About the area & things to do.

The area is full of natural beauty and real contrasts.  We are surrounded by the mountain ranges of Sagra, Castril, Baza and Orce giving the area a flat plain in the centre.  The wildlife is varied and the terrain (for those wanting activities) can be as easy or challenging as you want to make it. There is truly something for everyone!  Here are just a few suggestions.

Below you will find information on the many lakes we have around us, Cortijo Buho and the owls, Baza town history, Cascamorras festival, local swimming pools, Moors and Christians weekend, places to go for long drinks and food, info on Los Carriones/Castillejar, Castril gorge walk, cycling and walking tours and Ecomuseum in Castillejar.   Enjoy.

1. Mini Lake District.

We live in what is commonly known as the Spanish mini lake district.  Within 20 – 45 minutes drive you have Lake Negratin, Lake San Clemente, Lake Bolera and a little further on there is Lake Portillo, Guadalquivir plus other beautiful waterways.

Lake Negratin in one of my personal favourites.  The lake offers waterfront restaurants, viewing points, picnic and beach areas.  In the summer you can hire canoes and other equipment for water based activities.  You can always find a spot to be alone giving you the sense that you are the only people about (and usually you are!)

One of the more popular restaurants can be found on the southern bank of the lake (head towards Zujar and turn left heading to Freila).  The beach restaurant is on this road to the right – look out for the lake and then recreation sign.  Another good bar/restaurant is on the north west side of the water just over the dam.  If you go to the north side of the lake please take a trip to the viewing point.  It is very hard to find due to the lack of signage but here is a map to help (the right hand turning is 4.1km from the end of the dam – take the right fork and keep going).  It really is worth a visit just for the views but take a picnic and enjoy the area even more.

My second favourite is Lake Bolera.   Yet another beautiful lake in stunning surroundings.  We have yet to explore this lake in great detail but the visits we have made have been peaceful and inspiring.

Please do not think that the lakes are the only places to visit because we have rivers with secret areas to find and enjoy.

A new find for us is Las Presas Recreation Area in near Castillejar (approx 12 km away). It is a lovely picnic area that is used by the locals during the weekend.  Weekdays are very quiet.  It has tables, bbq’s, the river edge with pools of water and, in the summer, a kiosk.

There are other areas to explore as you follow the many walking paths.  If you find a personal best, please get in touch.

2. Cortijo Buho – Benamaurel

If you are looking for a new experience, or something a little different, you need visit Cortijo Buho.  You can spend time with owls, kookaburras, meerkats and lots more.   Cortijo Buho is a beautiful 11th century cave house where Laurence and Matilda are happy to share their experience and vast knowledge as you handle the beautiful owls and watch them fly.

Each of the birds have their own personalities and characters which is quite unexpected for anyone that has no or little experience of owls and birds of prey.  It was for me.  My personal favourite is Darcy but don’t tell the others.

You can meet the feathered team, Molly (crossed between a princess and a diva), Matty (European Eagle owl with a huge character), Mystic (who enjoys eating with you at the table), Darcy (a rare Black Barn owl who is one of 100,000 to be born and one in a million to survive and my favourite), Pippin (who has a personality of a bouncer – feisty and will square up to anything no matter what size), Sasa (a Harris hawk who is a fearless hunter).

Once you have been introduced to the owl gang you may want to say ‘hi’ to the wonderful Meerkats and their babies, Sydney the kookaburra, the polecats and the guinea pigs and the many other animals they have rescued and rehomed.

Enjoy a few hours of fun whilst you learn all about the different animals for €35 per adult and €20 per child or why not add a wonderful 2 course home cooked meal for €50 per adult and €25 per child.  I can highly recommend at least one visit but I am certain you will want to return as we do.  Call  0034 958065191 or 0034 634379786 or email cortijo.buho@gmail.com.  More information can be found at http://www.theiasgems.com

3. Baza town and its history.

The town of Baza was founded by the Iberians in the 4th century BC and was then known as Basti.   The Moors took over the city during 313-1489 and the town became an important commercial centre with a population upward of 50,000 making it one of the three most important cities in the Kingdom of Granada.  During the Granada war, the city fell to Queen Isabella 1 of Castile.  You can still see the remains of the City walls dating back to Iberian times and other remains of buildings from the Roman occupation.

The Arab baths are a gem of a find although you do need to know the exact location as they are well hidden.  They are free to view and well worth it.

There are so many different plazas and places full of history for you to explore but again, if you do not know what you are looking at, things do get overlooked and passed by quite easily.

My advice is to do a tour with an expert in the history of Baza.  Danny is passionate about the area and is a wealth of knowledge.  The duration of his tour is approx 2 1/2 hours which we recently experienced.   We were amazed at the historical areas and Plazas that Danny took us to, which we had no idea existed.  It was a tour well worth the €15 per person as we really did get to know our local town and have more of an appreciation of its history.

Call Danny on 0034 684 456 722 and have a walk with ‘One Foot In The Past’ (Danny’s Facebook page where you will find further information).  You will not regret it.

4. Cascamorras Festival in Baza traditionally held on 6 September. 

The Cascamorras festival, or locally known as the black hand, has an intriguing history.  It is estimated that 20,000  people now take part, running through the streets of Baza covered in black paint/olive oil.  This also happens in Gaudix where they use coloured paste instead of oil.  Why, I can hear you ask!

Apparently it all started when a workman from Guadix (nicknamed Cascamorras) was building a church on the site of a Mozarabe Temple when he heard a voice asking for Mercy.  As he continued to dig he found a sacred icon of Our Lady of Mercy.   The people of Guadix claimed the find as their own which the people of Baza refuted strongly.   The conflict was so bad that King Felipe 11 sent a mediator to decide what was to be done.   It was decreed that the statue would stay in Baza but, for one day a year, it could be taken to Guadix.  This was not accepted by either side.

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A last minute attempt was made to take the statue to Guadix but the people of Baza foiled the plot so the workmen returned home to Guadix empty handed.   Baza declared that on Saint’s day, if a nominated person from Guadix was able to reach the Virgin on foot and remained clean, he could take the statue to Guadix.    Each year an elected Cascamorras tries to fulfill this pledge, but to this day has never succeeded.

525 years later the festival has grown to one of the most impressive and yet least known festival in Andalucia.

Part one of the festival is held in Baza.  On the 6th September people of Baza head to a nearby hill where they cover themselves with a mixture of black paint and ecological oil prepared by the Town hall.  At 18.00 a rocket indicates that Cascamorras has arrived on the hill protected by his towns people of Guadix.  He begins to run down the hill into the town towards the El Merced Church where the statue of the Our Lady of Mercy is held.

The local people of Baza are well prepared to dirty the Cascamorras but he has a rubber ball tied to a wooden stick to defend himself in addition to his own followers.  The event takes place along a 6km route and can take 90 mins to 2 hours to complete. As yet the Cascamorras has never reached the end of the route, clean.  That’s not quite the end for the Cascamorras.  He becomes guest of honour for the town’s  next two days of partying.  He then returns to Guadix empty handed and on the 9 September he receives a further barrage from his own people of Guadix.  This is the second part of the Cascamorras festival.

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After the event you will find signs of the black hand all around  Baza.  It’s become quite a sort after piece of art.  All good fun!

 

5. Local Village swimming pools.

Most local villages have their own swimming pools which are open to the public during the months of July and August.  However there are a few pools around that stay open all year as they are naturally fed from rivers or springs.

Our local pool is in Los Olivos/Castillejar and is the best pool around by far.  It is clean, has grass verges around the pool area and a good restaurant on its doorstep. There are life guards each day to ensure everyone has a great time.

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These pools can be a quiet and relaxing place to spend a couple of hours or a day, for as little as a couple of Euros.

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Another good pool is in the cave village of Galera.  It is a good size with the added bonus of being right next to the Galera Hotel.  This hotel is great for food and also sitting on the balcony whilst taking in the views of the caves dug out of the hillside opposite.

The two main natural spring pools which are open all year round can be found in Orce and Heuscar (that’s if you fancy swimming with the fishes).

6. Moors and Christians Weekend in Benamaurel.

Many towns in Andalucia hold a Moors and Christians Festival.  In 2020 the date for the festival in Benamaurel will be 25 – 28 April.

The Benamaurel festival has many paradas and has a great family/party atmosphere.  It begins with several procession of the Moors and Christians, tradition food, a theatrical enactment of verbal attacks and a battle enactment with cannons and swords (held on the Sunday) and even more parades to end the festivates.  The parade that follows the main battle  on the Sunday is a wonderful site.  People work hard and pay large amounts of money to wear the colourful costumes.  You can see the pride in their faces as the parades pass.  It really is a great weekend to enjoy the atmosphere and have family fun.

7. Views, long drinks and free tapas.

You don’t have to do anything.  You can relax and enjoy the wonderful scenery around you whilst you read a good book, hold a long drink and enjoy a lovely local tapas at the many bars we have in the area.

Emilio’s Restaurant and Bar is only a two minute walk from Caves of Peace.

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Emilio’s bar 2 minutes walk

Emilio’s is one of the best places in the area to relax and unwind.  It is a family run business with more than 30 years experience (and Emilio speaks good English which helps). With each drink you can enjoy a typical tapas as you sit and unwind or chat with friends.  In the heat of the summer Emilio’s has a misting system to cool the air around the outdoor seating areas.  It’s great to sit and feel the mist around you.

Galera Hotel

This hotel is about 15 minutes drive away but is worth the visit.  You can relax on the balcony which overlooks the village swimming pool and the cave homes that grow out of the rocks of Galera.  Day or night you have beautiful sights.

 

8. Los Carriones and Castillejar – General Information

Los Carriones is a small Spanish village in the municipality of Castillejar within the province of Granada.  The town runs along the Guardal river and and the majority of dwellings are cave houses.  Los Carriones celebrates its patron saint festivities on August 14 & 15 in honour of the Virgin of Lourdes.

9. Gorge Walk in Castril.

Within a short drive you have the wonderful and spectacular Gorge Walk of Castril. It is a walk that the whole family can enjoy.  You will pass through beautiful natural landscapes as you walk along a wooden walkway which hugs the narrow gorge and over a suspension bridge which leads you to a natural tunnel.  Your reward is a lovely bar to sit and take refreshments.  The full route is about 2.2km and the estimated time taken is about an hour. Apparently the walk takes on a different look at night as the pathways are lit up for a unusual experience.  Please note:- the start of the walk is not easy to find so please ask in the village for directions.  Drive to the entrance where you will find a decent car park.

10. Cycle Rides – Walking Tours.

We are situated within a great area of natural beauty with a wide variety of terrains.  This gives you a choice between the more gentle cycle rides/walking tours or perhaps you may like something a little more challenging.  All routes will give you wonderful views and plenty of pit stops for refreshments and photo opportunities. 

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One example, there is a walking path around our local mountain Jabalcon which is an easy route to follow or you could climb to the top giving you a great view of Negratin Lake and the surrounding areas.  Jabalcon is 1,494 meters above sea level and where a variety of wildlife can be found.   Both routes are highly recommended.

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Another example is the Peri-Urban walk which borders the area of Castillejar along the banks of the Guardal River.  The walk takes you through wonderful countryside and past the local cave dwellings.  If you decide to continue walking across the first wooden bridge, you will be rewarded with views across the town and one of the oldest neighbourhoods, San Marcos. Further on, the path takes you over another bridge which has information about other walking and cycling paths.  From here you can see that the actual walk runs under the famous ‘Moreria” ancient caves which were dug into a vertical wall on the river.

We have a few contacts within our area, Michelle, Steve and others,  who  will be happy to accompany you on a cycle ride or walking tour.  However, if you want to be a little flexible, we can give you ideas of where to go.  For further, details please ask.

11. The Ecomuseum of Castillejar is a space dedicated to the promotion and interpretation of the trades and customs typical of a characteristic and particular ecosystem such as the Castillejar area and its Badlan

The above ideas are just the tip of the iceberg.  There is so much to do, places to visit and towns to explore ….  if you get in touch and tell me what you are interested in, I am sure we can find something just for you.