AREA: 110,10 km ² ALTITUDE ABOVE SEA LEVEL: 454 metres AVERAGE ANNUAL RAINFALL: 400 l/m²
AVERAGE ANNUAL TEMPERATURE: 153 ºC POPULATION, CENSUS 1994: 3,213
HISTORY AND LANDSCAPE
Ardales is at the foot of a large crag which has the ruins of an old castle, near the river Túron, on a ridge between the northern foothills of the Serrania de Ronda (sierra of Alcaparaín) and the Antequera depression (a complex of the Guadalhorce reservoirs). Although one would like to set this municipality in the Valle del Guadalhorce, there are no arguments that support any similarity with the characteristics of that region.
As with all the transition areas, it presents a varied landscape, in which elements of a peculiar enchantment are joined together. Thus, in the Sierra de la Pizarra (covered in pine forests where there are no rocks), to the showiness of the gorge, Desfiladero de los Gaitanes, the singularity of the Tafonis (type of cave or cavities in small sandy headlands) are joined together. The visitor can contemplate them near the road which leads from the gorge to the reservoir area, and also the characteristic marks of mans actions which lead from the troglodite dwellings up to the reservoir, built on the peak of the Mesas de Villaverde, and passing by Mozarabic church in Bobastro, which has been caved into the rock.
To the south of Bobastro and from the previously mentioned reservoir, the landscape is formed by large hills, covered in olives and pine woods which continue over the sierras de Aguas and the thermes in the neighbouring municipalities of Alora and Carratraca.
After a small plain in which the Peña de Ardales stands out, the landscape returns to mountains in the Sierra de Alcaparaín. There, at the foot of the craggy hillside, covered in pine forests, is the valley of the Túron river, where the highland's waters descend, from Lifa and El Burgo. The ruins of the Turon castle look out over the valley as the guardians of history, which in other times watched the transit between the highland and the valley. Further from the castle, the hills still dominate the panorama, sometimes covered in olives, other times with pines and hollows of cereals. The cereal fields dominate the north of the municipality, where the water of the Conde de Guadalhorce reservoir doesnt reach. This reservoir and especially the pine grove covered banks in the Parque Ardales area form one of the most attractive sceneries in the municipality.
Such a varied and suggestive panorama could not offer a less rich history. The presence of prehistoric man left its mark in various points of the municipality, especially in the Cueva de Doña Trinidad Grund, or Cueva de Ardales (caves). Later, there were the bástulos (indigenous pre-roman people) and the Celtiberians who settled near the Castillo de Turón and were probably the builders of the first fortification in Ardales, of which Plinio called Turobriga.
The romans, as well as improving the old fortification, built the castle of la Peña and the Molina bridge over the Túron river.
In the year 716, Ardales was conquered by the emir, Alhur el Tagafi, who gave it the name of Ard-Allah (garden or land of god). Ardales acquires a special importance with the Arabs. Here, Omar Ben Hafsun built the fort of Bobastro with which he held a threat over the caliphate of Cordoba, and also improved the Roman castle and the towns fort.
The strategic position of Ardales caused the frequent battles betwen the Arabs and the Christians, until in 1389 the Christians conquered the castle and the urban nucleus, and signed the Ardales Pact with the Arabs.
Places to Visit
The town is erected at the foot of a craggy hill which still conserves the ruins of the old fort. The physiognomy presented are its winding streets and whitewashed two-storey houses. The most notable monument is the parish church of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, from the end of the 16th century. In 1720, a new church was built over the previous one and in its architecture are the baroque front and a beautiful curved and split pediment whose arms flank a niche. The tower is square with a balustrade and crowned with a capital adorned with tiles. The interior has three naves, the main one covered with wooden armour, and a vault in the chancel.
The convent of the Capuchinos has been erected in the bottom part of the town from the 17th and 18th century. Its church has a steeple crowned with battlements. And not far, is the chapel of the Encarnación, with a triangular base, vault and decorations which are typical of the 18th century.
Some five kilometres from the town centre is the cave of Doña Trinidad, with cave paintings from 20.000 years B.C., and an important neolithic site (3.800 years B.C.) and various burials (2.700 B.C.) This grotto is legally protected and for years has been closed to the public, although now it can be visited in small groups and by appointment.
Also, at about 4 to 5 kilometres away, is the area of the Mesas de Villaverde with the ruins of Bobastro and rock Mozarabic church of great interest for its mixture of Christian and Caliphate architectural elements.
In the municipality of Ardales there are interesting places such as the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes, over whose vertically cut walls, there is an artificial passageway called the Caminito del Rey (the kings pathway) having been inaugurated by King Alfonso XIII at the beginning of this century. The natural park which surrounds the reservoirs in the Guadalhorce hollow is another place of ecological and environmental interest.
As well as handmade lace and crochet, there is canework, esparto grass works, and forge.
All year around there are characteristic dishes such as: stew, pastoral lamb, baby goat stew. In the summer there is cold soup, and regarding pastrymaking, they have: almond cakes, wine rusks, syrup patties, and oil cake. These confectioneries can be bought in the ovens where they are made.
FESTIVITIES AND TRADITIONS
On the 15th of May is San Isidro, and can be added to the long list of towns which celebrate this special day, only that, here it is the patron saint's day, together with the virgin of Villaverde so the festivities have greater importance.
Between the 4th and 8th of September is the pilgrimage to the Gaitanes area and the Conde de Guadalhorce reservoir.