Situated on a hill at 211 metres above sea level and surrounded by beautiful landscapes, Alcalá de los Gazules is located in the centre of Cadíz province, between the mountains and the sea . One of the ‘pueblos blancos’ or white villages, with steep streets and typically Andalucían houses that are clean and well preserved; there are bright spacious squares and monuments, architecture and local traditions are well respected. In recognition of this, in 1984 the maze of winding streets at the centre of the town was officially granted the status of ‘conjunto histórico-artistico’, an area of special historical and artistic interest. This award acknowledges the extraordinary examples of baroque, neo-classical, eclectic and popular architectural styles and the for the way in which the town’s Andalusian character and appearance has been preserved.
There are some excellent restaurants within the town, where you can taste the local food specialities: hot soup, and scrambled eggs with asparagus and locally-hunted venison; the locally made cheese is sold in the town.
The town has a long and rich cultural history and can trace its roots back to the Paleolithic era with local cave paintings. The earliest Roman inscription in the Iberian Peninsula was found here, the bronze Lascuta (189AD), that is now in the Louvre Museum in Paris. As the Roman empire weakened, the Vandals moved in and renamed the area Valdalusia but they lasted only twenty years, 409 – 429. They were followed by the Visigoths who changed the character of the area and left behind the impressive tower, the Torre Mesa de Esparragal and the Ermita de los Santos Nuevos, which no longer exists.
Following the Arab invasion the town became known as ‘Qualat at Yazula’ (Castillo de los Gazules) when it was given to an aristocratic Berber family, the Gazu, by the King of Granada and subsequently became a part of the Algeciras region. In 1264 the town was recaptured by Alfonso X and was recorded in his chronicles as Alcalá de los Gazules for the first time.
For many years, until the catholic Ferdinand and Isabella took control of the last Muslim kingdom in the south of Spain at the end of the 15th century , there was a demarcation line between the Islamic and Christian regions, along which sat towns that are now known as the ‘pueblos blancos’, the white towns, and Alcalá was on the border between them. Many of these towns were fortified and Alcalá has a number of towers around its perimeter, now fallen into disrepair.
Following the catholic consolidation in Spain, many mosques were knocked down and in Alcalá, the famous church of San Jorge in the top square was built during the mid-16th century on top of the ruins of the old mosque.
During the Peninsular wars in 1809 a mounted militia from Alcalá made a successful ambush on some nearby French troops. A year later General Manbourg’s troops took revenge by cutting the throats of the entire population and blowing up the castle.
In June 1876 King Alfonso XII awarded Alcalá the status of Ciudad, as acknowledgement of its population numbers and the growth of its commerce and industry.
The town is located with in the Alcornocales Natural Park and 9km from it is the recreation area of “El Picacho”, named for its mountain, the highest peak of the Algorrobo mountain range. Here there are some lovely marked walking trails, an ecological research center, an area for outdoor camping, and a mountain lodge ” Picacho Forest Refuge”, where you can stay and enjoy activities such as hiking, climbing, canoeing, canyoning, camping, hiking or riding on mules, bungee jumping and mountain biking.
Local crafts include saddlery and the making of riding boots, and the manufacture of wooden household utensils such as dornillos, made from ash wood.
location and access
Alcalá is located in the Tourist Route del Toro; it is 68 kms from Cadiz, 55 km from Jerez, 55kms from Algeciras and 172kms from Malaga.