CADIZ - the land of sherry, wines, horses & flamenco - where Atlantic winds will sweep you off your feet.
CADIZ, surrounded by water on three sides serving as an entrance to the bay, has three millennium of history as a great port from Phoenician times when it was known as Gadir and became the main port for South America. The city of Cadiz, popularly known as ‘the silver bowl’, needs to be walked. The Puerta de Tierra, a 17th century gate, provides access to the oldest inhabited city in the western world. The traditional quarters of Populo, Santa Maria & La Vina has many pretty squares and streets with views of the sea and the bay with bobbing boats.
In the crypt of the cathedral the remains of the world famous Cadiz composer Manuel de Falla are buried. The tree-lined avenues of Apodaca and Marques de Comillas lead to the colonial style Church of El Carmen, and from the Bateria de la Candelaria, in back of the temple, a beautiful view is afforded of the Bay of Cadiz, sprinkled with boats going in and out of the harbor.
Situated on the Costa del Luz this is a very unspoiled coast line with miles of white sandy beaches and large rollers rushing in from the Atlantic. The shores of the Bay of Cadiz boast millenary towns, the most important being El Puerto de Santa Maria at the mouth of the Guadalete River. A landscape of moving dunes, marshes and pine trees leads travelers to Puerto Real where the old quarter has been declared a historic, artistic complex. The beaches of the Costa de la Luz are totally unspoiled, wide, empty and sandy with always a breeze coming off the Atlantic. The coastline begins at the fishing town of Sanlucar de Barrameda at the mouth of the Guadalquivir River opposite the Donana National Park. The old fishing quarter of Bajo de Guia has a ferry to the opposite bank of the Guadalquivir in the Province of Huelva.
The seaside resort of Chipiona is also a pilgrimage center venerating the Virgin Mary, near the beach stands the sanctuary of Nuestra Senora de Regla. Further down are the towns of Conil de la Frontera, Canos de Meca and Barbate. Close to Zahara de los Atunes there are golden beaches such as Bolonia next to the Roman ruins of Baelo Claudia.
TARIFA is the southernmost point of mainland Spain looking out on the North African coast. The town has wide beaches with a strong wind from the east and a Mecca for wind surfers from around the world. In the old quarter rises Califal castle built during the Arab occupation.
Jerez de la Frontera has elegant mansions of local aristocratic families and one of the most important quarters in the city, Barrio de Santiago has been preserved and has sections of Moorish walls. Known as the “sherry capital”, many of the famous Bodegas are open to the public where you are welcome to sample the excellent quality and unique tastes of each one. Sherry producers like Rey Fernando de Castilla and Equipo Navazos make Sherries in the way they did when sherry became famous in the first place. There are some real treasures hidden away in the sherry bodegas just waiting to be unlocked. This marvellous drink is made from a single grape variety, Palomino along with Pedro Ximenez and Moscastel, which are used to make sweeter wines. .Brandy, originally introduced by the Arabs, is also distilled in the area and is evident in much of the cuisine. Tio Pepe is the town’s most famous producer, along with the famous bull of Osbourne, from the nearby town of El Puerto de Santa Maria. At its peak there were around 10,000 bodegas in the city with hundreds of English merchants setting up alongside the Spanish.
Jerez is also famous for its horsemanship and horse breeding. The Cartujana, a horse particular to Andalucia,originally bred by the Carthusian monks in the 18th centuryas a war horse, is a breed that is highly regarded throughout the world. Historically used as a gift to European kings now used for activities ranging from dressage to polo.
The ability and beauty of these majestic animals, as well as colourful and ornate horse-drawn carriages, can be seen at the Feria de Caballo (Horse Fair) in May and Fiestas de Otono (Autumn Fair) from late September-October. The Cartujana horses can also be seen at the REAL ANDALUZA DEL ARTE ECUESTRE (The Royal Andalucian School of Equestrian Art). Here the 'Sinfonia a Caballo' can be admired, a breath-taking ballet where horse and riders in immaculately choreographed harmony delight the audience with their powerful grace.
The rich land around Jerez is grazed by the famous 'Toro Bravo' magnificent bulls bred on specialised farms for the bullring.
Jerez is also considered to be the birthplace of FLAMENCO, and has, over the years, been prolific in producing some of the finest dancers, guitarists and singers. The club Pena Flamenco Los Cernicalos sits in a quiet back street with only a small plaque on the door distinguishing it from the houses on every side. It is a cross between a nightclub and a town hall with a few hundred chairs surrounded by photos of flamenco’s heroes from times gone by. This is serious stuff and not to be confused with the flamenco shows on cruise ships. Jerez became a hub of flamenco partly because of its status as a haven for gypsy communities evicted from elsewhere and the songs reflect the pain woven through their stories.
JEREZ has been influenced by Tyrians, Tartessians, Phoenicians, Romans and Arabs, the latter who named the town "Sherish" which gave rise to the English word Sherry. The Province of Cadiz was Muslim territory until Alfonso X, The Wise, re-conquered it in the second half of the 13th century and incorporated it into the Kingdom of Castile.
The cathedral and many churches are built on the sites of Arab mosques and are of great architectural interest. There are also palaces, mansions, monasteries, squares and museums, all excellent examples of Gothic, Baroque, Neoclassical and Moorish architecture. The Mueso de los Relojes (Clock Museum), is housed in the Atalya Palace, which is set in colourful, well-kept gardens. 302 beautiful timepieces from Europe dating back as far as the 1600's are kept in perfect running and chiming order, so a visit at 12 noon on the dot is a recommended experience.
JEREZ is also home and famous for its racing circuit where it plays host to international events including the World Motorcycle Championship and the Formula One Grand Prix.
The route of the "White Villages", about thirty municipalities, forms one of the most interesting routes in Andalucia. The white towns are situated in the northern part of the province of Cadiz and also the Grazalema Nature Park, noted for the Spanish fir, the Pinsapo, and the vast Los Alcornocales Nature Park located in the south of the province. The route begins in Arocs de la Frontera with its steep streets and squares fragrant with flowers.
The town of Ubrique is famous for hand-crafted leather goods, and the charming village of Grazalema is set at the foot of the Sierra del Pinar near dense patches of cork and holm oak. A road leads up to the Puerto de las Palomas, a mountain pass where a grove of pinsapo can be admired.
Zahara de la Sierra is set on a cliff overlooking a reservoir; it has a beach for the summer with swimming and water sports. Olvera is one of the most enchanting towns in the region with the Church of San Jose having two graceful towers along with a Moorish castle. Medina Sidonia is well known for ranches that raise the fighting bulls and Vejer de la Frontera, perched on a hill only a few kms from the coast, has an old quarter boasting numerous monuments including a Moorish castle, the Church of the Divine Pastor, as well as the sanctuary of Nuestra de la Oliva.
Visit the enchanting village of El Gastor just off the main road north-west from Ronda to Algodonales and a few kilometres from Zahara de la Sierra. It is also known as the ‘Balcony of the White Villages’ because from the two mountain peaks in its municipality, El Algarín and Las Grajas, there are magnificent views of other little villages in the area and the surrounding countryside.
The region has been settled since prehistoric times and around El Gastor evidence has been found of dolmens, or Megalithic burial grounds. The most famous of these is El Charcon, commonly known as "THE GIANT'S TOMB,’ dating from the Bronze Age. Have you wondered how EL GASTOR got its name? Several theories were formed as to the origin of its name but one stands as the town's favourite, the name El Gastor was coined from the words 'TOMB OF THE GIANT', as according to myth, Dolmens, burial chambers, inhabited the area long ago. The old Hermanos Palomino Mill has been well preserved and, although now under private ownership, can be visited in order to see the vast, revolving circular stones, used to press the olives gathered from the surrounding countryside, and the deposits where the oil was collected.
Also of interest is the Museo de Usos y Costumbres Populares, a museum dedicated to EL TEMPRANILLO, one of the most famous bandits in 19th-century Andalucía. Situated next to the Town Hall, this museum exhibits ancient agricultural and household tools depicting the traditions and customs of the region and other items used over the centuries.
The picturesque village of EL BOSQUE is ensconced amidst leafy woods strewn with springs of medicinal water, making it the perfect environment for all kinds of active tourism. The narrow winding streets are dotted with fountains and flowers. Situated in front of the Sierra de Albarracin 32 kms east of ARCOS DE LA FRONTERA and considered the gateway to the nature reserve the Parque Natural de la Sierra de Grazalema. El Bosque, founded by the Duke of Arcos, was originally named "Los Banos del Duque" meaning "The Dukes Bath." Then it became Marchenilla owing to the fact that the Dukes of Arcos were lords of Marchena. At the end of the 18th century the name changed again to Santa Maria de Guadalupe de El Bosque in honour of the Virgen of Guadalupe to whom the Duke and Duchess were greatly devoted, and in 1815 Fernando VII officially declared El Bosque a township after the War of Independence.
El Bosque is watered by the Majaceite River and is primarily a hunting and fishing town, producing quality trout from its hatcheries, and is proud of its gastronomic interpretations of trout specialties, and also famous for its excellent cuts of cold meats, no visitor should leave without tasting some. With its open spaces of great natural beauty this is one of the best places for hang gliding with an annual championship being held here. Visit the Ermita del Calvario and the Igelesia Parroquial de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe both built in the 18th century, and also the 18th century mill, Molino del Duque is another popular site to visitors.
As you approach the town of SETENIL DE LAS BODEGAS you enter into a world of cliffs towering over one side of the road with the remains of two cave houses for which SETENIL has become known. These caves with their startling white frontage leap out at you from the cliffs and are now home to bars, restaurants, houses and even a bank, and when you enter Setenil you are in a world of cliffs towering over you. At the bottom of the village walk along the narrow streets with the river Trejo on one side and the other has the first of the cave houses. Make your way to Calle Jaboneria, believed to be where the women of the village went with their soap and washing to use the water of the river. Cuevas del Sol, the sun caves, Cuevas de Sombra, the shadow caves and yet another where amazingly you drive through the very cliff itself with house built into each side.
The cuisine in Setenil has its own distinctive flavour due to the extra pure olive oil produced here, and its meat products in particular chorizo and sausages are extremely popular. Climb towards the Plaza de Andalucia where there are ruins of the Moorish castle, only the minaret and water cistern at the foot are well preserved. The Iglesia Mayor built, in the 15th century houses many artefacts and a robe donated by the Catholic Kings to celebrate the first Mass.
Setenil is stunning, beautifu, a photographers dream. As you leave take the road between Setenil and Ronda and look for a small signpost to "Bodega Las Monjas" (former nunnery). This produces the excellent red wine PRINCE ALFONSO, which is named after the late PRINCE ALFONSO DE HOHENLOHE who founded the bodega and the original haunt of the famous JET SET, THE MARBELLA CLUB.
The most famous and biggest pilgrimage in ANDALUCIA must be to EL ROCIO, a hamlet in the marshlands on the Guadalquivir delta South of Almonte, where the MADONNA OF THE DEW has been worshipped since 1280. Started in the 15th century when a hunter, who lived in Villamanrique, found a statue of the VIRGEN MARY in a tree trunk, the devotion was first limited to the local villages and Almonte, which soon made the Virgen its Patron Saint. In the 19th and 20th century it extended itself to the Triana quarter of Seville and then to the whole of Andalucia, and became known as "BLANCA PALOMA".
A lot of people leave to go to EL ROCIO from outside the church in Triana, Seville after mass. The pilgrims, the men wearing wide brimmed hats and the women in traditional gypsy dress with small bunches of country flowers in their hair, all with a wide green ribbon with a heavy silver medal around their necks, indicating that they are going to the Romeria. Two oxen are hitched to a small cart and two wooden wheels support a silver temple covered with flowers, the standard Simpecado has in the centre an effigy of the VIRGEN DEL ROCIO, "Our Lady of the Dew". A peal of bells ends the mass and firecrackers are let off heralding the start of the pilgrimage. Marching to the cries of “VIVE DE LA REINA DE LA MARISMA”. "Hurrah for the Queen of the Marshes" the procession, followed by dozens of traditional ox carts and then a long caravan of tractors set off.
The procession takes a week to reach the marshlands with the people walking at ox pace or on horseback, and at night they set up a circle of wagons in a pine forest with the Simpecado in the centre and the pilgrims gather to say the rosary. Dawn awakes to firecrackers and the oxen hitched they are off again. In the same manner hundreds of brotherhood leave the towns and villages from all over Andalucia, their goal identical, with some of them taking weeks to arrive. When the procession arrives it presents the banner to the Patroness of Huelva Marshes.
We mus not elave Cadiz province without mentioning the CARNAVAL, a week-long Mardi Gras festival imported from the merchants of Venice in the 16th and 17th centuries, which is celebrated in the oldest quarter of the city. Join with the locals in one of the most famous, exciting and colourful Carnavals in Andalucia and have FUN, FUN & FUN.