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El Acebuchal

by Lars Haagen Petersen

El Acebuchal - Christmas 2021

The small village can trace its roots back to Arab times during the Moorish rule from 711 - 1492. Due to its location between the provinces of Málaga and Granada, Acabuchal was an important stop on the trade routes of the mule drivers, who traded primarily in fresh fish, fruit and vegetables.


In Acebuchal, life was hard. People typically lived from goat breeding, lime for fields and houses and charcoal. Although most tourists will know the city as a sunny, warm place, it can be very cold at an altitude of 500 metres, where the sun only rises over the mountains very late in the morning and sets relatively early again. Snowy weather is not uncommon for the residents either.  


One should allow oneself a pleasant walk to El Acebuchal if possible - Christmas 2022

After the Spanish Civil War (1936 - 1939), the Spanish dictatorship led by General Franco chose to clear the village of El Acebuchal of its inhabitants. The civil war was well enough over, but there were still many opponents of the dictatorship in the area around Frigiliana, who fought for democracy. Some of them had fled to the surrounding Sierra Almijara mountains, where they had joined the rebel movement - the so-called Marquis.

The Franco regime found the villagers too pro-republican and believed they were supporting the rebels in the mountains. For the same reason, in the late 1940s, the residents were ordered not to live there at night, but to look after their animals and fields during the day. This decree, for obvious reasons, made it disadvantageous for the residents to go back and forth, so they looked elsewhere. After this, the village fell into disrecognizability and the locals began to call the abandoned town Pueblo el Fantasmas (village of ghosts). It was only after the death of the dictator and the end of the dictatorship that you could really start rebuilding the village.

In 1998, they began to rebuild the town based on old photographs and the memory of some of the old residents. It was a huge job - Not only did the houses have to be rebuilt, but also sewerage, water and electricity had to be installed at their own expense. The state or municipality did not want to support the project at all.

The previously mentioned Antonio and his wife Virtudes bought up several of the houses including the small dilapidated tavern, which basically had to be built from scratch.

Bar El Acebuchal - Julen 2017

There is various information about the restaurant on the Internet and some of these tell misleadingly that if you visit it, you must remember that you can only pay with cash, because they have no Internet connection and payment terminals. That's no longer true, they've caught up with the rest of the western world when it comes to credit card payments. But something to remember in return is that it is mostly relevant to book a table. The village is no longer as unknown as it was a few years ago and neither is the restaurant with the popular regional dishes.


A lot of different local dishes are served in the cozy restaurant - Christmas 2022



Antonio García Sánchez, son of Antonio "El Zumbo", sitting in his small souvenir shop - Christmas 2021

Antonio García Sánchez, who is seen above in the picture, was one of the descendants of the previously deceased residents and he had a dream to rebuild Acebuchal with his wife. Together with others who also had family ties to the village, they got started. The year was 1998 when work began and in 2005 the García Sánchez family had a small restaurant ready to serve the visitors, who had heard of the interesting village. In 2005, they also thought that they had come so far with the reconstruction work that it was time to celebrate it with a rededication of the city.

These days you typically see Antonio walking around helping a little here and there and not least being busy shanghaiing customers to his little shop, which sells everything from traditional sourvenirs to home-made jams, goat cheeses, sausages and liqueurs. Age has not made him less enterprising.

Customers in the store - Christmas 2017

Even though Antonio and Virtudes had obtained the relevant permits from the neighboring town of Competa, they themselves had to take care of both the payment and the physical work of getting water installed and electricity cables laid in the village. Later, others joined and today all 35 houses have been renovated incl. the restaurant and the chapel and it is now also possible to rent some of the houses for holiday purposes.

In addition to the many family photographs that can be seen everywhere in the small restaurant, two paintings of Antonio and his wife Virtudes can also be seen.

The restaurant typically serves local dishes with wild boar, partridge and fallow deer, but also chicken, rabbit and hare with accompanying fresh vegetables. Vegetarian dishes and home-made desserts are also among the options, as is their ever-famous home-baked bread.

In 2023, a fire broke out in the kitchen due to a defect in the electrical installations. For the same reason, they have arranged the building itself with the kitchen differently, so that you can no longer eat there. This gives the staff more space. However, there are still plenty of tables for guests elsewhere.


Nowadays, the route to the village is easy to find - Christmas 2021

Acebuchal lies halfway down a gorge approx. 7 km. from Frigiliana and protected by the surrounding mountains which are part of the Natural Park Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama. The town's name is said to mean - The Wild Olive Grove.

The first building you meet on the road from Frigiliana and shortly before El Acebuchal - Christmas 2017

Shortly before arriving at the small village of El Acebuchal, on the way from Frigiliana, you come across the dilapidated building above, which has not yet been rebuilt. On the building is placed a sign that claims to recount the history of Acebuchal. I have tried to translate the Spanish text - It is a bit loosely translated.


The story of my Acebuchal

It was in this place once in the 30s, where a family with 5 children lived. One day the mother fell ill and died and the following year the father also died. The children were thus orphans. As no one could take all the children, they were separated and each of them had to move in with a different family member. But there was a young woman who was a little older, and she was left alone in the wild olive grove (El Acebuchal) without her parents - not least without her mother, whom she adored and without her siblings and without anything to eat.

One day she left to look for some food and love from a relative of hers who lived in the city. But she didn't find the love she was looking for, because this relative didn't want to know anything about her, and since she had nowhere to go, she lived on the streets. Because she became more and more alone she prayed every night to her mother. Without food and without love, this young woman was one day so sick with pain and suffering that she had to admit she was dying. For the same reason she returned to her Acebuchal, because she wanted to die at home, where both parents and siblings had loved her.

She arrived at night so no one would discover her. When she opened the door to her house she said: Mother, father, I am here, I come because I want to be with you and I will never be alone again. A few days later, some relatives found her and took her to Frigiliana, where they buried her in the ground. After five years they came again to remove her mortal remains, as the place was to be used to bury another person who had died in the town. Much to the digger's surprise, the young woman in the coffin was just like the day he buried her. Scared to death, he crossed himself and thought it was a miracle. Together with another man who used to help him with the work, they decided that the body of the young woman should be placed on the marble table that was in the cemetery for the use of autopsies. The two men then, scared to death, set about looking for the priest Blanca, who was staying on the other side of town. After listening to the two frightened men, the priest decided to follow them to the hermitage of San Sebastian. When the priest believed what the two men had told him was true, he said that no one else should know what they had seen there, not even the family. Then they again put the young woman in a wooden box and closed it as if it were a package, and the priest contacted the bishop of Malaga, who gave him instructions to immediately transfer the body to Vélez Malaga in the Carmelite monastery.

It is said that the only man with a mule available that day in Frigiliana happened to be Manuel, who was the young woman's first cousin. Manuel was told that the box contained things from the church, which he had to deliver to the Carmelite monastery before the next morning. As he crossed a field on his way, he suddenly heard a voice calling his name. He stopped for a moment to listen to the woman's voice saying, Hurry up Manuel, we're getting wet. The poor frightened man looked from side to side, but there was no one. There was only him and the mule with the packs. He looked up at the sky, which was full of stars, but it was all but himself and the pack mule. When he looked up again at the sky with all the stars and without seeing a single cloud, he thought it had just been his imagination and continued on his way.

But it is said that when it was nearing day, and there was hardly a few kilometers to Velez Malaga, it suddenly became cloudy and a storm of rain and hail began to fall, the likes of which Manuel had rarely seen in his entire life . He hastened as fast as he could to the monastery, where they were waiting for him, and begged them to please let him see what the box contained. The nuns did not object, and he then he saw the body of his cousin, which looked as it had on the day they had buried her five years before. It was such a shock to him that he fell to the ground - He who otherwise had the reputation of being brave and not having many religious beliefs, now completely changed his faith.

It is said that the young woman spent a long time in the monastery and that they later canonized her."

The Spanish text of The Acebuchal's story - Christmas 2022


The restaurant's famous bread - Christmas 2019

Shortly before the restaurant you can see the sign above - Christmas 2019

As previously mentioned, the visit to El Acebucha should be made on foot, partly because it is a nice walk and partly because there are limited parking options on arrival. This also gives those who need to come by car the opportunity to park there.


We usually park the car shortly after we have turned right after the slightly chaotic arrangement above and then walk the last few kilometers from the house below.

A few parking options



Andre glimrende rejsemål/

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