One of the three ships constructed as replicas to the famous vessels which Columbus commanded.
How to get there. The town is 100 km west of Seville and just 50 km from Portugal.
What to see. The replicas of the three ships that helped Columbus discover America.
Why go. For the stories and history behind the intrepid adventures that set off from the town’s docks.
La Rábida, in the municipality of Palos de la Frontera within the province of Huelva, is globally know as the birthplace of the discovery of America. From its port, on the 3rd of August 1492, the Pinta, the Nińa and the Santa Maria set sail with admiral Christopher Columbus, the Pinzón brothers and the sailors of Palos on board. Several centuries later, Palos was once again the scene of a great transatlantic adventure. In homage to the first journey, Palos was chosen as the starting point of a transatlantic adventure, this time via the skies. On the 22nd of January 1926, the Plus Ultra left the docks of Calzadilla to become the first flying boat to cross the Atlantic. Commander Ramón Ranco Bahamonde and Captain Julio Ruiz de Alda completed the innovative journey in seven stages with the pair finally finishing their journey in Buenos Aires.
The two feats have massively bolstered the development of the locality. In 1992, on the five hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America, it was decided that a reproduction of the vessels that took Columbus and his crew across the ocean should be created. The three ships formed part of the 1992 Universal Exposition of Seville and were amongst numerous expositions under the theme of ‘The Age of Discovery’. Finally, the Junta de Andalucía acquired the replicas and decided to commemorate the boats in La Rábida. Inaugurated in 1994, the site is managed by the local council and has become the third most visited place in Andalucía.
A visit to the town itself would not be complete without a tour of the town’s Columbus-related places of interest, with the monastery of La Rábida acting as the centre of such a tour. In was in this small Franciscan monastery that Columbus sought refuge before the start of his voyage. Its importance does not lie in its architecture nor in a rich art collection but in its significant part in one of the most important moments in Spanish history. This was recognised in 1856 when it became only the third place in Spain to be made a national monument.
Within range of La Rábida, a botanic park called José Celestino Mutis can also be found. Visitors can be visit the ever-increasing range of flowers within the park that have arrived from across five different continents. Also in Palos one can visit the parish church of San Jorge Mártir, which was declared a national monument in 1931. The ‘plaza’ in front of the church is where, in May 1942, Columbus gathered and recruited the sailors who would accompany him on his voyage. The church was built in a Gothic-Mudéjar style with the main part being constructed in the 15th century, although it is thought to have been built around an older building originating in the 14th century.
Columbus’s navigators, the Pinsón brothers, are also honoured in the town with their 15th century house being converted into a museum relatively recently. After acquiring the house, the town council of Palos de la Frontera, with the help of the Junta of Andalucía restored the house which currently has a permanent exhibition that tells the story of the two brothers and their involvement in the discovery of America.
Another remnant of this era is the house of the Misericordia which was formerly know as the Sangre Hospital. Sick sailors from the intrepid voyages were housed in the hospital which was restored by a municipality scheme headed by Vicente Yáńez Pinzón. Following its revival the house has become one of the most important monuments in the area.