Zahara de la Sierra Castle
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The Climb to the Top of the Zahara de la Sierra Castle in Andalucía - 10 Things You Should Know!
So, it seems that the castle in Zahara de la Sierra played a big role in the Moors finally being pushed out of Andalucía, and Spain altogether.
A Little History...
It had been here where the Christians and the Moors battled over the village and control over the tower that was part of the western most border of the last Muslim Kingdom. It was in the perfect location between the great strongholds of Seville and Ronda, part of an elaborate communication system of watchtowers and castles that protected the region.
The Christians controlled Zahara from 1407 until 1481 but again lost the village to the Moors in another battle in 1481. 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 their capital of Granada.
The original castle was built in the 13th Century by the Muslims but later rebuilt in the 14th Century.
The Castle is opened 24 hours a day and is FREE of charge.
1. The Climb Starts in the Main Town Square
Once you've climbed up to the main town square, have a snack and a cold drink... because you have a lot higher to go!
Follow the main road, calle San Juan towards the big reddish church (Iglesia de Santa Maria de la Mesa). From here, stay to the left of the church and continue up the hill past a string of flower covered white-washed buildings on your left.
Meson Los Estribos, also on your left is another good place to stop for a bite to eat.
2. Great Photography Opportunities
I think I took more photos in Zahara de la Sierra than in any other village, mostly because of the outstanding views of the surrounding countryside and lakes around the Grazalema Mountains. There are also wonderful photography opportunities in the village itself with its classic white-washed homes and ancient buildings.
One of the best views of the Iglesia de Santa Maria de la Mesa is from behind, on your way up to the castle.
3. You Pass Through the Ancient Village Gate
Before you reach the entrance to the Castle grounds you will pass through what looks like two massive stone walls on either side of the road. This is actually all that is left of the old "Puerta de la Villa" or village gate.
At one time this gate looked more like a doorway with a large arch rounding out the top, but over the years it has crumbled and fallen off. The village tried to rebuild the arch at one point and even added a large clock in the middle, but it was again destroyed by French troops in 1812.
What you see today is partly original stonework that dates to the 15th century (bottom half) and partly restorative work that took place much later (18th century).
Hotel Al Lago - This is a great little boutique hotel right in the center of Zahara de la Sierra. It has balconies in all the rooms to enjoy the beautiful views of the surrounding Grazalema landscape.
Hotel Arco de la Villa - The best thing about this hotel is its location. It is located right on the main town square just feet from all the restaurants and bars.
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 had great food and was good value for the money. The hamburgers were very good for Spain.
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.
4. There are Remains of an Entire Nasrid Village
Just past the old "Puerta de la Villa" you will see the ruins of an ancient Nasrid village that resided just below the castle.
You can just make out the remains of several medieval houses and a well. The walls of the ancient city also start here and wrap around the town.
5. There is a Museum to Explain Everything...
Above the ruins you will see a hexagonal base that is all that is left of the first church in Zahara, the Antigua Iglesia Mayor which dates to the 15th century.
Walk behind the structure and you will find the entrance to the 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 these areas; Romans, Moors and Christians.
6. The Path up is Beautiful but Steep!
The entire path up to the highest point within the castle grounds is quite beautiful. It winds back and forth for about 15 minutes before you reach the top.
You must be careful while walking this bit as its rough terrain. There are loose and uneven rocks and the climb is again, steep.
Bring lots of water for this trek, especially in summer, and a good pair of walking shoes is recommended. And, don't forget to take lots of photos!
7. The Castle is Actually a Tower
What we all refer to as the Zahara Castle, looks a lot more like a tower. It is undeniably the most important landmark in town and the most photographed. It's known as the "Torre del Homenaje".
What you will find today dates to the 14th century, but it's known that the tower was built upon an even older structure (probably a watchtower) dating to the 8th century.
The castle sits 605 meters above sea level, and it measures 12m by 12.6m with rounded corners.
8. You Can Go Inside the Castle - A Room with a View
There is not much to the interior of the tower. There are two very narrow staircases that will allow you to climb to the second floor and then onto the upper terrace. The staircases are dark and there is no interior lighting so a flashlight (or cellphone) is needed to light the way.
Once you reach the top you will be rewarded with incredible views in all directions.
9. There is a Second Mirador at the Top
Just in front of the castle is yet another mirador. Walk directly out of the castle door and you will see a path below you heading out towards the giant rock that sits in front of the castle. There are wooden bridges that cross over the rocks and benches for resting and enjoying the views.
This is one of the best places to take more photos of the castle, with the beautiful Sierra de la Grazalema in the background.
10. The Views From the Top are Incredible
When you get to the top, this is what you will see... enough said!
Enjoy the hike!!
Other Important Information You Should Know About the Zahara de la Sierra Castle
1. 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
2. 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.
3. 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 just at the bottom of town that wraps around the front of the village. Its just 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.