Alto Genal Valley
The beautiful hidden Alto Genal valley has not been discovered by tourists, nor even Conde Nast!
The valley runs through the high (“Alto”) reaches of the Rio Genal – hence the name. Next to our valley is the “Medio” Genal and then, as the river makes its way to the Mediterranean, the lower (“Bajo”) Genal.
Seven little villages (six of them are the undiscovered famous pueblos blancos) are dotted around the hillsides, hiding amongst the chestnut trees and, from a distance, looking like a string of pearls cast down by a giant. They were probably founded by the invading Islamic people from 711 CE. The Arab culture is reflected in the street layout, the architecture, and there remain vestiges in the traditional lifeways of the villagers. After 1492 everyone who was not Christian was ejected and the obvious place of retreat was nearby Morocco where towns like Tetuan reflect the same mixture of Arab and Andalucian culture. Fascinating!
Cartajima – called the “atalaya” or watchtower by the ancients – is the highest village in Malaga province. Pretty, flower-filled, whitewashed, the original Moorish streets are narrow and mysterious. Lovely to visit in all seasons – it is especially riotous at Easter and in August when all the “imigrantes” who moved to France in the “years of hunger”, come back for their summer holidays. The 4-day August festival is an extraordinary extravaganza of food, dance, theatre, song, and partying.
Igualeja – is the most populous of the Alto Genal villages with a population of about 1000. The others all have between 100 and 250 inhabitants. Igualeja is famous for being the source of the River Genal and has associated grottos with stalagtites and -mites. It has the coldest swimming pool in the area, a live Passion Play every Easter, and the only village with a Latin name. All the others are Arabic.
Parauta – is the next village to Cartajima and the easiest to walk to from Hotel Los Castaños – the trail takes about an hour. It boasts a Moorish arch, 18th century doors and enjalbegado, the practice of whitewashing directly onto stone without first plastering.
Farajan – was called for some inexplicable reason “a white swan on a pool of hope” by Ernest Hemingway. I have no idea what he meant and neither does anybody else. Perhaps you do? The village is renowned for high quality pork.
Alpandeire -is the birthplace of a Capuchin monk who has achieved fame as a miracle worker and has been nominated for sainthood. It is famous nowadays for its superb restaurant, La Casa Grande, where they have the best steaks John, a meatman, has ever tasted.
Pujerra – is the most remote of the villages. They say that whilst the more sophisticated Cartajimeños went to market in Ronda, Pujereños came to Cartajima. Everybody goes to Ronda these days! A visigoth king called Wamba lived there before ascending the throne. And they are reputed to have the best banda de musica in the Alto Genal!
You will be wondering what happened to the seventh village. It isn’t a pueblo blanco anymore. It’s a pueblo azul! Called Juzcar, it is the first pueblo pitufo in the world.