Autumn among the chestnut trees


Autumn among the splendid colours of the chestnut woods is unique. Malaga can proudly boast of this season thanks to its amazing chestnut woods, whether it be the great forest in the Genal valley or for the small woods in Sierra de las Nieves.

The great Genal forest covers more than 3,500 hectares in the Ronda mountains. Today it is not only the main source of income for many families in the High Genal. It is the star of the landscape. The images offered in this mountain area vary in colour and intensity depending on the time of the year you visit. So, in autumn, the leaves turn from green to ochre to coppery brown before falling from the trees and sending an inexorable clarion call that winter is near.

All the way along the twisting roads and narrow surfaced lanes like the ones that join Pujerra and Igualeja and on down to the Costa del Sol, visitors travel through forests of copper where nothing but chestnut trees are seen. On the far northern side of the valley, the thickest chestnut woods are found between Pujerra and Parauta. Facing these villages there are more scattered copses around Juzcar or Farajan. None of these small villages have more than a thousand inhabitants and this gives them their unmistakable rural stamp.

The network of hiking trails and paths in this part of the Ronda mountains means that the magnificent autumn scenery can be enjoyed from up close. Although the exact date may vary depending on the weather, generally from the third week in October, the green begins to change to gold and until well into November the splendid colours can be enjoyed around the villages of the High Genal.

There are other inducements for visiting this part of the Ronda mountains at this time of the year. Its food, centred on traditional products like chestnuts, wild mushrooms, meat and pork sausages, is one of them. Another is the possibility to visit the source of the Genal river, one of the natural monuments of Andalusia, just at the entrance of Igualeja village. The massive Valdesilla holm oak in Parauta or the panoramic vistas from Pujerra are other very attractive reasons.

On or around the 1st November every year, many of these villages organise the traditional chestnut  tostones of roasted chestnuts, washed down with anisette or the local mistella liqueur. Recently the village of Pujerra has turned this popular custom into a great themed chestnut fiesta.

There are also chestnut forests in the Sierra de las Nieves although they have never reached the grandeur of those in the Genal Valley. The most important are those of Yunquera and Istan. In the former a Wine and Chestnut fiesta is held on the last weekend in October while Istan is home to the most impressive chestnut tree of them all, the Holy Chestnut or Castaño Santo in the Hoyo del Bote. The perimeter of its spectacular trunk measures 14 metres and needs ten men with arms outstretched to encircle it and it is over 23 metres tall. Although not officially verified, this very old example may been here for eight centuries  and could easily have been planted at the height of the ancient Al-Andalus dominion.

Traducción: Diana Mathieson