What to do and what to see in Benaoján

The municipality of Benaoján is located to the west of the province of Málaga, is integrated into Serranía de Ronda region and is part of Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park.

With 32 km2 and at 564 meters of altitude above sea level, it stretches across Sierra de Libar with peaks such as La Ventana peak of 1,284 meters and Palo peak of 1,373 meters and Guadiaro valley.

The orography of Benaoján is quite rugged, highlighting the strong contrast between the bare limestone and the oak forest that joins the middle slope. The mountain ranges host landscapes of great beauty such as El Pozuelo or the small plain near the Pileta Cave, as well as places in the Guadiaro valley, such as the Dehesa Gorge and the vicinity of Estación de Benaoján.

In its municipal term there are two population centers, Benaoján, which is the main nucleus, and Estación de Benaoján, next to the railway and the river. It borders other municipalities within the province of Málaga, such as Montejaque to the north, Cortes de la Frontera to the southwest, Jimera de Líbar to the south, Alpandeire to the southeast and Ronda to the east.

History of Benaoján

The first findings of human life in the municipality of Benaoján appear in the Pileta Cave, inhabited by man since the Paleolithic and where cave paintings and utensils have been found.

The Benaoján lands were an obligatory passage, due to its strategic situation, for the Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths, Arabs and Christians. However, the origin of the name of Benaoján is Arabic, some make it means sons of Oján, a Berber tribe, and others a baker's house. Its Muslim influence is reflected in its narrow and winding streets, its watchtower and its white houses.

After the Christian conquest of Benaoján in 1485, its Mudejar inhabitants lived in this territory until their expulsion in 1570, after the rebellion they carried out. In 1571 Benaoján was repopulated by Christian families from Ardales, El Saucejo, El Coronil and Morón.

On October 27, 1575, the first settlers of Benaoján were named, sixty families who were provided with houses and land, who came from different parts of Spain, such as Teba, Daimiel, Cañete la Real, Osuna, Marchena, Porcuna, Antequera, Bornillo, Olvera, Villegas, Priego de Córdoba, Morón, Fregenal de la Sierra, Jerez de la Frontera, Villanueva del Fresno, Los Molares, Ardales, Berlanga, Trujillo, Fuente del Maestre, Algámitas, Zahara de la Sierra and Cabra. Alonso de Rojas el Guardi was the only Moorish man who remained as one of the first settlers and was benefited by his house and land.

The arrival of the railway at the end of the 19th century was a boost for the municipality of Benaoján as well as the appearance of a new population center around the train station, known today as Estación de Benaoján.

In the 20th century, the meat processing industry, especially sausages derived from pork, decisively contributed to the demographic and economic growth of the municipality.

Its mountains, roads and caves have been used as shelter by the bandits during the Napoleonic occupation, which was not very harmful to Benaoján, and by the Spanish maquis at the end of the Civil War.

Today, Benaoján finds an important engine in its economy, the breeding of the Iberian pig and the treatment of all its derived products. Also important in agriculture is the cultivation of Ronda apple and fig trees.

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What to see in Benaoján

The municipality of Benaoján stands out more for its natural environment than for its cultural heritage. However, before you start discovering its caves and its rural environment, it gives you the opportunity to appreciate two elements belonging to the most representative civilizations that have passed through these lands.

First of all, you can find the Moorish Tower, built by the Muslims to control the important path of the Guadiaro valley, and also served as a refuge in case of attack on the inhabitants of the nearby farmhouse. Currently only one of its walls remains standing.

On the other hand, you will see the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, from the 15th century. Element of Christianity consisting of a single nave covered with wooden armor. The main chapel is square and is covered by a Gothic vault. The entrance is made under a semicircular arch flanked by pilasters that support a triangular pediment with a small niche. The bell tower has two bodies, a lower one with a square plan and an upper octagonal one, in which the bells are installed.

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What to do in Benaoján

Within the municipal term of Benaoján you can find a series of caves of extraordinary beauty and of special importance both at the geological level and facing the first settlements of the municipality.

The Pileta Cave marks the beginning of the history of Benaoján, since in the different excavations carried out inside it, numerous ceramic remains and important cave paintings have been found, most of them animals, attributed to the Upper Palaeolithic. The cave is made up of a series of galleries located at different levels and with heights of up to 15 meters. The central nave stands out for its large dimensions, with a 60-meter route, and has been declared a National Monument.

On the other hand, you will find the Gato Cave, located in Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park. The Gato Cave is actually the south mouth and exit of the Hundidero-Gato caving system, which with more than 9,000 meters surveyed, is the most important in Andalusia and one of the largest in Spain, and is declared a Natural Monument.

The Hundidero Cave is the entrance and north mouth, located about 3 km north of Montejaque and at a height of 593 meters. The system is developed in a total of 7,818 m and a drop of 219 m, with a main route of 4,500 m in a north-south direction to the south mouth of Gato Cave at a height of 423 meters, right on River Guadiaro. The beauty and difficulty of its prospecting have attracted speleologist and adventure sports lovers from all over the world. It is a limestone karst area where the water has generated an impressive underground world. The system collects through the Hundidero Cave the water from a wide and relatively flat basin that forms the River Gaduares. The gallery is very extensive, with large cavities or rooms, some of them already named the Hall of the Gours, the Bullring, La Ciénaga Gallery, Los Toriles, the Boredom Gallery and the Hall of the Dunes. Underground lakes are also very numerous and sometimes very deep, there are also waterfalls and geological formations caused by the flow of carbonated waters such as stalagmites, some of them of enormous dimensions, as well as fossil zones where the torrent no longer exists. After all this tour, you reach the great mouth of Gato Cave where the water comes out forming a beautiful lake and, after a few meters, joins the River Guadiaro.

Other caves within the municipality of Benaoján are the Higuera Cave and the Alfaques Cave. The latter is located in the last northeastern foothills of the Sierra del Palo and it highlights its large entrance mouth with a width of more than 20 meters, after a gallery of 30 meters there is access to a large room whose ceiling starts with a chimney to a series of small galleries.

To get to know beyond the caves, Benaoján offers you different hiking routes through the different areas of the municipality, although some of these routes take you to these caves. This is the case of the Route Estación de Benaoján - Gato Cave that takes you to Gato Cave.

Two of the routes that pass through the municipality of Benaoján belong to two stages of the Great Path of Málaga, which connects municipalities through rural trails.

  • Stage 24, Ronda - Estación de Benaoján - It is a 12.8 km itinerary that begins in Ronda, going down to the base of the New Bridge, which is over the Ronda Gorge. Much of the trail runs parallel to the Guadalevín-Guadiaro river bed, where, near Estación de Benaoján, you can contemplate the underground waters that arise from inside the Gato Cave.
  • Stage 25, Estación de Benaoján - Jimera de Libar - A 9.3 km route, of great beauty that runs between holm oaks, gall oaks, poplars and ash trees along a path parallel to the railway line from Bobadilla to Algeciras and the River Guadiaro, in the one that is habitual to be able to contemplate the descent in kayak on its waters.

Of this last modality, there is a water route that you can do by canoeing, as well as by other modalities. A route that runs through the River Guadiaro, within the municipality of Benaoján and that goes from Estación de Benaoján to Estación de Jimera de Líbar. Once the River Guadiaro has received the waters of the River Guadares, which comes out of the Gato Cave, and the Cascajales Birth, sufficient water is guaranteed to navigate throughout the year. You can start the tour in a small dam known as “Charco de la Barranca”, at Estación de Benaoján. From this point on, the rapids, obstacles and narrowing of the river follow each other, always surrounded by lush riverside vegetation, until reaching the Canoeing Centre "Vagones de Jimera".

Another entertainment that Benaoján offers you is climbing, since it has a 90-meter via ferrata and a 70-meter drop. It is a short but demanding route, especially due to the strong extra lead that you will find in the first section. Another obstacle is the Tibetan bridge and, once you have overcome this one, you will not find any major obstacles until the end.

So that you can practice sports without having to leave the population centre, Benaoján has a municipal sport centre and a municipal swimming pool.

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Traditional festivities and celebrations in Benaoján

You will live the tradition of Serranía de Ronda, thanks to the opportunity that Benaoján gives you to enjoy different celebrations throughout the year.

The first celebration you will find on the Benaoján calendar is the St. Marcos Fair, a patron saint festival that takes place on April 25 and lasts for three days. Celebration that is celebrated with great devotion in the town and where the image of St. Marcos is taken out in procession, with a great rocket. It organizes activities of all kinds and tastings are offered, to the music and regional dances.

In summer, in late July or early August, the Train Open-air Dance takes place at Estación de Benaoján. This festivity commemorates the arrival of the railway to the town and for three days various activities, performances, dances are organized and chorizo and sangria are offered to all attendees free of charge. This party has become very popular both locally and regionally. During its celebration it is worth highlighting the Water Festival that takes place on Sunday as the final culmination.

In autumn, the Our Lady of the Rosary Fair, patron saint of Benaoján, is held on October 7. Parades and performances are organized in the town square, in addition to the traditional festival with music and dances that liven up the party.

Finally, in the month of December the Chacina Fair takes place, which aims to highlight the traditional industrial sector for the transformation of meat products that has existed in Benaoján for more than a hundred years and which supplies the markets nationwide and international. In it, different stands are set up where artisan products from Serranía de Ronda are exhibited and tasted, not only of cold cuts and sausages, but also honeys, sweets, breads, preserves and desserts.

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Gastronomy of Benaoján

As you have already seen, in Benaoján its famous sausages stand out above all as a result of the good breeding of pigs in unbeatable natural conditions.

This is something that has a tradition of more than one hundred years, in which the elaboration of pork sausages such as loin in butter or chorizo in wine is carried out, of high quality due to the raising of pig cattle among oaks.

Other specialties of Benaoján's cuisine are hot gazpacho and tasty rabbit with garlic.

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