Monday, September 12, 2011


If you want to see Morocco without actually risking life and limb, go to Tarifa - the coast of North Africa and the Rif mountains are clearly visible from this the most southerly of towns in mainland Spain!

Seriously though, Tarifa is an interesting place to visit with many features that reflect its historic past. Its geographic location has played a big part in its history - it is the southernmost town of Europe and only 8 miles from North Africa - so it has been pretty much open to all manner of civilisations since the dawn of time.  Tarifa got its name from a Berber called Tarif ibn Malik and, in the 10th century, under the rule of Abd-al-Rahman III, it became an important town. Its history goes much further back than that, however - archaeological discoveries have included Bronze Age burial sites. Later, Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians all settled in the area but it was the Romans who actually founded Tarifa in the 1st century. 

And then the Moors came - in AD710 a Muslim expeditionary force crossed the Straits of Gibraltar and, led by their leader Tarif ibn Malik, they took Tarifa. It was a trial run for the full-scale invasion of Spain a year later. Several centuries of Moorish rule followed before Sancho IV of Castile captured the town from the Moslems in 1292. Since the Christian Reconquest, Tarifa has been a border town, initially with the Kingdom of Granada and later it had Berber pirates to contend with. In the 18th century it was a military enclave in the face of the English occupation of Gibraltar.

Much of Tarifa exhibits a distinctly Moorish character with its narrow, winding streets and whitewashed houses. Entry into the old quarter is through a particularly fine archway - the Puerta de Jerez. There are a number of interesting religious buildings in the town - like the Gothic-Mudéjar Chapel of Santiago; the Convent of San Francisco, and the churches of Santa María and San Mateo but the most important building is Castillo de Guzman. This 10th-century medieval fortress is known as the Castle of Guzmán the Good. It was named after Alfonso Pérez Guzmán who in no way would have won the 'Father of the Year' award - apparently, he threw down his dagger to besieging Moorish forces for them to execute his son who had been held hostage. He did this rather than surrender the city to the marauding Arabs.
So the town has a fair bit of history but it is worth a visit for its sandy beaches - there are over 20 miles of them! However, Tarifa is rather windy - it is the windiest place in Europe, which makes it ideal for windsurfers and, for most of the year, the long sandy beaches and Atlantic rollers are a riot of coloured sails.

extract from “Spanish Impressions” by Robert Bovington
ISBN 978-1-4452-2543-2 available from

some pics:

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Níjar has a distinct Moorish feel about it with its narrow streets and whitewashed houses. It lies in the foothills of the Sierra Alhamilla and is popular with tourists who make the short excursion from coastal towns like Roquetas de Mar and Mojácar. They mainly visit in order to purchase the attractive and unusual glazed pottery. That is what Níjar is famous for - pottery. And carpets!

There are many pottery shops, some with thousands of pieces on display ranging from ashtrays to large planters and decorative lampshades. The most characteristic of the area is the blue and green pottery, produced from clay and marl with a kaolin coating. The other handicraft most typical of Níjar is the manufacture of jarapas - colourful cotton and wool rugs and blankets.

There are many other hand-made items on sale in the shops: leather ware, jewellery, decorative ironwork, furniture as well as edible items such as honey, cakes and wine. Soaps, candles and many other items made from natural products can also be obtained in Níjar.

I find the town a pleasant place to stroll. The high street is attractive with its many shops and bars and there are quaint narrow cobbled streets with the traditional whitewashed houses so typical of Andalucía. At the top of the main thoroughfare is the town's main square with an attractive church. The 'Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación' was built in the 16th century.

Probably the best time to visit Níjar is in the evening when most of the tourists have gone. Many of them would have combined a trip to Níjar with a visit to the nearby Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park, so the town is quite empty in the afternoon too but, at that time of day, many of the shops are closed - the shopkeepers are taking their siesta!

Just outside the town is El Hoyazo, a volcanic crater. I once spent a hot and dusty but, nevertheless, enjoyable hour collecting garnets there. Unfortunately the stones were a bit on the small side!

extract from “Spanish Matters” by Robert Bovington
ISBN 978-1-4452-0773-5 available from

Some pics of Níjar…

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Laujar de Andarax

Laujar de Andarax is a town in the Alpujarras with a special charm and a turbulent history. It nestles in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Opposite are the mountains of the Sierra de Gádor whilst a fertile valley separates the two mountain ranges. It is a delightful setting.

Laujar de Andarax
Laujar is located near the source of the Andarax River that provides water for the numerous fountains in the town. There are a number of fine buildings too and none more so than its principal church - Iglesia Parroquial de la Encarnación. Dating from the 17th century, this Mudéjar building with a Baroque finish is quite attractive. The church is known as the 'Cathedral of Alpujarra'.
It was built on the foundations of a mosque. I do not know if it was the original mosque that was set on fire in 1500 with the population inside - they were hiding there during the first Moorish revolt. What I do know is that the entire Moorish population was obliged to convert to Christianity or leave the kingdom. Those Moors who converted were known as moriscos. Later, 1568-71, there was a second Alpujarras rebellion. The leader of this revolt was Abén Humeya, King of the Moriscos. However, his nephew Aben Aboo assassinated him and proclaimed himself as his uncle's successor. He established the capital of his kingdom in Laujar. Following many bloody battles, the moriscos were finally expelled from the Alpujarras. This town, like many others, was left deserted for many years until people from outside the Kingdom of Granada repopulated it.
Today, Laujar de Andarax is a thriving town and it is still a capital - it is the capital of the Alpujarra of Almería. It is well known for it's wine and there are a number of bodegas locally that welcome visitors. It is one of the most accessible places in the Alpujarras being only a 40-minute drive from the coastal town of Almerimar.

Nacimiento nr Laujar

I frequently visit the Alpujarras and often go to Laujar to purchase some of its local produce - particularly honey and the delicious soplillos, which are chewy meringues made with almonds. However, there is another reason I visit the town. About 1 kilometre north of Laujar is 'El Nacimiento' - a delightful area of waterfalls, picnic areas and places to walk. My wife and I usually go there in Spring and Autumn on weekdays and, mostly, we have the place to ourselves. It is a haven of peace and tranquillity. Nacimiento means 'birth' and it is here that the Río Andarax starts its journey to the sea near Almería.

extract from “Spanish Impressions” by Robert Bovington
ISBN 978-1-4452-2543-2 available from

Monday, September 5, 2011

Castillo de La Calahorra

The town of La Calahorra lies at the foot of the Sierra Nevada. It has a magnificent castle, the Castillo-Palacio de La Calahorra.

Driving from the Alpujarras to Granada via the Puerto de Ragua pass, the only road to traverse the north and south faces of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, is a spectacular journey.

For more photos of Spain click on link below:-

Costa Tropical

by Robert Bovington

The Costa Tropical is the coastal region of the province of Granada sandwiched between the Costa del Sol to the west and the Costa Almería in the east. It is called the Costa Tropical because of the exotic fruits that grow there. Its unique microclimate has enabled the cultivation of chirimoya, mango, kiwi, avocado and sugar cane.  

There are some delightful stretches of this coastal region. In particular, Almuñecar and Salobreña are extremely attractive.

Calahonda (Granada)
Almuñecar derives from the Arabic name Hins-al-Monacar, or fortress city. The old town is strategically positioned on the top of a hill. The town has a long history dating from Phoenician times and much evidence of its historic past can be found there - the Castillo de San Miguel being the most obvious example. There are relics of its Roman occupants - aqueducts, baths, bridges, tombs and palaces. Evidence of the Moors occupation can be seen in the streets and buildings of the old town.

Other sites are the necropolis from the 7th century BC, a 4th century fish salting plant and a number of churches dating from the Christian reconquest.

Salobreña is rather splendid especially as viewed from a distance. It has been described as the Jewel of the Tropical Coast - swathes of whitewashed houses tumble down the sides of the Gran Peñón, a rocky outcrop crowned by a Moorish castle. The old town's narrow streets are awash with bougainvillaea. From here one can look down on orchards of sub-tropical fruit trees and sugar cane plantations as well as Salobrena's modern development - not the ugly tower blocks of its Costa del Sol neighbours but low-rise, attractive apartments gracefully spreading out towards the shoreline and the beaches of the Costa Tropical.
The biggest town in these parts is Motril. In the 18th century it was a small fishing village. Nowadays it is primarily a fishing port. It does have some attractive beaches and it is handily placed for driving to Granada and the Alpujarras. Its only claim to fame is the fact that Boabdil, the last king of Granada, lived there.

extract from “Spanish Impressions” by Robert Bovington
ISBN 978-1-4452-2543-2 available from