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The tree looks its best in the autumn. SUR
Istán: El Castaño Santo
TREASURES OF MALAGA

Istán: El Castaño Santo

The impressive chestnut tree is believed to be more than eight centuries old and stands in the area south of ​the Sierra de las Nieves national park in Malaga province

Javier Almellones

Friday, 18 August 2023, 16:55

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It is a silent witness, but still very much alive, of the history of the last eight centuries in the area south of ​the Sierra de las Nieves national park in Malaga province.

The Castaño Santo (Holy Chestnut Tree) has almost become a place of worship, not only because of its religious name but also because it is a giant of nature. Just the trunk alone is spectacular with its almost fourteen-metre perimeter. It would take ten people with arms outstretched to surround it.

Its height is no less surprising: it stands higher than 23 metres. And the shade of its canopy can cover an area of​more than 500 square metres. Only when you see it can you understand the magic emanating from this ‘grandfather’ of the forest, which offers very different faces throughout the year thanks to its deciduous leaves.

From spring to the first days of October, the leaves are usually an intense green and change into shades of gold and ochre in the splendour of autumn. It is the last stage before they fall, leaving the magnificent tree bare during the cold winter months.

Although not officially verified, this ancient tree could be more than eight centuries old, so it could easily have been planted in the last years of Al-Andalus.

In fact, the name of the tree comes from a legend, according to which King Ferdinand celebrated a mass under its branches before surpressing the Moorish rebellion of 1501 in the nearby Sierra Bermeja.

In this religious service, according to the story passed down, a delay of first light was prayed for, which would facilitate the stealthy arrival of the troops.

There are other legends that have been inspired by this ancient tree, due to its size and longevity. For these reasons it has become not only an emblem of the Sierra de las Nieves national park, but also an icon among other ancient trees that exist in the province of Malaga.

This exceptional chestnut tree is surrounded by holm and cork oaks in an area known as Hoyo del Bote, which is one of the most important forests in the Sierra Real, in the municipality of Istán.

It can be accessed by all-terrain vehicles along a 13km dirt track, starting near La Quinta golf complex. The route could also be covered on foot or by bicycle. It should be remembered that the land where it is located, although it is not fenced, is privately owned.

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