Nestling 696 metres above sea level in a natural mountain pass in the most western point of the La Axarquía region, yet only 35 kilometres inland from the coast at Rincón de la Victoria, Colmenar is a nice little town, unchanged by the fact that increasing numbers of northern Europeans are moving into the surrounding countryside.
The views from just about anywhere in Colmenar of the sierra de los Camorolos and the sierra del Jobo to the north, over towards the Sierra Nevada in the east, and to the neighbouring town of Riogordo and the olive groves and wheatfields in the valley below, is one of the town’s best points. That along with the crystal clear air and the strong feeling of being a million miles from the hustle and bustle of the seaside resorts rather than just a shortish drive.
The name of the town, which is the capital of the Málaga Mountain villages, is believed to have derived from the area’s numerous beehives, which existed at least as far back as Moorish times. Today the production of honey is still one of Colmenar’s most important industries, along with agriculture and livestock farming.
Colmenar old town has retained its layout of steep narrow streets from the Moorish period, with its typical two storey houses with a patio at the back. It’s still not so uncommon to see mules hitched up outside front doors in this part of town, bales of straw and bags of feed stacked up on the ground floors of homes, and housewives chatting to neighbours at their doorsteps clad in the almost obligatory ‘uniform’ of housecoat and slippers.
By contrast the newer part of town has wider, tree lined streets, although the houses are very much in the traditional style. This is also where there are some of Colmenar’s most appealing restaurants and drinking holes.
The town’s most important monument is the hilltop 17th century Hermitage of Nuestra Señora de la Candeleria, the patron saint of the town. According to legend the hermitage was built by sailors from the Canary Islands as a show of thanks for their miraculous survival after running into a terrible storm off the coast of Málaga.
The 16th century parish church of the Asunción, with its distinctive bell tower, is at the heart of the old town. There is a small shaded garden beside the church, offering a corner of complete quiet and tranquility.