Zahara de la Sierra
Top 2022 Guide
Zahara de la Sierra, A Peublo Blanco in Cádiz
And, the Top TEN Things You Should Know!
Zahara de la Sierra, in a word... WOW! This village is like something out of a fairytale. Of all the “pueblos blancos” we visited around Ronda, this was definitely the most visually stunning on approach.
The Gastor lake, that lies just beneath the town, looks like a turquoise moat from the distance... protecting the little village on all sides. The town itself sits upon a large rock and its steeply sloping streets climb up towards the castle at the top. The castle, dating to the 13th century, sits at the highest point, looming over this Medieval village and enjoying the most INCREDIBLE views of the Sierra de la Grazalema countryside.
Check out the other White villages: Grazalema - Olvera - Setenil de las Bodegas
** The Zahara Castle - Zahara de la Sierra, Spain
Explore the Fairytale Village of Zahara de la Sierra!
Contents on This Page
- Where is Zahara de la Sierra?
- A Little History...
- Best Places to Stay in Zahara
- Best Places to Eat in Zahara
- Top 10 Most Interesting Facts!
- Best Recommended "White Villages" Tours
- "Prettiest Villages in Spain" ➜ Winner
- Route of the Famous "Pueblos Blancos"
- Distances Between Towns & Zahara
- Best Time to Visit Zahara de la Sierra
- Zahara de la Sierra's Gastronomy
- Zahara de la Sierra's Fiestas
- How to Arrive
Where is Zahara de la Sierra?Zahara de la Sierra sits in the nortnern-most part of the Province of Cádiz, in Andalucia. It is also located in the gorgeous Grazalema Natural Park and just a 40-minute (36.4 km) drive from the famous white village of Ronda.
A Little History...
The first thing that you should know, is that Zahara de la Sierra played a HUGE role in the Moors finally being pushed out of Andalucía... and Spain altogether...
It was in Zahara where the Christians and the Moors battled over final control of this tower that was part of the western border of the last Muslim Kingdom. The tower was perfectly positioned between the great strongholds of Seville and Ronda and part of an elaborate communication system of watchtowers and castles that protected the region.
** Zahara Castle Details - Zahara de la Sierra, Spain
The Christians controlled Zahara from 1407 until 1481 when they lost the village again after a vicious battle with the Moors. It was this defeat that so angered King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel that it led them to attack and finally conquer the Moors soon after in the capital of Granada.
The original Zahara castle was built in the 13th Century by the Muslims... but later rebuilt in the 14th Century.
The Castle is open 24 hours a day and is FREE of charge.
Best Hotels in Zahara de la SierraMany people that visit Zahara prefer to stay in nearby Ronda, which is the largest of the pueblos blancos, it's just 39-minutes (36km) to the north. You can find great Ronda hotels here.
That being said, Zahara de la Sierra does have two great hotel choices as well as villa rentals with spectacular views.
Best Restaurants in Zahara de la Sierra
Al Lago - Located at the bottom of town with a terrace and beautiful views of the lake you will find this lovely Mediterranean style restaurant.
El Gallo - Located just along the main street (Calle San Juan) in the old town, this restaurant has great food and was good value for the money. The hamburgers were excellent!
Meson Los Estribos - Calle el Fuerte 3, this is a great little restaurant just opposite the church on the way up to the castle. The views are amazing, and they have a lot of homemade local dishes.
The Top 10 Things About Zahara You Should Know...
1. The Surrounding Countryside is Exquisite
Before we even get to the town itself, let's talk about the Sierra de la Grazalema. Spain is known for the beauty of its national parks but this whole area is just breathtaking.
You will find this park in the northeastern part of the province of Cádiz in southern Spain. The park is large and encompasses, within its 51,695 hectares (127,740 acres), numerous mountain ranges, beautiful lush valleys, caves, large farms full of happily grazing critters, and about 15 medieval white villages.
The terrain in this area changes dramatically from one town to the next. Leaving the village of Grazalema the countryside is blanketed in pretty farms and soaring mountains. As you get closer to Zahara de la Sierra the land gets a bit drier, the mountains a bit higher, and exquisite turquoise lakes dot the horizon.
2. Zahara de la Sierra is Exceptionally Steep!
If our first impression of Zahara de la Sierra was, WOW! I would say our second was, "Holy Cow, this place is STEEP!".
We parked at the bottom of town where there is a large parking area. From there the walk up to the main plaza took about 15-minutes of straight uphill climbing. Now, I'm in pretty good shape but when you have 80-year-old women passing you... with canes... you know you're in trouble!
** Old Town Streets - Zahara de la Sierra, Spain
If you're not up for the hike, you can also drive into the old town. The streets are winding and narrow and parking is limited, so be ready. Luckily there is a one-way route that will take you through the center and back down the other side. There is also a small parking lot just across from the entrance to the castle.
3. There is a nice little Old Town Square
We really enjoyed walking through the old town streets of Zahara. The town is very clean and pretty with lots of little shops and restaurants.
The main street, Calle San Juan, is flanked on either end by two churches (Iglesia de Santa Maria de la Mesa and Capilla San Juan de Letran), smaller streets branch off in every direction. Around the larger of the two churches, you will also find the Ayuntamiento (town hall) and the tourist office.
This is a great place to buy souvenirs or gifts. Many of the small shops sell locally made specialty items like wines, chocolates, and pastries.
4. There are two Churches and they are both Charming
** Capilla San Juan de Letran - Zahara de la Sierra, Spain
On one end of Calle San Juan you will find the Chapel by the same name, Capilla San Juan de Letran, which was built in the 20th century. The clock tower attached is from the 16th century.
5. You Can Visit Iglesia de Santa Maria de la Mesa and the Parish Museum
If you keep walking through Zahara de la Sierra towards the castle, you will find the second and largest of the two churches. The Iglesia de Santa Maria de la Mesa was built into the rock of the ancient village in the 18th century.
The parish museum is located just inside the church. Admission is free but small donations are appreciated.
** Iglesia de Santa Maria de la Mesa - Zahara de la Sierra, Spain
6. You Can See the Remains of an Entire Nasrid Village
Continue walking past the Santa Maria church on the left-hand side. The road will become quite steep and bring you to the entrance to the castle. Take the path on the right-hand side and you will see the ruins of the ancient Nasrid village.
Today, the remains of several medieval houses and a well can still be seen. There is also a large hexagonal base which is all that remains of the first church in Zahara, the Antigua Iglesia Mayor, which dates to the 15th century.
7. There is an Interpretation Center to Explain Everything!
Just past the ruins on the way up to the castle there is an interpretation museum that is built into what remains of the ancient church.
The museum is open most days and is a great way to learn about the civilizations that once lived in the area.
Plus, it's a nice place to take a break from the steep climb and take in some of the breathtaking views!!
8. And, There's a Castle!
Congratulations! You've made it to the top! And, I'll let you be the judge of whether the views are worth it...
The Castle of Zahara de la Sierra is more like a tower, it's called the Torre del Homenaje and it was built in the 15th century at 605m above sea level. The tower is square-shaped and measures 12m by 12.6m with rounded corners.
There is not much to the interior of the tower but there is a narrow staircase that will take you to the second level (as if you need another climb). This is as high as one can get in Zahara and you will be rewarded with amazing views in every direction.
For more information and photos, read our Climbing the Castle of Zahara de la Sierra guide.
9. Zahara de la Sierra is Part of the 'Pueblos Blancos' Route near Ronda
Ronda is a very popular tourist destination in southern Spain but what many people don't realize is that Ronda is just one of many pretty villages in the Sierra de la Grazalema National Park.
There are about 15 other gorgeous white villages (pueblos blancos) that you can visit, all within a short drive from Ronda.
** View from the Castle with another white village (Algodonales) in the distance
You can either rent a car and drive to each of these little towns or take one of the many tours that leave from Ronda or Seville. Most of these towns are small and can easily be visited in a day. You could also spend days or even weeks exploring this part of Andalucía... staying overnight in the smaller towns.
10. Your Kids Will Have a Blast Too!
OK! Once they get over the fact that you just made them hike to the top of this random village in the middle of nowhere... they will love what comes next...
If you have some extra time, there are a few fun things your kids can do outside the village of Zahara de la Sierra...
- La Playita - This is an artificial beach that was created not far from the village where you can spend the entire day. Your kids will love the tree-top park that was installed above the beach. This recreational area is only open during the summer months but it's a big hit with the kids. There are bar-be-que areas, a restaurant, and kayaking has also become quite popular here.
- La Garganta Verde - If your kids aren't too tired of hiking yet, this is a great hike through the "Arroyo del Pinar River" canyon. The hike takes approximately 2 hours through the gorge but you will enjoy spectacular views of the gorge throughout the walk. You must first obtain permission from the park visitors' center in El Bosque.
- Recreational Area in the Reservoir - Embalse de Zahara - el Gastor - Just in front and below the village you will find a second small recreational area. This has been a great success for Zahara because it has increased summer tourism to the area.
Tourist Office of Zahara de la Sierra
Oficina de Información Turística - 956 123 114
Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) - Plaza del Rey, 1 - 956 123 004
Taxis - 956 123 109 or 656 989 402
BEST Recommended Tours to the "Pueblos Blancos" Including Zahara de la Sierra
More Information About Zahara de la Sierra
1. Zahara de la Sierra has been Chosen as One of the "Prettiest Villages in Spain":
Zahara de la Sierra has been chosen by the Association of The Most Beautiful Villages in Spain as one of the most beautiful villages in the Cádiz province.
We highly recommend visiting these amazing villages while you're in the area.
2. Zahara de la Sierra is one of the Famous Villages on the "Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos"
The White Towns of Andalusia, or Pueblos Blancos, are a series of towns and large villages in the northern part of the provinces of Cádiz in southern Spain, many within the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park.
Other villages on this route are: Casares, Grazalema, Mijas Pueblo, Villaluenga del Rosario, Benaocaz, Ubrique, Benamahoma, El Bosque, Prado del Rey, Puerto Serrano, Algodonales, El Gastor, Setenil de las Bodegas, Alcalá del Valle, Torre Alhaquime, Olvera, Arcos de la Frontera, Algar, Espera, Bornos and Villamartín, Vejer de la Frontera and Frigiliana.
3. Distances to Other Important Towns:
Larger Cities / Towns
Malaga: 139 km
Cádiz: 120 km
Sevilla: 105 km
Ronda: 32 km
Other Smaller White Villages
Jerez de la Frontera: 81 km
Villamartín: 31 km
Olvera: 28 km
Grazalema: 20 km
Algodonales: 9 km
4. When is the Best Time to Come
- During the months of April, May and October you are most likely to experience good weather with pleasant average temperatures that fall between 20 degrees Celsius (68°F) and 25 degrees Celsius (77°F).
- On average, the warmest month(s) are July and August, with July being the hottest.
- The months of January, February, March, April, August, September and October have a high chance of precipitation, with November being the wettest.
- On average, the coolest month is January.
- June is the driest month.
The important local and customary foods of Zahara de la Sierra are: porridges, omelets, asparagus stews, Swiss chards with chickpeas, “sopa hervía” (with garlic, asparagus, bread, oil and salt) or “sopa tostá”, tomato soup, cold meats (especially salami and other pork products), quince jelly, and different varieties of olives.
In June, the people of Zahara celebrate the holiday of Corpus Christi like no other. All of the locals get together and decorate the fronts of their houses with sticks and branches and other natural elements to make them look like they are a part of the Grazalema countryside. The event has become so popular that is has been declared an event of "National Tourist Interest".
7. How To Arrive
There are two ways to enter the town of Zahara de la Sierra. The first is to take the A382 road, which links Arcos de la Frontera with Antequera, and the second is the A376 from Seville to Ronda.
There is a parking area at the bottom of town that wraps around the front of the village. Its across from the entrance to the town and where you would start your climb.
If you drive into town, there is a road that goes one-way through the town square and up the hill towards the castle. There is a small parking area just opposite the entrance to the castle grounds.