The Antequera valley has been a trade route and a place of settlement ever since stone-age man set foot on the Iberian peninsula. Indeed the area has some of the most important bronze-age dolmens to be seen anywhere in the country, and the bronze-age relics are then followed by Roman, Moorish, Christian and the various political and architectural epoques that have followed.

The signs of all this history remain for the modern tourist to see. Near to Antequera are several dolmens dating back over 4000 years, which are remarkable for the state of preservation. It's easy to marvel at the quantity and quality of work that went into creating them, without even the most basic of equipment. We then have to come forward 2000 years in time to the legacy left by the Romans. For a long time "Antikaria" was only known from writings but today we can see the remains of Roman baths and just outside Antequera is a large Roman villa which has yielded some amazing artifacts (mosaics, statues, fountains ....) that shows the wealth and importance that attached to the area during the first to fourth centuries AD.

Cathedral altar SpainThe next great era of civilisation is demonstrated by the moorish Alcazaba, an impressive complex of buildings and spaces that was further developed by the Christian conquerors during the period of the Catholic Kings. The White Tower built in the late 1500s is notable for the technical perfection of the ashlar stonework.

As befits any prosperous Spanish city during Spain's imperial heyday, Antequera is full of great religious buildings, mostly in the ecclesiastical baroque style. The list of churches, convents, chapels and hermitages goes on and on, but one of special importance is the Collegiate of Santa Maria which was one of the first renaissance buildings in Andalucia. It is regarded as exceptional both for it's proportions and the quality of the design which contains two quite different elements; on the one hand we find aspects of late gothic and on the other, the new decorative elements that were flowing out of Italy at that time. The result is without a doubt the most monumental facade in Antequera.

El Torcal AndalusiaThe baroque era brought not just religious buildings but also some fine houses, built as town houses by the local aristocracy. Fortunately good architecture did not stop hundreds of years ago though, and there are two 20th century buildings of which the Antequeranos are very proud: the Caja de Ahorros building, like many banks, is a mixture of classical styles while the Cinema Torcal is pure Art Deco.

For those who prefer their history to be "natural", Antequera doesn't disappoint either. Most notable is the Paraje Natural de El Torcal, an area of great natural beauty dominated by the huge rocks of El Torcal itself. This is a paradise for walkers and nature lovers: come in spring to see the diverse reptile population at it's most active. Come at any time of year just to enjoy the landscape.

The Fuente de Piedra lagoon is the largest such stretch of water in Andalucia, and in winter and spring it is home to the largest flock of pink flamingos in Spain. Flamingos, Fuente de PiedraThe flamingos arrive at the end of January, to lay their single egg. Having fledged their new offspring, they leave in July to pass the remainder of the year in west Africa. Flamingos are much hardier than their delicate appearance suggests, and they are readily capable of heading off 150 km to the saltings of the Guadalquivir to feed if things get tough in their chosen home.

El Chorro is another expanse of water with a lot to offer the nature lover: once again fabulous countryside and a diverse mix of flora and fauna. It is also home to the amazing Garganta de Chorro gorge, a 400m deep slash through the rock that is a magnet for both birds of prey and rock-climbing enthusiasts.

So although Antequera is unknown to many, it is a fascinating destination for visitors who would like to see some of the glorious architecture and landscapes that Andalucia has to offer.

To find a hotel near Antequera, try La Fuente del Sol, Almohalla 51 or Cortijo Valverde.

1 Apr 2016, 18:24

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