After leaving Málaga, Phil and I headed 45 minutes westward to the mountain village of Frigiliana. Because it was Semana Santa or Holy Week, accommodations almost everywhere in Andalusia were quite expensive. Andalusia is a very popular destination for Spanish and international tourists alike, especially during Holy Week. It’s essentially the national spring break for the country as schools are closed for the entire week and many families vacation during this time. Because of this, it was cheaper for us to rent a car and stay in a smaller town than securing accommodations in a larger city. I am so happy it worked out this way for us!
As I mentioned in my last post, Málaga was very crowded when we were there so the chance to take it easy in a small mountain town definitely appealed to us. Frigiliana has its fair share of tourists but most are day trippers; plus it has a more-spread-out, less sardine-in-a-can feeling than a big city. Our rental is on a quiet edge of town, overlooking the Sierras of Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama Natural Park.
Frigiliana is a Pueblo Blanco (white village) named for the whitewashed buildings that make up the town, which is done to keep the interiors of the buildings cool in the hot Andalusian summers. There are 19 Pueblos Blancos in Andalusia. At one time they served as a border of sorts between the Christian Kings in the North and the Moorish kingdom in the south. The villages are mostly in the mountains (once serving as fortresses), with small, winding streets and the whitewashed buildings, typical of these Iberian Moorish villages in the Middle Ages. Frigiliana has been named as Spain’s “Most Beautiful and Well-preserved Village”on multiple occasions.
The town consists mostly of eateries and tourist shops. A fellow named Paco owns a small grocery store and fruteria near our rental. He doesn’t speak any English, which is somewhat unusual for the more touristic south. It works out well for us as we can practice our Spanish with him. He tells me my Spanish is good, which is nice of him.
We always lead with Spanish in any interaction (we are in Spain, after all) but 90% of the time here in the south, the person responds in English because they are used to dealing with English-only speaking tourists. In fact, we went to an Indian restaurant here in Frigiliana and the waitress was Irish (the chef was Indian). She not only spoke English to us but also to the Spanish family who came in, only one member of which could speak English. She then complimented the woman on her English when she had to order for the whole family!
We took a quick day trip to the town of Ronda, another Pueblo Blanco, famous for their large Puente Nuevo (new bridge) connecting the town via two giant cliffs. The “new” bridge was built in 1793. The town also has a very cool Roman bridge that we passed on our walk up, into the town.
We’ve taken advantage of all Frigiliana has to offer including beautiful hikes into the Sierras of Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama Natural Park. The first time we went, we set out to do a 3.5 mile loop. We missed the sign for our trail, however, so ended up just walking out a bit and back, though it was still nice to be out in the sunshine and nature. The weather here thus far has been a lot like Southern California; mostly sunny, no humidity, not too hot or too cold. I didn’t realize how much I had missed that.
The second time we set out to do our loop, we made sure to take the correct turn. There was a couple behind us (to make this easy, I’m going to call them Blue Shirt and Makeup) ascending the hill and we stepped aside and let them pass. After a few minutes, we continued on. Pretty soon, we encountered Blue Shirt and Makeup heading back down. They asked us if we’d taken the route before because up ahead the trail suddenly stopped. We said we had not and thought to ourselves that sounded odd but it was definitely within the realm of possibility that we had once again taken a wrong turn or path or that something had obstructed the route. We turned around as well and started heading down, directly in front of Blue Shirt and Makeup, when we met yet another couple (I’ll call them Fit Gal and Cargo Shorts). Phil asked if they had hiked the trail before to which Fit Gal replied they had not but were following a map for the loop path. I explained that Blue Shirt and Makeup had been following the trail up when it suddenly stopped. Makeup then added,”Well, it doesn’t stop but you can’t go forward without climbing,” a bit of information she had initially omitted. Fit Gal said “Yes, that’s the idea,” to which Cargo Shorts responded “Hey, you didn’t tell me that!” and they both continued up the hill. Phil and I looked at each other, deciding on how we wanted to proceed. Makeup said something like, “Trust me, you don’t want to go that way” and her and Blue Shirt continued down.
We decided to follow Fit Gal and Cargo Shorts and check out the situation for ourselves. We figured we could always go back if the trail became too treacherous but at this point we were curious about this “climbing” portion of the trail. While we did encounter some steep, rocky areas (we were walking up a damn mountain after all), there was nothing super dangerous or that required any gear other than our two feet and shoes. We stopped a few times for breathers, leap frogging with Fit Gal and Cargo Shorts, and were quite proud of ourselves when we reached the top of the mountain, huffing and puffing as Fit Gal zoomed passed us in her trail running shoes toward the highest peak. It offered spectacular views of Frigiliana as well as Nerja, the coastal town below. We enjoyed it so much, we went back for a second round a couple of days later.
The only day trip we’ve taken during our two weeks here, other than to Ronda, was to the beach town of Nerja that lies below Frigiliana. Before arriving, we had grand plans of day tripping all over Andalusia; Cordoba, Cadiz, maybe a Morrocan tour day. We ended up deciding that we can’t see it all no matter how much we try to cram in. We are also preparing for a pretty intense travel schedule over the next month. For us, it made more sense to unwind in a relaxed, natural setting to recharge our batteries a bit before visiting city after city over the next few weeks.
So what’s on the agenda for the next month? Well, we’ll be heading to Granada in a couple of days followed by Seville where we will be joined by my cousin and aunt (yay!). From there, we will travel to Edinburgh, Scotland. We’ll part ways with my family there and fly on to Rome. A few days later, Phil’s mom will join us. Phil’s mother, Marie, was born in Italy (we visited her home town in 2019) but hasn’t returned since she left at age 2. We’re excited to spend most of May traveling through Italy and then into France and Switzerland with her, taking in sites and visiting family. We have a few more travel locations in mind before returning to the States so stay tuned. Our next chosen destinations may surprise you.