The village of Arenas in Axarquia  © Michelle Chaplow
The village of Arenas in Axarquia ( Click to enlarge images ) © Michelle Chaplow


Arenas, once known as Arenas del Rey in honour of Fernando El Rey Catolico (Ferdinand the Catholic King, husband of Isabella), is the start of the Ruta Mudejar which runs through five towns in La Axarquia. Arenas is located close to the Cerro de Bentomiz (Hill of Bentomiz), between the Sierras de Tejeda and Almajira at a height of just over 400m above sea level.




Balconies decorated with lush green plants, Arenas. © Sophie Carefull
Balconies decorated with lush green plants.

Like many villages in the Axarquia region, the Arabic origins of Arenas are obvious: steep, narrow winding streets, with cubist white houses built over different levels up the hill, and decorated with colourful flowerpots.

The town used to be divided into three areas: Barrio Alto (Also known as Alto del Lugar), where the craftsmen lived; the Centro was occupied by the wealthy; and the Barrio Bajo (also known as Cantarranas) was where the less affluent people resided.

Things to see

At the entrance to the village, the town hall stands out with its neo-mudejar frontage. You can see an old olive oil mill with drainage spouts in its wall that look like a fountain - on this wall is a ceramic mural by the artist Virgilio Gonzalez. Above the wall is a shady rest area, and nearby is a bronze statue of a mule (see festivals below), to celebrate this hard-working horse-donkey cross-breed which was once an essential means of transport in rural Andalucia. Park your car here and walk into the village.  

In the village centre, the Iglesia de Santa Catalina Martir (St Catherine the Martyr's Church) was built over a mosque in the 16th century and still has the remains of a Mudejar minaret (tower).

Outside the village to the south, on the Bentomiz Hill, you can find the ruins of a fort whose origins are unclear. Some people think it was built by the Romans, others believe it is an Arabic construction, and there are even those who say the castle is Iberian, dating from several centuries BC.

Also a few km from Arenas is the 12th-century Arabic Fountain of Daimalos, showing the area's morisco heritage.



Late January, early February is the time to see the almond in bloom in Arenas ©Michelle Chaplow
Late January, early February is the time to see the almond in bloom in Arenas

Walkers have two main routes to choose from: the first goes around the edge of the Bentomiz Hill, and the second goes along the Alto Hill to the Arroyo de Salares.

The next village or hamlet along the MA-4111, Daimalos, is still part of the municipality of Arenas. You'll find two pieces of 17th-century architecture her: an Arab fountain and a minaret, believed to be the oldest in the area, now used as the bell tower for the parish church. Read more>

Plaque depicting Feria de la Mula, Arenas. © Sophie Carefull
Plaque depicting Feria de la Mula, Arenas.


Arenas is known for its chivo frito con salsa de almendras (fried lamb with almond sauce) and its migas con aceitunas y arenques (fried breadcrumbs with olives and herring), all to be enjoyed with a glass of their renowned vino dulce (sweet wine). Other local dishes you may want to try are gazpacho (cold tomato soup), known as colorao or picao, potajes de garbanzos o de hinojos con habichuelas blancas (chickpea or fennel stew served with beans), or arroz y tropezones de chorizo (rice with chops of chorizo).



Arenas' festivals include the Feria de la Mula (Mule Fair), traditionally celebrated on 12 October, honouring and protecting the mule. There is also the Feriaof Santa Catalina and San Sebastián traditionally held on 10 and 12 of August respectively. In Arenas, the traditional La Candelaria is celebrated in September and Carnival is heldin February.


Arenas is about 44km from the Malaga City and about 10km from Velez-Malaga along the scenic MA-4111. The next villages along this road are Diamalos and Archez.



Hover the cursor over Arenas to see bigger map and click to go to the maps page.