The name Estepona, is derived from the Arab name Astabbuna and was undoubtedly a settlement site during Roman times and probably earlier judging by the finds made in the last century but the first written record of a town does not occur until the 10th century. For the next few hundred years the town was fought over until 1457 when it was finally taken and held by the Christians. They immediately set about demolishing and burning anything not destroyed in centuries of siege and fighting and then in 1458 started to build a church and castle around which the modern town of Estepona grew. By the 20th century Estepona was a village of about 9,000 farmers and fishermen and 50,000 goats and sows. Today the proportions are reversed with much of the town's revenue coming from tourism.
There is very little evidence of the mediaeval Estepona. A part of the castle wall is exposed and preserved behind the market, together with a rusty cannon that once upon a time sat on the battlements. The market itself has suffered from competition from the supermarkets in recent years but still has very good locally grown fresh vegetables and fish caught by local families. The clock tower that dominates this part of town is all that remains of the church that was completed in 1473. Outside of the town just a little way east of the Carrefour supermarket on the beach side of the road is a Roman water tank and well which, via an aqueduct, supplied water to the fertile valley to the west. The line of the aqueduct now disappears beneath a new development after a few metres. This town is no place for a historian. It is now, unashamedly, a modern town with plenty of shops, restaurants and bars busily burying its past beneath pedestrian precincts, urbanisations and hotels.
Esteponians have a lot to be proud of. The promenade that takes you from the port, right the way to the cliffs at the east end of town is, in any weather, a pleasurable walk with well laid out flower beds, water features, shade and numerous watering holes. If you take notice of the roundabouts and central reservations you will get the idea that Estepona has a thing about flowers. They are always in pristine condition with new bedding plants arriving even before the previous ones droop. The blue flag beach is kept in the same immaculate way.
A place not to be missed is the town's Museum of Palaeontology now housed in the bull ring at the west end of town. Pride of place goes to the 2000 or so fossils representing 600 species of flora and fauna dating back to the Pliocene era, all from the Estepona area. The collection is so complete that it is possible to see the evolutionary paths taken by individual species, even their original colouring is retained in some examples.
Other fossils are from Andalucia and the rest of the world and together show evolution as a whole from the earliest life forms to those of the present day, well almost. Scientists and enthusiasts from all over the world arrive here to study the exhibits. The museum is rightly considered to house one of the most important collections in Andalucia and Europe and is well worth a visit, only space prevents me eulogising.
The museum of bullfighting is also in the bullring. Whether you agree with the sport or not the museum presents a colourful spectacle. Of course the ring is still used for its original purpose and from the museum you can see the underground passages, doors and rope and pulley systems used to control the bulls. Very much like the gladiatorial pits beneath the Roman theatre at Medina.
A more modern setting for cultural events of all sorts is the magnificent Palacio de Exposiciones and Congresos. This building is set in attractive gardens on the other side of the road to the Roman aqueduct.
For those of an energetic nature the Centro Deportivo Jose Ramon de la Morena is a sport and fitness complex with, unusually for Spain, an undercover, full size swimming pool. Unfortunately it is not easy to find. Take the road from Carrefour towards Estepona. Turn right at the roundabout just before the promenade and then after about 200 metres, right again up Avenida de Toledo. The complex is up the hill on the left.
Finally, no visit to Estepona would be complete without seeing the port. It cannot yet rival Banus for glamour but it is a real, living part of the town. The local boats land their fish here in the mornings, many still using the traditional method of night fishing using lights to entice the fish. Even the floating gin palaces seem to move around more here. On Sundays there is a huge, colourful market and there are dozens of places to just sit, eat and drink and watch the spectacle.
© Nicholas Craig Nutter 2004 - 2012. Nick Nutter asserts his rights as the author of this article and all associated images. This article and images may not be copied or reproduced in any way without written permission of the author.