Do you want to tread the cobbles built centuries ago by the Iberians, Phoenicians and Romans? And learn at the same time about the figure of Blas Infante, considered the father of Andalusia? Take your car and head to Casares, a town in the Western Costa del Sol where you will receive all the charms of a traditional white village and more.
Declared a Historic-Artistic Site, Casares preserves the best of all the civilizations that have inhabited it. The best example is Casares Castle, of Arab origin, which gives the town a striking image, standing between Campo de Gibraltar and Serrania de Ronda.
In addition, Casares has a few of kilometers of coastline and two high-end golf courses: Finca Cortesín Golf Club designed by Cabell Robinson, and Doña Julia Golf.
NOT TO MISS IN CASARES
Casares Castle is an essential stop in this municipality. It is located in the highest part of the village and was erected by the Arabs, who took advantage of the steep limestone massif on which it was built to complete the building"s defense. From its highest point, the castle dominates the valleys, hills and coastal plains that stretch from the Serrania de Ronda to the Bay of Algeciras and the Rock of Gibraltar. Some towers remain, along with sections of walls and two gates known as the Arrabal and Villa arches, which is home to the Ethnology and History Museum.
Many tourists also begin their visit to Casares with Casa Natal Blas Infante (Blas Infante"s birthplace), which provides an insight into the life of the most important character in the recovery of the Andalusian identity, thanks to the fragments of his life and works are still preserved inside. In addition, its rooms house temporary exhibitions with pieces by local artists. The building is also one of the tourist offices of the municipality.
The Encarnación church, built in the late sixteenth century, deserves another visit for its Mudéjar-influenced bell tower and its rear patio, which once belonged to the convent. The Hermitage of Saint Sebastian, built in the seventeenth century, is home to the image of Our Lady of the Rosary of the fields, the patron saint of Casares.
Casares is a little more than an hour from Málaga by car. The best route is to take the AP-7 paid motorway and to get off at exit 153. Another option is to first go to Estepona on the Mediterranean motorway (A-7). Once you get to Estepona, take the diversion towards the MA-8300 that leaves you in Casares.
The entire Sierra Crestellina Natural Site, declared a Protected Natural Site in 1989, is located within this municipality, with its limestone mountains jutting skyward. Besides the presence of endangered flora, nature lovers can try their luck to see some of the breeding colonies of griffon vulture and Bonelli's eagle that are present in the Sierra.
The Hedionda sulfur baths are another attraction in Casares. They have been preserved many centuries for later use. The legends say it was the emperor Julius Caesar who ordered their construction to cure an infection, but this could not be confirmed. What is certain is that many people visit these baths every day agree to enjoy their sulphurous waters and use mud maskswhen they start or finish a route through some of the trails in the area.
From Casares, we can also go down to the coast to enjoy Playa Ancha beach and tour the traditional Moorish mills that ran off the energy of the waters of the stream or the river Manilva.
Golf fans can find three excellent golf courses in Casares to play a few holes.
Casares Costa Golf consists of 9 holes extending between beautiful landscapes of typical Mediterranean vegetation.
Doña Julia Golf Club is an 18-hole golf course that offers splendid views of the Mediterranean Sea and the African coast. It offers tours tailored for both experienced and novice players.
Finca Cortesin Hotel Golf & Spa is considered one of the best golf courses in Spain, and recognised as such by the prestigious publication Golf Digest.
Casares" beaches are the exceptional backdrop to the festival of St John in June, which culminates with the traditional bonfire and burning of the júas (ragdolls stuffed with sawdust). A month later are the celebrations of the hamlet of El Secadero, which in turn gives way to the Casares Fair in August. The origins of this date back to 1813.
The patron saint of Casares, Our Lady of the Rosary of the Fields, is the protagonist of a traditional pilgrimage organized in May. In this event, locals and visitors accompany the Virgin to her chapel, located next to the Genal and Guadiaro rivers.
Casares also celebrates in September the day of the Patron Saint and the Fair of the Christ.
Casares offers two types of cuisine: from the mountains and from the coast. From the mountains, first highlight pucheros de pringá (pringá is meat and sausages that are removed and eaten separately, usually minced up and eaten on bread), stew with lamb sausage, Casares gazpacho (fried vegetables complete with a poached egg) and goat's milk cheeses from the Sierra Crestellina. From the coast, typical dishes include fried fish and sardine moruna, a kind of marinade with paprika and lemon.
Prehistoric men lived in Casares, as attested by evidence found in the caves of Ferrete, Crestellina and Utrera. Given its strategic location for defensive purposes, the area attracted different civilisations.
The Phoenicians settled in the areas that allowed them to manage trade between the coastline and the hinterland, for instance, the Iberian settlement that would then house the Roman city of Lacipo, a major spot in coastal Málaga even minting coin.
In the Middle Ages, Casares was the gateway to Serranía de Ronda and also to the Strait of Gibraltar. As such, it was a cultural stronghold of Al-Andalus, playing a key role in the expansion of the Almoravids. Casares was one of the last Muslim villages to be seized by the Christian troops.
In 1361, Casares was a walled village. It was chosen by Peter the Cruel as a military base to help Muhammad V regain the Kingdom of Granada. Until the fifteenth century the history of the village was tied to the defence of Al-Andalus.
Casares played a very important role in the Moorish riots and bravely resisted the French invasion two centuries after that, preventing Napoleon"s army to subjugate the people. The name "Casares" comes from the Arabic word "caxara", meaning "fortress". Some scholars, however, derive the name from "Caesar".
Finally, Casares is the hometown of Blas Infante, the architect of the Andalusian identity, who created an anthem and a flag for the region. Infante was killed on 10 August 1936, at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. Every year, on 28 February, locals pay tribute to him with a flower offering and the Andalusian anthem, played by the Town Band.
Legend has it…: La Hedionda
La Hedionda Baths have given rise to a great many tales and legends. According to one of them, a demon lived deep down, breathing his last breath in the springs when St James forced him out. This is why they smell of sulphur.
A more realistic story is that Julius Caesar was camping in the area when he saw a dog with scabies plunging into the pool and then emerging without the slightest trace of the disease. Ill Roman soldiers followed in the mongrel"s footsteps.
Casares offers both inland and coastal cuisine. The dishes from the mountains that stand out are the pucheros de pringá, the guiso de morcilla de cabrito, gazpacho casareño, and the goat milk cheese from the Sierra Crestellina mountains.
The coastal dishes worth mentioning are the fried fish and the moruna de sardinas, sardines with a special type of marinade dressed with lemon and paprika.
- Near the beach
- Inhabitants (2,501-5,000)