Casares is a picture postcard village which clambers up a spectacular rocky outcrop just nine miles inland from the Costa del Sol …
To say that Casares is pretty is an understatement, a picture postcard village which clambers up a rocky outcrop just nine miles inland from the hustle and bustle of the Costa del Sol.
Quite how it has managed to avoid the ravages of mass tourism is something of a minor miracle. Only 15 minutes away from the coast it is another world away in atmosphere, beauty and unpredictability.
All around the beautiful scenery of the rugged Bermeja mountains provide a wonderful backdrop to this spectacular white village. The crags around Casares are home to a colony of Griffon vultures. These majestic birds, with a wing span of two metres, glide on the thermals high above countryside of deep gorges and pine forested ridges. The Sierra Crestellina Nature Reserve lies alongside the village, a popular destination for birdwatchers and walkers.
Because of its stunning setting, perched precariously on the side of a precipitous sandstone buttress, Casares is known as the "hanging village". It’s an enchanting little place, with sun-bleached white houses cascading down the hillside beneath the remains of the Moorish castle which sits at the very top of the ridge.
An honest, work-a-day little town of some 3,000 people, it remains little changed in its ways: goats are tended, olives picked, and early loaves baked in time-honoured fashion.
When you visit Casares, be prepared for a steep climb through the intricate network of narrow, winding streets which lead ever upwards, through the town, culminating at the remains of the 12th Century castle at the very top.
Centred around a typical Andalucian plaza with its obligatory fountain, La Plaza de España, here you will find a statute of Casares' most celebrated son, Blas Infante, the Andalucia Nationalist leader who was born here on July 5th 1885 and executed by Franco's troops at the start of the Civil War. Just off the square, the house where he was born has been turned into a museum and tourist office.
Keep climbing and eventually you will reach the top of the town at some 1,400 feet above sea level. The reward for your climb is a ruined fortress, a derelict church (now a nesting site for Lesser Kestrels) and a disused cemetery! Interesting enough, but best of all is the marvellous panoramic view down to the coast and over Gibraltar to the Mediterranean and Morocco beyond.
During Spain's civil war, when the church was reduced to ruins, it was common for factions to dispose of their enemies by hurling them into the deep gorge below. Looking across the gorge, a simple iron cross marks another civil war hurling site.
Casares is surrounded by stunning scenery and has a distinctly rural ambience, yet is just 15 minutes away from from the coast and the resort towns of Estepona and Manilva. To the north lies another of Andalucia's jewels, pretty Gaucin and a little further on, an hour's scenic drive away, is one of Spain's best loved towns, Ronda with its spectacular gorge, patrician homes and 16th century bullring. Gibraltar and Morocco to the south are both an easy day trip from here.
Being so close to the coast the climate here is wonderful; in January green hills are dusted pink with almond blossom and it can be warm enough to breakfast outdoors. Spring soon follows with wild flowers carpeting the hillsides in a profusion of colour. Summers are hot and dry followed by the warm evenings of autumn, fired by spectacular sunsets. The mild, sunny winters attract many seasonal visitors.
As ever in Spain, there are plenty of fiestas and festivals. The year begins with fireworks and champagne in the Plaza España. On Twelfth Night the Three Kings ride into the village with sweets for the children. The fervour of Holy Week is special. For Corpus Christi, the streets are strewn with mint and rosemary.
The first week of August is time for the big feria, when the main square comes alive with music and people dancing the night away. Early September sees the feast of the Virgin, and new wine flows at the nearby grape festival.