Ojen: one of the best places to live

This year, 2016, promises great things for Ojen.

Last year something extraordinary happened to this pretty white village, nestled between the natural beauty of the Sierra de las Nieves and the cosmopolitan vibrancy of Marbella…it beat notable European cities such as Rome, Stockholm and Paris to inclusion in the ‘Sunday Times Global Best Places To Live Top 50’.

Four places in Spain were included : Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Zahara de los Atunes (in Cadiz) and Ojen. Ojen was placed 35th on the prestigious list, which is drawn up each year by the newspaper’s travel writers, taking into account factors such as quality of life, gastronomy, climate and surroundings.

Local Mayor Jose Antonio said : “We hope this important news consolidates Ojen as a top destination for visitors to get an authentic taste of Andalucia.”

Ojen
View of Ojen

Unlike Benahavis, Ojen has not attracted the attention of wealthy expatriates and, like Istán, has somehow managed to remain unspoiled in spite of its accessibility. Its name is derived from an Arabic word, hoxán, meaning “rough” or “bitter” place….which seems a curious description to give to such a tranquil and beautiful spot.

Ojen Campo Horses
Horses from ‘Diama’, the Ojen stables

Today Ojén is divided by a modern highway. On one side of the road, the newer, more affluent half rises into the hills around the remains of the Moorish castle which once dominated the skyline. The village survived the reconquest, but the castle did not. The few stones that are left are now scattered among weeds and rough grass, home only to insects…an impressive Moorish stronghold no more.

Ojen Street
Narrow cobbled streets

On the other side of the road is the old part of town with it’s narrow cobbled streets and welcome drinking fountains. But Ojén used to be famous for something a little stronger than water. The production of the anise liqueur, aguardiente, which many Spaniards take each day with their morning coffee, once played a major part in the town’s economy.

Ojen Caves
Ojen Caves

No visit to Ojén is complete without a visit to the Caves.The caves you can see in Ojén are karst formations. They are closely linked to the life and history of the village, for they were used as shelters for people and animals.

Refugio
Refugio de Juanar

Close by, in the Serrania de Ronda, is the Refugio de Juanar. Originally the private hunting lodge of the wealthy Larios family, and a favoured retreat of King Alfonso XIII, this is now a hotel popular with tourists and hunters alike (the Serrania is still a hunting reserve). It is also a favourite with ramblers and hikers who come to relish the pure mountain air and the stunning views of Marbella and the coast 3000 feet below

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Post and images by photographer Derek Evans

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