Castle of Zahara de la Sierra, Spain

Ronda Castle

Castillo de Zahara de la Sierra in Andalucia, Spain

Andalucia is a dry, sunburnt land in the south of Spain. The region is among Spain’s largest and most populous regions, with small communities spread out over a blanket of brown hills, jagged mountains and rolling fields. Many such communities are part of the Pueblos blancos or ‘white villages’ of Andalucia, picture-perfect villages beloved by tourists. This particular pueblo blanco, Zahara de la Sierra, is tucked away in the Sierra Nevada mountains and overlooked by the Castillo de Zahara de la Sierra. The castle dates back to the Moorish era of Spain. During the early Middle Ages, Spain was inhabited by the Moors, broadly defined as muslims originally from the Maghreb living in southern Europe, who greatly influenced Spanish art and architecture and even language (Andalucia, for example, comes from Al-Andalus) until finally being driven out completely by the 1490s. Very little remains of this once-impressive fortification in the village of Zahara. Today, all that’s left are the vestiges of a few walls and a signal tower, which, once climbed, will provide stunning views of the cheery white-washed walls and orange roofs of Zahara, the azure waters of the local reservoir, the sun-kissed chocolate-coloured fields hugging the village, all the way out to other nearby villages. Though beautiful, it is evident to see why this may not always have been an easy place to live. The castle, and the village below it, is carved into a rugged, rocky outcrop, with heights ranging from 300m to 1100m, and the village’s name “zahara” comes from “sahra” meaning desert. The seemingly-romantic sun-kissed fields, rocky outcrops and windswept panoramas may be seem idyllic today, but life in such a dry and remote place (it’s 100 km from the sea after all) wouldn’t always have been so perfect!


Pro tip: There’s a lovely wee restaurant with a comfortable terrace perfect for people-watching called El Rincon De La Ermita


 More Places to Visit in Spain’s Countryside


 

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Xàtiva, Spain

Xativa

Mudéjar architecture near Xàtiva, Spain.

Buildings such as this one were created by the Moors who remained in Spain after the Reconquista and the eventual rise of Christianity. The Moors dramatically changed the previously-dominant Iberian art and architecture. New buildings were often influenced by Islamic art, making tiles and mosaics and patterns became more popular, and creating a new style called Mudéjar architecture. From 760-1300, the Moors, originally from northern Africa, slowly gained then lost a foothold in Spain. The last of them were driven out, killed or converted by the Spanish Inquisition in the late 1400s. However, even though the Moors themselves have gone, many of the beautiful buildings they left behind still exist today in the Communidad Valencia, centred around the town of Teruel.