Margot Hillock is a former Explore Tour Leader who is based in Andalucia in Spain. Here she shares her thoughts and experiences of our Moorish Trails holiday.
"Before me, the blue Mediterranean stretches all the way to Africa. Behind me, snow-capped mountains sparkle against a cloudless sky. All around, pristine white villages cling to hillsides that are currently turning vivid green thanks to the fresh burst of new growth on the vines. Spring has sprung in Andalucia and the hills above Canillas de Albaida on Explore’s Moorish Trails tour are surely one of the best places to be!
It really is a very special delight to discover that all this gorgeous scenery exists just a few miles inland from the high-density resorts of the Costa del Sol. Practically speaking, it’s no bad thing that those resorts with their many facilities are so nearby. I and many thousands of other visitors have enjoyed happy times on the beaches and in the chiringuitos (beach-side fish restaurants) of the coast. But in my personal opinion the real glories of Andalucía are in her wonderful cities and in her unique rural landscape carved by time and generations of different peoples, including the Phoenicians and the Romans and especially the successive waves of invaders and settlers we refer to as the Moors.
On the Moorish Trails tour, visitors get a chance to not only experience this landscape up close, but also to visit some of the Moors greatest triumphs, such as the incomparable Alhambra in gorgeous Granada. There is also a chance to meet some of the people who still farm these steep-sided hills using tools and techniques that haven’t changed since the Moors first introduced them over a thousand years ago.
It is the people, both the walkers and the locals, who make Explore walking tours such fun. I think it’s great that groups of disparate people “gel” to form lasting friendships on tour and I especially enjoy the mutual pleasure both visitors and locals get from getting to know each other. On the Moorish Trails tour, whether it’s big-hearted Theo in his tiny bar in remote Salares or smiling Maria in her family’s traditional Bodega just outside Competa, the locals you encounter really do get a genuine kick out of meeting people who have chosen to check out this hidden corner of Spain through Explore. The inhabitants of Canillas De Albaida are fiercely proud of their heritage and their surroundings, but for a long time they thought that the glittering high-rises of the costas were all that visitors wanted and they are delighted that Explore is bringing a new kind of visitor to their small villages and secret valleys. This isn’t only because of the obvious financial benefit Explore brings to what is a fairly impoverished area, but also because this kind of tourism reassures these communities that they are not alone and that there are people out there who also appreciate and want to celebrate the way of life and landscape they’re struggling to maintain. What's more, Andalucian people really love a party and what better excuse to celebrate than making new friends.
Of course, the other great joy of this Tour is getting out into the mountain air and wandering the scenic paths that thread through the beautiful Natural Park of the Sierra Tejeda and Almijara and the surrounding area. It’s hard to beat that feeling at the end of a good day’s walking, when you finally settle down in the pretty plaza in Canillas feeling pleasantly tired and start looking forward to a hearty meal in Gustavo’s restaurant and a couple of “copas” of excellent local wine. During your day’s wanders, you may have spotted some ibex or a young golden eagle and you’re sure to be feeling sun-kissed and perhaps a little wind-swept. The chat has been good and any cares or worries seem a long way away and for me it’s hard to imagine a better way to end a darn good day."
Find out more about Moorish Trails.