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Legend has it that La Atalaya was erected in one night with stones from the surrounding area and water from the River Guaro. J. A.
The River Vélez valley: from a Buddhist temple on the Costa del Sol to a watchtower built in one night
Treasures of Malaga province

The River Vélez valley: from a Buddhist temple on the Costa del Sol to a watchtower built in one night

El Trapiche, Triana, Los Gómez and Benamargosa are some of the villages in this area of the Axarquía where subtropical fruits are grown in abundance

Javier Almellones

Axarquía

Friday, 31 May 2024, 10:09

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To understand the landscape of the Axarquía on the eastern stretch of the Costa del Sol, it is important to understand the Río (river) Vélez, which is fed by the waters of various streams and rivers that rise between the Alhama and Tejeda mountain ranges which border Malaga and Granada provinces. The riverbed, which is dry for most of the year except when there is heavy rainfall, runs to the west of Vélez-Málaga to its delta between Torre del Mar and Almayate, which is a birdwatcher's paradise.

The valley, today known as the Hoya de Vélez, is made up of extensive fields where subtropical crops (especially avocados) are grown. However, there is a rich history hidden in this valley as well, located between Vélez-Málaga, which is known as the 'capital' of the Axarquía, and other neighbouring towns and villages.

The small village of Triana, which forms part of Vélez-Málaga, gets its name from the famous area of Seville because it is on the other side of the river. In this case it is another important tributary of the Río Vélez; the Benamargosa, which takes the same name as the village. It has its origins in the primitive nucleus of La Zorrilla on the other bank. Today it is a small residential area which is much sought after by those in search of the peace and quiet offered in a rural area.

Further east is El Trapiche, known for being the headquarters of Trops, the most important Malaga company in the avocado sector, or for being located next to the Vélez aerodrome. But like Triana, El Trapiche is especially known for its agriculture. It started life three centuries ago, around a sugar cane mill or 'trapiche', which gave it its name.

Farmhouses were built around the mill and the local church is perhaps unsurprisingly named after San Isidro Labrador, patron saint of the countryside. This small church dates back to the mid-19th century.

Avocado is by far the main crop today in the area around the Vélez river.
Avocado is by far the main crop today in the area around the Vélez river. J. A.

There are other important localities such as the villages of Los Gómez (La Viñuela) and El Salto del Negro (Cútar) and the towns of Benamargosa and Benamocarra.

In terms of landmarks, the Atalaya tower, located on the border between La Viñuela and Vélez-Málaga can be reached via a beautiful hiking route from the hamlet of Los Romanes, which overlooks La Viñuela reservoir which serves many of the towns and villages in the Axarquía.

This watchtower was built towards the end of the Al-Andalus period in the 15th century in order to prevent possible invasions from the coast. Although it was abandoned when the area was taken by Christian troops in 1485, it played an important role for the Nasrid kingdom, as it served as a communication point with other coastal towers and the Zalia castle, located opposite the village of Alcaucín in the upper Axarquía.

It is almost ten metres high and is built with slate. According to legend, it was built in one night with rocks from the surrounding area and water from the River Guaro. There was another very similar tower on the Agudo hill, although it was totally destroyed.

From La Atalaya you can see many of the Axarquía's coastal and inland towns and villages, as well as the peaks of the Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama natural park, the reservoir, the River Vélez valley and the Montes de Málaga, the mountains to the north of Malaga city.

Not far from there is a Buddhist temple, the Kalachakra stupa, which belongs to the Karma Guen Buddhist centre. Both this construction and La Atalaya can be visited on foot from the aforementioned village of Triana, which is three kilometres from both. It is not an official trail, but it is an easy route, which is best done early in the day or late in the afternoon to avoid the heat.

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