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The Route of the Nasrids

These 240 kilometres pass through the provinces of Jaén and Granada, against a backdrop of the mountain landscapes of the Sierra Morena and Sierra Mágina. Thanks to Andalusia's excellent climate, this trip can be done at any time of the year. The distances from one point to another are short (the maximum stretch is less than 50 kilometres), so the trip can be done comfortably by car. The towns and villages along our route also have interesting monumental sites which are well worth a visit.

We start in Navas de Tolosa. In the surrounding area we'll see the remains of the fortresses of Tolosa and Ferral, with Muslim origins. Then next stop is the town of La Carolina, with its neo-classical architecture and striking buildings. We continue our route until we reach Baños of La Encina, with its imposing 10th-century caliphs' castle. A little further on, we come to Bailén, where the heritage of Al-Andalus can be seen in its arts and crafts, although the old fortifications are today in ruins.

In the centre of the town of Mengíbar stands the keep of the old castle. We continue on to Andújar, where a stroll around its historic quarter reveals traces of the Arab presence, for example, in the remnants of the wall, the Mudéjar style of the clock tower and in the church of Santa María, which was previously a mosque. Then, through a landscape of olive groves, we approach Arjona, the cradle of the King Alhamar, founder of the Nasrid dynasty. The layout of its streets remains almost unchanged since that time and it still conserves part of its Muslim defensive walls.

Our next destination is Porcuna; its keep once served as the prison for Boabdil, the last monarch of Granada. Our journey continues amid lookout towers towards the towns of Torredonjimeno and Martos, where remains of the ancient walls and fortresses are still standing. Nearby Torredelcampo is the ideal place to sample some of the delicious sweet confections prepared according to ancient Andalusí recipes. Next on our itinerary we'll visit three historic cities: Linares, Baeza and Úbeda; these last two, the proud holders of the World Heritage designation for their ensemble of Renaissance buildings.

We then continue on to Jódar and Jimena with their sturdy castle keeps. Next, we pass through Mancha Real and Jaén, where we can stop to explore its castle and Arab baths, located inside the Villardompardo Palace. The route takes us on to discover the fortresses of La Guardia de Jaén, Cambil and Huelma. Once in the province of Granada, we'll pass through the villages of Guadahortuna and Píñar. The ancient castle in Píñar is set on the same hill as the cave of Las Ventanas, with its spectacular effects of light and shade cast by its geological formations.

We continue on to Iznalloz, which is every year the site of a re-enactment of a battle between Christians and Muslims. The scarce remains of its fortified enclosure have been absorbed into today's urban layout. We then head towards Deifontes and Albolote, passing more than one lookout tower on the way. Our penultimate stop is Maracena, whose fertile fields for many years supplied Granada during the Nasrid era. Also dating from this time is the Mudéjar church of La Encarnación, built in the 18th century, with its tower in the style of a minaret. We have reached Granada, the end of our itinerary, where we can enjoy at our leisure the fabulous beauty of the Alhambra and the Generalife, declared a World Heritage site by the UNESCO.

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