Today I had the pleasure of journeying to the Genal Valley, specifically along the Ronda-Algeciras road until the turn off for Jubrique, and then towards the Genal river to wet my feet, followed by a stroll around Genalguacil admiring the art and relaxing in a local bar with a cold one, before returning to Ronda.
Visitors to Ronda often explore the pueblos blancos, but those of us who live and work here sometimes don’t have the time to enjoy the surroundings as much as we would like to. So, today’s drive was a welcome break from the city, and with great company, made the trip even more memorable.
The Genal Valley is so named for the Genal river that snakes through the valleys and mountains of the area, and is considered an area of pristine natural beauty, we parked near the Camping ground ‘El Genal’ and walked down to the river, then realised our walking plans were over as the river had diverted slightly in the heavy rains of winter, however our excitement mounted when we realised we’d have to get our feet wet.
The rocks were sharp and a little slippery, and of course we hadn’t brought rubber sandals with us, but the water temperature was amazing, and the taste exquisite when we stood still long enough to avoid picking up dust we’d kicked up as we walked.
Driving into the village of Genalguacil we expected to have difficulty parking, but the village has been remarkably forward thinking and provides loads of space for visitors, it is obvious this is a village that is fighting back from irrelevance, and in the process gaining a reputation for being one of THE places to visit in the Serranía.
Art abounds, Genalguacil is a village that considers art a natural accompaniment to the mountains of forest and high mesas of the Sierra Bermeja that surround the village so each year, usually in August, artists are invited to the village and given board and food for a week in return for leaving their pieces they create for the village elders to hang where they are needed most.
Genalguacil isn’t just another white village facing the inevitable decline as her youth move away looking for work, Genalguacileños are proud to be providing work for their young in the tourism industry as their village takes on the appearance of an outdoor gallery. Visitors are encouraged and to see every street as they hunt for even more art to admire. In 2010 the artists will be in residence from the 1st to 15th of August.
In the centre of Genalguacil is the 18th century church, the Iglesía San Pedro de Verona, rebuilt on the same location as the original post Moorish era chapel (1534) that was destroyed in the Morisco uprising of 1570. In front of the iglesía is a wonderful plaza with views of the Sierra Bermeja and on a clear day all the way to Estepona.
Down in the valleys, and along the ridges of the nearby mountains you’ll see forests of chestnut, oak, cork, and Pinsapo pine, a curiosity of the Serranía, a relic from the last ice age. Look further into the valley and you’ll see ‘Los Morteretes’ a pinsapo forest in the midst of which the original Moorish settlers mined gold.
Be sure to visit in November as well when the village comes together to celebrate the feast of chestnut, actually less of a feast and more of a celebration the different ways chestnuts are used, roasted, made into jams, or used in savoury dishes.
Genalguacil is particularly known for several local specialties, a local gazpacho, a warm tomato soup, scrambled eg with garlic and local mushrooms, a local salmorejo with meat (similar to gazpacho but richer and smoother), and not forgetting the pork products produced in the town that rival those of Benaojan.
Genalguacil is around an hour from Ronda, or an hour from the Costa del Sol, and makes a treasured day excursion you won’t forget. There are several pensions and casa rural, a museum of art, several bars of which two serve meals.
Gallery of photos from Genalguacil and the Genal River;