Antequera – Ancient city of Andalucia

Antequera is situated centrally to most of the other Andalucian cities, and is an excellent alternative to Malaga for flights. It’s right on the railway from Granada to Algeciras, and the views of El Chorro Gorge from the rail line are breathtaking. The town looks like the typical medieval town of Andalucia from a distance, with high church spires and walls and towers of its Moorish fortress outlined against the horizon. Below, farmlands are irrigated by the Guadalhorce River, and asparagus, olives, and cereals thrive alongside sunflowers.

Antequera is famous for its dolmens, but it also holds an old alcazaba, El Torre del Homenaje, surrounded by scenic olive estates and with an excellent view of the mountains. Window shopping through Antequera is fun, and the citizens and shopkeepers are friendly and helpful. This may partly be because Antequera is well off the beaten tourist path, and is largely unspoiled.

La Pena de los Enamorados, a huge limestone crag overlooking the town and valley almost a kilometer up, were named for a Christian man who fell in love with a Moorish girl. They were driven to the top of the crag by Moorish soldiers, and chose to hurl themselves off rather than renounce their love.

El Torcal de Antequera are remarkable natural rock formations just outside the town, and there is next to no development near them. A hike out to them with a picnic makes for a very nice day excursion.

You can also visit the dolmens, megalithic mass tombs, that rest about a mile out of town. Their names are Menga, Viera, and el Romeral, and they date from 2500 BC to 1800 BC. When Menga was excavated in the 19th century, hundreds of skeletons were found beneath. On each side are seven giant stones, and a roof slab over the tomb weighs around a hundred eighty tons. El Romeral is different from the others; the first two dolmens are traditional corridor dolmens, but El Romeral is of a type more often associated with Mycenaeans. Though there are a number of dolmens scattered throughout Andalucia, none are as large as the dolmens of Antequera.

If you want more ancient ruins, the Moorish castle dates back to 1300 AD and, though it is in ruins, you can enjoy looking at it.

Two churches in Antequera, Nuestra Senora del Carmen and Santa Maria, are of special note. They are both typical of mujedar, particularly Santa Maria’s beautiful ceiling. There are also some recently excavated Roman baths near the town.

Laguna de Fuente de Piedra is the largest natural lake in Andalucia. It’s a marvelous place for bird watchers, and a breeding colony of flamingos has adopted the site.

Where to Stay
There are pensions excellent for the more impecunious traveler here, but you can try the Cortijo Velverde for excellent accomodations. It has lovely views and is a great starting point from which to explore the area.

Where to Eat
The Convento de las Descalzas is an excellent bakery run by the Barefoot Carmelitas. You go in, pull the rope that rings a bell on the other side of the wall, and wait. A nun will say, “Si,” from inside, and you place your order and put the money on the of the wooden revolving door near the counter. The nun spins your tray around, and the pastries will come back out — like using a medieval vending machine.

Map of Antequera in Spain