Jimena de Libar, Andalusia

Jimera de Libar in the Guardiaro Valley

Jimera de Libar, easily reached by train from Ronda, by walking from Benaojan, or by car from both Cortes de la Frontera and Benaojan, is a delightful white village in the Guardiaro Valley of the Serranía de Ronda. Limestone mountains for the Sierra de Libar tower over the village and birds of prey frequently look down on the ant-like people going about their business.

In recent years the village has become exceedingly popular for holiday makers choosing to rent self-catered homes away from the hotels of the area, and then use the village as a base from which to explore the hiking trails of the Grazalema Natural Park. Mr Henderson’s railway walk from Benaojan to Jimera de Libar is a popular local excursion or day trip from Ronda.

The people of Jimera de Libar, known collectively as Jimeranos, are generally considered to be amongst the friendliest of the Serranía, certainly it is not uncommon for expat residents in the village to borrow tea and sugar from their Spanish neighbours, or for visitors to be invited into the homes of Spanish residents just because.

As you wander the streets of the village, which is split into two parts, the Barriada de la Estacion, and the village proper, most people are struck by how clean and orderly the village seems. This is certainly no accident, villagers are justifiably proud of the homes and the lifestyle they have, and the streets are testament to this.

Every year the tradition of white washing homes continues just as it did before the reconquest in 1485, the time when Inz Almaraz as it was known was a Moorish village on the frontline between the Kingdom of Granada and Catholic Spain. Since the men were always out in the fields or making local products, it was left to the women to paint their homes, and even now any man who dares lay hands on a brush and bucket of white wash is frowned upon.

The people of the village aren’t too keen to change these traditions, after all, their ancestors have lived here since before people painted caves, and they know all about this, some of Spain’s most easily accessible paleolithic era cave paintings are just up the road at the Cuva de la Pileta, about half way to Benaojan.

In the intervening years the Phoenicians, Romans, Moors, and today’s descendents have all called Jimera home, and some of that history is still visible. At Finca El Tesoro archeologists believe they have found a Phoenician necropolis, whilst at the Molino La Flor, a Roman bridge for the road connecting Acinipo with Algeciras forms the foundations of the mill.

Very Steep Streets

Visitors planning to see Jimera need to be aware, the main part of the village is not an easy walk for the unfit. Whilst the station is not much higher than the level of the Guardiaro river, the main village is significantly higher and gives legs a good workout, both getting to the village, and then walking around the village.

However the trip is worth it, Jimera de Libar is attractive and offers several very pretty photographic vistas, including water fountains, houses that seem as if they belong in a museum of architecture, and streets with slopes closer to upright than flat.

The village church, Nuestre Señora del Rosario, attracts a lot of photographs, but is in fact a very young building that was constructed in the 1960s on the site of the previous village church destroyed during the civil war. It’s location is significant, but sadly under appreciated, for it was in this spot that the original Moorish fortress stood, and some believe, a Roman tower as well.

An older hermitage, the Ermita de la Virgen de la Salud, dating to the early 1600s is found on private property at the station, though isn’t much to look at, just a stone arch that has long since been abandoned. Every year the Virgen de la Salud, the patron saint of the village, is carried from the village church to the hermitage to commemorate the first sighting of the Virgin Mary.

In the years after the reconquest Catholic fervor was almost a state hobby, and it is fair to say that at least half of the villages in Andalucia probably had some sighting of the virgin, though it must be understood, those were troubled times with the Spanish inquisition very much a part of state policy.

Aside from the church and the religious aspects of village life, Jimera de Libar also suffered greatly during the African Wars that plagued Spain’s colonies in the early 20th century, and in Plaza Los Mártires de Igueriben you’ll find a tiled fresco commemorating the sons of Jimera who perished at the hands of the Moors.

Unlike other villages, Jimera’s shops are barely noticeable without the trappings of modern marketing. Many are easily missed if you’re not paying attention. So if you’re staying and need to find the butcher, the bakery, the little supermarket that sells milk, well it would be a good idea to make friends quickly. Several of the shops in Jimera de Libar look like converted living rooms, with entrances just like all of their neighbours.

Here are a selection of photos taken the last time the author visited the village, we hope you enjoy them.