Ardales is home to a remarkable Mozarabic church at Bobastro, a ten-minute drive from El Chorro. This hidden and beautiful corner of the Ardales Natural Park was once a hub of intrigue and conflict amongst the Al-Andaluz Arabic empire.
The Bobastro ruins are beautiful, atmospheric and steeped in history. However, the surrounding scenery is also worthy of a visit in its own right. The views from Bobastro and the short walk from the road to reach the ruins are spectacular.
Bobastro was a Mozarabic fortified settlement established by Omar Ibn Hafsun, a military leader in the Emirate of Cordoba who converted to Christianity and defected. He set up a base in these isolated mountains and built a Christian church.
Not only is the site culturally unique, but it is also architecturally unusual too. The church was built out of the solid rock, and then finished with bricks and timber. This remarkable feat of construction means that, although we are now exploring the site over 1100 years later, the church remains recognisable. A good section of the carved rock remains, with amazing Moorish inspired carved arches. It clearly has three naves and a beautifully carved circular sacristy.
There are signs for Bobastro from the MA5403 between El Chorro and The Lakes. There is a booth on the side of the road opposite the entrance to Bobastro which is sometimes manned and charges in the region of three euros for entry. When it is not manned, the entrance gates to Bobastro are often unlocked or open.
El Tajo de la Encantada is a natural viewing balcony further up the road from Bobastro where the hill plateaus at the top. It is referred to locally as La Mesa (table-top). It is a great place to get a spectacular view of the whole Desfiladero de los Gaitanes area and the Sierra de Huma. It is also a great vantage point for vulture and bird-watching.
It is easy to get to by car: once you have passed the ruins of Bobastro, keep driving up the road as it winds through the trees and round to the top reservoir. Keep driving up as far as you can go. There is a bar and restaurant up here if you want to enjoy refreshments at what seems like the top of the world although opening hours are not clear and are variable. A good camera and a pair of binoculars are recommended to make the most of this awe-inspiring vista.