FORGET New England in the fall. The transformation of the Genal Valley into the ‘Copper Forest’ every autumn is a mesmerising rite of passage for any visitor to the Costa del Sol.

Set in the southern reaches of the Serrania de Ronda, this hilly region is carpeted with horse chestnut trees that reach the apogee of the golden season in early December.

As the seasons turn, the slopes become blanketed in a palette of copper metal, ranging from deep browns to vibrant oranges and golds.

Take one of three or four turns west as you wind up the Ronda road from Marbella and you will soon find yourself on a journey like no other.

Many white-washed villages are dotted throughout the copper Genal Valley (COPYRIGHT Olive Press)
The Genal Valley is transformed into a copper forest each year (COPYRIGHT Olive Press)

The constant switchbacks trace the contours of the hills, frequently providing a balcony over breathtaking vistas of endless peaks and troughs. 

Drive deeper and you’ll reach one of the half dozen whitewashed villages dotted high up in this world.

It was back in the 15th century, when they were founded by Arab populations fleeing Christian armies after the fall of Ronda in 1485 and the whole Kingdom of Granada seven years later in 1492.

As the last Islamic stronghold in Iberia collapsed, thousands of Muslims relocated to the secluded, hidden valleys south of Ronda and also up around the Alpujarras and the Axarquia.

One of the many villages in the Genal Valley (COPYRIGHT Olive Press)
(COPYRIGHT Olive Press)
(COPYRIGHT Olive Press)
(COPYRIGHT Olive Press)
(COPYRIGHT Olive Press)
(COPYRIGHT Olive Press)
(COPYRIGHT Olive Press)

The Genal Valley provided a refuge from persecution, at least for a time.

Today, each village is a charming microcosm of a lost world, attracting mushroom hunters, hikers, photographers and couples seeking out a romantic bimble under the gold and ochre. 

The crisp mountain air and the friendly hospitality of the locals make it well worth taking the trip and spending a night, or at the very least, nearby in Ronda.

Stop for a tapa in Igualeja, venture further into the forest and enjoy a hot chocolate or coffee in Pujerra, and put on the hiking boots in Cartajima or Alpandeire. You’ll not regret it.

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