by Saskia Mier
Vélez Blanco nestles at the foot of a rocky outcrop forming part of the Sierra de María-Los Velez Natural Park and the Ruta de los Castillos (route of castles) through Andalusia. It is as a popular destination for lovers of both rural tourism and sports, as well as culture and history enthusiasts. It has about 1900 inhabitants.
The first local traces of the Iberian people date from the sixth and seventeenth centuries B.C. The Roman era was characterized by the proliferation of these villas through the whole area. Their occupation lasted from the first century to the fifth. In the Al-Andalus period, Vélez Blanco began to grow in importance due to its strategic position, with the name Velad al-Abyadh. More>
THINGS TO SEE
Declared a National Monument in 1931, the skyline of the castle dominates the town. Its construction began in 1506 under the orders of Pedro Fajardo, named Marquis of Los Vélez by the Catholic Monarchs. It was built it in the Renaissance style, symbolizing the spirit of modern times and a break with previous architectural tradition, resulting in the near total destruction of the Arab fortress in order to adapt it to new defensive requirements and to represent the new Castilian Lords. The site comprises two buildings linked by a drawbridge, which is the entrance to the second enclosure. The first area, built over the old Moorish citadel, is an extremely simple quadrangular fortification with artillery potential. The second enclosure is a fortified Palace, presided over by a keep. The Palace stands around a three-sided courtyard, a majestic work in white Macael marble, making it a sculptural gem of the Renaissance period. The courtyard was sold in 1904 and it is exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Located on Calle del Castillo.
1st April - 30th September, Wednesday - Sunday, 10:00-14:00hrs and 17:00-20:00hrs.
1st October - 31st March, Wednesday - Sunday, 10:00-14:00hrs and 16:00-18:00hrs.
Tel: 607 415 055
The Town Hall shows the historicist features of restoration architecture. The façade presents a traditional three-storey scheme with five vertical axes of holes. The central one is a highlight, finished off with a cornice supported by corbels, in the centre of which sits the elevated cornice inscribed with the Vélez shield. Located on Calle Corredera.
Convento de San Luis
The Convent was built by the second Marquis de los Vélez, Don Luis and both Convent and church were finished in 1572. The facade of this church is made of ashlar stone and has a doorway between two oculi, a niche over the access door and the Vélez shield on its sides. Located on Calle Cantererías.
Ermita de la Concepción
A small sixteenth-century chapel built on the initiative of Francisca and Mencía Fajardo, sisters of the Marquis de los Vélez, which became the funeral chapel for part of the family. It was built between 1573 and 1577 by Gabriel Ruiz Tahuste, together with the carpenters Gabriel Halcón, Juan Alonso Quevedo and Francisco Martínez. Throughout its history, it has been the Headquarters of the School of Christ, a warehouse for aromatic plants and later, after the restoration, an art gallery. Located on Calle Cantererías.
Iglesia de la Magdalena
Today, only a small section remains of this former first temple of Vélez-Blanco, dedicated to Santa María Magdalena. The entire tower is preserved, except for the roof, and also some walls. The church used the original mosque as the foundations, which might explain the different construction systems with which it was built. Located on Cerro del Castillo.
Iglesia de Santiago Apóstol
Construction of this church began in the time of the first Marquis de los Vélez, Don Pedro Fajardo y Chacón. The works began immediately after the Castle was completed in 1512. The works were only concluded towards the middle of the sixteenth century, and the temple was consecrated in 1559. The temple has a rectangular floor plan with a single nave with five sections that are separated by pillars with Gothic columns, with the side chapels located on both sides of the nave. Inside is the Cristo de la Yedra, one of the most significant images of this Almeria town. Located on Calle de las Tiendas.
Teatro y Ermita de San Agustín
The chapel of San Agustín is documented from the sixteenth century until its confiscation in the nineteenth century. It was restored in 1599 and 1693. The second altarpiece was built by the Lorca carpenter Melchor García in 1623, with three main paintings. After its confiscation it was transformed into a theater, the income from which passed to the Charity Board. The current building is the result of works completed in 1994. Located on Calle del Teatro.
THINGS TO SEE OUTSIDE THE VILLAGE
Abrigo de la Colmena and Abrigos del Maimón
The Colmenas shelter was located in the western area of the southern slope of the Maimón Chico, less than 2km from Vélez-Blanco. It consists of three caves, of which only the largest contains cave paintings, distributed in two areas of it, one to the right of its wall and another towards the center of it, reaching a total of ten representations. Under the name of Abrigos del Maimón, there are nine painted shelters; Yedra, Letreros, Letreros Inferior, Molinos I, Molinos II, Panal, Hoyos I, Hoyos II and Covachas, of diverse figurative content, which respond to the so-called schematic art cycle.
Cueva de Los Letreros
This cave is one of the most important painted shelters in the south of the peninsula, discovered in 1861. Its dimensions are 25m wide, about 6m deep and a height that ranges in the central area between 8 and 10 meters. Its access, although steep, is facilitated by the existence of previous ramps and a series of zig-zagging stairs. Its paintings are distributed in several panels, some located in blocks on the floor, the most important being the main panel, located on the left wall of the shelter. UNESCO states this is the largest group of rock art sites in Europe, and that it gives an exceptional image of human life in a critical phase of its development.
Cueva de Abrosio
This site is considered one of the most important for the study of the Upper Paleolithic era of the Iberian Peninsula. It is a large rocky shelter on a vertical wall more than 100m high. It was excavated for the first time in 1911 and features a Paleolithic, Epipaleolithic and Neolithic cultural sequence. On this site, during the 1992 and 1994 campaigns, a set of painted and engraved artistic parietal representations of the Upper Paleolithic era were discovered.
Sierra de María-Los Velez Natural Park
Established in 1987, the Sierra María-Los Vélez occupies the eastern end of the Cordillera Subbética in the north of the Almeria province. It covers 22,670 hectares, a landscape of impressive contrasts, with its arid, moon-like plains overlooked by the Sierra’s rocky summits, which are white with snow in winter, and the dry, barren south-facing slopes contrasted with its densely wooded north-facing ones. Its climate too is characterised by great extremes, with temperatures plunging as low as -18°C in winter and rising to 39°C in summer. The park’s altitude ranges from 800m to the highest peak of María, a barren limestone outcrop of 2,045m. More>
There is a lot to do in the Natural Park. Lovers of hiking are able to choose between different signed routes, such as the Pinar de Alfahuara, Umbria de Maimón, Sierra Larga and Pinar de las Muelas y Hoya de Taibena. However, the best way to know what’s on offer at the park is to get in touch with the tourist office in Almacén del Trigo.
Book Hotels in Vélez-Blanco
Gastronomically, those who want to taste the best food here must order the migas de harina (fried breadcrumbs with chorizo and bacon), as well as the gurullos con liebre o perdiz (pasta stew with hare or partridge). Sweets include bilbaos (brioche buns) and mantecados dormidos (lard and almond cakes made at Christmas).
Popular festivals in Vélez Blanco are Semana Santa, Fiesta de Agosto, Feria Medieval and San Isidro. More>
The tourist office of Vélez Blanco is located in the Oficina Municipal de Turismo. More>