Approached from east or west Estepona glistens white against a sparkling sea. Gibraltar stands high on the horizon and the outline of Africa mountains loom to the south. A fine promenade, lined by palm trees and garlanded with flowers, runs the length of the town which was awarded a national prize for beauty by the Ministry of Information and Tourism. This is the legendary Salduba, the Muslim Estebbuna described as paradise ... an ideal spot of abundant delights.
Strict orders from the Major ensure that each year the town center is white washed, windows are repaired, and doors are wrought iron painted in time for summer visitors. The whitewash comes from limestone dug from Estepona’s mountains.
Estepona spreads over almost 132 million square meters of coast land and mountain, to the village of Genalguacil, Jubrique and Juzcar in the north, the Mediterranean in the south, Benahavis and Marbella in the east, and Casares in the west.
A variety of beaches, some with coral - span her 21.5 km's of coast. own at the harbour, fish is auctioned daily on the quayside: brill, hake, sandpiper, swordfish, lobster, octopus, squid, red mullet, anchovies and the famous sardines.
Estepona understands the importance of preserving her Andalusian character. Most of her buildings date back to last century and the town is a maze of un expectation, side-streets, squares and pretty patios. The charming San Francisco square at its entrance of the parish church of Estepona is a reminder that the church was once a Franciscan monastery.
While other resorts grew chiefly from tourism, Estepona's wealth was based on farming and fishing. Most inhabitants still farm a strip of land in their spare time. Rings outside town houses are used to tether mules and donkeys when they return with produce from the fields. Grass mats are laid through the sitting room and the beasts are led to back yard stables.
Each evening, while bars, clubs and restaurants swing into action, the homeward procession of animals reminds Estepona of her roots. A statue of a farmer and fisherman on the promenade pays tribute to the men who gave the town prosperity.Craftsmen still stitch the bright trappings for donkeys and mules. Others produce basketwork, woodwork, wrought ironwork, lace work and embroidery.
It is worth seeing the bustling co-operative society around five pm when fruits and vegetables are being auctioned for market next day. Here , the Ministry of Agriculture runs an Agrarian Extension where experiments are being carried out on the growth of tropical fruits in the area. Anyone may go for free expert advice on gardening.Outside the Co-operative is the start of the mountain road which will eventually join Estepona with Ronda. To date, it climbs 15 km's through beautiful pine woods, hunting reserves and past bubbling springs to Peñas Blanca at 980metres.
From here a firm, wide track continues 4.5 km to a refuge just below the 1.500 meter peak of the Sierra Bermeja, the Red Ginger Mountain, rich in iron oxide. On the north-facing slopes grow 9.000 of the beautiful and rare Abies Pinsapo silver fir trees, now under protection of Icona. Spain's Institute for the Conservation of Nature. Estepona and two other spots in the Serrania de Ronda are the only places in the world where they can be found.The oldest trees are estimated to be around 300 years. Icona has made a walk through the pines and built the refuge where visitors may barbecue or picnic. At weekends, excellent local food is served. From the summit is an impressive panorama of the Costa del Sol, African mountains, Gibraltar and most of the Ronda villages.
Little is known about the history of Estepona town; records were lost in the Civil War. Ancient Estepona was probably begun by the PhoeniciansMuslim.
Estepona fell around 1457 in a raid ordered by King Henry IV of Castille. It seems only the ruins of the castle remained. The king ordered the castle to be rebuilt as protection from attack by Moroccan pirates, and the new Estepona grew. Walls of the castle still stand in Castillo Street (behind the market in the centre of Estepona) and the castle appears in the town's coat of arms.
Another relic of that era is the 22 metre tower Clock (today a clock tower overlooking the market and surrounded by a school) which was part of the church, ordered to be built in 1474 by Henry IV. Later, Joan the Mad subjected Estepona to Marbella. Finally, in 1729 Estepona, with some 600 inhabitants, was given her independence by King Philip V in his Villasgo Letter, still kept in the Town Hall.
Today, the population is over 75.000. Legends make up for lack of history. There is the tale of 'TheBride's Leap' - the unwilling bride who escaped moments before her marriage, put on her most beautiful jewels and, before the entire wedding party, leapt to her death - possibly from Punta de la Doncella, by the harbour lighthouse.
History of natural phenomena include one of the worst earth tremors on the Andalusian coast, November 1755, and a cyclone in 1955 which flattened a 100-year-old palm in the cemetery and destroyed the best pear orchard in town. Co-operative or not, Estepona has not had such good pears since.
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