As a major tourist destination and the southern gateway to Europe, Malaga port is used to welcoming passenger ships and luxury private yachts almost every day. However, when a classic tall ship anchors beside its quays it is something unusual, a special occasion which may even feature in the history books of the future.
This Christmas, the Nao Victoria Foundation has set its sights on Malaga, and from now until 7 January there will be the chance to tour the impressive Galeón Andalucía, a replica of the galleons used by the Spanish for their maritime expeditions between the 16th and 18th centuries.
Together with two other sailing ships, Nao Victoria and Nao Santa María - which is still being built, it is one of a collection managed by the foundation, which are used as museums and also as venues for events.
During its tour this year the Andalucía has visited Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Virgin Islands, USA, Canada and several Spanish ports. This is its first time in Malaga, although the foundation's flagship, the Nao Victoria, was here in February. A ticket to visit the ship costs six euros for adults and three euros for children aged from five to ten, and the tours take place between 10am and 7pm.
Boarding a galleon and walking across its decks gives an idea of what it must have been like to be a cabin boy; to step back in time and put yourself in the place of the crew members who sailed the seas over half the world for three centuries. The aim is for people “to appreciate the challenges and feats of the Spanish sailors centuries ago,” says foundation representative Fernando Viota. “A visit to the ship is full of symbolism.”
Malaga was also the birthplace of one of the greatest explorers of the 16th century, Ruy López de Villalobos, who some historians think discovered what is today Hawaii.
Almost the whole of the Galeón Andalucía can be visited. The ship is 55 metres long, has six decks, seven sails and ten cannons. There are also quarters for top-ranking officers, such as the captain, with cabins, bathrooms and what is known as the Admiral's Room. Although the view hardly differs from that of the quay, looking at the cathedral, the Gibralfaro castle, big wheel and Equitativa building from the deck of a tall ship takes visitors back in time. If we also take into account the characteristic movement of this type of ship in port, it is almost like being in a film.
This is a fascinating experience, and something different to enjoy during the festive season, before the ship leaves for its next port of call, with a fair wind and at full sail.