November 17, 2020

The Lost Village of Acebuchal


The Lost Village of Acebuchal

The Lost Village of Acebuchal is a small hamlet in the National Park of the Sierra Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama, in the Axarquia. It lies close to the border of the provinces of Granada and Malaga and is under the control of Competa despite being a little close to Frigiliana. Picturesque and unspoilt it is one of the most special white villages (pueblos blancos) in the area. It was once an important trading post and for this reason, this tiny hamlet has an interesting past.  Let us tell you why we think a visit here is a must! It is not known when Acebuchal was first inhabited – first records show the 17th Century, but many believe it was earlier than this.

An interesting past!

El Acebuchal and many of the villages in the area were submitted to very difficult times during the Spanish Civil War. In 1936 neighbouring village Frigiliana was declared Republican (Red).  In 1937 the Fascists regained the village and wreaked revenge on anyone suspected of supporting the communist movement.  There were many executions and villagers lived in fear, many were driven into the mountains.  Here they formed a left-wing Guerilla movement known as Marquis, led by José Muñoz Lozano. The Civil War ended in 1939 and at this point, Franco wanted to deal with the resistance movements.  The Marquis were a high priority and a bloody Guerilla war against the Guardia Civil ensued.  Frigiliana and Acebuchal were on the front line and caught in the bloody crossfire.  Authorities believed the villagers supported the Republican rebels who were hiding in the mountains, providing them with food and refuge – though in truth they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The war went on until 1952. In 1948 the Guardia Civil arrived to evict the residents of Acebuchal. The 200 or so residents of the village were given no time to prepare and they fled, leaving behind their belongings, their homes and their livestock. The village fell to rack and ruin during its fifty years of abandonment, it became known as the ghost village (el Pueblo fantasma). If you would like to know more about the Spanish Civil War in this area, then we recommend the book Between Two Fires by David Baird available here on Amazon.

Antonio Senior – El Zumbo!

In 1998 a son of one of the former villagers of Acebuchal returned. Antonio García Sánchez and his wife Virtudes set about restoring a couple of houses in the village. However, they did not stop there, they went on to rebuild a further five houses and the taverna. This was no mean feat when you consider that the hamlet had no water or electricity until 2003 – wow! At this point, rural tourism increased in the area and many of the exiled families also returned.  Now 36 houses, a chapel, taverna and the beautiful cobblestone streets have been returned to their former glory.  In fact, there are two restaurants now and a BB!

The Lost Village of Acebuchal today!

Today you will find this charming whitewashed pueblo almost fully restored. It has pretty pastel doors, in lilacs and blues complimenting the sweeping flowers adorning the buildings. Although there are a couple of untouched houses dotted about, showing how the hamlet fell into disrepair. Antonio and his family run the main restaurant, Bar El Acebuchal, more about that in a minute! There is a restored chapel, La Capilla de San Antonio. Now many of the people you encounter in the village will be holidaymakers, some stay in the village or many travel to see it.  It is very popular with hikers and cyclists. This Youtube clip by Jose Castan showcases the village and there are many others available.

Restaurant Bar El Acebuchal!

The food

As mentioned, the main restaurant is run by Antonio and his family.  We cannot stress highly enough that you should allow time for a meal here.  The food as expected for the mountain location is varying dishes centred around goat, lamb, wild boar, rabbit and venison.  Our favourite hot dish was wild boar cooked in dark chocolate.  But be warned, it is very filling and very rich, so you might want to share. You do have to allow room for the home-made bread and olive oil.  They make several variations, we have had it with fruit, with salt and our favourite with rosemary. You are served a large loaf, often still warm and always very fresh.  If you can’t eat it all just wrap up the remainder and take it home. Another dish we love is the sharing plates of meats and cheeses, all home-made!  The chorizo and the black sausage (we think perhaps it has red wine in it) are scrumptious. It’s a simple meal but it leaves more room for that delicious bread! They also do a daily selection of home-made cakes and ice creams, they too are delightful if you have a sweet tooth.

The people

The most important reason to visit this restaurant is the wonderful collection of photos on the walls inside.  They show the former residents, the village and day to day life, in days gone by. There are plenty of them so allow yourself some time. When you have finished eating if Antonio is about, he will offer to take you to his little shop.  Here you can purchase the home-made meats and cheeses and honey.  Don’t be afraid to have a little friendly barter and he will not be offended if you choose not to buy. You will find that many blogs on the area tell you they do not take cards and there is no phone or WIFI.  They do have phone and WIFI nowadays and take card payments.

Getting there by car!

We have always gone by car from Competa as we have taken guests that are not up to the walk.  It is true, guests often comment that they are thankful that we are driving.  The route in from Competa is harder and longer and there is a small river to navigate (bear this in mind if there has been a lot of rain). Your other option is to come in from Frigiliana, an easier drive and no river to navigate.  We normally come from Competa and go onto Frigiliana to give our guests all of the divine views of both journeys.

From Competa

Take the Cómpeta-Torrox road (A7207), where you turn off near to the KM 8 road marker by the Helipad. Follow the direction signs for El Acebuchal.   You will take an un-made mountain track, of around 6km to the village.  It’s not for the nervous driver as there are no barriers, but it’s drivable and we don’t mind it. You don’t need a 4-wheel drive, but you do need to drive slowly and navigate some quite serious potholes. Along the way you will drive through a stream and see spectacular scenery. We feel that it is well worth the drive, check out the scenery and the road here in Ben Alford’s Youtube clip Acebuchal

From Frigiliana

Alternatively, the other route which is both more popular and shorter is from the village of Frigiliana Take the back road towards Torrox, it is the old Torrox-Competa Road (the MA 9012). After two kilometres you will see the turn-off sign to Acebuchal on your right and a large sign advertising the restaurant in Acebuchal.  Follow the road to the right until you come to the junction at the top. Turn right following signs for Acebuchal for a couple of kilometres, until you come into the village. You can drive both in and out this way, so if you want to avoid the more challenging drive then this is the route for you!

Hiking there!

Hiking to the Lost Village of Acebuchal is very popular.  For a keen walker, it would be a reasonably easy challenge.  There is the added bonus of a glass of wine at the tavern at the end. Additionally, en route, you can also take a detour to the beautiful Fabrica de la Luz (not to be confused with the one in Canillas de Albaida). Where you fill find rock pools and clear water streams. It’s very pretty.  Many walkers take the main route, which follows the mountain road around the mountain.  Others take a route up and over the mountain, where you will wall through the wild herbs such as rosemary, thyme, mint, oregano and lemon thyme. If you are hiking off of the beaten path, then be sure to know your route ahead of time.  We highly recommend the Wikiloc app for deciding what suits your ability and fitness levels. You may prefer a guided walk, take a look here at Andalucian Walks who offer a walk in this area. Guided Walk

Other ways to get there!

Another popular way to see the Lost Village of Acebuchal is on quad bikes. Nerja Quad tours offer a trip here and they have a 5* rating on Trip Advisor You can also cycle to the area and even go for a horse trek.

The Competa Escapes Holiday Rentals

Two luxury townhouses are available for holiday rental in the heart of Competa.  Both featuring plunge pools and fantastic views.  Two bedroomed and ensuite.  Heating and aircon throughout.  Perfectly situated for all the bars, restaurants and exploring the area.  Please take a look at our website when considering your next holiday