Arenas is on the Mudéjar route. It is situated east of Vélez-Málaga at 416 metres, under the ruins of the Moorish Bentomiz Fortress whose origin goes back to the Iberian era. It was occupied and modified by the Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans and is considered one of the three most important Muslim bastions in the Axarquía along with the castles of Comares and Zalia. Today you can still find some dungeons, wall fragments and towers.
In 1487 King Ferdinand the Catholic set up camp here to prepare for the siege and subsequent conquest of Vélez-Málaga and the town became know as Arenas del Rey (Arenas of the King)
As you drive from Vélez-Málaga along the winding road the terrain is notably less rugged than in other parts of the region with gentle hills full of almonds, olives and vines and of course new white villas built by foreigners who have made this area their home. As you round the last bend there is now brand new gym equipment on the left hand side, to encourage the villagers to keep fit. At the entrance to the village the town hall stands proudly in front of you like a gateway, its flags fluttering in the breeze and as you round the corner you can park outside the bar on the left and sample its delightful cuisine, the menu del dia being particularly good. Walking up from the road there is a colourful plaque with pictures of Arenas’ most popular event, the Mule Fair which takes place in mid October and celebrates the animals virtues with branding and herding exhibitions as well as races, verdiales, food sampling and much more. From here flights of steps to the left and right lead to little squares with walls full of flowers and colourful pots. There are three distinct areas to the village, Barrio Alto where Blacksmiths, craftsmen and ceramists live, Barrio Bajo the more humble area and finally the Urban Centre with the 12th century church-mosque of Santa Catalina which was burnt to a cinder on the night of November 13th 1926 when a candle was left burning after a christening ceremony. The only part of the church that survived was the minaret but even that had to have a part removed because of the danger of it collapsing. The reconstruction took 4years from 1941 to 1944 and the church celebrated its 500th anniversary in 2005.