently wooded and, at this time of year, full of wild flowers. Once this was a traditional resting place for travellers, today it retains its purpose, being home for a delightful small parador (hotel). Years ago, General Charles de Gaulle retired here to write his memoirs, clearly inspired by the scenery and surround.
The panorama which stretches to the coast is extremely beautiful and acentuated by the vibrancy of the colours: the deep blue of the Mediterranean, the lush green of the foliage and fauna and nestled high in the mountains is the traditional pueblo blanco of Ojen.
With the parador behind us, the road becomes increasingly windy with the predictable hairpin bends. Fortunatelyk however, the road is in excellent condition and traffic is generally light. If you open the window here, you will be able to enjoy the heady scent of wild thyme and rosemary mingled with pine. There are also some magnificent evergreen oak trees here in a natural protected area which covers some three thousand hectares.
From here the road climbs into Ojen, continuing for just a few more metres and still in sight of the Costa del Sol, as well as the Valle de Rio Verde.
The White Village
The first impression on reaching Ojen is that it is typical of a town built with Moorish influence. Here are the white-washed walls, steep narrow streets and everywhere you look, pots overflowing with brilliantly coloured geraniums.
The town is situated some 355 metres above sea level and built on rocky ground.
At this point it is best to start out by foot, exploring the small streets, many of which are too narrow for a car to pass, and enjoy an Andalusian architecture and ambience which has remained remarkably unchanged despite the passage of time. Many of the houses have been painstakingly restored. Descending towards the main plaza, be sure to visit the Parish Church of Nuestra Senora de la Encarnacion in Mudejar which dates from the 16th century and is built on the site of an ancient mosque. At the exit, you can enjoy the famous Fuente de los Chorros which was constructed in 1905 and is situated just below the office of the Mayor, Pedro Fernandez.
No visit to a pueblo blanco would be complete without stopping by a few of the traditional tapas bars and here in Ojen there are numerous to select some of which also specialise in the local wine, another must on your sampling selection. Unfortunately, you will be unable to taste the famous aguardiente which was once renowned throughout Spain. For more than a century, the town had the privilege of distilling this delicious beverage until the family abandoned the business. Others tried to emulate the recipe in vain, which means this drink has remained no more than a distant memory, particularly among the long standing local families, who constitute the majority of the town's mere two thousand inhabitants.
Continue your journey past the town hall, the old cinema and the school which is home today of Ojen's annual flamenco festival, a not to be missed part of your holiday itinerary.
Returning back to Marbella through the town, there are plenty of places to rest and reflect on the magnificent sweeping panoramic views. Several outdoor cafes and bars are here. On the road again, don't be surprised if you suddenly see a flock of sheep descending the mountain or a herd of goats, even the occasional magnificent eagle gliding over the mountain peaks.
Just outside the town, is the Pena Flamenca "La Churruca" and the fountain of El Chorillo where there is usually a queue of people waiting to fill their jugs with sparkling fresh water.
Next, begin the descent to the coast and, just before reaching Marbella, divert towards El Chorradero; a hillside dotted with rural farms and houses. On either side, the road is flanked by bushed and vegetation whilst in the distance stands a magnificent replica of a veritable medieval castle. From here the road narrows and we approach a narrow street surrounded by thickets before bursting onto the scene of a truly wonderful panoramic view of the city of Marbella, with the sea, rock of Gibraltar and coast of Africa acting as a magical backdrop.
This article was first published in the Andalucia Costa del Sol Magazine.