Nestled within the Parque Natural de las Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama, Salares is a village that still preserves its Arab past to this day. As this white hamlet emerges from the mountainous landscape, visitors are blessed with a picturesque image.
Any time is a good time to visit Salares, but September is a particularly special month. This is when the Festival Árabe Andalusí (Al-Andalus Arab Festival) is held, honouring the Arab history of this village and the Axarquía region.
THERE"S NO GETTING LOST IN SALARES
With its Arab heritage, Salares forms part of the Ruta Mudéjar in Axarquía. This route combines the cultural highlights of these seven formerly Al-Andalus villages with the extraordinary natural beauty of the Parque Natural de las Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama.
The Casa del Torreón and the remains of the fortress and old mosque wall also date back to Muslim Spain, not to mention the town plan of Salares. Before going for a stroll around the village, you should keep in mind that some of the streets are so steep that you have to use the steps to be able to climb them.
The Parroquia de Santa Ana is the most important monument in Salares. Built in the 16th century in the Mudéjar style, it has a single nave with a transept, as well as a door with a semi-circular arch. On the outside, there is an outstanding minaret from the mosque over which the church was built. One of the finest examples of Almohad art in Spain, it has been declared a national historic-artistic monument.
The village is located on a hill and on the eastern side there is a bridge over the Salares river. Built by the Romans, it is in a perfect state of conversation.
Salares is 58 kilometres from the city of Malaga. Take the Mediterranean Motorway (A-7) and get on the A-356 once you reach Vélez-Málaga. Take the diversion towards the MA-125 / MA-4106, towards Canillas de Aceituno and, from there, take the MA -126 / MA-4105 towards Sedella. Shortly before reaching Salares, this same road becomes the MA-127 / MA-4107.
With such a privileged location, the area surrounding Salares is magnificent. The municipality extends from the mountain peaks of the Parque Natural de las Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama to the end of the Rubite river, enclosing uniquely beautiful spots along the way, including the Cerro del Puerto, the Albarrá fountain and the area around the Salares river, to name a few. To enjoy the landscape in this Axarquía hideaway, the two best options are hiking or 4x4 routes.
In July, the Feria de Salares is held, kicking off with a dazzling parade. The procession of Santa Ana, the local patron saint, and the open-air dance are two of the main events during this traditional fiesta.
The Festival Árabe Andalusí (Al-Andalus Arab Festival) in September, a time when Salares harks back to its Arab past, has received a provincial tourism award. This festival includes food tastings, performances, cattle competitions and falconry shows. When night falls, the village is lit up by hundreds of candles.
The festividad de San Antón, in January, is the first major date in the local calendar. On the opening day there is a procession of the patron saint of Salares, accompanied by jockeys and parade horses, and then an open-air dance. The following day is the romería and the traditional blessing of the animals.
During Holy Week in Salares, the highlight is the Day of Resurrection. The local women march in the procession of the Virgen de los Dolores at the top of the village, meanwhile down below the men take part in the Niño Resucitado (Resurrected Child) celebration. Afterwards, the two acts come together under a shower of gun salutes and firecrackers.
Guiso con hinojo (fennel stew) is the star dish of the traditional Salares gastronomy and roscos de vino y de naranja (wine or orange doughnuts) are the most typical sweets.
The vineyards dotted around the municipality provide the romé grape variety, used to make the artisan Salares wine.
Given its geographical location, Salares has always been a shelter to civilisations. The Phoenicians, the Greeks and the Carthaginians all took advantage of its water resources and its mild weather. However, it was the Romans who left a long-lasting mark. In fact, they gave the village its name: Salaria Bastitanorum, making reference to a salt marsh found in the area. They also built the bridge across the river Salares.
The village we can see today dates back to Muslim times, as it grew out of a fortress built by the Arabs. A tower and a few other ruins of it have come down to us. The village layout is part of the legacy of Al-Andalus; steep streets matching the rugged terrain and whitewashed houses are its hallmarks.
On 27 April 1487, the troops of the Catholic Monarchs seized Vélez-Málaga. To avoid bloodshed, the Muslim authorities in Salares travelled to the capital of Axarquía to surrender. Now in Christian hands, the lands were transferred to lord Pedro Enríquez, Governor of Andalusia. When he died, his widow inherited them.
The abuses against the Moorish population were a breeding ground for discontent. Eventually, discontent grew into rebellion, which broke out in 1569. Salares was one of the three focal points, along with Sedella and Canillas de Aceituno.The battle of the Frigiliana Rock brought the uprising to an end, and the Moors were expelled.
In 1572, Salares and the defunct village of Banescalera boasted a population of about 500. There was a flour mill, an oil mill, two fisheries, twenty threshing areas, eight limestone quarries and ten apiaries. A part of the population worked in the silk industry, a booming sector in those days.
In 1884, an earthquake shook Axarquía. There were no casualties in Salaries, but damage was considerable. The royal commissioner allocated 30,000 pesetas to help the villagers rebuild their houses and replace household appliances.
The fennel stew is the signature dish of local Salares cuisine, with the traditional sweets being wine doughnuts and orange roscos.
The local vineyards grow Roma grapes that locals use to make artisanal wines.
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