Olive groves and vines, rocks sculpted to the whims of nature, white villages perched on the mountain, dunes moving to the sound of the wind, lakes and marshes that appear before your eyes … Andalucia has unique landscapes that have seen time and history go by, and which have made this land a spectacular place of strong cultural character. Some are well-known such as the Tajo de Ronda, Duna de Bologna (Tarifa), Chorro de Málaga, the mining area of Rio Tinto, the vineyards of Jerez or Casares and other less known but equally spectacular.
This is the reason why some years ago UNESCO decided to integrate the cultural landscape category into the World Heritage list, a concept that goes beyond the architectural monuments themselves but integrates them with their context, their environment as a cultural property to discover, promote and defend.
Since the end of 2014, southern Spain has a list of those cultural landscapes and how as it could not be otherwise, we offer a tour to some of the most spectacular and characteristic ones in Andalucia, visiting all its provinces which have been selected by the Andalucian Institute of Historical Heritage. Let’s start:
1. Estepa Landscape, Seville
This countryside located on hills and mountains is one of the most beautiful pictures of the Andalucian inland. Its strategic location along with its major roads have marked the landscape of Estepa, where Tartars, Muslims and Romans have left their legacy. A proof of this is the castle that crowns the historical district and from which we can see the grain fields, olive and almond groves, spread by monumental farmhouses. Estepa, the city of mantecados and polvorones and its particular sweet smell when Christmas approaches, has multiple visits to offer from Cerro de San Cristobal, such as Alcazaba, the city walls, the keep or the Church of St. Maria Maggiore.
2. Straits of Gibraltar Landscape, Cadiz
This type of landscape is defined as coasts with coastal mountains and … what a coastline !. The Strait of Gibraltar has a unique combination of international geography, where the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, Europe and Africa, Spain and the United Kingdom join (via Gibraltar). A cultural landscape where in ancient times it was believed that the land finished at the mythical Pillars of Hercules (now a symbol of the Spanish shield). The winding road between Algeciras and Tarifa offers a fantastic journey with a path that is narrow and full of curves with bushes and abundant vegetation, the sea ever vigilant, and the Moroccan coast as background.
3. Frontera del Guadiana landscape: Sanlucar de Guadiana / El Granado, Huelva
This low mountain ridge marks a landscape that separates Spain from Portugal, at the bank of the Guadiana river, with beautiful contrasts of these two cities that look at each other with the river in between. Sanlúcar offers visitors the chance to visit the Castle of San Marcos and an impressive church. To go to the other side of the river, the Portuguese side, nothing beats flying cross with a ‘zipwire’. Yes, that’s right, the lovers of strong experiences can move from one country to another in a kind of zip-line. Here is all the information you need.
4. Guadix-Purullena Landscape, Granada
The high-plateau in Estepa covering the landscape of Guadix in Granada is especially unique because of its rock formations. A terrain that marks a troglodyte habitat dotted with hundreds of cave-houses made with rock as protection. If we mix these features with the Andalucian mark the result is truly unique landscapes. Do not miss it.
5. Iznájar, Córdoba
The village of Iznájar, Córdoba, and its environment is another Andalucian cultural landscape you cannot miss. This area is known as the inland sea of Andalucia due to the exploitation of the marsh of the river Genil, which gives this typical Andalucian town of white houses perched on the mountain a special charm. A magical town improved by the castle that crowns the historical centre and from which viewers can see the countryside of Cordoba.
6. La Peña de los Enamorados de Antequera, Málaga
The “Rock of Lovers” is a high rock, bathed by the Guadalhorce River and with a big field at the top, as defined by the Andalucian Institute of Historical Heritage. There are many legends associated with this place and its name. One of the few is the love story between a young Christian -Tello-, who fell prisoner of the kingdom of Granada and a Moorish girl -Tagzona- the young daughter of the ruler of a Muslim city. The imposing silhouette of this massif reminds many people of an Indian lying down. It is a good place to enjoy the nearby cities of Antequera and its Torcal as well as Archidona with its octagonal square or the lagoon of Fuente de Piedra.
7. Acinipo in Ronda, Málaga
The meadow of Ronda and its cliff and the adjacent Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park are one of the most desirable places in Andalucia. A place marked by ancient settlements like Acinipo, showing Roman urbanization in strategic locations of the old Bética. Occupied since Neolithic times, its greatest splendour was during the late first century AD because of its position as a strategic passage between the mountain plains of the Guadalete. Good place to also see the village of Grazalema or the picturesque town of Cadiz Setenil, hidden under rocks.
8. Tabernas, Almería
Tabernas is considered the only desert in Europe itself, offering a truly breathtaking landscape. So much so that in the 60s and 70s the site was the scene of legendary films of the American western cinema and brought international superstars to this corner of Andalucia, earning the nickname of ‘Mini Hollywood’. A lunar landscape with spectacular light, which can be visited through the stages of those films that today host live performances of the ‘West’ thanks to a theme park.
9. Cástulo – Linares, Jaén
Plains, valleys and jienenses fields, always occupied by olive trees, there is no way this could not be the world capital of olive oil. The journey from Cástulo –the old capital of Oretania and funded in 3.000 a.C.- up to Linares let the visitors see how mining has shapes this land since it was occupied in prehistory. It was under this fire that Cástulo Ibera was built, considered as one of the most important oppidum – elevated and urban fortresses- in Andalucia which still preserves important sites, which include preserved mosaics. This landscape is completed by the extensive monumental heritage of Linares -a Cástulo- 5km from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
10. Watchtowers in Castilla de Almonte beach, Huelva
The last of our selected cultural landscapes of Andalucia corresponds to low and sandy coasts, which move as if they had life. These are the dunes next to one of the natural jewels of Andalucia and Europe, Donana National Park, internationally recognized for its biodiversity. Next to Doña, the Castilla beach extends, the biggest in Andalucia, where the watchtowers –nowadays remains- allowed its occupants to spot the enemies entering the territory from the coast. Today this place is ranked as one of the most unique of Andalusia.
WHERE TO STAY
The Hotel Fuerte El Rompido is one of the most beautiful hotels in Costa de la Luz for its spectacular location on a hill that dominates the natural setting of Río Piedras. To this we must add an aesthetic Andalucian architecture that harmonizes with its surroundings. Ideal for relaxing and a strategic place to visit some of the most striking and unspoiled Andalucian cultural landscapes.