El Acebuchal Frigiliana : Walking To The Stunning Lost Village

Created by Colleen Sims | Updated : 14 January 2024 |

The locals call us swallows. We fly down south in winter for the sunshine and head north again to France in spring; I think it’s a fair description.

Our son lives in Southern Spain and for many years we have travelled from our home in France and spent a few months near the stunning little village of Frigiliana. The village is in the beautiful Axarquia region, east of Malaga.

Acebuchal Frigiliana are both whitewashed villages like this with narrow streets and brightly painted doors and windows and lots of potted plants

Where is Frigiliana?

Nestled in the foothills of the Sierras de Tejeda, Frigiliana is a quintessential whitewashed village, tumbling down the hillside with views of the blue, blue Mediterranean Sea below. 

The village is one of Spain’s more famous Pueblos Blancos and considered by many to be the pueblo más bonito de España; the most beautiful village in Spain.

The old town of Frigiliana is visited by tourists from around the globe.  In summer the town is lively but in winter the roads are quieter and come late afternoon we feel that we have the entire village to ourselves and a few other swallows and locals.

If you’d like to experience a winter in southern Spain, the village offers plenty of winter apartments and it’s a wonderful base for exploring other areas of Andalucía.  We’ve explored Granada, Ronda, and Marbella on day trips and closer to home you have beaches and villages a-plenty to explore.

images of Acebuchal and Frigiliana, whitewashed villages under a blue sky

Where is Acebuchal?

We love Axarquia.  It offers a lot but it’s quieter than its Costal Del Sol sister.  Nerja and Malaga are an easy bus ride away but what we love most is that the region is a hikers wonderland.  One such hike is the walk to Acebuchal from Frigiliana; it was perfect for my camino training too.

El Acebuchal is part of the municipality of Cómpeta but because it’s just a few kilometres higher up from Frigiliana, many people assume it’s part of that community.  Acebuchal is know as the ghost or the lost village and we first discovered it when we rented a beautiful little villa in the hills above Frigiliana. 

view from the top of frigiliana looking back over the village and the hills and the distant sea

Acebuchal History : Why It Became A Ghost Village

The name comes from the Arabic ‘acebuche’ meaning wild olive tree.  Records confirm its existence from 1569 but the settlement is much older. Archaeological finds indicate the presence of Iberians, along with coins from the Roman period and of course traces of Moorish history. 

There is little remaining from those days but a short distance from Acebuchal is the 11th century Hermitage of Calixto, believed to belong to Mozarab Christians who lived in Al-Andalus between 711 and 1492.

Acebuchal was an important staging post for trade between the provinces of Málaga and Granada. Travellers would pause on their journeys and arrieros (mule drivers) would rest their animals here before continuing on through the night to their destinations.

El Acebuchal’s history ended abruptly during the years following the Spanish civil war.  Although Franco had won the Civil War eight years previously, there were still pockets of resistance. Frigiliana was quickly overrun by Franco’s troops by February 1937 but the authorities suspected that the resistance continued to receive support from Acebuchal.   

In 1948 it was decided that all the citizens of this tiny village must leave and the Guardia Civil forced the villagers from their homes.  Acebuchal was abandoned. It fell into ruin and became known locally as el Pueblo el Fantasmas; the village of ghosts.

Acebuchal lay undisturbed until 1998, when a couple with family links to the village decided to attempt restoration.  Virtudes, and her husband, Antonio bought several houses and the tavern (which by then were just piles of rubble). They used the foundations of old buildings and photos taken before the war to help them to restore the village to its former glory.

Their effort attracted other former residents and today, all 36 houses, the chapel, the tavern and even the cobblestone streets have been restored. And WOW what a beautiful little slice of Andalusia this village is.

tiny village of acebuchal from the trail.  white houses with brightly painted doors and windows

Acebuchal Frigiliana Hike

We walked to Acebuchal from Frigiliana.  It’s an easy trail in terms of terrain and finding your way but there is a lot of elevation heading up off the road.  Also there really is very little trail and for a large part, the hike is along the road.  For this reason many folks prefer to drive.

The hike is 13kms in total, it’s not a loop but a there and back hike.  We did manage to find a loop but it wasn’t obvious or as well marked so unless you’re happy going off piste and use GPS maps we would recommend the ‘there and back’ option.

You’ll gain around 500m in elevation from Frigiliana so it will get your blood pumping but the views on the way up are glorious and after lunch the trail back is all downhill!  

acebuchal frigiliana trail showing distance and elevation

Lunch at El Acebuchal Restaurante

You will 100% want to reserve a table for you lunch.  We have always chosen the menu del dia at El Acebuchal Restaurante. The food is amazing, they bake their own bread (Gerry tells me it’s glorious) and they serve it with fabulously peppery local Andalusian olive oil.

Trust us this restaurant is wonderful.  But do book ahead as it’s popular.

You’ll also want to allow time to explore the tiny village.  There are a few shops selling souvenirs,  we also purchased local jams and honey and they are renowned for making goats cheese. 

Make time for Acebuchal and Frigiliana

El Acebuchal is a stunning little village.  It’s tiny and its history simply adds to it’s appeal.  We loved the hike from Frigiliana but you can also take a car or join a small tour

If you are visiting the area then make sure you allow time for a visit.  Enjoy your lunch looking out at the view from El Acebuchal and savour this little slice of Andalusian heaven.

Where to Stay in Acebuchal and Frigiliana

We’ve visited and stayed in this area for many many months over several years.   We know and love the region and we can personally recommend the following options for accommodation in Acebuchal and Frigiliana.

Top Tip : I know that a lot of people use booking.com when searching for accommodation; us included. But when we’re looking for rental apartments and villas our first port of call is VRBO. We’ve used them for decades and have always been happy.

images from the acebuchal frigiliana trail.  The last few kilometres are forest trail and mountain views

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

Whenever you travel, you should have a great travel and medical insurance policy.  None of us expect anything bad to happen, but in the event of an incident, you want to be sure that your insurance will be there for you.

I’ve ended up in hospital in Peru, Indonesia, Portugal, Japan and Ireland! Every time my insurance took care of everything. I would never leave home without full and comprehensive insurance.

TrueTraveller : We have this policy and we are very happy with the cover, especially considering our ages and pre-existing conditions.

Globelink : We have used and recommended Globelink for years and we’ve not heard of any issues. They are a great choice for European and UK Residents.

Safety Wing : Many of my travelling buddies from the USA have recommended this company to me, although we’ve not used them personally.

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Colleen in Salamanca on the Via de la Plata

Hey I’m Colleen. I’m married to Gerry, we’ve three fabulous kids and been living in France for almost two decades. I fell in love with Spain in the 1980s and I’ve walked 1000s of miles along the Camino de Santiago. Now we’re exploring and walking the world and I can’t wait to share what we’ve learned!

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