Cadiz Province - Alcalá de los Gazules

The sun-drenched white village of Alcala del los Gazules © Michelle Chaplow
The Sun-drenched white village of Alcala del los Gazules © Michelle Chaplow

Alcalá de los Gazules

Alcalá de los Gazules is a spectacularly located historic hilltop pueblo blanco (white town) with stunning architecture.

The town is situated in the middle of Cadiz province on the A-381 road from Los Barrios to Jerez. This road is often called "La Ruta del Toro" (Route of the Bull) for the bull-breeding ranches in the vicinity. With a population of about 6,000, Alcala is worth the short detour for a visit.

Alcalá de los Gazules has remained largely unchanged over recent years and the old town centre was given official "Historic-Artistic" status in 1984 in recognition of the excellent examples of baroque and neoclassic architecture, as well as the typically Andaluz houses which give it an authentic atmosphere.

The town centre is compact, with uneven streets, noble plazas and dazzling whitewashed walls. The irregular village layout is dictated by the deep valleys and high mountains of its setting, so it is a little disorientating to navigate. Walk up to the church in Plaza Alta, and from there follow the well-signposted Ruta Plaza Alta to the Homage Tower of the old castle and the other monuments.

You can drive to Plaza Alta and park if you are lucky, as finding the way up by car is quite an adventure. The charming cobbled, narrow streets are mostly one-way, which makes things a little easier.

This is a town which is off the tourist beaten track, with no tourist-oriented bars and restaurants, and you are less likely to come across English speakers. A handful of two and three-star hotels are located in and around the town.

Federico García Lorca

Alcalá (as it is known locally) was mentioned in 1924 by the poet, Federico García Lorca, who wrote in appreciation of his Andaluz heritage: "I breathe for Málaga... for Cádiz, for Alcalá de los Gazules, for what is intimately Andaluz."

History

The town's origins date back to the Bronze Age, and it was also important during Roman times, producing olive oil, wine and metals, when it was known as Lascuta. 

At the time of the Muslim conquest, the village became known as "Qalat at Yazula" or "Castle of the Gazules"; some remnants of the castle from the Arabic and Caliph eras can still be seen. In 1264, the town was reconquered by the Christians under the command of Alfonso X (The Wise), and was renamed Alcala Sidonia; in the 14th century it was given its present name, Alcalá de los Gazules. The town was then was passed to the De Ribera family, who built churches and convents such as the churches of San Jorge and San Francisco and the Santa Domingo convent. Later it became the property of the Duke of Medinaceli.

A Roman bronze tablet bearing the Latin inscription 'Lascuta' and dated 189BC was found in 1866 when the parish church was enlarged. The oldest Latin document ever found in Spain, this is now exhibited in the Louvre in Paris. Reproductions hang in the council chamber of Alcala town hall and and in the archaeological museum in Jerez.

The translation reads: "Lucio Emilio, son of Lucio, imperator, decreed that the servants of the Hastenses who lived in the Lascutana Tower, should be free. It is ordered that they have possessions the plot in the fields and the village that they had used until now, as long as the town and the Roman senate wants this. Ordered at the camp on the twelve before the kalendas of February." (ie January 19)   

THINGS TO SEE IN THE VILLAGE

Las Peñas
A small rocky outcrop on the outskirts of the village, Las Peñas is the only such formation of igneous rock (made from solidified magma, or lava, having reached the earth's surface via a volcano) in Cadiz province. A number of cacti growing on this outcrop add to its visual effect. 

Las Peñas, a geological curiosity and the only example of its type, in the province of Cadiz ©Michelle Chaplow
Las Peñas, a geological curiosity and the only example of its type, in the province of Cadiz

Casa del Cabildo
Interesting old town hall building in Plaza Alta located over the Puerto Nueva (New Gate) in the castle walls. The building was constructed in 1550 and remodelled in the 18th century. On the ground floor is a domed entrance hall, while the first floor houses the council chamber with notable iron balcony. On the second floor. as well as a store there's a room with six window-balconies overlook the square.  

Iglesia de San Jorge
Parish church in Plaza Alta

Convento de Santa Clara

Casa Diañez

Homage Tower of the Castle
All that remains of the 12th-century Moorish castle is the Homage Tower. The castle served as a defensive structure until 1810 when it was ransacked by the occupying French army. The castle has been restored and the interior of the tower can be visited from Thursday to Sunday 11.30 to 14.00.

Mercardo de Abastos
Market selling fresh produce.

Iglesia de Santo Domingo

Parque La Coracha

Los Depositos Romanos

Iglesia de San Francisco

Los Pozos

Things to see Outside the village

Sanctuario de Nuestra Señora de los Santos
This small church is located 5km outside Alcalá towards Medina Sidonia. The sanctuary walls are filled with exvotos from the faithful giving thanks for requests (often to cure an illness) fulfilled by the virgin. Inside the sheer quantity of objects, letters, paintings, and later photographs, on display is a marvel to see; it's worth reading the notes. This is one of the largest and best collections in Andalucia and perhaps Spain. The oldest painting in the sanctuary dates from 1758. More>

Fuente de la Salada
Spring of Roman origin built for a natural source of spring water.

Natural Park Interpretation Centre
Exhibition centre for the park  Alcalá de los Gazules is at the heart of the vast Parque Natural de los Alcornocales (alcornocales means cork tree).

Los Palmosa service area
Service area next to the A-381 with a petrol station, some bar-restaurants and a small industrial estate. 

 

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SHOPPING

An article about the experience of shopping the old-fashioned way in Alcala de los Gazules's tiny, traditional shops by Claire Lloyd. More>

 

Festivals

Carnival

Semana Santa
Holy Week/Easter

St. George's Day
On 23 April - San Jorge is the patron saint of the town.

Feria
The town celebrates its summer fair in the last week in August.

Romería Nuestra Señora de los Santos
On the Sunday before 12 September is the Romería (Pilgrimage) of Nuestra Señora de los Santos. This fiesta dates back to the 15th century and is the most popular one of its kind in the province of Cadiz.

Next Places

Next towns are Medina Sidonia and Los Barrios, and cross-country to Ubrique.