What to do and what to see in Cortes de la Frontera

The municipality of Cortes de la Frontera is located in the westernmost part of the province of Málaga, integrated in Serranía de Ronda region, its municipal area extends through the Guadiaro Valley.

Cortes de la Frontera limits both with municipalities of Málaga and Cádiz. Within the province of Málaga, it borders Montejaque to the north, Benaoján, Jimera de Líbar, Benadalid, Benalauría and Benarrabá to the east, and Gaucín to the west. In the province of Cádiz, it limits to the northwest with Jerez de la Frontera, Ubrique and Villaluenga del Rosario, to the southwest with Alcalá de los Gazules and Jimena de la Frontera.

Much of the 174 km2 of the municipality of Cortes de la Frontera is part of Los Alcornocales Natural Park (120 km2) and Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park (42 km2). This makes it show a spectacular landscape, with huge cork oak forests that cover most of its land.

The municipality of Cortes de la Frontera includes three main population centres, Cortes de la Frontera, El Colmenar and La Cañada del Real Tesoro.

History of Cortes de la Frontera

The first settlements in the current municipal district of Cortes de la Frontera date back to the 12th and 11th centuries B.C. First were the Tartessos, then the Phoenicians, and later it was occupied by the Phoenician Greeks and the Punics.

However, it was the Romans who left the greatest mark on Cortes de la Frontera, which gave it the name Cortex, which means shell or defense. There are two places that bear witness to its passage, the ruins of the city of Saeponia and the remains of the city of th Old Cortes, very close to the current urban nucleus.

The Romans were followed by the Visigoths until the beginning of the 8th century and, during the Arab domination, Cortes de la Frontera or Cortex, as it was then known, first depended on the Caliphate of Córdoba, until the death of Almanzor in the early 11th century, and then, alternatively, from the taifa kingdoms of Seville, Granada, Ronda and Algeciras.

Ferdinand III the Saint conquered Cortes de la Frontera for the Christians in 1248. Later it passed again to Muslim hands, until it was reconquested by the Catholic Monarchs in 1485.

The current location of Cortes de la Frontera town dates from the 17th century. In this century, the cork industry began to gain importance, an industry that today continues being a fundamental pillar in the economy of Cortes de la Frontera.

The urban structure of Cortes de la Frontera town is different from the rest of the towns in Serranía de Ronda. This can be seen among other things in that the buildings have different criteria outside the deep-rooted Arab layout.

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What to see in Cortes de la Frontera

The cultural heritage of Cortes de la Frontera shows the times of greatest prosperity or greater relevance that the municipality has experienced throughout history. That is why it will allow you to take a trip back in time, being able to see monuments of different civilizations and different styles.

From the Roman era in Cortes de la Frontera you will see the Old Cortes, which is an ancient human settlement of Roman origin, where you will be able to observe archaeological remains of the Roman civilization and the Arab people.

Between the 6th and 7th centuries you will find the Stone House, a Mozarabic church of early Christian origin that is carved out of a large rock. It represents an impressive work done manually.

The Arab stage contributes to the heritage of Cortes de la Frontera with the Path Tower. It is a cylindrical tower watchtower, built in the thirteenth century, in order to monitor the path that linked Gaucín and Ubrique, through Espino Refuge.

Moving on to the 18th century, already after the current location of Cortes de la Frontera town has been established, you will be able to appreciate the Chapel of Valdenebros and the Town Hall building. The first, with its interior converted into a house, has a Baroque-Mudejar style facade from the year 1760, a portico where you can see the heraldic shield and its coat of arms, and a distribution around a patio, with columns that embellish it. The second is located in Charles III Square, monarch who ordered its construction. It is a magnificent building from 1784, in a neoclassical style that shows a beautiful facade built in stone and distributed over two floors of galleries, with five semicircular arches in each one, supported by stone pillars. In its central part stands out a triangular pediment centered by the clock and the royal shield.

The last century with contributions of elements to the cultural heritage of Cortes de la Frontera, is the 19th century. This century is the Parish Church of Our Lady of Rosary, built in 1853. This church has three naves separated by semicircular arches on square-core pillars. The main chapel and arms of the transept have half-barrel vaults. At the foot it has a choir-tribune with a wooden balustrade and an undergrowth covered with a lowered half-barrel vault. Its facades are made of stone and the tower, of a prismatic type, attached to the head, of brick, stone and masonry.

Also from the 19th century, specifically from the year 1894, is the Bullring. It was reformed in 1921 and became one of the largest in Serranía de Ronda. The diameter of its arena is 27 meters, the sun line is hollow, where the infirmary and toilet are located.

Finally, the Pablo Ruiz Picasso Exhibition Hall, located in Cortes de la Frontera town, must also be reviewed. It is a diaphanous room that has been conditioned for the realization of exhibitions inside.

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What to do in Cortes de la Frontera

The location of the municipality of Cortes de la Frontera, between two natural parks, and its peculiar topographic characteristics, make it a place of great botanical, fauna and landscape interest. Its microclimate has created a particular vegetable landscape of holm oaks, cork oaks, gall oaks, pines and riverside forests, with a very rich flowery scrub, which contrasts with the gray green and the forest.

Among the mountains found within the municipality of Cortes de la Frontera, Sierra de Libar at 1,302 meters, Sierra de los Pinos at 1,397 meters, Peñón del Berrueco at 899 meters, Sierra El Castillo at 937 meters and Birdhouse Hill with 701 meters; stand out.

The large forests with steep slopes and steep valleys make the natural environment of Cortes de la Frontera one of the most beautiful natural areas in the province of Málaga.

All this will allow you to know and enjoy nature through many ways. For this, there is a Visitor Centre where they will inform you about the Protected Natural Spaces of which Cortes de la Frontera is part, thanks to the RENPA (Andalusian Protected Natural Spaces Network). In this center you will obtain information about the history, characteristics and influence that human activity has on these spaces. They will also provide you with information on what to see, where to go and how to access the most interesting places. In addition, through computer applications, you can obtain more information about its fauna, flora and relevant data from the Andalusian environment, as well as about the main Andalusian ecosystems. Finally, you can buy artisan products with the "Natural Park of Andalusia Brand" and souvenirs such as publications, t-shirts, children's items, etc.

The two main natural spaces from which you can obtain information are Los Alcornocales Natural Park and Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park. The first has an extension of 168,661 hectares, belonging to the province of Cádiz in its great majority. Málaga contributes 12,000 hectares with the municipality of Cortes de la Frontera. In general, it forms a set of low mountain ranges, with a water network that includes several reservoirs and the source of numerous rivers, with narrow and deep river valleys.

This natural park has important cork oak forests, accompanied by a thicket of sticky rockrose and heather, mixed with wild olive, gall oak and oak. In the areas where the cork oak is most degraded, strawberry trees, hawthorn, bushes, false olive and barberry appear.

Regarding its fauna, it is rich and varied and is represented by scavengers such as vultures and Egyptian vultures; carnivores such as foxes, genets, badgers, and weasels; and herbivores such as mouflon, deer and roe deer.

Los Alcornocales Natural Park has the Aenor ISO 14001 certification, which means continuous improvement in the way of acting of all the people who work in its management. The most representative human activity within the natural park has to do with the use of cork and the breeding of pigs, goats and cattle.

The municipality of Cortes de la Frontera hosts La Sauceda area, located within Los Alcornocales Natural Park. This is a camping area made up of 23 cabins without electric light, but with a fireplace, toilets, showers, hot water, camping area, green tent reception, social room, training room, luggage transportation to the cabins, services of free firewood, lodging and barbecues. In addition, it develops multi-adventure activities, horse riding, caving, hiking, donkey routes, visits through the natural park to places such as the Laurisilva forest, Pilita de la Reina, Peñón del Buitre and Cortes de la Frontera town.

Bordering Los Alcornocales Natural Park and between Cortes de la Frontera and El Colmenar, you will find Buitreras Canyon. An impressive canyon, between the municipalities of Cortes de la Frontera, Benarrabá and Benalauría, formed by the persistent action of River Guadiaro on the limestone and margocaliza rock. This is the origin of this narrow pit that reaches a depth of more than 100 meters until it reaches the river, although unevennesses of up to 200 meters can be seen with spectacular walls that reach verticality. Access to the canyon presents great difficulty due to how steep the terrain is, hence it is one of the environments listed on canyon climbing and descent routes. This natural accident has been declared an Andalusian Natural Monument.

Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park is the other natural space from which you can obtain information at Visitors Centre. This natural park has an extension of 51,700 hectares, of which 4,200 hectares belong to the municipality of Cortes de la Frontera. It is formed by a mountainous group made up of several mountain ranges, among which Sierra del Pinar stands out. Its elevated pluviometry, the highest in the Iberian Peninsula, has created a karst landscape with numerous upwellings on the limestone.

The most characteristic forests of this natural space are the fir forests, accompanied by cork oaks, holm oaks, gall oaks, carob trees, wild olive trees, black poplars, willows and ash trees, but also the scrub such as strawberry trees, mastic trees, ferns and aromatic plants, as well as numerous endemisms.

Of the fauna that you can find here, it is necessary to highlight mountain goat, roe deer, deer, weasel, dormouse, fox and meloncillo, but without a doubt the most significant thing is that in these lands the largest colony of griffon vultures of Europe. In this field of birds, you will be able to witness all kinds of birds of prey such as jackdaws, nightjars, hoopoes, great spots, etc., in the same way as reptiles such as snakes, lizards and vipers. In the river areas you will find trout, crayfish, etc.

The activities that most attract tourism are caving, mountaineering and camping. While the most outstanding human activity in the area is goat and sheep farming, which give rise to an artisanal industry of tanning and wool weaving, as well as the use of forest resources.

Between Cortes de la Frontera and the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park there is a hiking route that will help you learn more about this natural space, El Pimpollar marked Trail. This is a circular path that starts from Cortes de la Frontera recreational area and runs through an area of centuries-old cork oaks near the Cork Factory of the municipality. Along the route you will be able to enjoy beautiful panoramic views and a limestone made of sandstone. During the autumn you can listen to the deer in the berrea, as well as see a multitude of mushrooms, among which the egg yolk stands out.

Another hiking route through the natural environment of Cortes de la Frontera is the Cortes de la Frontera - Llanos de Líbar Route, where you can find the following landmarks: Cortes de la Frontera town, Cortijo del Rosario, Hawthorn Hills, Cortijo de Líbar and Llanos de Líbar. It is an easy tour, about two hours long, where you can see a wide panoramic view of Guadiaro Valley.

In addition, if you want to practice sports without having to leave town, in Cortes de la Frontera you can have a municipal swimming pool, a sport centre, a football pitch and some tennis courts.

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Traditional festivities and celebrations in Cortes de la Frontera

So that you can enjoy the tradition of the towns of Serranía de Ronda, Cortes de la Frontera offers you a series of celebrations throughout the year in which you can learn more about the customs of a town in the mountains.

The first celebration has a national impact, it is Holy Week, where the most significant and peculiar act is the Cortes Passion Week. This takes place on Maundy Thursday, when the images of Jesus Nazarene and Virgin Mary meet in the Town Hall Square, an act in which "the three falls" are simulated. This celebration takes place between March and April depending on the year.

Also depending on the year, Corpus Christi is celebrated between May and June.

The first pilgrimage of the year is the Pilgrimage of the Virgin of Rosary and is held on the first weekend of June. While on July 25 the Horse Pilgrimage takes place. This day El Colmenar Festivities are also celebrated.

Finally, in the month of August the rest of the traditional festivities held in Cortes de la Frontera take place. The first weekend of this month is La Estación or La Cañada del Real Tesoro Festivities. And for four days, the third week of the month, it is the St. Roque and St. Sebastian Fair. Various activities are carried out in it, such as contests, activities in the bullring, dances, horse riding, the cattle fair and heifers.

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Gastronomy of Cortes de la Frontera

As in most of Serranía de Ronda towns, the products on which the cuisine of Cortes de la Frontera is based come from the land, such as farm meats or game meats, vegetables, oil, flour and wine. However, the seasons during the year determine the availability of certain products, such as mushrooms in autumn, or wild herbs in spring, among which we must highlight common golden thistle, fennel, wild asparagus and bladder campion.

The variety of recipes of typical dishes of Cortes de la Frontera is very wide, so you can find some such as venison stew, rabbit to the hunter, lamb of the mountain, scrambled eggs of asparagus, stewed chard chantarela, crespas with garlic, pork crackling, court beef, cod tortillas, sighs, stew, refried, fried plantains or crumbs.

In pastry, strudel, meringues, roscones, quince compote, homemade muffins, French toasts, Christmas cakes and honey fritters stand out.

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