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Route of the Caliphate

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  • View of the great Mosque of Cordoba by night © Turespaña

    View of the great Mosque of Cordoba by night © Turespaña

  • The Alhambra Palace, Granada

    The Alhambra Palace, Granada

  

The splendour of al-Andalus

This route links two of the towering works of the art and architecture of Al-Andalus: the great Mosque of Cordoba and the Alhambra palace in Granada. These two magnificent monuments, declared World Heritage sites, are a testament to the cultural splendour of Arab Spain. All along the route you'll discover the places where the Caliphate of Cordoba spread its influence, leaving in its wake fortresses, temples, great architecture, and a variety of arts and crafts. This route forms part of a series of itineraries exploring the heritage of Al-Andalus. 

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From Cordoba to Granada, the Route of the Caliphate covers around 180 kilometres divided into two branches which converge in the town of Alcalá la Real. Against a backdrop of the landscapes of the Sierras Subbéticas and Sierra de Huétor mountain ranges, you'll pass through towns and villages where, in addition to the vestiges of Al-Andalus, you'll find outstanding monuments in other styles.

Thanks to Andalusia's mild climate this trip can be done at any time of the year. The car is a convenient way to travel, as the first part of the route follows the N-432 main road, taking occasional turnoffs, whereas part of the other branch follows the N-331. What's more, the distances between the points are short and in no case over 35 kilometres.

We begin in the historic quarter of Cordoba, declared a World Heritage site by the UNESCO, and home to the beautiful Mosque. In the area around the city there is also a chance to see the palace complex of Medina Azahara. After Cordoba the route divides into two possible variants.

Variant 1
This first option will take us to see fortresses and defensive walls in towns and villages such as Espejo and Castro del Río. Then we'll make a stop in Baena, where as well as its castle we'll find a distinctly Arab atmosphere in its old quarter, in addition to various other interesting monuments. The next stop is the picturesque village of Zuheros. Its castle, dating from the end of the 9th century, stands proudly at the top of a cliff. Our next stop, Luque, is home to another 9th-century fortification, subsequently rebuilt by the Nasrids.

We continue on to Alcaudete, whose defensive enclosure was built by the Muslims and subsequently remodelled by the Christians. We now go on to the village of Castillo de Locubín to see the remains of the old castle of Las Águilas, and then to Alcalá la Real where the two routes meet once again.

Variant 2
Starting in Cordoba, the second branch goes through Fernán-Núñez, the site of a classical style ducal palace and the Baroque church of Santa Marina. We continue to Montemayor, with its splendid fortress, and in the surrounding area we can see the remains of the Andalusí castle of Dos Hermanas. Another castle awaits us at our next stop, the village of Montilla, known for its wines and for its Wine Harvest Festival.

Then we move on to Aguilar de la Frontera; the remains of the Peñón del Moro are a reminder of its Arab past. The next destination is Lucena, where the Nasrid king Boabdil was taken prisoner; and this is where we'll find what was once his prison: the Torre del Moral tower. We then continue towards Cabra to see its fortress and the 44 columns of red marble in its church, built on the site of an old mosque. The stop before Alcalá la Real is Priego de Córdoba: reminders of its Muslim history include its castle, the Barrio de la Villa neighbourhood and the nearby lookout towers.

Final section
The imposing fortress of La Mota awaits us at the monumental site of Alcalá la Real. Our trip continues through Colomera and Moclín, with the two eye-catching walled enclosures of its castle. The road continues through Pinos Puente, Güevéjar and Cogollos de la Vega, where we'll have a chance to visit the Arab baths. We then pass through Alfacar and Víznar, where the irrigation system is still structured around the Aynadamar water channel, created at the time of Al-Andalus. We continue on a little further until we reach the end of our route: Granada and its magnificent Alhambra

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