The village is tucked away beneath the Sierra Blanca at the head of the valley of the Rio Verde. To reach Istán, leave the old N-340 coastal highway onto the A-7176, west of Marbella on the Golden Mile just beyond the Hotel Puente Romano and near the Mosque.
Istán is one of a number of villages of Moorish origin which owes its survival to its distance from the coast. After the Christian reconquest of the Iberian peninsula in the 15th Century, Arabs were barred from living within a league of the shoreline in order to prevent them from communicating with their kinsmen across the straits in Morocco. Istán, 15 kilometres inland, was allowed to remain while the coastal Arab settlements were depopulated and frequently destroyed.
That is not to say that the mountain villages were unmolested and left in peace. The post-reconquest years were turbulent ones which frequently erupted into violence which resulted in harsh and unforgiving repression for the remaining Moors. Istán was lucky. Two associated villages - Arboto and Daidin - were erased from the landscape so effectively that their precise locations are no longer known. Even so, the Arab population dwindled, and was largely replaced by Christian settlers from Castile and Murcia. So many came from the Murcian village of El Cristo de Panocho, that the people of Istán acquired a nickname - panochos - which has survived to this day. Very little remains of Moorish Istán, merely the crumbling remains of a tower hidden in a side street, but at least there is some, and the village still has the timeless air that outsiders find so appealing.
As with so many mountain villages, creations of a time and place in which the only practical means of transport was the mule and the packhorse, Istán's streets are narrow and unsuited to the motor car. The only sensible way to experience it is on foot.
See and Do
Museo del Agua
Museum of Water shows visitors the vital role water plays in life. Inside the building there is the construction of a small canal on the floor, leading to a glass-enclosed pool. There is also a display room for information and audi visual presentations about water.
This tower, which of Arabic origin, is situated in the highest part of the village in Calle San Miguel. It is a square plan tower built in the 15th century and it formed part of a fortress. It has been restored and is surrounded by a garden.
Church of San Miguel
The Church of San Miguel was built in the 16th century on the order of Diego de Deza, Archbishop of Seville. It was resored in the 17th century and again in 1950. It has a single rectangular nave with wooden paneling. The main façade consists of a half-pointed arch between pillars which support a triangular pediment. The bell tower has two half-pointed arches linked together at an angle and finished off with curved pillars.
Old Wash house
The old lavadero is situated in Calle Chorro where the surrounding houses are covered with bougainvillaea and roses. The fountain has six jets, which are still fed by ancient Arabic water channels. The water flows into the washing area that is decorated by brick arches and tiles.
La Esfera Fountain
A modern fountain, inaugurated in October 2003, and designed by local author Salvador Calvo Marín, who lives in USA. The aim of the fountain is to reminds everyone that water is such an essential element of the landscape that surrounds the village. Five elements are highlighted in the fountain: the water, the green marble sphere (symbol of the totality), the oxidized metals (suggesting that passage of the time is simply memory), the white walls (traditional white Mediterranean people), and the main pool (evoking watering and irrigation).
The 12 Stations of the Cross
"12 Stations of the Cross" make up of twelve wooden vaulted niches located all over the village. The only originals condition are the ones set into the façade of the church. According legend, on each Friday during Lent the "pennants" went out into the street at night covered with capes and dragging chains with their feet . They would kneel before each cross and do penance.
Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park
Istan is one of the access point to visit the Sierra de las Nieves natural park.
There are established four restaurants in Istán, Troyano, El Baron, Entre Sierras, Bodega Restaurante Sudamerica, El Potro here are also bars that serve an excellent selection of tapas.
There is a direct bus service from Istan to Marbella. More>
The village aptly echoes night and day to the sound of water running constantly from its drinking fountains. Aptly, because it stands close to the huge reservoir created by the Presa de la Concepción dam, which was built in 1972 and provides drinking water to towns all along the coast. The water feeding Istán's fountains, however, is the pure, unprocessed mountain variety which was much prized long before the coming of the dam. Just outside the village, where it cascades freely from the rocks, motorists often stop to fill their jugs and cans. More>