Zahara de la Sierra
by Chris Chaplow
The white village of Zahara de la Sierra has one of the most stunning settings in the province of Cadiz, if not the whole of Andalucia.
As you drive on the A382 road, which links Arcos de la Frontera with Antequera, or the A376 from Seville to Ronda, you see a castle built on a rocky peak high above the turquoise waters of a lake. Scattered below it are the whitewashed houses of Zahara de la Sierra (not to be confused with the fishing town of Zahara de los Atunes, on the Costa de la Luz north of Tarifa).
The town, with land covering a total of over 70 km2, is built on the sides of the hill whose height ranges between 300m and 1100m. The name of the town, which has about 1500 inhabitants, known as 'Zahareños', probably comes from the Arab word sahra meaning desert.
THINGS TO SEE
The Plaza Mayor is Zahara's main focus and heart, and a pretty place to stop in a bar to watch the world go by. Around the square are the Church of Santa María de la Meza, tourist office, Town Hall, souvenir shop, mirador (viewing spot) terrace bar, and the actual mirador which offers splendid views over the reservoir, the countryside and across to the village of Olvera in the distance. Don't miss the stone fountain in the centre - a water trough with a central street light. Read about the Church of Santa María de la Meza, Tourist Office, Puerta de la Villa (Town Gate), Castle, Iglesia Major, Torre del Homenaje, Chapel of San Juan de Letran, and the fountains on the Things to see page>
WHERE TO PARK
You can park the car on the main road at the bottom of the village and walk up or is possible to drive into the village. There is a well.-organized one way system so that you enter the village by following signs for the centre, pass along Calle Ronda. Go carefully at lunchtime as the road is narrowed by the restaurants' terraces spilling onto the road. You enter the main square which is the focus point. If no parking is available, drop off the passengers and drive out on Castillo Mazarin, through the abutments of 'Arco de la Villa' and there is a car park on the roof of Hotel Arco de la Villa, or continue to park just beyond and walk back to the square.
Reservoir - Embalse de Zahara - el Gastor.
The reservoir, which is relatively new, has made the town even more popular with visitors, who now have the option of water sports and swimming, sports which didn't exist 10 years ago in Zahara. Just below the town is an area to park the car and walk by the reservoir. You can hire Kayaks to go out on the lake. Also Molino "El Vinculo", Area Recretiva Arroyomolinos, La Garganta Verde, Cueva de la Ermita. Outside the village page>
Zahara was once described by the romantic British traveller Richard Ford, as a "Moorish eagle's nest - the castle (and town) date back to Moorish times. It was an ideal place to build a fortification located between Sevilla and Ronda and the earliest documented reference dates to 1282. More>
Local crafts focus on leather goods and saddlery; nearby Ubrique is the most famous town for producing these goods in the area. These traditional practices have remained constant over the centuries, thanks to the town's continuing livestock tradition.
Tomato and asparagus soups are popular local dishes, and pastries such as cream puffs, known as cuernos (horns), are also part of the local gastronomy.
The famous fiesta of Corpus Christi has been declared to be of National Tourist Interest. The people of Zahara dress up the fronts of the houses with branches and rushes, making the whole place town as if it were part of the countryside.
Offering views of Embalse de Zahara Lake, Al Lago is a boutique hotel featuring attractive rooms with balconies. Set in the centre of Zahara, it has a restaurant and a terrace. Each spacious, air-conditioned room at Al Lago has bright, modern décor. All rooms have a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom.
"Walking the Mountains of Ronda and Grazalema" by Guy Hunter Watts
The dramatically situated town of Ronda can make a great base for a walking holiday in the mountains of Andalucía, as can any one of the picturesque 'pueblos blancos' (white villages) that nestle among the surrounding hills. This guidebook presents 32 mainly circular walks in the Ronda region, covering the town and its environs, the Natural Parks of La Sierra de Grazalema and La Sierra de las Nieves (both UNESCO biosphere reserves), and the Genal and Guadiaro Valleys.
Clear route description is illustrated with mapping, and the route summary table and 'at a glance' information boxes make it easy to choose the right walk. There is the option to buy a printed book, an eBook, or both as one deal.
Buy a copy online of Walking the Mountains of Ronda and Grazalema