Standing at the geographic centre of Andalusia, Antequera has plenty of attractions to tempt the traveler.Antequera lies at the heart of Andalusia, in the geographic centre of the region, and as such is a hub where the main routes through southern Spain meet. This strategic location gave rise to a significant commercial and industrial activity, added to the riches of Antequeras fertile vega, such as fine olive oil of the Hojiblanca variety and delicious wines made with the Pedro Ximenez grape. It also endowed the town with an impressive monumental heritage, including nearly 30 churches and convents dating from the 16th to 18th centuries.
The towns newest attraction is a convent-museum which opened at the beginning of this year in the Convent of Las Descalzas, with displays of various religious artefacts from the considerable collection the nuns have accumulated over generations.
But Antequeras roots run much deeper. Every time shovel is put to soil a new reminder that the Romans were here is revealed. Chance discoveries have recently included a Roman villa estate outside the town and a complex of Roman baths with priceless mosaics next to the Santa Maria la Mayor church. The most famous discovery came in the mid-1950s, when a farmer ploughing a field bumped into an obstruction which turned out to be a magnificent Roman bronze statue of a young boy. Called the Efebo, it has become the symbol of Antequera and now occupies pride of place in the towns museum.
A thousand years before the Romans showed up the area was already a centre of civilisation, embodied by the finest collection of megalithic dolmens in the world, including La Menga, a chamber fashioned out of some 30 gigantic slabs of stone. One massive stone which forms part of the roof weighs 180 tons. Archaeologists are still wondering how ancient men managed to drag these boulders here to erect the site, for this type of stone is not to be found in the immediate area.
If you add to this assembly of monuments the existence nearby of two major nature areas - the fantastic rock formations of El Torcal and Europes largest colony of flamingos at the Fuente de Piedra lagoon - plus a rich culinary tradition, you have an important cocktail of travel opportunities which is attracting an increasing number of visitors.
Ayuntamiento de Antequera - Area de Turismo, Calle Infante Don Fernando, Edificio San Luis, 29200 Antequera (Malaga) Spain. Tel. 34 952 708 142. Fax 34 952 840 256.
Nearest airport: Malaga (43 miles, 70 km)
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Copyright © 2000 An Andalusian Experience. Text by Mark Little. Photography by J. D. Dallet - A Freelance Spain production
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Copyright © 2000-2006 Mark and David Little & J.D. Dallet