Genalguacil: a genuine Andalusian village full of art
Lying in the lower Genal Valley in the southern Ronda Mountains area of Andalusia, pretty and whitewashed Genalguacil is an unpretentious and genuine village, yet home to one of the most original artistic initiatives in Spain.
Originally founded by the Arabs, the name of the village derives from Genna Al-Wacir, which means "the gardens of the vizier", evoking its Moorish origins. The charm of its Moorish past has lived on in Genalguacil, where traditional architecture and modern art coexist.
Visitors strolling around the streets of Genalguacil will bump into the many sculptures and murals created during the Genalguacil Art Encounters, held at the village every other year since 1994 during the first fortnight of August. Many artists leave the village after the event, yet the works created at the improvised open air workshops stay to inhabit the streets of Genalguacil, making it feel like an al fresco museum displaying original, witty or plainly beautiful pieces.
If we cast our gaze towards the unspoilt montainous area surrounding Genalguacil and the equally lovely villages of Algatocin, Jubrique or Gaucin, we'll find a rich forest populated with Mediterranean vegetation. For a drop-dead sight visit Los Reales exotic fir forest, from where one can see as far as the Mediterranean Sea.
For a drop-dead sight visit Los Reales exotic fir forest, from where one can see as far as the Mediterranean Sea."
What to do in Genalguacil
Even if the streets of Genalguacil are full of art exhibits, you will find the Museum of Contemporary Art is well worth a visit. After the Art Encounters, the works that are not suitable for outdoor display are kept here.
The museum of Genalguacil also hosts itinerant exhibitions by renowned artists who bring their collections to the museum for some time. Here you will also find local handicraft. Entrance price in 2015 is 1 euro, and opening hours are Thu – Sun 11 am – 2 pm and 4 pm – 8 pm.
A distinctive piece of local history is represented by the Church of San Pedro Mártir de Verona. The church you see today was reconstructed in the 18th century, but it was built in the mid 16th century, only to be burned down by rebellious Moors in 1570.
Every year, local fiestas are held from April 29th in honour of the patron saint after which the church is named. This is quite an event in Genalguacil: after a procession accompained by the local music band and neighbours –among some fireworks and even some rice being thrown at the procession from the balconies– several days of music and dancing in the main square follow.
Exploring and nature
Hinterland travellers will find a delightful local spot to visit at the pinsapos in Sierra Bermeja. This area is well known for a strange variety of fir tree called pinsapo, almost extinct in Andalusia –well, normally found in Siberia!– that has managed to survive here thanks to a special microclimate, as this area is often misty, even when everywhere else around is very sunny.
If you drive to Estepona through Peñas Blancas mountain pass, do not miss a gorgeous natural beauty spot and river pool known as el charco azul, where you can stop for a dip in crystalline waters. We recommend you to seek local advice on how to get here, which is how found it, as it doesn’t come up on maps.
When it comes to eating out, Venta de San Juan is a well reputed indoor and outdoor restaurant combining excellent cooking with a setting on the banks of the River Genal –and the option of a dip in the river first, as safe swimming is possible. Most people opt for a 10-minute drive there, but there’s also a beautiful walk from the village to the restaurant.
At Restaurante El Visir there is always an art exhibit, and it has particularly good menús (3-course set lunches) during the weekends.
For those looking for tapas, El Patio Bar is a very good option for pescaíto frito (fried fish) and a range of tapas at 1 euro. Beware, this spot is very easy to miss –so watch for it, it is right in the centre of the village.
Our recommendation for home-cooked meals is Venta de Las Cruces, 500 metres from Genalguacil on the road towards Ronda. It has a very pleasant terrace where you can sit out.
If you like your glass of wine, ask for mosto blanco, a local specialty that is produced in the traditional manner by vineyard proprietors at the village. You might even be able to take some with you if you mingle with the right locals.
There are a couple of decent supermarkets in Genalguacil that are more than likely to meet all basic shopping needs. For more choice at a bigger supermarket and an ATM people drive 20 minutes to nearby Algatocin. Shops generally open Mon to Sat, 10 am to 2 pm and 5 pm to 8 pm.
The Guadalinfo centre offers public Internet access –advertised opening hours are Mon to Thu, 3 pm to 8 pm, but our advice is to watch for bars and restaurants offering this facility.
We found Genalguacil is an unassuming yet very attractive Andalusian village built facing west from a high hillside, where the panorama is very impressive. Views, especially sunsets, are quite spectacular from this village.
This is the perfect holiday destination for those who appreciate unspoilt and well preserved nature, lush vegetation and translucent rivers, as well as being away from the touristy crowds, even if the locals do not speak much English. The village and the area is just right for travellers interested in the real thing and willing to experience genuine and no-frills Spanish countryside culture, customs and daily ways of life.
If you are in the village just for the day, our Rustical suggestion for a very leisurely day out in Genalguacil is lunch at a restaurant on the banks of the River Genal –with the option, why not, of a dip in the river first– and then stroll through the open air art exhibits. If you stay until dusk, you are in for a glorious sunset, or so we think every time we come!