Discover Moorish Spain from Lanjaron – Chapter 2
Lanjaron is an ideal location at the edge of the Sierra Nevada, and apart from the journey to Granada, is within easy range of many different attractions – plus the spectacular scenery of course.
Niguelas is a pretty village, well cared for with narrow cobbled streets although we regularly had to dash into doorways to avoid cars and bikes. Our visit was on Sunday, so there were lots of families out in the unseasonably hot sunshine, relaxing after church and enjoying the very pleasant main square.
Our walk was certainly steeper than we all expected, reaching the levada path around the side of the mountain a touch out of breath! But once up there, this was a clear pathway, mostly level then down across a muddy stream and stepping stones to finish the circular walk back into town. We visited the fascinating 12th century olive oil mill, the oldest in Spain, now a Museum. You can still see the outside enclosures for each family to bring their olives for crushing by the medieval stone grinding wheel. As with many old processes, the wheel was pushed and pulled by a man and a mule, grimly known as the blood wheel as the effort of pushing it made the hands bleed.
Three of us were brave enough to climb down two very steep steps to peer at the 19th century water-powered wheel below, and couldn’t believe that a small man had to crawl further into this hole to repair or unblock the wheel. There were also two huge presses made from local pine, the mash sewn into hessian plates (like sack cheeses for cider making) to produce the first pressing of virgin olive oil. The second pressing adds water so the oil is more inferior, mainly used for fuel or lantern oil. Bit difficult to follow the description in Spanish, but Ursula gave us a sensible translation so that we got the gist of it.
Still in the village of Niguelas, we were fortunate to visit the “secret garden” of Herr Mueller, beautiful formal gardens laid out in 19th century French style as well as featuring earlier Moorish elements. Herr Mueller came to greet us personally, and to show us around his lovely garden before enjoying a tapas lunch with wine and beer – what a pleasant way to spend an afternoon! We saw the famous ancient Chestnut tree and even in the quieter growing months of November, the gardens are worth a visit. They also offer facilities for celebrations in the gardens and civil wedding ceremonies. What a glorious setting in the Lecrin Valley.
In contrast to the vast scale of the awe-inspiring mountains of the Sierra Nevada, the coastal plains are rich in diverse agriculture with a hot, sunny “micro climate” climate that earned it the name of the Tropical Coast. It was amazing how many different types of tropical fruits are grown here, although our guide admitted it was becoming more like a poly-tunnel town each year. We were even more surprised to find sugar cane was grown here before it was introduced to the West Indies, though most of the production has been scaled down now. A local family still produces rum here – Ron Mantero – and we were happy to sample a glass of their speciality, a very thick rich chocolate drink with added rum. An excellent combination that must be tried again at home, I think.
The scenic walk we took started at the higher point of the Best Western Hotel (and their loo facilities), followed the coastal path south where possible (recent storm damage meant some sections were closed), with clear views out to sea as well as fascinating views of the some of the exclusive houses overlooking the coast, albeit some of them teetering dangerously on the edge where there is clear evidence of coastal erosion. It is an extremely steep climb up to the 10th century Moorish castle standing guard over the white-washed houses of Salobrena, more challenging than previous walks especially over the old uneven cobbles, but unfortunately the recent storms had also caused damage to the Castle so it was closed to visitors for safety reasons. We were very disappointed, but we stopped to eat the little nibbly bits we had brought with us before setting off down steps to the sea-side village itself.
Although many small shops and cafes are now closed for the winter (November), we soon cheered up when we reached El Penon Restaurant right on the beach front of Salobrena. In a fantastic setting under the shady umbrellas, with bright sunshine and the sea lapping the beach nearby, we sampled their superb food and white Rioja – very drinkable! There is a great range of starters and mains to choose from, all reasonably priced and freshly prepared. Sardines – wow! You could see them being cooked on the wood-burning barbecue, the delightful smoky fresh smell drifting up as they were presented to us. Other choices were just as delicious – seafood soup, a huge Spanish Omelette, and tuna salad – and as 3 of us shared a bottle of the white Rioja, we were having such a relaxing time it seemed only fair to have another bottle.
You can tell how good a restaurant is by the number of locals who use it and this was certainly a popular place with large groups of family and friends. We all decided that this would be a perfect location for a few days’ holiday away from the bustle with then added bonus of a superb restaurant open all year round.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Adagio Holidays
- Read Gateway to the Sierra Nevada with Adagio Holidays – Part 1
- Read Gateway to the Sierra Nevada with Adagio Holidays – Part 3