Cómpeta has an international, cosmopolitan atmosphere these days and is a thriving little place. The ‘Jewel of the Axarquia’, the small town (population 4,000) has fabulous views of the Mediterranean from its position 700 metres above sea level in the Sierra Almijara.
It is a charming, flower bedecked old town with its main centre, the Plaza Almijara, dominated by a magnificent sixteenth century church. This bustling square is one of the best places to enjoy a break as it offers several bars, restaurants and pavement cafes. From the main square ancient cobbled streets snake away to reveal hidden squares, boutiques and restaurants.
Inland, Lake Vinuela is a man-made lake but none the less spectacular and picturesque for this. Its azure-blue waters are surrounded by rolling hills and a number of delightful villages including Alcaucin, Periana and Riogordo. Close by, the villages of Comares, Competa and Benamargosa are equally charming.
Pretty beaches make this the ideal place for a family outing, away from the nearby, busy coastline. Pine trees add to the sense of tranquillity and the feeling of being at one with nature, while they provide the perfect habitat for many different species of birds.
Picnic areas have been set out, complete with barbeque facilities, offering splendid views across the placid waters. They are only occasionally disturbed by small boats, which add a fitting splash of colour to the surroundings. All of this set against the majestic backdrop of the nearby mountains.
Torre del Mar is the closest major seaside resort and boasts one of the longest, and certainly one of the widest, beaches on the coast. Running parallel to its 4 kilometres of sandy beach is a splendid promenade with a wide walking area, cycle lane, grassy areas, play areas for children and, of course, numerous restaurants (including some excellent fresh fish and seafood), chiringuitos (beach bars) and other watering holes. It is very Spanish in character although, as with most places these days, you will find quite an eclectic mix of bars and restaurants. For the young at heart, there’s plenty of night-long, night life too.
The esplanade extends all the way to the fishing port and marina at La Caleta de Velez. This area has not yet been developed and it remains very much a working port.
Nerja is a little further east along the coast. Much more “international” with a strong British presence (you can have a curry here … ) it boasts 16 kilometres of beaches with powdery sand and sparkling clear water.
Flanked by a dramatic mountain range, Sierra Almijara, to the east, the town has managed to avoid being blighted by the concrete high-rise scenario and tourist boom in some Costa del Sol resorts. The old quarter of the town is still virtually unchanged from its sleepy fishing village days of old with narrow, winding streets, its whitewashed houses overflowing with geraniums.
The heart of Nerja is its spectacular Balcón de Europa, a magnificent promenade along the edge of a towering cliff, with sweeping panoramic views of the Mediterranean and the small coves and beaches below, against an awesome backdrop of hazy blue mountains.
However, Nerja’s most spectacular attraction is undoubtedly its magnificent caves – a series of huge caverns stretching for almost five kilometres and home to the world’s largest stalagmite, a 32 metre high column measuring 13 metres by 7 metres at its base. Located three kilometres out of town there are archaeological treasures galore including paintings over 20,000 years old and other pre-historic remains.
One of the enormous natural caverns has been transformed into a concert hall, where many fabulous performances (classical and flamenco) are staged during the summer. The International Festival of Music and Dance takes place in mid July each year.
Further a field, Granada is, of course, a must-see city. Soaring high above is the spectacular back drop of the snow-covered Sierra Nevada mountains. And what a city lies below, a city of classical beauty, the jewel in the Spanish Crown.
The mesmerising Alhambra Palace and its exquisite gardens, one of the world’s greatest wonders; the narrow, cobbled streets and beautiful walled gardens of the ancient Arab quarter, El Albaicín; the magnificent Cathedral, just one of many superb examples of Renaissance architecture; the caves of Sacramonte, nostalgic legacy of the gypsies.
A city which inspired García Lorca, Andalucía’s finest poet, it is, above all, a people’s city, full of life and colour, energy and fun.
There are many sporting activities on offer around the shores of Lake Viñuela, including horse riding, golf, hang gliding and walking. In the main these activities are offered by enterprising Brit’s and other Europeans who have settled in the area.
La Sierra de Tejeda which rises up above 2,000 metres, offers a wealth of wonderful nature and walking possibilities.
Sailing and a variety of other watersports are available at the fishing port and marina, La Caleta de Velez. All major water sports are also available in Nerja including water skiing, scuba diving and sailing.
For golf enthusiasts, there are several excellent golf courses to choose from. Many speak highly of the course at Antequera (1½ hours away) although there are plenty of others closer by.