Doorways in Zahara de la Sierra, Spain

ronda door

Doorways in Zahara de la Sierra, Spain

Andalucia is a region full of adorable white villages, chocolate-coloured fields and rugged landscapes. There are dramatic castles and sun-kissed farmlands basking under the brilliant Spanish light. Around each bend, there is something beautiful and heart-throbbing. One such place is the little hilltop village of Zahara de la Sierra. Tiny alleyways wind their way around the natural rock face. Quaint houses are painted white and framed with wrought iron lamps and pots bursting with colourful flowers. Intricate doorways frame picturesque steps that lead the wayward traveller up the hill towards the castle. And yet, what we think as quintessentially Spanish was actually brought here by the Moors. Though the Al-Andalus tribes left some 500 years ago, the mark they left is ever-present and has embedded itself literally into the fabric of Spain – or at least its architecture. Moorish architecture – married with Spanish creativity – is what inspired this doorway – just as it was that constructed the beautiful Teruel Cathedral or Cervantes’ birthplace (Alcalá de Heneres). Even more famously, Moorish design is what makes Andalucia’s most famous sites so unique in the world – Sevilla, Grenada, Cordoba. From big cities to tiny villages, Andalucia – and Spain in general – is full of hidden gems like this little doorway and alley, if only you set out to explore them.


Pro tip: Malaga might be Andalucia’s most convenient airport to arrive in the region, but spend as little time in Malaga and as much time in the rest Andalucia as you can. The beaches are meant to be nice (and are where most visitors want to go) but unless you love overcrowded sandy places that look the same as overcrowded sandy places anywhere else in the world, leave the coast behind and head inland for off the beaten path wonders like this one. Ronda is a great jumping-off point to explore the region.



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Zahara de la Sierra, Spain

Zahara

Zahara de la Sierra, Spain

So-named because those mountains in the distance are the original Sierra Nevadas (before America stole that name too), pretty little Zahara is considered to be on the pueblos blancos or “white towns” that form a belt across the Spanish region of Andalusia.  Recommended to us by the locals as “one of the prettiest places you’ll ever see,” this photo is taken from a balcony in a house at the top of the mountain that is town. This could’ve been our home-away-from-home (if we’d bought the flat that came along with it) but alas, I’ll have to be content with the pictures. This lake is actually man-made (from a dam). The town was originally a Moorish outpost when it was still controlled by the Moors, and they built this castle atop the hill to protect the route between Ronda and Sevilla. It’s gorgeous!