The twisty drive up to Sayalonga from the coast is well worth the effort.
Set on top of a small hill and surrounded by terraces of vineyards and olive trees, Sayalonga is one of the prettiest white villages in the area.
To get a really good impression of Sayalonga’s magnificent location, stop for a few minutes at the picnic area at the entrance to the village and take in the the breathtaking views down to the sea nine kilometres below and up to neighbouring villages of Cómpeta and Corumbela with their stunning mountain backdop.
Sayalonga has a population of just 1,200, and in many ways is still a very traditional agricultural Axarquía village. But it is also a pretty comfortable place in which to live in terms of services and facilities and is just a 10 minute drive to the coast and the nearest golf course. And in fact many of the villas and modernised farmhouses dotted around the surrounding hills are owned by northern European expatriates.
The name of the village comes from its Roman settlers – ‘Sayalonga’ means long dress. But there’s no doubting the Moorish influence on the character of the village. White washed houses are inevitably the standard architectural style, even of the newest properties; a uniformity attractively countered by the abundance of greenery in the form of streets lined with plants and flowers in terracotta plants.
A stroll around the village leaves one with the impression it may actually have been moulded out of the hill. The narrow streets, some of them heart stoppingly steep and exceedingly narrow, wind this way and that, creating all sorts of fascinating little corners and some surprising entries to peoples’ homes.
The village’s 16th century Santa Catalina parish church is located in the Plaza de la Constitución in the heart of the village. Erected on the site of an old Mosque,like so many churches in the Axarquía region it was built in the Mudejar style. ‘Mudejar’ is believed to be a corruption of the Arabic word ‘Mudajjan’, meaning ‘domesticated’, and was a term used to refer to the Moors who submitted to the Christian take over of their lands during the Reconquest.
Unlikely as it may seem however, one of Sayalonga’s main sites is its cemetery on the village outskirts – believed to be the only circular cemetery in Spain. The village’s other claim to fame is that it was the birthplace of the poet Muhammad Al-Hasni in the 16th century, who is known for having composed a beautiful poem about MeccaAs a point of interest for the more active, Sayalonga makes a good base for anyone who enjoys hiking and mountain biking since it is just a short distance from the Sierra Almijara National Park and the Tejeda mountains, an unspoilt natural environment of forests, mountains, rock formations, streams, wild plants, eagles and mountain goats.