As in all the pueblos blancos, Montejaque dates from the time of the Berber settlers, after the Moslem conquest. Located in a semi-hidden bowl hidden by circular rocky outcrops, it overlooks a small fertile valley of olive groves.
Officially Montejaque is home to just over 1,000 people, although there is a concerted effort to improve its economy with rural tourism. Many homes were abandoned and fell into disrepair as the population left, firstly for Ronda then further afield. Indeed a plaque in the village commemorates the constant exodus of people, initially in the 17th century, to colonise America and in more recent times to Holland in search of work. The ever-expanding Costa today still attracts the young away in their quest for wealth and a less regimented social order.
Recent initiatives to introduce tourism into the mountains are popular and many deserted homes have been renovated as holiday homes and various hotel annexes. Arriving at one of the pueblo's two hotels, don't be surprised if instead of being shown to your room, you are given a bunch of keys and directions down a number of narrow streets until you find your accommodation. Though clean, these rustic homes evoke a way of life that is slowly dying out. Chickens, goats and of course campo dogs can still be seen in most of the small gardens and the indigenous community still wakes up early in the morning to make the most of the daylight.
The village centre can only be approached by its own short side road, having left the Cortes-Montecorto route at the edge of the pueblo. Parking is not easy and therefore the sooner you park the better, as you will enter a dead end once you reach the Plaza Constitution. If you have a car that breathes in, then you might like to attempt the narrow medieval streets, only ending with a complicated parking saga, much to the amusement of the elderly pueblo residents, who sit out their remaining days watching life go by. Thursdays are a good day to visit as it is market day but parking is even more difficult for tourists but easier for determined locals as every available inch of space is fair game.
A walk up to the Plaza is lined by a number of simple shops hidden by uninviting blinds, some of them no more than front rooms of homes, with their TVs and armchairs at the back of the counter. The Plaza itself is dominated by the Parish Church of Santiago El Mayor built on the foundations of the mosque. Remodelled by Don Pedro Diaz de Palacios, the architect of Malaga Cathedral in 1604, the church did not remain untouched, as it was once again enlarged and re-dedicated in 1773. It has a large central nave and was built in the late Gothic style, with a vaulted roof covering the presbytery.
In the Plaza is the old noble mansion house, which today is the three star hotel Palacete de Marara. During the 17th century, this mansion was the seat of power for the Conde de Benavente and was used when he visited his domain to collect taxes and hunt on the then wooded mountain slopes. The family arms, carved in sandstone and rather decayed, can still be seen outside the main door of the building. The house was to see sadder times in the first half of the last century, when it became a sausage factory. This closed in 1995 due to changing EU legislation, when the owners could no longer afford to meet EU regulations. At the end of 1998, the noble's palace was converted into a three star hotel, with a very good restaurant serving local dishes.
Also sited in the Plaza, the Casa de Constitution was rebuilt in an interesting style after the Civil War. It was an obvious candidate for attack during that bleak period, when authority was attacked by both left and right sides. A Castillo located behind this area was destroyed after the re-conquest and many of the surviving walls were remodelled into homes.
Further hidden in the village on the way in, is the hotel and holiday business of Casitas Sierra. This is based around a reception and restaurant, with 27 different homes available on the same terms as a hotel room. A British holiday firm specialising in rural holidays has linked up with the local firm and many homes are taken up for two-week holidays, good news for the village economy.
Below the village, the old medieval road to Ronda zig-zags from the new cemetery and over the limestone outcrop. This track is still used today and passes the Hermita de las Escariguelas, visited every August by a procession in honour of the pueblo's patron saint, the Virgin of the Conception. Not an easy task when carrying a statue as it rapidly climbs more than 300 feet. Beyond the hermitage is the pass and a panoramic view of Ronda in the distance. The old medieval road led down into the valley below. However, of late serious walkers have made a route that follows the crest to the left and terminated at the highest point (Mures, 870m above sea level). The track then drops down to the road, very near the empty reservoir.
The village celebrates its various feast days on the 17 May, 25 July and 15 August.
Walking guide books by Guy Hunter Watts
Buy walking guide books by Guy Hunter Watts
"Walking in Andalucia" by Guy Hunter Watts
Walking in Andalucía is a 260 page full colour guide to some of the very best walks in southern Spain, taking the walker on 34 routes - all starting and most finishing in beautiful villages - in the Natural Parks of Grazalema, La Alpujarra, Cazorla, Los Alcornocales, Aracena, and La Axarquia. Many of the full and half day walks are virtually unknown even though they are a short drive from the Costa del Sol. Even though more and more people are beginning to walk Spain's southern sierras, most of the routes remain blissfully undiscovered. Guy says, 'If you decide to head for the hills with my guide you can be sure of two things: you will be walking through areas of great natural beauty and you will meet with other walkers.'
Buy a printed or eBook copy online direct from publishers Walking in Andalucia.
"Coastal walks in Andalucia" by Guy Hunter Watts
45 great coastal walks close to Andalucia's Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts. Discover the best hiking trails close to Vejer, Caños de Meca, Conil, Tarifa, Bolonia, Gibraltar, Casares, Estepona, Marbella, Istán, Mijas, Benalmádena, Alhaurín, Cómpeta, Fuengirola, Nerja, Maro and Almuñecar. Talk to most people about the coast of Andalucía and they’ll picture the small swathe of seaboard that runs from Torremolinos to Estepona, the heartland of what is commonly sold as the Costa del Sol. First associations are of crowded beaches, busy coastal roads and blocks of holiday apartments. Few amongst them will conjure up visions of the mighty chain of mountains, the tail end of the Sierra Subbética, which rises up a few kilometres back from the sea. Nor do they tend to evoke the wilder beaches of the Costa de la Luz or the footpaths that run just a few metres from the Atlantic surf.
Buy a printed or eBook copy online direct from publishers Coastal Walks in Andalucia.
"The Andalucian coast to coast walk " by Guy Hunter Watts
A stunning 21 day, 435 kilometre trail that links the Mediterranean with the Atlantic. The walk passes through six of Andalucia's Natural Parks and protected areas via its most beautiful mountain villages. Far more than a long walk, this on-foot odyssey can lead you to the heart of southern Spain's magnificent sierras and on a life-changing journey of discovery. One of the best things about the simple act of walking is the sense of reconnecting with Nature and the Big Wide World. We've been moving around on two feet for a very long time yet still, in the simple act of putting one foot in front of the next and moving across landscape, it seems that we reassert our identity. Day to day worries fall into insignificance, or rather true significance, when we get out into the mountains and walking is about a lot more than taking exercise.
Buy a printed or eBook copy online direct from publishers The Andalucian Coast-to-coast Walk.
"Walking the Mountains of Ronda and Grazalema" by Guy Hunter Watts
The dramatically situated town of Ronda can make a great base for a walking holiday in the mountains of Andalucía, as can any one of the picturesque 'pueblos blancos' (white villages) that nestle among the surrounding hills. This guidebook presents 32 mainly circular walks in the Ronda region, covering the town and its environs, the Natural Parks of La Sierra de Grazalema and La Sierra de las Nieves (both UNESCO biosphere reserves), and the Genal and Guadiaro Valleys. Clear route description is illustrated with mapping, and the route summary table and 'at a glance' information boxes make it easy to choose the right walk.
Buy a printed or eBook copy online direct from publishers Walking the Mountains of Ronda and Grazalema.
Walking the Mountains of Ronda and Grazalema
A book by Guy Hunter Watts
The dramatically situated town of Ronda can make a great base for a walking holiday in the mountains of Andalucía, as can any one of the picturesque 'pueblos blancos' (white villages) that nestle among the surrounding hills. This guidebook presents 32 mainly circular walks in the Ronda region, covering the town and its environs, the Natural Parks of La Sierra de Grazalema and La Sierra de las Nieves (both UNESCO biosphere reserves), and the Genal and Guadiaro Valleys.
Clear route description is illustrated with mapping, and the route summary table and 'at a glance' information boxes make it easy to choose the right walk. There is the option to buy a printed book, an eBook, or both as one deal.
Buy a copy online of Walking the Mountains of Ronda and Grazalema