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Zahara de la Sierra
Situated by the reservoir of the same name, the village of Zahara de la Sierra was founded by the Arabs in the 8th century, and has been declared in entirety a National Monument.
The strongest characteristic of this typical Cadiz - area mountain village is the highly uneven street layout. It is worth visiting on foot, and walking up to the Baroque Iglesia de Santa Maria de Mesa. Next to the church a wide dirt track leads up to the 12th century Castillo Islámico built on sheer rock sixty metres above. It is worth spending a few minutes taking in the marvellous view offered of the Grazalema National Park and the rest of the sierra.
Three kilometres away, towards Grazalema, a path on the right-hand side leads to la Garganta Verde, an idyllic spot which contains the Ermita de la Garganta, an impressive cave with stalactites and stalagmites. It is a good idea to be prepared for this walk, which takes around three hours.
From Zahara, which stands at 511 metres above sea level, the route rises to the 1,357 metre high point of el Puerto de las Palomas, providing an indescribable view of the Sierra de Grazalema Park, with its precious Pinsapo (Spanish fir tree), an authentic relic of the Ice Age.
It is worth while stopping at the Puerto de las Palomas Pass to take in Monte Prieto to the left and the Serranía de Ronda in the background.
Grazalema is one of the main villages in the area, settled among the Sierras of El Pinar and El Endrinal. The narrow streets show walls with so many layers of whitewash that once- sharp corners have become smooth and rounded.
The village was a favoured settlement of the Romans and the Arabs, with the latter calling the place "Ben- Zalema".
The village's artistic heritage is centred in the Iglesia de la Encarnación (17th century). The Iglesia de San José was a Carmelite convent built upon a one- time Arab minarete.
Running along the edge of the Sierra del Endrinal the route leads to Villaluenga del Rosario, the highest of the Pueblos Blancos, standing at 870 metres.
This pretty village of 650 inhabitants has all the ingredients wich make the villages of the area so special: steep whitewashed streets and numerous potted plants and flower adorning windows and balconies. The sound of running water reminds the visitor of the springs and underground river flowing beneath the streets.
Worth viviting area the Ermita de San Gregorio and the Plaza de Toros (bull ring) which is built into the rock. Outside the village there are a number of prehistoric caves and a collection of standing stones (dólmenes).
The route continues through an attractive landscape in the area known as La Manga de Villaluenga on to the next stop, Benaocaz.
At a kilometre´s diatance on the road heading down to the village, the visitor can be see the remains of the ancient Roman road.
Situated between the Sierras of El Caillo and El Endrinal, this small village of Arabs origin contains the remains of what was once the fortress. The Renaissance Iglesia Mayor, the Ayuntamiento (Town hall) in Baroque style, the Ermita del Calvario, and the Museo Histórico de la Sierra (Sierra History Museum) complete the village´s important artistic heritage.
A short distance before beginning the descent from the village, where the Roman Road lies, it is worth stopping to take in the marvellous landscape which can be seen form this point.
Ubrique with a population of more than 13,000 is the largest and most industrial of the Pueblos Blancos. The leather craft goods made here are famous throughout Spain.
Despite its size, Ubrique has lost none of its Sierra flavour. Sloping streets of whitewashed houses are to be found at every corner. The oldest part of the town seems to be climbing up the almost vertical wall formed by the Cerro del Algarrobal.
As well as the numerous remains of earlier civilizations found on the area around the town, the Ocurris of Roman times, there is wide artistic heritage represented to a great extent by religious architecture: La Iglesia de San Antonio, built on a 16th century chapel; the Convento de los Capuchinos from the same century; the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la O, and the present- day Municipal Library, the Iglesia de San Pedro.
The route continues towards Benamahoma and El Bosque, being careful to take in the sight of the Castillo de Tavizna which stands upon a rock along the way.
A little further on there is an old Roman bridge over the River Tavezna. Visitors with plenty of time may detour to the left before crossing the bridge, along a dirt track leading to the reservoir of Los Hurones. This splendid landscape is presided over by the summit of La Silla.
Two hundred metres before entering El Bosque a road winding among thick tree coverage leads the visitor to Benamahoma.
This village is scattered over the hillside of La Sierra del Pinar. As with the other villages of the area, the contrast of the white walls with the ochre rooftops seduces the visitor. Fed by the River El Bosque, Benamahoma is known for its Fuente de Nacimiento ( Fountain of Birth). The entrance to Pinsapar is found here, although the visitor will require express permission from the Environmental Agency to be able to do so.
The same road entering the village leads down to El Bosque. This village was founded by the Duke of Arcos who possessed the Palacio de Marcenilla here, around which the village gradually built up.
Among the main monuments must be mentioned are the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe and the Molino del Duque. A bright, white location, which is a pleasure to stroll through, the village possesses the National Embellishment Award.
Two sports give El Bosque its reknown: fishing in the trout stream and free flying in hang- gliders and para- gliders from the take- off point in el Albarracín.
The last stop on the route is Prado del Rey, which was founded by Charles III. With a more modern street layout than the other villages mentioned, the village spreads over the hillside of el cerro de Verdugo in an array of whitewashed gardened streets which are a pleasure for the visitor.
Four kilometres from the village are the Roman ruins of Iptuci.
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