Historical and cultural Southern Spain is interesting to most and to castle enthusiasts or medieval historians it’s even more of a draw. Spain boasts more than 2500 castles from a variety of periods including Medieval, Moorish and military fortresses. It’s impossible to tour around all the castles in Spain as even the most avid tourist would be slightly castle’d out if they tried, so divide the country into regions (bite sized tours) and approach the castles that way.
There’s more than Flamenco and sun to Andalucía, in Southern Spain, there’s a vast array of castles to discover, here are five of the best by province:
Bordering Portugal this is the most western city in Andalucía. Hueva as a province is a lot less developed than the rest of Andalucía. For castle fanatics Huelva delivers, there are lots to see because of its proximity to Portugal.
Cortegana Castle is an incredibly preserved 13th century fortress; it was built by Sancho IV as the area borders Portugal it was used as a defense. It has an underground water cistern and a two story keep. The fortress has been restored to its former glory and is the focus of the village when a yearly medieval festival is held there every August.
Granada is two towns which make up one city; there is the ‘new’ town which is largely 19th century and the Moorish Albayzín which is by all intense and purposes a village opposite the Alhambra Palace. It’s a university city accepting of the alternative so it has attracted poets, writers, artists, hippies and travelers over many years.
Granada is famed for the Alhambra which is the largest Moorish castle in Spain. Its red coloration and keyhole doors and gates remind the traveler of the Moorish past of the city, it looks down on Granada elegantly and is surrounded by the Generalife gardens and waterways. The Alhambra tells the history of Andalucía through its architecture and relationship with Granada. Two top tips; buy the book, Alhambra by Michael Jacobs as it has the best explanation and tour of the Palace and there are limited tickets into the Alhambra so ensure to book early.
Alcazaba De Guadix
The Granada Nasrid dynasty was the last Moorish dynasty to rule Spain. The Alcazaba of Guadix, was one of the most important castle of this era, between 1212 and 1492. However, the original construction of the Alcazaba De Guadix dates from the 8th Century. It’s a heavily fortified fortress with three towers and three precincts with the central one being enclosed by the two outer ones. This is opened everyday other than Mondays.
Castillo De La Calahorra
Quite a romantic gift to offer your wife – a castle but that’s exactly what Rodrigo De Mendoza did as a wedding present. Castillo De La Calahorra was built between 1509 and 1512 and is between Granada and Almeria provinces. It’s quite unusual as it has domed corner towers. This with the red stone and location make for an imposing structure. It’s privately owned however, it is open to the public on Wednesdays from 10 – 13.00hrs and 16.00 to 18.00hrs.
Almeria strategically was very important from the 10th century to strengthen defenses thus became and has remained to some extent a main port on the Mediterranean. It is home to the second largest Moorish castle after the Alhambra, the Alcazaba of Almería.
El Alcazaba de Almeria
Built in 955 by Abd-ar-Rahman III of Cordoba it included a great mosque, squares, housing and impregnable city walls. This isn’t all present today but it’s still a huge structure which is divided into three areas with formal gardens and the Tower of Homage. This vast complex was damaged in the 1522 earthquake which is interesting in itself. It’s open from 9.00hrs all day every day except Mondays.
Five castles, over three provinces, doesn’t seem like a lot to see but these are the highlights. Some of these castles, the Alhambra for example, need a full day to take in and absorb. However, if the five aren’t enough, while touring around it’s easy to come across smaller structures as most towns had at least some sort of fortification in their history and some are in good order.