Frigiliana: Andalucía’s Most Beautiful Village with a Bloody Past

Yes, Frigiliana, situated seven kilometres north of Nerja in the Málaga province with a population of only 3000, was actually voted the ‘prettiest village in Andalucía’ by the Spanish Tourism Board.

It’s not hard to see why!

If you were to close your eyes and visualise the ‘typical’ Andalucían village, it would probably be of white washed, flat roofed houses; narrow, winding, cobbled streets, flower baskets spilling over with purple Bougainvillea with perhaps the odd water fountain or dainty church. This would be correct in Frigiliana! 

This quaint, petite place practically shows off and with good reason- it is so pretty. The residents must take a lot of pride in maintaining it as everything is so clean, freshly painted and floral. It’s all in the little details here- swirly designs in the tiles on the floor, plaques engraved with commemorative information (more on that soon) and ornate street lights at each corner. 

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One example of a pretty street corner and steps

As you can probably tell from that photo, we visited on an overcast day in February but this did little do diminish its attractiveness. Admittedly, I would like to return here in sunny, warmer weather as I imagine the light would illuminate all of the colours and it was quite chilly at some moments of the day. 

Walking along the streets which are dotted with restaurants, bars and shops vending artesanal products and souvenirs, the sound of neighbours strumming their guitars from windows high above filled the air.

It has a very calm and pleasant atmosphere and while there were quite a few tourists, it wasn’t overly crowded (again, this could be down to the time of year). Suddenly, the tightly knitted buildings stopped and we were met with a great, panoramic opening with a stunning vista of the hilly valley below.

This was late afternoon and the Winter sky was a hazy blend of setting sun and wispy cloud and again, so peaceful. There is a bar here and we were lucky that there was a place free, as we sat down at the Andaluz-tiled table and drank a red wine and tinto de verano (the really refreshing drink normally consumed on hot Summer days- red wine mixed with lemonade, much nicer than it sounds!) and watched dusk descend over the landscape. 

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Watching the sun go down with a view over the valley

Frigiliana is composed of lots of steps so mobility could be something to consider here. A good pair of walking shoes or trainers is essential, as I was wearing ankle boots and I felt perilously close to slipping at some points! High heeled shoes are a no-no!

There is not an awful lot to do but the charm is simply in walking, looking and absorbing the beauty of the village. It’s an underrated thing at times, just taking pleasure in the moment and observing your surroundings and not feeling pressured to rush off and do things on a big tick-list.

One thing I particularly loved aside from the constant presence of flowers was how even usually mundane features such as the window railings or door frames are so carefully crafted and adorned. There is quite a vintage vibe in some parts, with bicycles left outdoors without the need or worry of locking it up. I was intrigued by this particular shop and it was a shame it was closed on this day:

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Locura- which means ‘craziness’ in Spanish. An intriguing shop name!

Curiously for such a beautiful village, there lies an ugly and blood-stained past which we are reminded of with the commemorative plaques I mentioned earlier. Many Moorish people converted to Christianity (known as ‘Moriscos‘ to avoid being exiled out of Spain and fled to Frigiliana during the Spanish Reconquista in 1492 however they still faced persecution and eventually were either expelled or slaughtered in the ‘Battle of Frigiliana’ of 1569.

Four centuries later, under General Franco’s dictatorship, Civil War broke out in 1936 which ravaged much of the country; anyone suspected of being a Communist was targeted and many of them fled to Frigiliana, believing it to be a place well hidden from the authorities. Here, a left-wing guerilla movement called the ‘Marquis’ was founded and Franco made sure he came back for them after the Civil War officially ended in 1939. It is estimated that between 200,00 and 500,000 people lost their lives throughout Spain during this brief yet bloody time period. 

While nowadays, Frigiliana provides a very enjoyable day trip for tourists, it is worth bearing in mind how it was once a hiding spot for those fearing for their lives which in the end wasn’t with success. Frigiliana is now able to thrive on tourism but its rather recent bloody past should not just be washed over, and I think the plaques around the village do a decent job in reminding happy-go-lucky tourists of what people there once had to suffer. 

Not to end this post on a negative note, I would implore all visitors to the Costa del Sol region to take one day out of their beach holiday to come and see this unusual, stunning and historic little village and the purpose-built white houses and narrow streets will provide some welcomed shade and coolness on a summer’s day. It is sufficient to spend only a day here, and can be reached by bus, taxi or care in around 15 minutes from its neighbouring seaside town, Nerja. I will certainly be back to experience Frigiliana in the warmer weather!

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Me, in Frigiliana, on a February day (jacket required!)

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The backdrop of white houses and green hills

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Another view of the white-washed streets of the village

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