Dramatic, remote and charming, Comares stands high and proud above the rest of the Axarquia. Known as the Balcon de la Axarquia, this lovely whitewashed village is dotted with quiet squares and narrow, winding streets and is surrounded on all sides by stunning views.
Where is Comares?
Comares is located in the Axarquia region of Malaga province. Perched 702 metres above sea level, it opens out on to panoramic views down to the coast, and over neighbouring Benamargosa, Velez-Malaga and the coastal town of Torre del Mar. To the east, views stretch away of majestic Mount Maroma, Lake Viñuela and other mountain villages, Periana, Canillas de Aceituno and Alcaucin.
The diverse landscape of the Axarquia can be fully appreciated from Comares. Ancient traditions of drying grapes on the hillsides can be seen: Comares is on the ‘Ruta del Pasa‘ which celebrates the harvest and dried raisins which are made into the delicious sweet wine, ‘musto’. The olive and almond groves cling to the hillsides, and in the lower lying river towns, mangoes and avocados are cultivated.
A Short History
The town’s historic roots are varied: it was of significant importance during the centuries of Moorish reign, but a settlement here can be traced much further back to the Romans and Phoenicians.
With the Moors came the town’s principal architectural characteristics, some of which can still be seen today. They named the town ‘Hisn Comarix’, or ‘Castle in the Height’ – a very fitting title.
In 1487 the Moors surrendered to the Catholic Monarchs and the last remaining Moorish families were later converted to the Catholic faith in front of the townsfolk. The street where this happened is known as ‘El Perdón’ (the Pardon), and to this day this act of conversion is remembered with the chiming of the church bells at festivals.
What is There to Do
A great way to start is with a leisurely walk around Comares, to help you get your bearings. Follow the ceramic footprints around the village, which guide you through the cobbled streets passing by fascinating historic buildings, the ancient castle and lovely old cemetery.
Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación
The Church of La Encarnacion was built in 1505 on the site of a Moorish mosque (as most were in the Axarquia). The church is mudejar in origin, but has been reconstructed, reformed and restored over the years. Its main restoration was in 1721, when three naves and seven pointed arches were added; the cupola was constructed in the 18th century and, finally, the decorative facade was added in the 19th.
Aljibe Arabe (Castillo)
Moorish water cisterns are relatively common throughout the Axarquia and there are two in Comares which are open to visitors. Made out of stone, they act like a reservoir, collecting and storing water. The first aljibe is within the castle complex and the second (Aljibe de Mazmúllar) is just outside Comares.
Aljibe de Mazmúllar
The more interesting of the two cisterns in Comares is the 13th-century mozarabic cistern, about an hour’s walk from Comares village on the Cerro de Mazmullar. The cistern is underground, and distributed into nine compartments separated by 12 arches. Also on this hill are the atmospheric ruins of a city dating back to the 9th-10th centuries. Definitely worth the hike.
For the daredevils Comares is now home to the longest zipwire in Europe. Bookings can be made in advance for groups and individuals eager to fly, see Tirolina de Comares Facebook Page. Climbing the rock face can be arranged for adrenaline junkies, too.
There are several cycling, walking and hiking routes around the town and neighbouring countryside, from short to full day adventures. Information for these can be viewed at the Town Hall.
When to Visit
A visit to Comares can be enjoyed year round. In the cooler winter months the views are crisp and clear; almond blossom is in full bloom in late winter/early spring, giving the mountainside a pink blush and sweet perfume of honey. Summertime temperatures are high, but you can enjoy alfresco dining and a chilled glass of wine. Sunsets are spectacular from the castle and the cemetery situated high at the top of the town.
On the Saturday following 13th January, the town comes alive with folklore and customs for its fiesta. The fiesta is in honour of Hilary of Poitiers, a doctor and one-time Bishop of Poitiers, and his effigy is carried through the streets of Comares. A giant arroz (paella) is cooked in the town square to share with residents and visitors along with local musto to wash it down. To accompany the food the town’s Verdiales groups perform their traditional dancing and music.
Feria season, as is the case throughout much of Andalucia, is in the height of summer. On the last weekend in August the town is in full party swing, with bands, music, shows, events and dancing every night until dawn.
Where to Eat
Comares restaurants are open year round, and offer local delicacies and European dishes to suit all tastes and budgets. El Mirador, a family run restaurant, has a wonderful view down to the coast – try their sopa de picadillo and their braised meat platter for two, not for the faint-hearted but certainly the perfect reward after the climb up to Comares for walkers and cyclists.
Enjoy a cold beer in the town square and watch the world go by at Bar Plaza, or step back in time to the historic Molino de los Abuelos, a stunningly restored mill, with original olive oil museum, and a terrace with spectacular views.
For intrepid travellers and foodies, a day at nearby La Rosilla for a ‘Cooking and Culture’ class can teach you all about local dishes.
Where to Stay
Balcon de Comares: This is a very beautiful townhouse in Comares whose layout and design is utterly typical of the Axarquia. It’s divided into individually decorated rooms, a suite, an apartment and a restaurant. There’s also a plant-filled courtyard to the rear. Balcondecomares.wordpress.com/hotel/
Maroto 8: A charming two-bed village house for rent in the heart of Comares. This cosy cottage-like house has a log-burning stove, two bathrooms, a roof terrace and Jacuzzi. The decor is a blend of old and new: antique hydraulic tiles adorn the floors of a modern bathroom, the original beamed ceilings sit above a new kitchen and doors throughout have been restored. Maroto8.com
Further information when visiting: Town Hall/Ayuntamiento, Plaza Balcón de la Axarquía, 1, C.P: 29195, Comares (Málaga) tel: 952 50 92 33.
Our Local Guide – Lynsey Drake
Lynsey moved to a traditional Spanish finca in the countryside near the hamlet of Solano in the Montes de Malaga, a few kilometres from Comares, 14 years ago with her family. Here her passion, ‘La Rosilla, lifestyle and food’, was born and she offers ‘Cooking & Culture’ days, paella classes, private dining and event catering that showcase local ingredients through regional and traditional dishes. For more information on La Rosilla, see Larosilla-catering.com.