From Seville to Granada, this itinerary recreates the journey made in 1829 by the American writer Washington Irving, who was fascinated by the Hispanic-Arab exoticism and richness he found in Andalusia. Following in the footsteps of this romantic author, you'll discover palaces, churches, fortresses and vernacular architecture, all influenced by Muslim culture. Some exceptional buildings, such as the Alhambra and the Alcázar in Seville have been designated World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO. This route forms part of a series of itineraries exploring the heritage of Al-Andalus.
The pleasant climate in the south of Spain means you can travel all 250 kilometres of the Washington Irving route at any time of year. The road trip is a comfortable one, as the route runs mainly along the A-92 motorway, turning off occasionally. The distances between stops are also quite short (generally between 25 and 50 kilometres). You'll pass through towns where traces of Al-Andalus can still be seen, and where you can also find outstanding monuments built in the Mudéjar, Baroque, Renaissance and Neo-Classic styles.
In Seville, your starting-point, it's best to take things slowly. One of the highlights here is the Torre del Oro (Gold Tower) built in 1221 as part of the city's defences, and the impressive palaces and gardens of the Royal Alcázar. Traces of the old mosque can be seen in the Cathedral, which still preserves the Orange Tree courtyard and the minaret, known as the Giralda. You'll find the house where Irving lived in the Santa Cruz neighbourhood, at number 2 in the narrow street that goes by the name of Agua (water). In the city centre, as you stand in the courtyard of Salvador church, you can admire the columns and capitals of the mosque over which it was built. Make sure you don't miss taking in the streets of the Jewish Quarter and in the Triana neighbourhood, as both of them are well worth the walk.
The route continues in Alcalá de Guadaíra, visiting the castle that dates back to Arab times and the Mudéjar sanctuary of Nuestra Señora del Águila (Our Lady of the Eagle). It then goes on to Carmona, with its Seville Gate, the Alcázar de Arriba (Upper Fortress) and the Church of Santa María, where you can still see the base of the minaret and the ablutions courtyard from a previous mosque. Your journey continues with the monumental heritage of Arahal and the walled town of Marchena, where you can admire the fortress of La Mota, the Seville and Morón town gates, and the Mudéjar structures of the churches of Santa María and San Juan Bautista.
Your next stop is Écija. Famous for its many Baroque monuments, the town also preserves sections of the old Arab fortified defence walls and towers, dating from the 11th century. You now carry on to Osuna: its historic quarter is undoubtedly its greatest attraction, but traces of its Muslim past can be seen in the Torre del Agua (Water Tower) and the citadel. Later in your journey, you'll be touring places such as Estepa, Roda de Andalucía, Fuente de Piedra, Humilladero and Mollina, all lovely places to visit, both for their traditional architecture and their natural surroundings.
The itinerary makes its way towards the Arab castles and defence walls of Antequera, Archidona and Loja. In Archidona you'll be amazed by the inside of the Ermita de la Virgen de Gracia, a chapel in which the arches and columns from the old 9th century Umayyad mosque are still standing. Continue on to Huétor Tájar, which still uses an irrigation system largely handed down from the Al-Andalus period; and then to Moraleda de Zafayona, where you can see the Cerro de la Mora ridge archaeological site.
Your next stop on the route is Alhama de Granada. Remains from its Muslim past include the tower of Torresolana, the Pósito (grain store), which was a synagogue in the 13th century, and the Arab baths, which you reach by crossing a beautiful natural gorge. The route then takes you to the citadels of Montefrío and Íllora, before continuing towards Fuente Vaqueros. Did you know that, apart from being the birthplace of the poet Federico García Lorca, it was also the playground of Nasrid monarchs? The final stretch of your journey will take you to the Tower of Rome in Chauchina and then to the historic quarter of Santa Fe, with its four massive gates (don't leave without trying "piononos", Moorish sweets made with syrup flavoured pastry and toasted cream). The route ends in Granada, with the best possible finale: the Alhambra and the Generalife.
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