Alcalá de los Gazules is a town of 5,200 people (2018) in Cadiz. It has a uniform cityscape that is a protected monument. Alcalá lies in the mountainous hinterland of Andalusia close to the Los Alcornocales Natural Park, which is lined with cork oaks.
Rock paintings near the place testify to the early settlement of the area. In Roman times there was a settlement called Lascuta nearby, made famous by the "Bronze of Lascuta" from 189 BC that was found there. From the Visigothic period, traces are also preserved. After the conquest by the Moors, the place was named Qalat at Yazula ("Castle of the Gazules"), which refers to a family of the same name. In 1264 the village was conquered by Alfonso X el Sabio (the wise) and henceforth called "Alcalá de los Gazules".
Later the village belonged to the Ribera family, the dukes of Alcalá, who were mainly responsible for the construction of the historical buildings that are still preserved today. The Moorish castle complex was blown up during the Spanish War of Independence (1808–1814).
Alcalá de los Gazules is 3 km from the A381 motorway between Jerez de la Frontera and Algeciras. The nearest airports are at Jerez and Gibraltar, both less than an hour's drive away. There are four buses a day from Seville, Jerez, Cadiz and Algeciras. The nearest rail stations are at Jerez and Algeciras.
Alcalá de los Gazules is in the Alcornocales Natural Park, a vast area of woodland and rocky peaks that stretches across the eastern half of the province. There are numerous nature trails through the park and details are available from any tourist information office in the province.
Within an hour's drive of the town are the windswept cliffs and golden sandy beaches of the Costa de la Luz, the Bahia de Cadiz Natural Park with its flamingos and many other wading birds, the historic British colonial outpost of Gibraltar, the ancient city of Cádiz, Jerez de la Frontera with its sherry bodegas and thoroughbred horses, and the glorious mountain scenery of the Sierra de Grazalema.
The Parroquia de San Jorge (church) is well worth a visit even if you are not religious. It feels untouched by time and contains many examples of historic symbolism - not least the great gilded statue of St George, the patron saint of the town, slaying his dragon.
There are numerous fairs and festivals throughout the year:
- Carnaval (early March)
- St George's Day (23 April)
- Semana Santa (the week before Easter)
- Summer Feria (5 days in late August)
- Romeria de Nuestra Señora de los Santos (second week of September)
For further details see the town's official website.
If you are into bird-watching, come in April–May or September–October when millions of birds migrate between Europe and Africa. At any time of year you are likely see booted and Bonnelli's eagles, griffon vultures and lesser kestrels wheeling above the town.
Artists and photographers will find plenty to fire their imagination. The long summer evenings are especially good for landscape photography. A British-run residential art school, Painting in Spain, offers tailor-made courses for individuals or small groups.
There are plenty of resources for cyclists, hikers and climbers in the Alcornocales and in the various other Natural Parks in the Province of Cadiz.
There are no tourist gift shops in Alcala. However there are many little food shops where you can buy excellent locally-made produce: goats' or sheep's milk cheeses, honey, chorizos and delicious bread and cakes. The cheese factory shop on the Poligono la Palmosa (behind the gas station) is worth a visit, as is the tiny Horno de Luna bakery in Callejon Bernadino, near the Mercado de Abastos (indoor food market).
There are numerous restaurants catering for all pockets, and most of the bars will serve tapas at any time. Lunch is the main meal of the day, served from around 13:30 until 15:30, and a "menu del día" will give you a three-course meal and a drink for less than €10. Local specialities include game - wild boar or "jabali", venison, rabbit or partridge; hot gazpacho (soup thickened with breadcrumbs) and, in early June, tiny snails in broth (known as Caracoles). Fruit and vegetables are essentially seasonal; some, like wild asparagus or the fruits of the chumbo (prickly pear) are harvested from the countryside around the village. Visit the market on Wednesday or Saturday mornings to stock up, or just admire the quality.
You are not in a paella & sangria zone here!
Pale sherry or "fino" is widely available and consumed in large quantities by the locals at festivals, often watered down with lemonade when it is known as "rebujito". At the other end of the sherry scale is Pedro Ximenez, a very sweet, raisin-flavoured drink which is surprisingly good over ice. Tinto de verano (red wine and lemonade or soda with ice and lemon) is a refreshing alternative to beer on a hot day.
- Hotel La Palmosa, Área de Servicio La Palmosa (Ctra. Jerez-Los Barrios) A-381 km 45. 956-413364 (3 km from town centre)
- Antigua Fonda , Calle Sanches Flores 4, email: firstname.lastname@example.org - 956 420 648 (central location, English-run B&B)
- Hotel San Jorge, Paseo de la Playa, 11180 Alcala De Los Gazules - 956-413255 (central location)
- Hostal Pizarro, Paseo de la Playa 9 - 956-420103
- Casa Rural Amatur, Avenida Puerto Levante s/n, 956-413005
- Hacienda del Agua, 5 km from centre by the lake, eco-friendly cottages, lots of outdoor activities. Email: email@example.com - 956 420223
- Camping Los Gazules, Ctra. Patrite - 956-420486 (campsite + chalets, 5 km from town centre),