Basic data
Size: 110,10 Km²
Population: 2.948
Residents known as: Ardaleños
Monuments: Castillo de la Peña, Church of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, Parque Ardales Museum, Los Gaitanes Gorge, Ardales Cave.
Geographical situation: In the Guadalteba region, in the centre of the
province of Malaga 62.5 kilometres from Malaga city, at 454 metres above sea level.
Tourist information: Town Hall, Plaza de la Constitución, 1. 29550.
952 458 087 Fax: 952 458 169

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Calle de la Iglesia

Ardales is situated in an area that borders on the Ronda Mountains, the Antequera countryside and the Guadalhorce Valley, and is very rich in architecture, archaeological remains and natural resources. The town has a medieval flavour about it, dominated by a castle and a church in the typical mountain village style, and is rich in architecture and archaeological remains, both in and around the town. Not far from Ardales is the famous Nature Park of the Desfiladero (Gorge) de los Gaitanes and the Caminito del Rey, along with the reservoirs of the Guadalhorce, which many people from Cordoba and Seville visit and camp in during the summer. Within this larger nature park is the Ardales Park, a nature museum and the archaeological museum of the municipality. On a visit to Ardales one can stay in hotels, inns or camp sites right through the year. The origins of the town go back to the Copper Age, as various finds from the Palaeolithic period in the Doña Trinidad Grund cave, or the Ardales Cave, tell us. The Romans settled here later, fortifying the place with a castle in the area known as the Peña de Ardales. It was conquered by the Moorish leader Alhur al Tagafi in 716, and thus was named Ard-Allah, meaning "The Garden or Land of Allah". Ardales became very important in the 9th century, when the Moorish war-lord Omar Ibn Hafsun challenged the power of the Cordoba rulers by establishing his headquarters in nearby Bobastro. The complete defensive ring around the town consisted of the fortresses at Ardales and Turón to the west, the Castle of Teba to the east and the castle of Álora to the south, encouraging the people of the region to join the rebel war-lord. The Ardales castle, situated on the frontier of that time, was regarded as an especially worthy prize by Christians and Moors alike. The present town was established following the re-conquest of the area by the Christians in 1389.

Places to be visited
Ardales Museum
Ardales plays an important part in the conservation of the history of the
region with its museums: the Municipal Museum (Tel: 952 458 046), the Ardales Park Museum (Tel: 607 392 141) and the Interpretation Centre of the Prehistoric Caves of Ardales. The Ardales Park Museum is situated beside the reservoir with camping facilities, and there members of the public can see the geological, historical, archaelogical and natural history of the area, along with the history of the El Chorro dam. In the Municipal Museum of History and Traditions, situated at the entrance to the town, one can see archaeological remains that show the origins of the town, along with various items that show how people have lived here over the centuries. The Interpretation Centre is situated close to the Town Hall, in the Plaza de la Constitución, and it shows archaeological and human remains from various periods, with a series of panels that tell us more about the Palaeolithic period in this place.
The Mozarab town of Bobastro
This is a medieval site dating from the 9th and 10th centuries, the most
important part of which is the stone Mozarab temple of Bobastro. It has three naves supported by an arched structure, all excavated from the rock and annexed to a hermit complex, built around the year 917 A.D.
The Town
Few towns in this country can claim origins going back to Neolithic times,
but Ardales can indeed make such a claim. Pre-historic remains from the first Neolithic settlements have been found close to the Peña, where the Mozarab Castle and the Mudejar church were built. There are also important buildings in the town centre, like the Church of Ntra. Sra. de los Remedios,built over a 15th century mosque. Beside the river Turón we have the Roman Bridge of La Molina, built in stone with three arches during the reign of Augustus in the first century A.D.
Ardales Cave
This cave, also known as the Cueva de Doña Trinidad or de la Calinoria, was
discovered in 1821. It measures a kilometre and a half in length inside, the various sections known as the Gran Sala, the Sala del Lago, the Galería del Espolón, the Galería de los Grabados and the Sala de las Manos. There are columned labyrinths, lakes and wonderful stalactites and stalagmites along the way, and also some well-preserved drawings and paintings from the Upper Palaeolithic period, about 20,000 years ago. The most representative drawing is the Gran Cierva en Negro (the Big Deer in Black) or the Ardales Deer, painted in black with a large red spot where the heart would be. Other images show more deer, goats and fish. For appointment to visit, call 952 45 80 87.
The Castle
The castle is situated on a rocky promontory 496 metres high, dominating the
surrounding landscape that extends towards the Peñarrubia Mountain Range, making it a very important strategic defence post. From here one can see the minaret in the Sierra de Peñarrubia and the castle in Turón. Although remains have been found here from pre-historic times, it is known that the remains we see in our day are medieval in origin. The castle was built in the end of the 9th century, during the Umar Ibn-Hafsun rising, and formed part of his dominions until the Cordoba Omeyas put an end to his adventure with the seizure of Bobastro. Following the re-conquest of the Guadalquivir Valley by the Christian forces, the castle became very important once again with the frontier now having moved to this area and mutual incursions being made by both the Christian forces and the Granada armies into the region. The Adrales fortress now was the big prize, and it passed from hand to hand quite a number of times. It was seized again in 1362 during the reign of Pedro I de Castilla, but fell to the Moors six years later.

Panoramic view of Ardales with the castle in the background

There was relative peace during the final years of the 14th century, but hostilities began again in the beginning of the following century with the weakness of the Moorish kingdom encouraging the Christians to lay siege to Ardales once again. It was re-conquered in 1433, along with the frontier posts at Turón and Iznájar, but passed into Moorish hands again in 1447. The final Christian conquest by the governor Teba, Juan Ramírez de Guzmán, was successful in 1453 or 1454 after the inhabitants had fled, and the town was incorporated later into the condado (county) of Teba. The first historical image we have of the Ardales fortress is an engraving made by J. Hoefnagle, part of the Civitatis Orbis Terrarum, in 1564. In this one can see the peak of the Peña, along with various buildings and a farmhouse on the slopes. One also see the large irrigation channel built between the 15th and 16th centuries, to bring water from the nearby Alcaparaín mountains to the base of the fortress. Part of the double wall of this construction still remains, with modern houses now built over it. There also exist in our time two walled areas of the castle. The outside area follows the lie of the land, making for an irregular shape. The entrance is through a curved doorway located behind the church, of which some parts remain. The square living area is situated on the upper slopes of the hill, and has a tower at each corner. It was here that the Christians settled after the final re-conquest. A total of nine towers still exist, all around the perimeter of the hill, although there were probably more originally. One of these, perhaps by way of homage, gives out over the north east. There are no visible remains of the Emirate occupation of this place, since the remains we actually see date from different Nazeri and Christian periods. The walls are made of rubble, and one of the corners is fortified with rectangular blocks of stone.
Church of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios
The building of the church was instigated by the aforementioned D. Juan
Ramírez de Guzmán after the definitive re-conquest of the town and work on the Mudejar-style building finished at the end of the 15th century. At the beginning of the 17th century it was found to be in a bad condition and was reconstructed in 1720, conserving the original Mudejar style. The new church was similar in style to many of the religious structures in Seville at the time, and it became part of the Malaga diocese in 1833. Further work on the building was carried out in the 19th century, without any great structural changes.

The church is situated close to the fortress in Ardales, and was built with three naves separated by thick columns on square bases. The chapels are rectangular in shape, with arches reaching out and upwards. These are all elements of typical Mudejar architecture, as are the nave ceilings, the central framework on these ceilings and the lateral naves. The presbytery is square, with a octagonal Baroque vault separated from the central nave by a huge pointed main arch. There is a neo-classical tabernacle inside with the image of the Virgen de Villaverde in polychromed wood. The side chapels were built in the 18th century, and are vaulted and dedicated to the Virgen del Rosario and the Cristo de la Sangre, a curious piece of artwork that was put together in 1944 from three different pieces that had been destroyed in the Civil War. The other chapels along the lateral naves were also built in the 18th century, the most interesting being that of San Isidro, built in 1783 to enlarge the actual church itself. This has a square base and is vaulted in a semi-spherical scallop design. At the end there is a semicircular arch that opens out onto a polygonal room. The chapel is highly decorated in gesso, and beside it is the sacristy, a vaulted rectangular room that links to the main altar by a passageway. The elevated choir was built in the 18th century also. On the outside one sees the brick entrance with its semicircular arch framing pillars that support the top, where we can read an inscription from 1723. On top of this there is a semicircular pediment opening out on a niche and crowned with another curved pediment with a small opening, over which there is a triangular pediment holding a cross. The entrance has been attributed to the Seville architect Diego Antonio Díaz , who worked at that time in the diocese of Seville. More of his work in Seville itself, like the door of the Convent of Santa Rosalía, is of a similar style to that of Ardales. Beside the entrance there is a square brick tower, possibly built at the end of the 18th century by Antonio Matías de Figueroa, master builder of the Cabildo Eclesiástico in Seville, and who worked on the door of the neighbouring Campillos church as well. The tower seems to be part of an earlier construction, having a simple facade both inside and out. Any decoration there is can be seen at the top of the structure, roofed in green tiles and topped by a small octagonal shape covered in more green tiles. 

Where to eat

La Posada del Conde. Pantano del Chorro, 16 y18. 29550. Ardales. Tel: 952 112 411.
Bar Juan Vera. C/Andrade Navarrete, 9. Specialising in varied tapas. Tel:
952 458 249.
Restaurante-Hostal El Cruce. Ctra Álora-Campillos, s/n. 29550. Ardales. Tel:
952 459 012.
Mesón-Restaurante El Oasis. The reservoir area. Tel: 952 112 400.
Mesón Ardales. C/Cantarranas, 2. Tel: 952 458 337.
Restaurante El Mirador. Specialising in grilled meats. The reservoir area.
Tel. 952 112 400.
Restaurante El Kiosco. Home cooking. The reservoir area. Tel. 952 112 382.
Bar El Mellizo. Specialising in tapas. Pza de San Isidro. Tel: 952 458 118.
Bar El Casino. Specialising in tapas. Pza de San Isidro. 
Where to sleep
La Posada del Conde. El Chorro Reservoir, 16 and18. 29550. Ardales. Tel: 952 112 411.
Camping Parque Ardales. Bda. Los Embalses s/n. Tel: 952 112 401 and 952 458
Hostal El Cruce. Ctra Álora-Campillos, s/n. 29550. Ardales. Tel: 952 459
Rural Accommodation in the province of Malaga (in Spanish)

Sala de las Estrellas (Room of the Stars) in the Ardales Cave

The big event in Ardales is the Feria Grande, during the first week of
September, during which the Romería de la Virgen de Villaverde takes place. In this the image of the Virgin is carried to the Llanos de Belén, at the end of the Guadalhorce reservoir, accompanied by the pilgrims and musical bands. This makes the period a good time to visit Ardales, and enjoy as well the pleasant climate there at this time of the year. The Fiesta de la Matanza (Killing) takes place in February, where the best pork meats are cooked and tasted, these being the basis of the agricultural industry in the area.

The best known gastronomic items to come out of Ardales are the "galleta de
almendra" a type of almond-flavoured cookie, and the "torta de aceite", a pastry made with olive oil. Other traditional dishes are the free-range kid and the lamb soup.

The area around Ardales is considered to be of the utmost geological interest, quite apart from its natural beauty. The Desfiladero de los Gaitanes in El Chorro is one of the most impressive sights in all of Andalucía, while the lakes further on have been favourably compared to many famous lakes all over the world. In El Chorro too one can see the famous Caminito del Rey, the King¹s Way, formerly used to cross this huge rock-face. Among the sporting activities of the area are trekking, rock-climbing and water sports on the lakes. The lakes (reservoirs) are actually in different municipalities, one being entirely in Ardales while the others are shared between Antequera, Campillos and Teba. The dam of El Chorro controls the flow of water from the Conde del Guadalhorce Reservoir. In front of the dam is the Casa del Ingeniero, a small palace of great beauty. The Conde del Guadalhorce Reservoir is fed by the waters of the river Turón, and between the three
reservoirs is an area known as Los Tres Lagos, the Three Lakes.