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The castle atop the village of Zahara de la Sierra.
These are the most spectacular castles in Andalucía's Cadiz province, according to National Geographic
Tourism

These are the most spectacular castles in Andalucía's Cadiz province, according to National Geographic

Olvera, Castellar, El Puerto, Jerez, Sanlúcar, Zahara... just a few of the most interesting fortresses according to the esteemed publication

LA VOZ

Cádiz

Wednesday, 29 May 2024, 20:55

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The history of Cadiz in Andalucía dates back to the time of the Phoenicians, the civilisation that founded the first cities along the coastline of this province 3,000 years ago. From then on life took shape in the area with the likes of the Greeks, Romans, Visigoths and the Moors following one after the other, culminating in the so-called Christian Reconquest.

It was precisely during this period of constant battles between the Catholic landed gentry and the followers of Mohammed that numerous fortresses were built in the borderlands. This is why Cadiz is a land of castles.

The prestigious National Geographic magazine has chosen these 11 castles as the most impressive to go visit in the province of Cadiz.

Olvera

It stands out for its location, on the top of a large, rocky crag, dominating the whole horizon and with the best views of the Sierra de Cádiz. The castle was built at the end of the 12th century and formed part of the defensive system of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada.

It is perched on a rock at the highest point of the town, and has an irregular floor plan in the shape of an elongated triangle that moulds to the shape of the rock itself. Its entranceway is protected by a barbican (fortified gatehouse) and crowned with a shield. The fortress also has a keep, a stretch of wall with a walkway, two towers, an underground enclosure and a well in the north tower.

It is a symbol of the town, together with the church. Completely rebuilt, it can be visited for a modest price (2 euros) especially considering the magnificent views it affords of the area.

Jimena de la Frontera

Another castle that is a product of the battles between Christians and Muslims in the Middle Ages. Jimena de la Frontera even has the term of frontier in its name. It was regarded as a strategic location and the fortress is one of the last vestiges of the Nasrid kingdom.

At the top of the hill, as always, it constituted a defensive element of vital importance on the south-western border of the Nasrid kingdom, which joined Castellar de la Frontera to the south and Tavizna (Benaocaz) to the north.

Built on the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Oba, an important point on the road between Cordoba and what was then known as Carteia (on the coast above modern-day Algeciras), the castle consists of an irregular, walled enclosure that surrounded the old town, covering an extensive and elongated area that was well-adapted to the flat terrain of the hilltop.

Its interior has been taken apart and is now partly occupied by the town's cemetery. The gateway to the Patio de Armas is still intact and is articulated in structure with two pointed horseshoe arches pinned together.The upper gate can operate independently of the lower one when under attack. The lower gate still has some remains of its old painted decoration based on geometric motifs. This gate is protected by a rectangular tower known as the Clock Tower. Among the ashlars of this complex are two part-columns and a base for a statue of Roman origin. The castle was taken from the Muslims in 1431, then recaptured by them in 1454, holding on until 1456 when it was definitively taken by the Christian forces under the command of Enrique IV. The castle was later sold to the Duke of Medina-Sidonia, Enrique de Guzmán, in 1471 to manage its defence and upkeep.

The whole complex dates back to the 13th century, although it was renovated in later centuries.

El Puerto de Santa María

Alfonso X the Wise conquered El Puerto in the year 1264 and on the foundations of the old mosque he built the castle of San Marcos, which is mentioned in his Cántigas a Santa María (medieval poetry set to music by troubadours). Sited next to the river Guadalete in the centre of El Puerto, this fortress is one of the most visited monuments in the city.

At 800 years old, the castle is still in good condition, although it has been completely rebuilt. It is home to cultural activities and private events. It is owned by Bodegas Caballero.

As a curiosity, the chronicles state that Christopher Columbus stayed there with the Catholic Monarchs before his departure for the Americas.

Zahara de la Sierra

This castle also dates from the Nasrid period, during the time of the Reconquest when Cadiz's provincial boundaries were disputed. Not much remains beyond the reconstructed tower, but it is a spectacular site due to its location. A stupendous vantage point in the middle of the Sierra de Cádiz, with the town at its feet and the reservoir as onlooker.

It was declared an Asset of Cultural Interest in 1985 and is 600 metres above sea level. Of the castle, only a few sections of the wall remain (both from the Nasrid and Christian periods), under which there is a Moorish water deposit.

Arcos de la Frontera

The castle in Arcos was a military fortress during the Muslim period. With the arrival of the Christians it became the residence of the dukes of Arcos. It is now a private residence and therefore not open to visitors.

It has a quadrangular ground plan and is composed of four crenellated towers at its corners. The Torre del Secreto, the Adarve de Levante, the Torres de Flanqueo del sur, the great Aljibe del Patio de Armas and the Merlones de Cobertura Piramidal date from the 14th and 15th centuries. It is currently accessed from under the arch where the town hall's oratory used to be.

Luna de Rota

A key symbol of Rota. This Luna (moon) castle was built in the 13th century with the arrival of another of the great conquerors of the time, Guzmán el Bueno. As with other construction in that period, it was built on top of a Muslim site.

It has a rectangular floor plan and five crenellated towers, and its interior is laid out around a central courtyard. It is the property of the dukes of Arcos. The Ponce de León family used the castle as a residence. Historical documents record the visit of the Catholic Monarchs, who stayed there. The castle also housed a hospital and a school, and is currently the site for Rota town hall.

Castellar de la Frontera

What else can be said about the castle at Castellar de la Frontera? It is a fortress on the mountain that served as a refuge for locals in case of attack. A very well-preserved jewel, now a first class tourist destination.

This Arab fortress built in the 13th century was located in a frontier position, defending the Taifas kingdom of Algeciras. It was the former residence of the counts of Castellar.

It is located between the Guadarranque and Hozgarganta rivers, overlooking the Guadarranque reservoir and the forests on its slopes, as well as Gibraltar and the strait, on the outskirts of where the modern-day town of Castellar de la Frontera is situated, in Cadiz. The castle is in the heart of the Los Alcornocales (cork forest) Natural Park.

A site of Cultural Interest with the category of Monument since 1949. In the lower part is the village of Castellar Nuevo. Since 2019, Castellar is part of the list of the Most Beautiful Villages of Spain.

Tarifa

The castle in Tarifa town is also the legacy of the aforementioned Guzmán el Bueno. In this case it is different because it is located in an elevated area but it is next to the sea, overlooking the coast, in the southernmost city of the Iberian Peninsula. Undoubtedly an outstanding location, right next to the Strait of Gibraltar.

In 1294, the Muslims laid siege to the castle and, holding Don Alonso's son as hostage, they urged him to surrender the town or his son would die. Don Alonso Pérez de Guzmán preferred to sacrifice his son rather than surrender the town, even throwing his own dagger from the octagonal tower to use on his son.

It is now in municipal ownership.

Jerez de la Frontera

Like El Puerto, Jerez was reconquered in 1264 by Alfonso X The Wise. Shortly afterwards it would pass into the possession of the House of Arcos, the Ponce de León family. Once again it is a medieval castle, the result of the Reconquest.

On a hilltop opposite the cathedral of San Salvador, the monument opens onto a tranquil square and one side of the city wall, now next to the Alameda Vieja (an old walkway).

Sanlúcar de Barrameda

The castle of Santiago de Sanlúcar de Barrameda is also located by the sea and near the mouth of the Guadalquivir river. A fortress built by the illustrious House of Medina Sidonia in the 15th century, through which prestigious navigators and explorers passed, where one can appreciate some of its important, architectural features while feeling the Atlantic breeze from the Torre del Homenaje.

It is one of the most modern of the castles listed here -i.e. late Gothic style. It is currently open to the public and is the most visited monument in Sanlúcar.

Espera

Espera is not exactly one of the most visited towns in the province, which is why it has one of the least known castles. It is the castle of Fatetar. It is visibly connected with the castle of Matrera in Villamartín and the castle in Arcos, so that all three could be in communication with each other.

According to various sources, Abderraman III built it in 914AD on the ruins of a visigothic building, making it one of the oldest. It is rhomboidal in shape.

Attached to the military fortress is the main façade in baroque style, with a doorway flanked by stone uprights supporting an entablature (horizontal doorway top comprising of the architrave, decorative frieze and cornicing), crowned by a broken frontispiece, in the centre of which is an oculus to light up the interior.

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