The birds seen in and around Cantueso itself have been seen either in April or September. Obviously some of them are summer migrants and will only be seen from April to September, others are resident and can be seen all year round.
Residents include Collared dove, Blackbird, Sardinian warbler, Great tit, Blue tit, Spotless starling House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Serin and Goldfinch. Crested lark is the default lark in the area but do not rule out Thekla’s lark which occurs as well.
Summer visitors include Cuckoo, Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, House Martin, Swallow, Red-rumped swallow, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Woodchat shrike
In summer it is usual to see eagles and other birds of prey from Cantueso. These occasionally hunt the valleys on either side of the complex. Expect to see Bonelli’s eagle, Short toed eagle, Booted eagle, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel in season. Griffon vulture is a possibility as well.
The walk along the old railway line to Ventas La Zaffaraya can also be productive. As well as common residents you can expect to see Griffon vulture, red-billed chough, black wheatear, stonechat, corn bunting, raven, peregrine, and in spring and autumn migration anything may turn up. I have seen spotted flycatcher, redstart, whitethroat, golden oriole and turtle dove.
Cross the valley to Alcaucin and walk up the valley into the mountains to the nature reserve and you will find many of the above species as well as Jay, Coal tit, Crag martin, Great spotted woodpecker, Alpine accentor and Wood pigeon.
El Torcal is an hour’s drive to the North-west (see also.) As well as spectacular limestone scenery it has a good range of birds including Griffon vulture, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Rock bunting, Blue rock thrush, Black redstart, Sub-alpine warbler and Melodious warbler. Another thirty minutes North to Antequera brings you close to the breeding flamingo colony at Fuente de Piedra lagoon. A lot of what you will see there depends on time of year and water levels, but it is worth a visit if you are in the area.
Cross the valley to Alcaucin and walk up the valley into the mountains to the nature reserve and you will find many of the above species as well as Jay, Coal tit, Crag martin, Great spotted woodpecker, Alpine accentor and Wood pigeon.
El Torcal is an hour’s drive to the North-west (see also.) As well as spectacular limestone scenery it has a good range of birds including Griffon vulture, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Rock bunting, Blue rock thrush, Black redstart, Sub-alpine warbler and Melodious warbler. Another thirty minutes North to Antequera brings you close to the breeding flamingo colony at Fuente de Piedra lagoon. A lot of what you will see there depends on time of year and water levels, but it is worth a visit if you are in the area." El Torcal, so much more to see than just birds!
If you are flying in and out of Malaga the Guadalhorce reserve is only 5 minutes drive from the airport. It is well worth a couple of hours en route to Periana, or leave early and check it out before you drop the car off. It has a wide variety of wetland species and is a migratory stopover in spring and autumn. The list of species is long and varied and includes White-headed duck, Kingfisher, Marsh harrier, Yellow legged gulls, Black winged stilt, Glossy ibis, herons, egrets, ducks, waders and terns – including Gull billed. The reserve is good for breeding warblers including Zitting cistacolas. In summer it is very hot, there is very little shade, and if water levels are low there will be fewer species. However in April, May and September anything can turn up on migration to and from the Straits of Gibraltar. Google Guadalhorce and you will find a lot of trip reports with a lot of stunning birds, including a feral flock of Monk Parakeets.
Like many other photographers and artists Kees found that the light in spring time Andalucia has a marvellous clarity, ideal for landscapes with mountain backdrops or lake views. Early mornings can offer sultry mists before the sun has burnt off the dew and at the end of the day there are sunsets to keep the shutter working. During the day there are lots of birds, wild flowers, insects and the ubiquitous olive trees which are so much of a feature of our area. All of the photos below were taken either from the terrace of the cottage where Kees and his wife stayed or close by.
Kees is a very talented professional photographer and examples of recent work can be seen on his website at: www.kees-laurijsen.nl
......and for the technically minded the equipment used by Kees was: A Canon EOS 5D Mark III with the following lenses: Canon 24-70 F2.8; Canon 70-200 F2.8; Canon 100mm macro F2.8 and Canon 50mm F1.4 For the macrosa tripod was used.
Preparations for summer seemed to be dogged by bad weather and our refurbishing of the pool at Cantueso Cottages has only just been completed. This 12,000 € project is going to put a stop to water leaks which have plagued us for the last few years being both wasteful and expensive. Many leak tests and other investigations were carried out but in the end we decided the only solution was to completely reline the pool and this has been done by Clima Pool Centre from Nerja, one of whom had the unenviable job of working up to his chest in cold water for much of the time. Now it is finished we have a brighter blue colour and a non slip children’s shallow area. And as I write the weather is giving us some glorious days. Take a look at our webcam and see for yourself.
Another part of our complex to get the winter upgrade treatment has been the crazy golf area where we now boast a large 14ft trampoline, sand table and swings with much needed shade so that mum can sit and watch the little ones at play.
At Restaurante Cantueso we only cook Paella to order after 24 hours notice as it cannot be prepared in advance without losing lots of delicate flavours. In a previous blog post we detailed the great influence that the Moors have had on Spanish culture, architecture, agriculture and of course cuisine. See “Sugar the lost crop in Periana”
The recently opened museum is a little off the beaten track, tucked away in a back street of Colmenar, but well worth the effort to see and learn about honey. A good starting point is the 15 minute film in several languages which introduces the visitor to the beekeeper’s world, charting its history going back 8000 years, and describing the complex work of the bee. You can then wander around the museum which has lots of interactive displays, exhibits and finally a shop which sells honey, beeswax, soap and other associated products.
The museum has been set up by the Beekeeper’s Association of Málaga who proudly display the eight types of honey which have been awarded their “Seal of Quality.”
Einstein it seems noted the importance of bees and is quoted at the museum as having said:
“If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.”
It is a good thought provoking quote even though it seems he never said it!!!
Never shy to extol the virtues of Restaurante Cantueso and the view we have just secured a premier advertising site at our local garage near lake Vinuela. It is the only petrol station for miles around so we know that it will be seen by lots of people as they leave, and we just hope they keep driving up to Periana to see us.
Periana is very much a farming area and the three hundred or so families that grow olives have had beautiful weather for the harvest, which runs from November to March, but unfortunately lack of rain means the fruit is much smaller than normal. And considering they only get one crop and hence one pay day each year it matters.
The trees and shrubs are so confused that they are flowering about a month earlier than usual. These pictures were taken a week ago at Cantueso and we fear that a frost this month will upset things for the real spring.
The self-styled Longsufferers’, a walking group from Northern Ireland has spent a week at Cantueso for a second time. The group is comprised of retirees who nonetheless undertook a number of quite extensive walks in the Periana region. “Peter the Walker” as we know him, says: “Members see Cantueso as offering classic walks with stunning views direct from the doorstep, the flexibility of having individual and group-prepared meals as well as the restaurant service, combined drives and walks within a reasonable distance and a great pool to unwind in after the exertion!” Peter also told us that a number of the group combined their week at Cantueso with stays further afield including Seville, Cordoba and Granada.
Many other visitors to Cantueso enjoy our prepared route guides and we all have Peter to thank for his kindness in preparing them. We hope to add to them in the future.
Please also see our web page giving more details about this area of Axarquia and other walking links.
The EHIC is available free of charge from the NHS website and is valid for five years. As it is just that long since they replaced the old E111 many of you may have one that needs replacing. When going on line to the NHS site make sure it is not one of the many sites which offer an express service for a fee. They are not official sites.
Whilst the Ehic is your first line of cover you should not forget to take out travel insurance which will offer much more help when serious accidents occur. If for example you need repatriation or have to go to a private hospital which will not accept the Ehic.
Please see also our website for more information regarding travelling around Axarquia.
For travellers in search of authentic experiences, this tradition is ideal. Cordoba's streets and plazas are a delight to explore, but the city's private houses--many hundreds of years old--shelter beautiful little corners which are waiting to be discovered.
Cordoba's patios capture the essence of Andalusia in a tiny space, isolated from the rush and hurry of modern life and whilst they open in the first week of May many displays remain during the rest of the summer.
Our photos were taken two weeks ago after a very severe winter and will no doubt continue to flourish with better weather. From Cantueso in Periana it takes about 2 hours by car and is an easy drive.
Jo is a sun worshipper and spends much of her free time on the beach and writes from first hand experience. She includes a wealth of information on each beach and will guide you to: lively beaches, those ideal for children, secret coves, the best beach-side bars and restaurants, or even a nudist beach.
No doubt many readers will be as confused, as we sometimes are, regarding how Axarquia, Costa del Sol and Andalusia all fit together.
Andalusia is a Spanish Autonomous Community with regional government and has the greatest number of inhabitants of any region. It is sometimes called the Lake District of Spain having over 300 lakes and reservoirs. See our blog on Lake Viñuela.
It has a benign climate boasting 3000 hours of sun per year, with many kilometres of golden sandy beaches and those beautiful natural ports which have made it a safe haven for navigators for centuries past, and now plays host to many thousands of tourists from all over the world.
COSTA DEL SOL
Within Andalusia is the COSTA DEL SOL (The Sunshine Coast). It is that part of the Southern coastline of Spain which stretches from Gibraltar in the West, to Almeria in the
East. The Northern boundaries are not always easily defined and here in Periana we are sometimes said to be “Inland” Costa del Sol.
Axarquia is a district (comarca) within Andalusia. It stretches from Malaga to Nerja along the coast and inland as far as Alfarnate hence we title Jo's beach guide La Axarquia (Costa del Sol East).
The route particularly the stretch from Periana to Ventas de Zafarraya had some serious inclines and Swiss engineers were involved in the design of a rack system to enable the trains to climb to 1000m above sea level. This part of the route was truly alpine, often encountering seriously bad weather, and it is a tribute to those early engineers that the route never in forty years of service encountered any serious accidents. At its peak over 500 people were employed on the railway and there were stations at Vélez Málaga, Periana, Ventas de Zafarraya with halts at Trapiche, La Viñuela and Matanza.
The demise of this railway and many others like it has been put down to several factors, both economic and social. After the civil war (1936-1939) and the Second World War, the railway was in much demand carrying loads of sugar cane and other crops to and from the coast, but slowly the introduction of cars and buses lead to a loss of passengers and freight. Then came the increase in tourism, with a concomitant migration of people from the villages to the coast, and the need to fund many projects along the Costa del Sol, led to a lack of capital spending on the railway. Eventually what should have been a franchise until 2015, was wound up by Royal Decree in 1959. The railway closed the next year and the tracks were removed. After less than fifty years, a form of transport that had replaced the mule trains of old was itself displaced by “progress.” As fuel costs make travel ever more expensive one can only imagine what could now be made of a scenic railway passing through some of the most attractive landscapes in Spain.
As mentioned above, the old track is now the access road to Cantueso Cottages and Restaurante Cantueso. As you leave Periana and turn right onto the unmade road, the building with a yellow wall on the left is the old station. It is now used occasionally in summer as a boarding school. In the other direction the track also provides a spectacular walk from Periana to Ventas de Zafarraya, a walk of some 11 miles.
Just before you turn into the drive at Cantueso the old railway track carries on and after a mile comes out onto the Periana-Puente don Manuel road just below the Perimetal factory. Not to be driven in winter after heavy rain!
At Cantueso we have a guide available for the Ventas de Zafarraya walk with maps directions and photos.
The lake is well stocked with fish (Carp, Trout and Bass) and sailing is allowed but only with non-motorised craft. Fishing licences are required and need to be obtained in Málaga with lots of bureaucratic hoops to jump through and not really practical for short visits. Some people say you need to take an examination before being granted a licence but the Costa del Sol tourist office says otherwise.
The department for more information is:
Provincial Delegation of Agriculture and Fishing in Málaga.
Avenida Aurora, 47
Tlf: +34 951 038 200
The following site gives more details on fishing in the lake but you are advised to check the latest situation with the office above.
For further information regarding the villages that surround Cantueso please see the “Things to do” section of our website. You can also check the current view on the live webcam at Restaurante Cantueso.
The baths are sometimes described as Arab, Moorish or Roman and no-one knows for sure how old they are. Certainly they were in use during the latter half of the 18th century and fulfilled the Koranic obligations for Muslims which obliges them to wash before prayer. I n the 18th and 19th centuries visitors were the nobility and high society from all over Spain.
The medicinal properties of the spring water also attracted many people with skin problems and the brave can still bathe in the water which is a constant 21 degrees centigrade all year round. This temperature is about four degrees above the average for the area and means the baths can be classified as thermal. The underground supply constantly refreshes the pool and its sulphurous smell can be observed from quite a distance. Recent studies have shown the waters to contain: sulphites, chloride, calcium, sodium and magnesium and has a flow rate of .3l/sec.
The baths and associated buildings fell into disrepair in the last century and it was only after the purchase of the property by the Periana Council, about twenty years ago that repairs were undertaken.
The authorities in Andalusia now promote these type of baths under the name “Thermaland” and have decreed that they will “work towards promoting the touristic exploitation of mineral and thermal springs, and to renovate other abandoned baths.”
Thermaland was funded with 200,000€, 90% of which came from an EU grant. The grant was designed to take advantage of growing health tourism in Europe and has enabled the baths and other buildings at Vilo to be renovated.
The hamlet of Baños de Vilo is attractive particularly in springtime with the surrounding land covered with wild flowers and a short detour will bring you to Guaro the source of the river of the same name. The river Guaro is important for the area in that it is the main supply for Lake Viñuela which dominates most views of the valley surrounding Periana.
After a narrow entrance into the village of Guaro the road opens out and there is plenty of parking near the source of the river. A noisy waterfall at the base of the mountain wall directs the water flow down the river to the lake below.
There is one restaurant in this otherwise sleepy village where you can obtain refreshment and enjoy wonderful views of the valley.
To find the baths from Cantueso go to the village, turn right at the roundabout and then take the road towards Mondron. Just after leaving the village boundary there is a fork in the road and it is best to keep left signed to Mondron. After a short while you will see the turning right to Baños de Vilo which is signed, but not very prominently. You will then find the baths on the left after a short while. The road is quite wide at this point and parking on the road is possible. To also visit the village of Guaro continue up hill and follow signs, about three kilometres more.
For other trips around Periana see the “Things to Do” pages on our website.
Last February we hosted over three thousand flamingos on Lake Viñuela just below us, they were no doubt en route to join their friends on Laguna de Fuente de Piedra a little further north. This famous lagoon is about an hours drive away on the A45 near Antequera and has the largest breeding colony of great flamingos in Europe. Eight to 12,000 pairs and many other species such as: gull billed tern, slender billed gull, kentish plover and montagu's harrier all breed here. Best to visit before June as the water tends to dry up in the heat of summer.
Here at Cantueso Cottages in Periana, Spain we have taken steps to minimise dangers not only with a high specification pool fence but have also adapted some of our cottages to make them more child friendly with stair gates where needed, bed guards, electric socket protectors, elimination of dangerous chemicals, and enclosed terraces to enable toddlers to play within a secure area. More about this on our toddlers page.
Travel companies have been curiously slow to catch on to the needs of travellers and all too few give you a search option of “secure pool” but if you look around you can normally find one that does.
An excellent NHS website regarding summer safety for children can be found here:
“Summer is a great time for children to get out and experience the world around them,” says Peter Cornall, head of leisure safety at RoSPA. “You do need to be aware of safety issues, but this isn't a reason to stop children enjoying activities.”
The website emphasises, as we all should, the importance of letting children have fun and not to get too obsessed with being as safe as possible, rather than as safe as necessary.
A short video of the Pool fencing at Cantueso can be seen here.
A wonderful day out from Cantueso in Periana is a visit to the tiny village of Riofrio (cold river) about 45 minutes drive away, and a Mecca for lovers of caviare or if your pocket won't stretch that far, to a plate of trout. There are fourteen restaurants within the village of only 300 inhabitants and they are host to over 400,000 visitors each year, all thanks to the well stocked river and local fish farm.
There has been trout fishing in the river recorded for hundreds of years but it was not until 1964 when an enterprising family came in search of the perfect waters for their fish farm that the full potential of this natural resource was realized. The cold, fast flowing water comes down from the Sierra Nevada and provides an ideal place to grow not only brown trout (500,000 kilos each year) but also Mediterranean Sturgeon. They normally have 98,000 sturgeon in their pools, separated by age rather than size, all thriving in the most perfect environmental conditions.
Riofrio caviare can be found all over the world in Michelin starred restaurants or corner shops for the wealthy such as Fortnum and Mason's. There, Cold River Caviare retails at £50 for a 30g tin half the price of wild beluga which is becoming much more difficult to find. But why so expensive if it is farmed?
At Riofrio they are proud to be the first and possibly the only certified organic sturgeon farm in the world. They have shunned the use hormone supplements in the fish diet, preferring to let them grow naturally and more slowly. In this business patience certainly must be a virtue as sturgeon only mature between the ages of 15 and 20. Up until the age of about nine the females cannot be told apart from the males. At maturity the females will weigh around 30kg and will yield maybe 4.5kg of roe
When the fish are thought to be ready to spawn the “farmers” use modern ultrasound scanner technology to check. Harvesting the eggs too early will result in dry eggs which have not yet absorbed the crucial fat from the fish's body. Too late and they may lack definition and structure. When seen to be ready the fish is then sacrificed in what is almost a surgical procedure. After being stunned the fish is operated on by one of the staff who dressed in suitable surgeon like attire removes the eggs. Millions of them for further refining and washing in salted spring water. Finally the caviare is placed into tins and allowed to mature like a good wine for three to six months.
At Riofrio they are also keen to explain that they use every part of the sturgeon: the flesh is smoked, marinated or tinned; the oil goes to the pharmaceutical industry and is used in cosmetics and food supplements; and even the grey skin finds use in Italian handbags.
How to find Riofrio.
The village is just two minutes from the A92 motorway which runs from Malaga to Granada. From Periana you take the road towards Mondron A7204 and shortly after passing the olive oil factory above Mondron there is a right turn signed to Alfanarte. Follow this along a pretty but winding road. Through Venta del Rayo (watch out for massive speed bumps) and just before the motorway you will see a left turn signed to Riofrio. It is easy to miss as the biggest sign is that of a hotel but if you do end up on the motorway go in the direction of Malaga and take the first exit to Riofrio.
If you avoid July and August you will not find it crowded, and in autumn and winter it is still very attractive with walks along the river and surrounding area well worth doing. The temperature however is always several degrees colder than the coast, in fact last week when I came by at 8 o'clock in the morning it was zero degrees, so take a coat.
Even in winter there are still several restaurants open and you will be amazed at how many ways there are to present trout if you don't fancy caviare.
The first thing you must do is appoint a non-drinking driver or get a taxi, as it can be a little alcoholic. Tapas tasting is thirsty work.
We recommend that you start about midday and expect to take three or four hours.
The starting point is in the Alameda Principal opposite the train station. There is El Corte Ingles the large store on this side of the road and plenty of nearby parking.
Start to walk up the Alameda Principal (turn left with your back to the store) and cross the bridge and as you pass the flower stalls in the centre of the road look out for no 18 which is the oldest bar in Malaga called, La Antigua Casa de Guardia. Stop for a drink and notice they chalk your bill on the counter in front of you, and make sure you don’t move along when it is time to pay or you may get your neighbours. They specialise in sweet Malaga wines but other drinks are available. They also serve shellfish but save yourself for later, as it gets better.
Continue to walk up Alameda and you will come to a pedestrianised street called Marques de Larios. This is the start of the tour. Up the street after a few yards on the left is a smaller street called Calle Marin Garcia. In front of you is Lo Gueno a very small bar. Get a drink and a tapas or two. Cheese and ham are their specialities.
Next continue up Larios and almost at the top, on the right, is a small street called Calle Moreno Monroy. Towards the end is my favourite bar called Orellano. Here you order a drink and you will get the first small tapas free. You will see many others on display and you should order one, two or even three more with maybe a glass of wine or two. You don’t pay until you leave but no need to panic, as it is not expensive. One tapas to try is Tortillitas de Camerones (shrimp tortillas). Often this is so popular that you have to stand outside.
Now you are getting the hang of it move to our next favourite. See street plan if you have one or ask for Molina Larios. The bar is called La Rabana. It is a newish building with tables inside made from old barrels, or sit outside if warm enough. Their tapas is good and they also have a bar menu with Camembert cheese or ham croquettes and Serrano ham platters. There is also an excellent restaurant up stairs if you are really hungry. The house wine is very good as are the loos!
After this stop and if you are still hungry or thirsty find some more bars of your own, but if coffee and cakes are fancied we have a final stop.
Go back to Marques de Larios and there is a lovely coffee shop called Lepanto about half way up on the right. Muchos calories.
That's better, and let me say straight away our favourite weather site is Meteo Malaga. It is run by a German fellow called Harry Happe who has a weather station situated high above the Eastern end of Lake Vinuela. The site is special for many reasons not least of which is the accuracy of forecasts. Harry claims to be the only site in Southern Spain, with the exception of a USAF base, that does manual forecasts. The others are computer generated. The site has received almost two and a half million visitors since 2003.
At first sight Meteo Malaga might seem overwhelming as it provides so much content. Want to know what the geomagnetic field is doing; check the bushfire index; want to see what shipping is passing along the coastline, just log on and you can see it all and much besides. It will even show you the name of the ship and where bound. Not too sure what this has to do with weather but it is great fun.
More serious stuff is there too and the three day forecast is the most useful to most of us. Harry told me recently that due to the various climatic influences in our little corner of the world it is virtually impossible to do accurate forecasts for more than three days. Other sites which we give below will offer up to fifteen day forecasts!
Another offering from this site is a “severe weather warning” and it can be sent to you via e-mail. It is free to register. Weather statistics and even a graph showing the water levels of the lake can be accessed and last but not least, Harry has a webcam looking westward down the lake and just below this picture is one from Cantueso's own webcam. Ours looks South and it is interesting to see the difference the angle and direction of the sun can make to the two pictures.
On our website we also have seasonal data for rainfall and temperatures.
So what can you expect in Periana in Spring?
A wondeful time to be in Andalusia. Highs of between 18 to 22C, and lows of 11 to 15C. Spring flowers in the hills and perfect temperatures for walking, birdwatching and of course photography.
...and in Summer
You can normally sunbathe and swim almost every day from June to September. Virtually no rain and daily highs of about 35C and nightly lows of 15C.
….and in Winter
Mixture of beautiful clear, sunny days, with some overcast but warm days. Evenings noticeably cooler. Starts to rain late September or early October, and can be heavy but rarely lasts more than a day or two. Daily highs about 20C and nightly lows around 10C. A pullover needed in the day and a jacket at night.
Other weather sites include the following which can be helpful if you need regional forecasts when driving through Spain for example Canalmeteo or Meteored.
Below is an interesting chart showing how the weather is in a typical year. This is for 2009 as later statistics are incomplete. You can see the original and other years her