Cómpeta is probably the best known of La Axarquía’s white villages. It was the first in the region to be discovered by sun hungry northern European expatriates looking for an alternative to the more commercialised coastal resorts, and today non-Spaniards make up a large proportion of the resident population.
In fact Cómpeta is not so much a village anymore, but has grown into a fairly substantial sized town over the last 20 years or so. The old village, with the characteristic winding, and in places precipitous streets is still there.But tacked on all around are relatively new developments, albeit very much in keeping with the traditional Moorish-style of whitewashed houses, with tiled roofs and wrought iron balconies. And the surrounding hills are sprinkled with renovated rural properties and villas, many of which are home to foreigners.
Cómpeta is a place in which to wander the narrow cobbled streets, stopping off in one of the town’s many bars and restaurants for refreshment and to rest the legs from the often steep climbs.
The Church of the Asunción is the centrepiece of the old town. Built in the 16th century in Baroque-Mudejar style, it is rather a striking building, particularly its bell tower.
The church stands on the central Plaza Almijara, overlooking one of Cómpeta’s principal social hubs. The pretty square, with its bars and restaurants, is a popular meeting place for local residents of all nationalities and a natural stop off for day trippers.
And in the summer months there are certainly plenty of tourists in Cómpeta; the coast is only about 20 kilometres away. Visitors to the town are spoilt for choice for gift shops and outlets selling locally made products, most notably the famous and rather potent Sherry like wines.
So important is wine production for Cómpeta that every year on August 15 there is a big public party to celebrate its crucial role in the local economy. The tradition goes back a long way to when town residents would go up to their farmhouses in the mountains to pack the raisins and press the grapes, not returning until October. They would meet up in Plaza Almijara on August 15 for a final knees up before they went.
The vino still flows freely on The Night of Wine, which became an officially organised municipal fiesta in 1975, and locals and tourists alike let down their hair to drink, dance, sing and enjoy performances of flamenco and Sevillana until sun up. There are also various events during the day, including a demonstration of grape treading in the morning and a free traditional lunch of 'migas de harina' (garlic and meat cooked with flour crumbs), sardines, a salad of peppers, oranges, onions, olives and tomatoes, and chorizo sausages.
Tourists can taste local wines and buy local products and handicrafts, among them olive oil, honey, ceramics and rugs, from the Museo del Vino at any time of year. The museum is in an 18th century inn and has a bar area serving wine from the barrel and tapas of serrano ham, cheese and sausage. Its Restaurante Asador is a perfect recreation of a traditional wine cellar, with arches, brick columns, seasoned wood, and bottles of wine stacked along the walls, which serves excellent local cuisine, particularly barbecued meat dishes.
Away from the town centre, a walk or drive up to the Hermitage of San Antón and its mirador is well worthwhile for the panoramic views of what is effectively a huge gash in the valley running all the way down to the coast.