GRAB your broomstick, don your witches hat, it’s time to fly up to the bewitching mountain village of Soportujar.
The village, in the heart of the Alpujarra region, is rapidly becoming known as Spain’s village of spooky vibes.
A sort of theme park based on ‘brujas’ (witches), the idea was cooked up by Soportujar’s councillors in 2006 to encourage tourism.
Starting with a witch cave and fountain, they could never have imagined its runaway success, now competing with the likes of Malaga’s smurf town, Juzcar, or the outdoor art destination of Genalguacil.
The name Soportujar means ‘place of arcades’ and refers to the overhanging passages and walkways (the tinaos) typical of La Alpujarra.
But it also gained a reference to witchcraft during the 16th century, after the expulsion of the Moors, when King Felipe II repopulated the village with families from the north of Spain – mostly Asturias and Galicia.
According to legend, these families brought their pagan customs, which included holding witches’ meetings, leading to them being branded ‘sorcerers’.
It was out of this that the village, with a population of 270 souls, decided to launch its first Feria del Embrujo (bewitching fair) in 2009.
Celebrated in August, it attracts up to 20,000 visitors, while the village usually pulls in around 6,000 visitors weekly.
Today, they flock in to visit a serpent emerging from a wall, a Hansel & Gretel house, and an effigy of a female witch, Baba Yagá. The bizarre small house perched on huge chicken legs is something special for visitors.
“It has definitely created a real tourism hub, which saw us expanding from three businesses in 2017 to 26 in 2022,” explained Jesus Martin of Soportujar town hall.
The locals, however, are generally pleased that the project has helped stem a trend which had seen the village haemorrhaging its population for decades.
The initiative has encouraged 30 new people to move to the village and combats an ageing population with few school children.
Yolanda Lemos, of La Cantina del Dragon restaurant, added: “My restaurant was born out of it. I started with a small store and ended up buying the house and expanding the business into a restaurant.
“It’s great that the population has stopped declining, many jobs have been created, and there’s now hope that the school won’t close. It has allowed the village to remain alive, and young people have decided to live and work here.”
Jose Antonio Alvarez, who runs El Manjar Brujo souvenir shop, added: “It’s great for me, as I have a location where many people walk past and there’s a lot of trade.”
And now the town has even bigger plans for next year with some large, necessary infrastructure projects.
Says Jesus Martin: “By 2023, big change is expected, with 1.7 million euros for infrastructure improvements, such as better parking and better enhancement of the natural environment. Residents already enjoy a new gym and a swimming pool and more is to come.
“Most residents are happy to see their village full of people. Little by little, they are accepting that tourism is the new future of Soportújar.”