Tuesday, 15 February 2011

The blowing wind makes the hair in the back of my neck stand on end. Winter laps at the sierras of Ronda and the hard rocky hills look even mightier. The blowing wind rocks the leaves of the chestnut trees; the bushes and the rosemary fields dance to its music. The blowing wind lends a special air to the hamlet before me. It’s white, it’s pure, it looks as if it’d been carved out of the hill where it stands. The early morning sun warms the square roofs up and the bones of the old man walking slowly on his own down the mountain trail. His cheeks are rosy.
The Serranía de Ronda and the Genal Valley are impervious to the seasons. They just experience them intensely and passionately. If autumn brings golden shades to the chestnut groves and spring adds green shoots to the plants, summer makes room for a pleasant laziness and winter opens up the fields and trails to hikers. The white villages in this region feature embracing streets and mazes of old flavours. They can be savoured. They are perched on the hills like jewels in a crown. Parauta is one of such gems. A quiet, robust town.

Arrival and Fountain

As soon as I set foot off my car, I’m seized by charcoal smells and smoke emerging from the chimneys. They’re strong genuine smells. Fireplaces at home are really necessary to warm the people up here. It’s really cold in winter, and it’s harsh. The men and women living here know this. I park my car next to the Fountain of La Alquería. I’m greeted by a huge Spanish fir –the hallmark of Sierra de las Nieves (the region Parauta is part of). I soak my hand in the cold water and feel the angry bite of winter. The Fountain is at the entrance to the village; it played a key role before running water reached Parauta, providing locals with its fresh, clear liquid. The name points to a nearby Arab farmstead (alquería), but if there ever was one, nobody knows for sure. Like many other things in Parauta, it falls within the realm of mystery. In any case, it is a reminder of the importance fountains had in ancient peoples. Under a small roof, the one-spout fountain is also a sort of viewpoint of the magnificent sierras of Jarastepar and Oreganal, Los Riscos, and Cancha de Almola. It’s a stout yet powerful landscape. Nature and man seem to come face to face here in a complicated play of centuries-old relationships.

Town Centre: Everything A Pebble’s Throw Away

Through the main entrance, I get into hamlet made up by whitewashed houses. They embrace me. I soon stumble upon the perfect countryside accommodation: Casas de Parauta –21 apartments scattered through town that have kept the original features of regional architecture and the essence of the sierras. A great experience for family holidays, romantic getaways, sports adventures, etc. Staying in them, you’ll feel as if you were living in Parauta. Definitely, a stay to remember. Check the website for more information ( My stroll in town will take me to several of the apartments. The blowing wind hasn’t stopped, filling the twisting alleys. The streets are quiet and empty, the silence broken by the baker’s horn only –the Pied Pier of Hamelin drawing the women out of their homes. Wearing warm clothes and thick socks, they greet the man affectionately and come to pick their fresh-baked bread as they chat with their neighbours and smile. Then they go back in. I reach Plaza de la Constitución. Bundles of firewood at the staircases. Past the archway in Altillo Street, a Spanish fir next to a colourful lemon tree in the middle of a little square. Streets cut across one another to disappear in fabulous corners. As the sun gets higher up in the bright blue sky, the wall get warmer. In Plaza de la Constitución, a tile board tells the story of straw and its importance to life in Parauta. The straw used to be brought from Sierra del Oreganal, where there was plenty of it. It was used to make various tools; making them was an art that took a lot of time and effort. After being picked, the straw was kept in water for fifteen days and then crushed. This process makes it flexible and resistant, ready for plaiting. Whole families were involved in straw work: “The elderly and the children made short strings; the women made the plaits; and the men trammelled and sew the plaits to make the intended item.” Down Iglesia Street, I come to the Church of Inmaculada Concepción. The ever-present hills are part of the town, just like buildings. The houses seem to have been carved out of the rock, snatched off the mighty mountains. Every now and then, I get glimpses of Cartajima, the belfry tower of the church dominating the horizon. Flower beds, greeting neighbours, a quietness that invites unhurried walking. And in the heart of the maze, the church. When Ronda was seized by the Christians (1485 AD), the Catholic King and Queen commissioned the building of churches in all the villages in the sierras. This is why many churches in the region date back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Church of Inmaculada Concepción is among them. Its Mudéjar-style whitewashed brick belfry tower rises up like a nerve against the bright blue sky. Crowned by a hip roof, it boasts four bells dangling in its four sides. Next to the Church there’s another square, which many believe it’ll be the town’s nerve centre in the near future. I resume my stroll: more alleys and viewpoints, and the ever-present charcoal smell from the chimneys. I’m enjoying myself. I come back to Plaza de la Constitución, go through the archway in Altillo Street, and ask for directions. A man kindly tells me which way to go. The Valdecilla holm oak can be seen beyond the roofs. It’s 20m high and about 3m in diameter. It’s really impressive, really leafy, really full of life. It looks after the town’s welfare and watches over the mountains, its top brushed by the blowing wind. Walking ahead to the right I could get to Igualeja. To the left there’s the main thoroughfare in Parauta –a cobblestone street flanked by streetlamps where naked chestnuts raise their branches in an attempt to tickle the rising sun. I find the itinerary from the holm oak back to the fountain of La Alquería invigorating. Olive trees, orange, and lemon trees laden with fruits. I keep wandering, elated.


I take a deep breath. I take in the charcoal smell. I feel the cold in my skin. I listen to the quiet birds. I look at the immensity of the sierras. I savour the orange on the stone trail. I’ve enjoyed Parauta with all my senses in a comforting trip. A hamlet that lives side by side with wild nature and borrows its character. A shelter where travellers can find more than just a few attractions. A once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Travel Tips and Useful Links

Hiking: Given its location, Parauta is the starting point or terminus of multiple hiking routes along the Genal Valley. Within its boundaries lie some of the slopes of Torrecilla, the second highest mountain in Málaga, and part of Sierra de las Nieves Nature Park. There’s a recreational area and campsite, Conejeras, very popular with hikers. Some of the routes can take you to the Pinsapo de las Escaleretas, a huge Spanish fir that makes one of the most popular natural attractions in Sierra de las Nieves. For some of the hiking routes, check the website of Pasos Largos Hiking Society.
Rabbit Festival: First held in 2008, Parauta’s Rabbit Festival is a must-attend event on the calendar of festivals in Serranía de Ronda and Alto Genal. Over 1,500 visitors are drawn to taste the town’s flagship dish (rabbit and rice in the first edition). Verdiales bands play for hours on end (FYI, the first verdiales school in Serranía de Ronda is in no other town than Parauta). Every year, the festival offers a different rabbit-based dish, always following traditional recipes. To wash the food down, there’s sweet wine. In 2009, the Rabbit Festival was designated as a Fiesta of Provincial Tourist Singularity. It’s held in November.

Useful links: To read more about Parauta, check the websites of Costa del Sol Tourist Board and Parauta Town Hall. For accommodation, go to