Andalucia Diary – Seasonal Travel Notes

Castano Santo de Istan

Castano Santo de Istan

The ‘holy chestnut tree’ that’s nearly a thousand years old!

We went down to the woods today; well to be more accurate, we went up to the woods today. A 14km trail up into the pine and cork oak forests to the north of San Pedro de Alcántara, in search of a tree.

The Castaño Santo is more than just a tree though – it’s thought to be the oldest tree in Malaga province, estimated to be between 800 and thousand years old!

Castano Santo de Istan Andrew Forbes (1)

It’s remarkable to think that this ancient sweet chestnut tree was growing when this part of the Iberian Peninsula was part of Al Andalus, when the Alhambra was the Royal Palace of the Sultan of Granada!

Castano Santo de Istan Andrew Forbes (4)

It’s a glorious trail passing through the foothills of the Sierra de las Nieves. amongst cork oaks and pines.

Castano Santo de Istan Andrew Forbes (6)

These forested mountains form part of the municipality of Ojen, a small town sadly not well recognised for its defence of the natural environment.

What’s more the tree is poorly sign-posted, and on private land that is not particularly well looked after. But despite all this, it has an enchanting feel.

Castano Santo de Istan Andrew Forbes (7)

According to the Istán town hall website, Catholic monarch King Ferdinand II celebrated a mass beneath the trees bows in the 15th century.

Today it’s a goal to reach for hikers and mountain bikers – and a place to enjoy a picnic. The remarkably old tree is quite demanding for huggers – with a circumference of over 30 metres!

How to get to El Castano Santo de Istan

Castano Santo de Istan Andrew Forbes (3)

  • Get yourself to the La Quinta Golf & Country Club roundabout, where Avenida Tomás Pascual & Calle Cristobal Colon meet (Nueva Andalucia / San Pedro).
  • Take Calle Cristobal Colon east, to the next roundabout, a few hundred metres (just north of the motorway)
  • Take the north exit, towards Lomas de La Quinta, with the La Quinta course on your left and the Rio Guadaiza stream on your right.
  • Take this road all the way up, passing the golf practice range on your left
  • Cross the concrete bridge that goes over the small river
  • From here you have to take the trail on your RIGHT (not the left as that takes you to the small reservoir of the Rio Guadaiza.
  • The trail is passable in summer in a 4×4.

Castano Santo de Istan Andrew Forbes (5)

  • Take the trail north, not turning off for about 13.5 km – this is the original Ronda to Marbella track used for centuries, now a ‘via pecuaria’.
  • Then on your right you will see an almost non-descript broken wooden sign – that’s the short trail of 400 metres down to the chestnut tree
6 people like this post.

  1. Pia Gram
    Pia GramJan 27, 2017

    Loved reading your post:-)

    How long time did the trail take by food – and will it be passable with MTB?

    Thank you

    • Andrew Forbes
      Andrew ForbesFeb 05, 2017

      Hi Pia
      Not sure if I understand you correctly, but the train takes a hlaf day hiking and yes it’s ideal for mountainbike.

  2. Dave Middleton
    Dave MiddletonApr 06, 2017

    Yesterday we cycled from Nueva Andalucía to the ancient tree using your directions which worked great thanks.
    About 2 or 3 KM short of the tree is a fork in the trail with the right fork towards the tree . Is the left fork the Puerta Verde continuation towards Ronda and about how far were we from Ronda ?Just thinking of continuing next time if not too far.

    • Andrew Forbes
      Andrew ForbesMay 19, 2017

      Thanks for your message – if you continue on the left it will eventualy take you to Ronda but that’s anther 8 hours of hiking and quite challenging 🙂

  3. Andie Mai Morgan
    Andie Mai MorganNov 10, 2019

    Thanks for sharing the info. Is the route passable with horses?

    • Andrew Forbes
      Andrew ForbesJan 08, 2020

      Absolutely – interesting riding trail, although a little steep in a few places, so if the animals are used to that, then great.

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Andrew ForbesTravel & Lifestyle Marketing Communications Consultant | Travel Editor Web: Twitter : @andrewaforbes Instagram @andrewaforbes and @luxurynavigatorView all posts by Andrew Forbes »