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Casarabonela is one of the towns of Malaga which has understood it best to combine his Muslim and Christian past. This fact allowed the village to maintain a big part of the original alley layout of the historic Casr-Bonaira. Its most precious resource is the water, flowing in innumerable fountains and streams in and around the village, creating in the more plane areas just underneath it a beautiful green carpet of fertile orchards, dotted with white farm houses.

Casarabonela, with white houses along alleys that wind up the steep slopes, preserves all the colour and flavour of the white villages of Andalusia, with secluded squares, such as the square of the Town Hall - a small building with lintels, balconies, small lanterns and clock underneath the gable – and with houses which show religious niches where certain images of popular devotion are worshiped.

The first reminiscences of human presence are dating back to prehistoric times and show various fields of industrial character (for example lithic workshops where tools of flint stone were produced), of residential character (inhabited caves with polished utilities, decorated ceramics and prehistoric paintings) and of funeral character (burial sites covered with stone slabs).

The settlement continues during the Iberian period and in the urban centre and the surroundings were detected Iberian remains like pottery.

Archaeologists detected the first urban nucleus in Roman times. The fortress – a real castra romana - was constructed and historically identified as the so called CASTRA VINARIA, mentioned by Plinio (Naturalis Historia, III, 10) to be situated in the Roman province “Betica”. Still today you can see remains of the “Vía Romana”, which proves that the town existed during the whole Roman period from the highest cultural level of the Roman Empire and through its decline straight into the Gothic period. Therefore historians mark Casarabonela as of Roman origin.

QASR BUNAYRA is its name during the Arab period, during which it acquires its maximum splendor and its true strategic importance due to its geographic situation and the peculiar location of the castle who actively participated in the rebellion of Omar Ben Hafsun against the reign of the Omeya dynasty in Cordoba in the Xth century, forming part of the defensive belt of “Bobastro”, which was the headquarters of the rebels in the early stages of the rebellion and which ruins still remain near the town of Ardales. In 922 Casarabonela finally becomes the base of operations of the Caliphate against the rebels and is reinforced by the Caliph once the rebellion was extinguished.

In the Nasrid period (from mid-thirteenth century) it is a fundamental part of the defensive system of the border and the constant battles against the Christian advance. After it fell in hands of the Christians, Muhammad V re-conquers it from the hands of the Spaniards in the campaign of 1366 along with the towns of El Burgo and Tolox.

In the late fifteenth century, it finally falls into the hands of the Catholic Monarchs on Thursday June 2, 1485. Once established the conditions of capitulation, it remained a significant Muslim population which was completed with a group of Christian settlers.

As the conditions agreed upon regarding the respect of lifestyle and traditions of the residents Moors were not met and as those suffered under severe fiscal pressure, they started a first attempt of a rebellion at the beginning of the 16th century in the mountain range Serranía de Ronda – at that time without success. The intents culminated later in the Revolt of the Alpujarras in 1568 with the deportation and forcible transfer of the Moorish population to other areas of the peninsula. Casarabonela was left practically without citizens and was repopulated with new Christians from Seville and other provinces.
Casarabonela at night time

Panoramic view on Casarabonela

Picturesque corner in Casarabonela

Historic olive oil mill Molino de los Mizos In 1574, Philip II grants Casarabonela the title of “Villa” - city. Finally, on December 19th, 1832 and by Royal Order, Casarabonela was established as independent village as we know it today.

There are towns where - if you listen closely and look the right way - you can capture the sound of time. This happens to Casarabonela, the Moorish village, the town of mingled cultures, agora of experiences. Its narrow and steep alleys are studded with death ends and rooms under which passes the streets. The Muslim heritage can be felt in every corner, while religious shrines mark the way and a source helps to know and to understand the ambiance. The Roman Castra Vinaria, called by the Arabs Casr Bonaira, is today a peaceful haven that delights the travellers.

From its highest point your view will get lost in all directions and the town invites you to stroll through its historic nucleus or to hike through the natural surroundings. Because in Casarabonela the mountain blends with the street, the river with the source and in the tranquillity of its corners still remain the echoes of past battles between Moors and Christians.

During the visit we will see the Parish church, the museum of holy art, its alleys and religious niches as well as an historic olive oil mil, called “Molino de los Mizos”.

15:00 hours Departure from Benalmádena in a tourist coach with 54 seats.
We go on the new highway of the coast to the speedroad A357, on which we stay until we arrive at the crossroad of Zalea/Casarabonela/Alozaina. At a distance of 11 km from the crossroad we arrive at Casarabonela.
16:00 hours We arrive at our first destination, situated at just 2 kilometres from the town centre of Casarabonela – the “Museum of cacti and other succulent plants Mora i Bravard”. During the following 90 minutes we will discover through the explanations of a botanic from the University of Malaga the surprising and fascinating world of the cacti, which will amaze us with some stunning information and details about this botanic family.
17:30 hours We leave the museum in direction Casarabonela. Let us discover this Moorish village with all its history, legends and monuments, visiting the church, the museum of sacred art, its typical alleys with the enormous amount of religious niches and fountains and finishing with the visit of an historic olive oil mill, called “Molino de los Mizos”.
19:30 hours Dinner in a restaurant of the villaje, enjoying the typical gastronomy of Casarabonela.
21:00 hours We leave the restaurant. The acts of the procession of the Rondeles start at 21:30 hours with the blessing of the fire in front of the hermitage “Ermita de la Veracruz”. Afterwards start the procession of the “Divina Pastora” at 22.00 hours through the streets of the villages, accompanied by the Rondeles in flames. Due to the lack of space it will be impossible to keep the whole group together. Therefore we will agree upon a meeting point, where we will come all together again after the procession ended in the church. Once we are all reunited, we can decide if we want to return directly to the coast or if we stay longer in order to enjoy the specialities of the village from 24.00 hours onwards on the square by the church.
24:00 hours From this hour onwards they distribute in the central square of town toasted slices of bread with olive oil and garlic (the “tostones”) and especially the so called “buñuelos” (pastry backed in oil) together with hot chocolate. We will leave the village, when everybody is served.
02:00 hours Approximate arrival in Benalmádena (if we decide for the tasting of the specialities of the village).


The price includes
  • Transport in tourist coach
  • Guide from the moment of pick up
  • Guided visit of the “Museum of cacti and other succulent plants Mora i Bravard”
  • Expert guide in the cacti museum
  • Guided visit of the village Casarabonela
  • Dinner starter, main dish and dessert, including one bottle of wine for each 4 persons and water
  • Participation in the procession of Los Rondeles as spectator
  • Tasting of local specialties on the central square of the village

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The “Botanical Garden of Cacti and other Succulent Plants” hosts the important collection of cacti, which the couple Edwige Bravard and Joan Gabriel Mora brought together from all over the world and cared for throughout their lives. They moved it from the island of Mallorca to Casarabonela in 1995, where it was finally donated in 2011 to the town hall of Casarabonela together with the 8.000 square metres of terrain, where it is situated.

After an investment of 2.4 billion Euros from the Andalusian Government Junta de Andalusia, the Provincial Council of Malaga and the City of Malaga itself, the centre now houses the largest collection in Europe, with some 10,000 plants of 2,500 different species adapted to live in the most arid places of tropical and subtropical areas around the world belonging to a total of 45 different botanical families among which the most abundant are the castáceas.

The best represented geographic areas are South Africa and Madagascar, as well as the deserts of the southern United States and Mexico. However, we also find numerous examples of species from South America (Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Chile and Argentina, mainly), tropical Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, India, Australia and - of course - Europe and the Mediterranean region. There is also a special area dedicated to the Canary Islands.

This is the largest collection of cacti and succulents with the widest variety of species of all Europe, which can be compared without any doubt with the famous collection of Monaco. However, the latter one is not accessible to the public.

Due to its importance and botanical value, the collection is investigated and catalogued by a team of experts from the University of Malaga, which has a constant research center on the premises of the Garden.

The museum is actually becoming a place of reference for experts in these plants, who are conducting lectures and highly scientific reunions, for which purpose the museum counts with a conference room. It should also be mentioned that in the complex there is also a laboratory for research and to reproduce selected plants as some of them need to be artificially pollinated.

Therefore we can still feel very fortunate to be able to visit this gem in a quiet way and accompanied by a biologist from the University of Malaga.

This botanical garden has two different and very defined spaces:

The exterior garden is primarily designed in an ornamental and decorative way and wants to show the visitors the great possibilities and advantages of the use of this type of plants in garden architecture. In this part of the garden, which responds purely to landscaping aspects, you will find the so called succulent plants. Their main characteristic is the accumulation of water in the different parts of the plant and their extremely reduced water consumption, among others.

The special climate we have in this area of Malaga’s coast makes it possible that all cacti in this open air part of the Museum adapted effortlessly to their actual location.

In the modern greenhouses with state-of-the-art technology you might see the different species and plants organized according to their geographic origin. In these facilities live plants from arid tropical climates, with more stringent requirements, together with others for which the greenhouses play the role of an acclimatization garden.

This part also contains endangered species from three continents and some of the plants can only be visited in their original surroundings, where they are in danger of extinction - and in this Museum.

Part of the greenhouse is dedicated to miniature cactus, which despite their extremely small size may have already several decades and even centuries of age.

During the visit, we will discover a surprising and unknown world, which increasingly fascinates with every detail you hear about the properties, possibilities and abilities of adaptation of these plants, which are so underestimated and often unconsidered.


The exterior garden

The greenhouse MUSEUM OF CACTI One of the distinguishing features between other plants and succulents is for example the process of photosynthesis, which is carried out by the latter ones at night time in order to avoid any waste of water.

Another property of this type of plant is the small size of the leaves or even the complete loss of them and their substitution with thorns as defense from animals and to prevent water loss.

This visit offers a very comfortable way for a journey through different continents and countries, revealing the morphological variability of these plants from giant cactus to the small "stone plants" or Lithops and allows us to acquire a very complete idea of the fascinating world of succulent plants on a worldwide scale.

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Los Rondeles The festivity of the Virgin of the Rondeles was declared in late 2001 “Festivitiy of National Tourist Interest” in Andalucía. That night, the eve of Saint Lucia (December 13), fire acquires a special prominence, illuminating the path of a procession that has its roots in the mists of time.

The name of this Christian martyr, much celebrated in Sweden, is related to the Latin word Lucem, meaning light, and Lucia means light, full of light, which is why in some areas she is represented with an oil lamp burning in hand or with a crown of candles or lights on her head. In medieval times she was declared the patron of sight, either to cure eye diseases or to cure spiritual blindness. Therefore quite often you also see her represented holding a pair of eyes.

The origin of the festival is definitely pagan and dates back to ancient times, when we celebrated the summer and winter solstice. The latter now falls on the 21st December and is the shortest day of the year, but the day when the sun sets in the earliest hours of the year is about 9-10 days earlier. The reason for this phenomenon is the equation of time and therefore falls into the dates of Santa Lucia. In pagan times the fire was used to illuminate the long night and to ask for protection against the evil spirits of the winter. In many different cultures you can find festivities which include fire as the main element around these dates.

Los Rondeles

In a basically rural society like the present one, the role of the church has mainly been to Christianize ancient pagan rituals of transition (summer and winter solstices and others). In the case of the Rondeles we are passing from a quite dense period of the year (harvesting crops) to a slower and smoother period in agricultural labor (fertilization of the earth, the trimming and the plowing). In this sense Christianity has taken a number of already very old elements, institutionalizing something as natural and primitive as man's desire to be in harmony with Mother Nature - with whom he had to live every day and on which he depend - by the use of images and various devotions.

Los Rondeles

Los Rondeles There are many and varied theories attempting to explain this phenomenon. What is beyond any doubt is that since the early eighteenth century the olive oil millers carried in procession their burning “capachos” made of esparto grass through the streets, which was explained as a simple act of thanksgiving for the harvest to the Virgin, represented as “Divina Pastora – divine shepherd”.

At first the rondeles were not folded and they burned down much faster. This was the reason why in 1974 they started to roll them, in order to ensure their longevity.

After the Civil War the festival was not celebrated for several years and one of the reasons was that - according to some of its detractors – it had more pagan than Christian elements, as in the celebration women and man were alike carriers of the rondeles.

The celebration was revived again in the 1970’s, but with substantial changes and now with the rolled rondeles as they are used today.

The events start around 9.30 pm, with the blessing of fire that will ignite the oil-impregnated mats.

Los Rondeles This is when the large group of “rondeleros” starts a journey that takes them from the small square next to the hermitage "Ermita de la Veracruz" up to the highest part of town, where is situated the Parish Church of Santiago Apostle.

The light produced by the flames of the rondeles illuminates a path that winds through steep and narrow streets, a legacy of what was the Islamic city. The mixture such diverse elements as the fire, the smoke, the smell of oil and the sounds of instruments as peculiar as the Moorish castanets and the “zambombas” helps to create a surreal atmosphere in which the ghostly flames cast shadows on building facades that mark the journey of this unique procession. The impressions are simply magical and will be remembered for a long time.

It is already close to midnight when the procession formed by the rondeleros, the pastoral image and the large group of participants completes its tour by the Church of Santiago apostle, which was in former times the old and most important mosque of the village. The rondeleros are forming two lines waiting by the door of the temple until the Virgin makes its entrance into the building, where the statue will remain for several days. This is the end of the religious acts. Then the rondeles still in flames are extinguished in the fountain behind the Parish.

But the festivity does not end here. To combat the cold there is nothing better than a good cup of hot chocolate, bread slices with olive oil and garlic – the so called "tostones" - and, above all, the “buñuelos” - the Moorish product par excellence. These products will delight residents and visitors who gathered together around a huge bonfire, in order to share the final moments of a festivity which must be understood as a unique experience defined by a sincere spirit of brotherhood and friendship among all.

Zambombas and Moorish castanets Los Rondeles

Once everyone enjoyed this hospitality and delights for the palate, we return to the coast, full of unforgettable impressions.

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