From its commanding position in the Guadalhorce valley, Alora has been of strategic importance to the civilisations that passed though it. Today it is a peaceful town offering a typical Spanish way of life to its residents.
Alora is located 40 km north of Malaga on the road to Antequera. It is a whitewashed village nestled between three rocky spurs topped by the ruins of a magnificent castle, which has an interesting history. Alora's castle was first built by the Phoenicians and subsequently expanded under Roman rule. In the 5th century the castle was virtually destroyed by the Visigoths, only to be rebuilt under the Moors. Remnants of this era still remain, namely in the decorative steel door and the traditional Arab mirador.
Between 1587 and 1593 Alora was home to Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote. Its other claim to fame is that Alora is said to be the birthplace of Malagueño flamenco.
A visit to the village, which consists of a series of very steep slopes and attractive cobbled streets, is well worthwhile. The whitewashed streets are lined with lemon trees and converge on a square on the lowest level, overlooked by the impressive seventeenth century church of La Encarnación which was built during the Catholic era on the site of a former mosque.
From the square, climb to the castle on foot, or go by car, to the cemetery from where you can enjoy the splendid panorama of the Guadalhorce river basin. Among the tombs there is a small Gothic chapel.
Monday is market day when the village becomes a lively mass of stallholders and shoppers. Alora's economy is based on agriculture, in particular the cultivation of tropical fruits, olives and grape vines.
Castanets are just one of the handcrafted items that are made in Alora and are one of the most typical instruments used for the traditional dance of the verdiales.
Alora's main fiesta is the Flamenco festival that is held annually in June. Another popular traditional event is the Romeria de la Virgen de las Flores that takes place in the middle of September and is one of the best places to enjoy, first-hand, the traditional verdiales.
Within the town boundary, at a spot known as Hoyo del Conde, prehistoric remains are to be found.
The Turdetans and, later, the Phoenicians found the Guadalhorce Valley the ideal place to set up colonies to exploit the natural riches of the plains. These would also become strategic locations on the routes leading inland. Phoenician settlers laid the foundations of Alora Castle. In Roman times, it was known as Iluro, while the Arabs called it Alura.
Alora was an important Roman town between 81 andl 96 A.D. The town, linked to the Roman region of Betica, was, according to the historian Columela, an important trading centre for wheat, barley, honey, wine and oil, all obtained from the area's land. Its prosperity was such that Alora even minted its own coins.
The Vandals conquered it in the 5th century. Remains from the Visigoth period can be found in the fortress located atop Las Torres mount.
During the Moslem occupation, owing to its strategic location -the castle overlooks the whole of the Malaga basin- it was besieged by the Christian kings on numerous occasions. Its reputation as an impregnable fortress gave rise to one of the most beautiful of the frontier ballads: the Ballad of Alora, which refers to the town as "the well besieged" and which can be seen reproduced on a tablet embedded in the castle walls.
The town finally fell into Christian hands on 10 June 1484. Captain Don Luis Fernandez Portocarrero led the attacking troops, who bore the banner of the Catholic Monarchs.
A decree issued by Philip IV in 1628 saw Alora cease to belong to the city of Malaga "for evermore", according to the exact wording of the document. An earthquake left the original church in ruins in 1680, as well as destroying the older districts of the town.
The castle, witness to so many deaths in attempts to capture and defend it, later became the town cemetery.
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