Picture this: a realm filled with ancient castles, enchanting forests, artistic villages, and otherworldly landscapes. This is not a fairy tale but a glimpse of some of the less-travelled spots in Andalucía, a region rich in hidden treasures waiting to be discovered. Beyond the famed Alhambra and the sunny beaches of Costa del Sol, here’s a journey through five remarkable yet under-the-radar locations in Andalucía, each with a unique story to tell.
Article by Anastasia Sukhanov
Venturing beyond the well-trodden paths allows us to uncover the authentic character and hidden beauty of the region. It invites us to experience the depth of Andalucía’s heritage, the diversity of its landscapes, and the warmth of its lesser-known communities. In stepping out of our comfort zones and exploring the unknown, we not only gain a deeper appreciation for the richness of our surroundings but also create memories and connections that are uniquely our own.
For those residing in Marbella, these five destinations offer a delightful departure from the familiar, showcasing the varied and lesser-explored aspects of the amazing region that Andalucía is. From exploring a village-turned-open-air-art-museum, stepping back in time at ancient historical sites, marvelling at landscapes seemingly from another planet, to immersing oneself in the tales of mystical legends, these locales promise uniquely enriching adventures. So, when you’re eager to explore more, consider these off-the-beaten-path treasures and uncover the myriad stories and experiences Andalucía has to share.
Enchanting Wilderness: Bosque Encantado, Málaga
Located in Málaga, Bosque Encantado (or Bosque Fantasma) is a nature lover’s haven, offering a rich diversity of flora and fauna. The forest is crisscrossed with trails, each leading to unique ecological sights, making it an ideal spot for hiking and exploration.
Just nearby, the village of Parauta complements the natural allure with a taste of rural Andalusian life. Here, whitewashed houses line cobblestone streets, and local eateries serve traditional Andalusian dishes, giving visitors a flavour of the region’s culture and cuisine.
You can discover hiking trails around Parauta and the “magic” forest on Wikiloc.
Living Art: Genalguacil Museum Village, Málaga
Tucked away among a dozen other white villages in the Ronda area is Genalguacil, a place where art and life blend seamlessly. Known as the “Museum Village”, every street and square here is a canvas, displaying contemporary art on every available surface, including the houses themselves. Every other August, the village comes alive with the Arte Vivo festival, attracting artists globally to contribute to this living gallery.
The transformation of Genalguacil into a museum village is part of the Proyecto Genalguacil Pueblo Museo. This project combines tradition, culture, art, and nature to address the challenges of depopulation faced by the municipality and the broader Valle del Genal. It’s a practical and creative approach to revitalizing the area and keeping the community vibrant.
Looking forward, there’s already a sense of anticipation in the air. Miguel Ángel Herrera, the mayor of Genalguacil, has shared that plans are in motion for the Encuentros de Arte 2024. Set for the first two weeks of August next year, the festival will be celebrating its 30th anniversary, promising a bigger and more colourful celebration of art and togetherness.
Witches’ Haven: Soportujar, Granada
High up in the Alpujarras mountains lies the bewitching village of Soportujar, known for its legends of witches and mystical lore. Walking through its narrow lanes, you’ll encounter whimsical symbols and plaques dedicated to the magical tales associated with the village. The air here is steeped in mystery, and the stunning vistas of the Sierra Nevada mountains add to the enchantment, making Soportujar a place where myths and reality intertwine. It would make for a perfect day trip to mix up your skiing getaway in Sierra Nevada, or even a quirky stopover on the way.
Martian Landscape: Rio Tinto, Huelva
Delve into the province of Huelva, and you’ll find Rio Tinto, a river with an almost alien landscape. The high mineral content of the water lends it a striking red hue, and the surrounding terrain seems borrowed from Mars. In fact, scientists study this area to understand more about the Red Planet! The nearby mining museum and a vintage train ride add layers to this extraordinary experience, bridging earthly wonders with celestial curiosities.
Ancient Stronghold: Baños de la Encina, Jaen
Holding the tales of centuries, the castle of Baños de la Encina in Jaen is a true historical marvel. Erected in 968 AD, it stands as one of the oldest castles in Spain and Europe. The imposing fortress tells tales of Moorish Spain, with its battlements and towers offering panoramic views of the surrounding olive groves and rolling hills. A visit here is a journey back in time, unveiling the layers of history etched into the ancient stones.