Carratraca is a spa town situated in the Guadalhorce Valley, about a thirty minute drive from El Chorro. It is situated between Ardales and Álora in the beautiful region of the Sierra Blanquilla. The whitewashed town is spread out over three hills, set below the impressive Álora Castle.
The town is famous for its sulphur water spas, which have been in existence since Roman times. Over the centuries, the spa has attracted many famous visitors and still attracts many others, who come to enjoy the benefits of the therapeutic waters.
The spa is set just outside of the town, and although it dates back to Roman times, the current building was constructed around the middle of the 19th century in a neo-classical style. The spa is fed by local sulphurous waters whose beneficial health properties became especially well-known in the 19th century, when the village was known as Puebla de Baños and was part of Casarabonela. Thanks to these waters, the most influential members of the Málaga bourgeoisie used to visit and made this one of the most sought-after summer places of the era. Famous visitors have included the Empress Eugenia de Montijo, the politician Cánovas del Castillo and Lord Byron.
The spa is now part of a luxury five-star hotel which recommends the spa waters which for skin and stomach complaints.
The Town Hall, also known as the Arab House, is a particularly attractive building, built in the Mudejar style, and dating from 1885. The bullring also dates from around the same period and is worth a visit. Festivals and events are held within the grounds of the bullring.
There are some very good restaurants in town and countryside ‘ventas’ in the surrounding region. Most serve traditional dishes originating from Andalucia and the Málaga countryside. Opposite the spa in Carratraca is one of the most popular venues for local food, Casa Pepa. The restaurant has been operating in the same way for several decades: there is no menu to choose from; you simply eat what Josefa Romero, better known as Pepa, has prepared that day, which could be anything from a stew to a typical ‘gazpachuelo’ from Málaga.
There are lots of colourful stories about well-known visitors here, but the most famous was perhaps the incognito visit more than 20 years ago by Prince Charles; Pepa had no idea who he was until he read it in the local newspaper several days afterwards.
Carratraca is a 30 minute drive down the A357 from El Chorro and is well worth a day trip. One of the loveliest scenic roads in Málaga province is the one which links the villages of Carratraca and Álora via the Sierra de Aguas. Just over 12 kilometres in length, this winding road not only offers spectacular natural scenery but is also a reminder of the history of the place as a mining area and links two villages which are outstanding for their important historical heritage.