The essential things to see in Zahara de la Sierra
In this article you’ll find information on everything you need to see in Zahara de la Sierra :
- A few words about Zahara de la Sierra
- Where is Zahara on the map?
- What to see in Zahara de la Sierra
- What to do in Zahara de la Sierra
- Booking accommodation
- Some useful links (bookings and visits in Andalucia)
- What to see near Zahara de la Sierra
- Continuing your trip to Andalucia
A few words about Zahara de la Sierra
The picturesque white village of Zahara de la Sierra is in the province of Cadiz. It forms part of the famous Route of the White Villages.
It is a village nestling on a beautiful rocky promontory, dominated by a 15th-century tower. This tower was built on the remains of a Moorish fortress.
What’s more, Zahara lies within the Sierra de Grazalema Park and boasts a superb lake (a water reservoir) – embalse de Zahara-El Gastor – at its foot. It is an ideal destination for hiking, climbing, caving, cycling and horse-riding enthusiasts.
The village was declared a historic and artistic site by Royal Decree on 7 September 1983. Zahara de la Sierra also features on the list of the most beautiful villages in Spain.
The province of Cádiz, known for its famous white villages, has many villages that feature in this ranking.
- Setenil de las Bodegas
- Castellar de la Frontera
- Vejer de la Frontera
Note: the first 2 villages to be seen are in the vicinity of Zahara de la Sierra.
Zahara de la Sierra lies on the edge of the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park (see photo below). This park was declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1977. It is one of the few places where the Abies pinsapo (Andalucia fir) remains. This variety of tree is just as it was in prehistoric times…
The origin of the name Zahara de la Sierra
First of all, the official name of the village is Zahara. De la Sierra was added to distinguish it from the other village in the province of Cadiz, Zahara de los Atunes.
For a long time, it was thought that the name Zahara was derived from azahar, which in Arabic means the flower of the citric trees (orange and lemon trees).
After a number of studies, it seems that zahara comes from sahra, which means uncultivated, barren, wild land, just like the rocky promontory on which the village stands.
Zahara de la Sierra, a historic site under al-Andalus
Historical facts to remember.
1282: The Merinid emir of Morocco, Abû Yûsuf, receives the king of Castile in the village castle, Alfonso X the Wise, in 1282. At the time, the King of Castile was threatened with overthrow by his own son, the future Sancho IV, and asked the Moroccan emir for help.
1407: Conquered by the Castilians
1481: Conquered by the Nasrids of the Kingdom of Granada. This battle is very important in the history of Andalucia, as it serves as a pretext for the Christians to launch the War of Granada.
1483: Rodrigo Ponce de León conquers Zahara in October.
Where is Zahara de la Sierra on the map?
Zahara de la Sierra is a white village inland from Andalucia.
What to see in Zahara de la Sierra?
- Zahara Castle
- El Fuerte Street
- Church of Santa Maria de la Mesa
- Puerta of the Medieval Villa of Zahara
- Chapel of San Juan de Letran
- Plaza Lepanto
- Clock tower
- The pinsapos garden
- The small beach of Zahara
Zahara de la Sierra is a delightful village, and the first thing you should do is wander through its streets and alleys.
To get to the castle, you have to go up Calle El Fuerte, which leads to the only entrance to the castle.
This is an ancient fortress of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada, which still preserves parts of the wall and the Torre del Homenaje.
Zahara Castle is more than 600 metres above sea level and is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Zahara de la Sierra.
El Fuerte street
Calle El Fuerte
As you walk up Calle El Fuerte to get to the castle, you’ll find a sort of cavity in the rock on your right. The place is called La Perica and is the setting for a legend.
It is said that on starry nights, in this cavity formed beneath the mountain, you can hear the moans of a young girl crying out for the return of her beloved knight.
A statue of the Virgin Mary can also be found nearby:
Church of Santa María de la Mesa
The church of Santa María de la Mesa is a magnificent example of Andalucia’s 18th-century Baroque religious architecture.
The façade is richly decorated with pink marble and the dome is covered in azulejos.
Inside, there is a small museum and a magnificent, richly decorated carved wooden altarpiece.
Gateway to the medieval town of Zahara de la Sierra
This is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places to visit in Zahara.
Note: this ancient medieval town gate is now partly destroyed. It was destroyed on 25 August 1812 by the French after their expulsion….
This spot offers some of the most spectacular views to be seen in Zahara. From the Puerta de la Villa, you can see the embalse of Zahara :
But it is also from the Puerta de la Villa that you can enjoy the best views of the roofs of the Santa María de la Mesa church.
It is from this gateway that Calle El Fuerte leads to the castle.
Chapel of San Juan de Letran
The chapel of San Juan de Letran dates from the 19th century.
Inside there is a beautiful Baroque altarpiece with images of saints from the 16th and late 17th centuries. This chapel is important in the village as it is dedicated to the patron saint of the people of Zahara.
This square has a stone oil mill fountain and a belvedere at its centre.
From this square, formerly known as the Alameda de Lepanto, you can overlook part of the town, with a lovely view of the rooftops and houses.
The square is reached via Calle Ronda, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful streets in Zahara.
Following Calle Ronda, Calle San Juan is the ideal place to stop for a cool drink at Cervecería El Gallo. The place is easily recognised by the different-coloured barrels in front of it.
The clock tower
Just behind the San Juan de Letran chapel is the Torre del Reloj.
This sixteenth-century bell tower is the last vestige of the old hermitage that was replaced by the chapel.
El jardín de pinsapos
This pine forest, made up of pinsapos, is the only one in the world to be found inside a village. El jardín de pinsapos has been created with great scientific rigour to recreate the pinsapar of the Sierra del Pinar.
Note: the pinsapar has been a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1977. These trees are living dinosaurs – of the plant world – from the Tertiary era!
Right next door is the Mirador Alameda Jardín de los Pinsapos, from which you can enjoy a superb panoramic view of the lake and water reserve.
In conclusion, Zahara de la Sierra is a magnificent white village, steeped in history and well worth a visit.
Note: if you visit the village around 10 June, you will have the opportunity to attend the Fiesta del Corpus Christi. This is the village’s most important fiesta and probably its oldest. In fact, it has been celebrated for five centuries! It is also the only Corpus Christi fiesta in Andalucia to be recognised as a “Fiesta de Interés Turístico Nacional”. It’s not just a religious festival!
What to see and do near Zahara de la Sierra
Go to the little beach at Zahara
La playita de Zahara is the perfect place to relax after a visit or a hike. It’s a small beach set in a riverbed not far from the reservoir.
What’s more, you can enjoy the natural beauty of the Sierra de Grazalema National Park. It also has a number of facilities, including a chiringuito, kiosk, barbecue area and picnic tables. The precise location is the Arroyomolinos recreational area.
Where to eat in Zahara?
There are plenty of places to eat in Zahara. Some restaurants are even located in beautiful buildings:
But here’s my favourite place to have lunch in Zahara de la Sierra: the Al Lago restaurant.
Here you can find its exact location in Calle Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente.
Alternatively, if you simply want to enjoy some tapas, the Cervecería El Gallo in Calle San Juan is perfect.
Book an excursion along the Route of the White Villages
Below, you’ll find the excursions and visits to the white villages on offer from Seville, Cádiz and Málaga. These villages are located around the Sierra de Grazalema Park.
You can also book them online today (with free cancellation):
Book accommodation in Zahara de la Sierra
Here’s a rather unusual accommodation option: the Molino El Vínculo. This oil mill, on the outskirts of the village, has just three accommodation options.
It is the only old oil mill (since 1755) that still produces olive oil today. Here’s the link to Molino El Vínculo, to view photos and/or book.
Below you will find all the hotels and accommodation available in Zahara de la Sierra, after selecting your dates:
Some useful links (car hire, ideas for visits)
Easy and economical bookings
What to see around Zahara de la Sierra?
The province of Cádiz in Andalucia offers an incredible number of beautiful sites and white villages. Here are three must-see villages no more than 45 minutes away.
Setenil de las Bodegas
Setenil de las Bodegas is a must-see to discover its unique architecture, with its troglodyte houses.
There’s plenty to see in Setenil de las Bodegas. Plan to spend a few hours in this village, including a lunch break in a cave.
Grazalema is a delightful white village that’s a must-see for its history, wool crafts and traditions.
You’ll find plenty of beautiful things to see in Grazalema, and wandering through its narrow streets is a pure delight for lovers of white villages.
Olvera is a white village a little way off the white villages route. But it’s well worth the diversions for the surrounding countryside, its historic centre and its curious castle.
A visit to Olvera will leave you with wonderful memories.
Continue your trip to Andalucia
Seville, the capital of Andalucia, is a city full of treasures to discover and monuments to visit.
Here you will find everything you can see in Seville in 3 days. And for those who will stay longer you will also find information on secret Seville and the Santa Cruz and Triana districts.
Visit Cadiz, a city with an incredible past and great beauty, on the Costa del la Luz.
When you reach the Costa del Sol you will find in this link what to see in Malaga :
Visit Granada, discover the Albaicin and Sacromonte districts:
And of course, visit Cordoba, the caliphate city, and the Juderia district
Discover more of Andalusia’s beautiful sites in the Andalusia blog pages.
Here is the link to receive our blog newsletter.