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Gaucin in Southern Spain


Embraced by the dramatic terrain of the Serranía de Ronda, Gaucín (birthplace to Carmen ~ opera’s most famous heroine!), was once a sleepy, sun-bleached mountain village.  Nowadays, its inhabitants manage to blend a centuries-old way of life with a burgeoning interest from cosmopolitan visitors seeking an idyllic holiday hideaway, or a permanent home, in the tranquil heart of Andalusia, reputed to have the most temperate climate in Europe!

This enchanting ‘White Village’ ('Pueblo Blanco') is overlooked by the medieval ‘Castle of Eagles’ (‘Castillo del Aguila’) which dominates the craggy skyline. The castle earns its name from the variety of raptors (including Griffon vultures, eagles, honey buzzards, kites etc) soaring across the blue skies above.  From this spectacular vantage point, there are stunning far-reaching views to the Mediterranean, Gibraltar, and beyond to the Rif mountains of Morocco!

The pretty village streets entwine rows of delightful white-painted houses with red-tiled roofs, cloaks of bougainvillea and 'hanging gardens' of exotic pot plants.  Wandering through the streets you may still encounter the occasional mule carrying its load of logs or fresh produce to and fro ~ but more often posing for photographs! 

In bygone days, the economy of Gaucín was largely dependent on agriculture and the bartering of labour and goods was commonplace, as were the muleteers who traversed the narrow mountain paths. As well as local produce and stacks of cork, the mules would carry salted fish from the coastal ports, not to mention contraband cigarettes and alcohol!!  But how times have changed ~ today the secret 'smugglers’ paths have become way-marked walking routes popular with hikers!

The spectacular mountains and the River Genal valley, just below the village, host an amazing array of wildlife, flora and fauna. The picturesque country roads take you through protected Natural Parks and ancient cork forests (‘Quercus suber’), abundant in western Andalucίa and considered to be a national treasure due to their economic value. The cork can only be harvested every nine years and is an age-old skill that has been passed down for generations. The acorns are a valuable source of food for Iberian black pigs, which produce Iberico ham, a delicacy sought after by gourmets around the world.

A 40 minute drive through the tumbling mountains of the Serranía de Ronda, takes you to the historical town of RONDA, popular with tourists and home to Spain's oldest bullring, Plaza de Toros, built in 1784.  The town straddles the famous El Tajo Gorge, a plunging 300m ravine spanned by a centuries-old bridge ~ certainly not for the faint-hearted!  The 'Puente Nuevo' across the gorge was completed in 1793 and, according to local legend, the architect fell to his death from the bridge during his final inspection whilst trying to catch his hat that blew off in the wind!  Both Orson Welles and Ernest Hemingway resided in Ronda for many years, writing about its history and dramatic beauty, adding to its attraction for international visitors.

Back in Gaucín, a multinational blend of residents live in harmony with the local Spanish community and enjoy a gentle pace of life, the stunning views, magnificent scenery and a temperate climate, not to mention the low cost of living!  Inevitably, more visitors are discovering the charm of Gaucín, which now boasts several high quality restaurants, a delightful boutique hotel, a good selection of tapas bars, a supermarket, two delicatessens, an organic food shop, an impressive antique/gift shop and a health centre.

There is a wide range of activities available, such as guided walks, hiking, horse-riding, birdwatching, tennis court (free!) and a padel court. The excellent public swimming pool opens in high summer, there is a new well-equipped gymnasium offering yoga, Pilates etc., and the nearest golf course is only 30 mins away!

For those seeking a more sedate lifestyle, there are numerous cultural and music events, a local choir (always looking for recruits!), painting classes, Spanish lessons, book clubs, bridge groups etc. Gaucin has also become popular with artists and photographers, represented by an established group (‘Art Gaucin’) with ‘Open Studio’ weekends in Spring, attracting many local and international visitors (see ‘Links’ page). 

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