The view from the mountain road as you enter the valley is impressive. Turn another bend and there, perfectly framed by olive grive clad hills is Montefrio – and ancient village squeezed between a huge outcrop of rock and the rolling hills.
Dominating this small community of white wasjed Andalusian houses are two churches. The first is the ‘Iglesia de la Villa’, built on the site of a strategic Nasrid Islamic castle, standing aloft a dramatic outcrop of rock, its tower appearing alarmingly close to the precipitous edge.
The other, down in the centre of the village is Spain’s only round church, the ‘Iglesia de la Encarnación’. This 18th century addition to historic Montefrio is truly unique; its vast stone dome seems to defy gravity; it really is beautiful.
Between these ecclesiastical buildings lies the village; a typical ‘pueblo blanco’, of old houses with earthy clay tiles. Arriving you feel like you’ve discovered a lost Andalusian village, hidden by rolling hills and thousands of acres of olive groves that go on until the distant horizon.
We’re just back from a spontaneous overnight visit in this wonderful village. I was inspired to visit this remarkable village by a friend who had just come back from Montefrio – as soon as I saw his photos I knew I wanted to discover it for myself.
It’s easy to get around on foot, as the place is really compact. We were blessed with amazing weather, but with the temperature getting up to 29.5 degrees centigrade, I was glad that I started the climb up to the ‘Iglesia de la Villa’ before noon!
The sandstone cliffs are full of niches…
The 15th century church, with its stunning vaulted ceiling in beautiful, golden sandstone is now a visitor centre (Centro de Intepretación La Centinela). Inside is a well-presented village history including a CGI video movie of how the place looked when it was a Nasrid castle.
Back down in the village, it’s time to have a cold beer. Remember, this is Granada province, so with every drink you buy, you get a free tapa. Calls of ‘Primero!’, ‘Segundo’ etc. are heard from the waiters as clients get different tapas from the kitchen, depending on the number of drinks they continue to order. We were recommended to try ‘Cheito’; a bar/restaurant within the shadow of the huge round church. Sitting on the terrace enjoying a beer and the free tapa of ensaladilla rusa and fresh prawns, above tens, if not hundreds of swifts swooped and dived in the sky, heading back and forth to their clay nests under the eaves of the church.
Later that evening, once the sun at set, we headed back into the village for more ‘copas y tapas’. Another recommendation was ‘La Fonda’ – again, another very simple bar (the local style and decor is not impressive but it somehow it didn’t matter); the conversation flowed with the owner and a good evening was had. (Here is the Rego link for this bar)
This is a simple village; nothing fancy, nothing sophisticated. It’s authentic, friendly and relaxing. There aren’t any boutique hotels despite being only 90 minutes from Malaga. At the time of this visit 2013, it is a village well off the beaten tourist trail and not well known – but that is sure to change. There is a small hotel just on the edge of the village, ‘Hotel Enrea’. (Here is the Rego link for the hotel).
The hotel as simple clean rooms, no architectural charm, but friendly staff and very conformable beds! Breakfast this morning was included; wholemeal toasted ‘pitufo’ with tasty local Montefrio olive oil, tomato and wonderful ham, washed down with a string café cortado.
(If your are looking for somewhere special to stay in Montefrio, check out Cortijo Bujio – details in my post here)
This is a short in cinemascope from the well known ‘Andalucia es de cine‘ series; here focusing on the village of Montefrio. The collection of shorts featuring towns and villages across Andalucia are is available on DVD in