Last year, as a new bod in the Ramblers Walking Holidays HQ, albeit a well travelled individual, I had as yet, not experienced a Ramblers Walking Holiday. When I was asked if I wanted to join this particular tour, I jumped at the opportunity.
This destination, was also particularly close to my heart as my auntie used to live in the town of Competa, and I had visited it many years back when I was a mere teen, interested in only the sun, sangria and having fun; as you can imagine I did not appreciate then what I knew that I would love now.
Once we all met at the airport and after a quick pint whilst waiting for the Manchester clients to arrive, (followed by another when they did arrive), getting happily acquainted, we boarded our transfer coach; following the coastal route via the city of Malaga and up the mountain road to Competa, taking in all the wonderful views on route.
We arrived at our hotel, the family run, 3 star, Hotel Balcon de Competa. At first impression, a welcoming hotel, small reception area with traditional/classic dark wood furniture, and almost felt as if you were walking into somebody’s home; once you ventured further it was a much different picture: the hotel has bar/restaurant and breakfast room, with a separate lounge/sitting area.
Rooms are all very well equipped and a good size, which is the same whether you are a couple or travelling on your own.
All standard and superior rooms have a good size balcony, looking out towards the town below and a distant sea view between the mountains, a wonderful view!
The hotel is a good 3 star property, and greatly complemented by its outside areas and great food.
On the ground level of the hotel, you walk through the hotel public areas to a wonderful terrace where you can have your breakfast, lunch or dinner, or you can just to sit out with a cool drink under a shade from the hot Andalucía sun. Then go one level down and overlooked by the terrace is the swimming pool area.
This is a very good size pool set within a well kept garden area again, looking over the valley and town of Competa. Adjacent to the pool area is an outdoor bar (open high Summer months) with plenty of shaded seating area.
It was the best thing, to return every day from our walk and just unwind with a quick dip, a lie down on the lounger, and then after join the others for a drink (or two) on the terrace before dinner, so very civilised!!
Competa forms part of the White Villages of Andalucia. The town as the name suggests is literally full of white washed houses with red or brown tiled roofs, clustered in lovely winding streets (some going up, some going down), jumping to life with its colourful floral additions to the outside or patios of the houses.
All our walks, bar the one that required a vehicle to get to our start point, commenced from the hotel. Our mission, to walk the routes of the Sierra Tejeda, lying to the east, and the Sierra Almijara, to the west.
Our walks were grade 5 and were at a great pace, with a nice mixture of terrains, some on tarmac, but the best on mountain paths, passing by some amazing scenery. There were some quite challenging routes, with loose stone that needed that extra attention and were inevitably uphill or downhill, but I felt exhilarated doing these in particular, and the end results, reaching your target was immense.
Particular areas of interest, which stood out to me; on route to the beautiful white town of Canillas, we ventured in to the Fabrica de Luz, which translated means, the Factory of light, and quite simply it’s an old factory, that has been abandoned where nature has quite simply reclaimed it back, shrouding it with vegetation and making it a rather nice area to sit and have your picnic, helped by the overgrown trees that give a perfect natural shade, from the mid day sun.
Near to the Fabrica in the area called Cerro de Agua, there are some lovely streams that trickle their way down the hillside, glittering with the reflection of the sun, and adding it’s rhythmic decent with the chirp of the birds perched on the branches above!
Our aim on the walks was to reach a white town, and though we viewed the odd one or two on the way, our mind was set on the promise of arriving at a said town and reap the rewards of a cold drink and as all agreed, some tapas, this indeed we did in most towns we visited.
Canillas is such town with its balconies and terraces draped in flowers in such a traditional Andalucia style that can only be found in this part of the world. Old cobbled streets with very little evidence of cars, in the centre at least. With the odd lemon tree just sprouting from the ground randomly, but in excellent condition, flooding the surroundings with the smell of citrus and the fragrance of the hanging flowers from the balconies around.
Eventually we would reach our goal, and we all ordered our favourite drink, a cold beer for me, and a selection of local tapas. Was great to be with people that were keen on trying the local tapas, and not one turned their nose up at trying the refreshing cold soup known as Gaspacho, which after a day of great walking was so welcoming!
All our walks went through some wonderful country side, up and down some great terrain and the views were amazing. At Puerto Collado, a view point high up, gave us a great opportunity to get an almost 360 view of the surrounding area. To the south through the valley you can see the view to the sea, with the nearest coastal town Torre del Mar. To the east, The Sierra Tejeda, which holds the tallest peak in the region La Maroma, and to the west Almijara, which all form part of the Axarquia region, which is an area between the provinces of Granada and Malaga.
In these valleys, so the story goes and if history is correct, were fought the bloodiest last battles of the war between the Moors and Christians and the last actual stronghold of the Caliphate. To this day many of the buildings and houses are influenced by architecture in the traditional Moorish style, and remnants of original buildings can still be seen:
On the walks I was quite amazed at how many Avocado trees there were, and on the routes we encountered a lot of interesting plants and fruit trees in particular the aforementioned plus, cactuses, olive groves and grape vines, famous for the sweet Competa wine which is a must try!! Delicious! A great alternative, and easier to drink, type of sherry.
On the free day, there were plenty of things to choose from and places to go. The obvious one would be just to relax and enjoy a day in the pool of the hotel and meander around the town of Competa itself, which is a great day in itself. But in very close proximity, and using public transport, you are not far from the city of Malaga, which unknown to many is a city of great interest, with many great shops, avenues of interesting architecture, palaces and museums, one in particular the world renown Picasso Museum, which is a must for the art aficionado.
Other areas, of course there is Granada, a majestic city of great historical importance which is home to the regal Alhambra and the Generalife Gardens. And not far you have Torre del Mar, nearest beach resort, or the better known and far more attractive town of Nerja just a little bit further on from Torre del Mar, and is the home to the Caves of Nerja.
This is a holiday which I personally found extremely enjoyable, and one that I found invaluable as a start of my Ramblers adventure. It gave me a great insight into how our holidays work, which was of course the main idea for me, but I realised a high appreciation for a very beautiful part of the world, steeped in history, draped in white wash and decorated with an abundance of flowers. A vast landscape interrupted by the odd splatter of little white towns nestling within the valleys or perched on the hillsides. I have only mentioned a couple of towns, but there are many, and in particular Salares stands out with its small winding streets, and clusters of little white houses:
I highly recommend this tour; it really does have it all. Great walking country and great weather, with amazing views, wildlife all mixed in with local tradition, history, wonderful architecture, cuisine and a rather nice bottle of sweet red wine!!