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Castles and Battles Route, the epic side of Andalusia

Ruta Castillos y batallas jaen (33)

Come and join us in this article and attend a medieval lunch, spend a night in a castle and be fascinated by passageways, walls and corners full of the epic events across Jaén and Granada, the reg

If we had to persuade you to take a trip through Andalusia by saying that it has over 1000 kilometres of beaches with some of the most spectacular in Europe, perhaps we would not be telling you anything new, would we? Just the same as if we tried to surprise you by speaking of our cuisine or cultural heritage. Everyone knows about that. But what if we said that Andalusia is the region with the largest number of castles in Europe? Yes, my friends, not Scotland, Germany or the Loire Valley. Right here in Andalusia.

Now you are surprised, aren't you? Well, it's true! That is why we have travelled to the provinces of Jaén and Granada for a highly entertaining visit to some of the most iconic places of the "Castles and Battles Route” where you can feel like real characters from the time…

This could be from walking through spectacular fortresses or sleeping in real castles with rooms from the times of greatest medieval splendour…

Or when feasting at the finest medieval lunches like the nobility centuries ago!

Are you interested? This is the point where we have got your full attention, haven't we? Good, keep on reading this article, where we want you to accompany us to the places that we describe through experiences and spectacular places with which we aim to encourage you to discover this perhaps less well-known part of Andalusia.

The largest number of castles in Europe

Three great battles took place on Jaén soil, changing the course of history.

First, Romans and Carthaginians fought in 208 B.C.; 1000 years later, Almohads and Christians in 1212, and finally, French and Spanish in 1808. Centuries of friction between one or another group who defended themselves behind solid buildings, surrounded by huge walls, moats and towers, raised in strategic places to act as symbols of power and resistance.

With the whole province of Jaén as a focal point, the Castles and Battles Route guides visitors through the lands where epic battles were fought.

Castles which changed hands after hard-won battles and which now form part of a highly entertaining historical legacy in an exciting journey back to the most war-like past of Andalusia, with a string of perfectly preserved castles where you can experience what it was like to look out from some of the best vantage points in Andalusia, from where centuries ago, the enemy was spotted and kept under surveillance.

Baños de la Encina, a castle… from fairytales!

The first stop on our journey along the Castles and Battles Route is the iconic Baños de la Encina castle which fulfils all the features of the classic castle which we automatically imagine when we hear the word "castle”.

With enormous crenellated walls, the castle stands on a hilltop from where you can see the delightful medieval village of Baños de la Encina.

The castle you see here is considered to be one of the oldest castles in Europe, and built in 968, by order of the Umayyad caliph Al-Hakam I.

Later, after the Reconquest, the castle passed into Christian hands, where, among others, the keep and the bailey were added inside.

Visits are guided, so you can discover countless strange events and legends as you walk to its bailey, which offers a priceless view of the castle.

For the more daring, you will have the opportunity to climb the wall and view the castle from above.

As well as an outstanding view over the whole of the Sierra Morena to the north and the Guadalquivir Valley south of the ramparts of the wall. Fantastic.

A night in Santa Catalina Castle

Next, the route will take us to the city of Jaén, where you will find the famous Santa Catalina castle and the fortress that encloses the Parador Hotel, where, my friends yes, we invite you to sleep among its epic walls.

It's not every day that you sleep in a noble castle!

Its corridors, full of mystery, surprise you and astroll along them under the oil lamps will awaken sensations of all kinds! Believe us, the way to your room is nothing short of terrific!

The monumental air of the castle is the same as on the first day.

Impressive crossed arches 20 metres high, rooms decorated with care for every detail will make you breathe in true epic evnts of places like this where characters from the time spent hours planning their defence.

And what can we say about the surroundings, with the stunning keep

Its incredible walls, where at night you will have no difficulty in travelling back in time as you move through its fortified arches…

And of course, there is the famous Mirador de la Cruz, imposing, magical at dusk under the moonlight

and the best place to enjoy one of the finest panoramic views over Jaén and its cathedral.

However, for that special and unforgettable moment, we will certainly choose daybreak and such wonderful views as await you at dawn from the rooms in the Parador de Santa Catalina hotel.

Imagine how wonderful it is to awaken in a medieval room looking out on such views with the freshness of the morning

Are you interested? Would you like an experience like this or… wouldn't you?

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So, it is pleasant to wake up and, since it is also important to recharge your batteries, a good Andalusian breakfast before continuing along the Castles and Battles route must not be missed. Daily rations!

Alcaudete castle and a medieval lunch!

The next stop on our Castles and Battles Route is in Alcaudete, just over 40 kilometres from Jaén, where once again there is an enormous hill, known as Calatravo Alcaudete Castle.

The Moors built this impressive fortress which won fame as being inaccessible in the Caliphate period.

It was the centre for protecting a bustling commercial city and was coveted by both Moorish and Christian armies, changing hands several times.

This is one of the best restored castles in all the route.

Most of it was rebuilt by order of the warrior monks of the Order of Calatrava during the 13th and 14th centuries, and thanks to extensive maintenance and restoration, here we can breathe the spirit of the times.

Its geographical position, as with the previous castles, means that the views ae stunning from any of its towers along the wall and especially from the castle's huge keep.

But if you thought that the visit to this castle ended here… you arevery much mistaken! One of the most charming attractions, and one you will certainly not want to miss if you visit Alcaudete castle, is its medieval lunches.

Dressed in period costumes, available in the castle, you can show them off around the marvellous rooms in the castle…

As well as giving full rein to your appetite with a splendid medieval menu where cutlery will be prohibited!

The aim is not only to dress up, but to stage a genuine medieval lunch, so not only is cutlery forbidden, but also modern ingredients and products, such as Cola Coca and other utensils not used in those times! Really great fun!

Is there anything more original than drinking a toast at a feast of this type, in a room like this, dressed in period costume and listening to medieval music? Believe us, this is an experience you must try. Really great fun!

Epics and walks around La Mota Fortress

With batteries well-charged, we went to the last stop on the route before entering the province of Granada: the formidable. La Mota Fortress

A visit to this fortress is quite an experience where you enter a magical setting, the gateway, guardian and defence of the kingdoms of Castile.

This huge building stands at over 1000 metres above sea-level and affords excellent views from its towers, which both Moors and Christians won and lost in battle after battle for hundreds of years.

We suggest you venture among its walls.

And that you stop under its impressive entry and exit gates to the fortress

And you explore its buildings, rooms and watch points where you will feel like a bird hovering over the huge olive groves for which Jaén is famous.

Come and discover the wineries at the fortress, its houses, rebuilt in the style of long ago; as well as its streets and mysterious passages complete with stairs that will take you from one side to the other of the fortress

As with its urban layout, the Alcazaba citadel and Abbey Church, will make you exclaim in surprise, given the excavations you will find inside where, amongst others, Muslim, Visigoth and Christian remains have been found.

The Alhambra, the best ending possible

And as a finishing touch, there was no better way to end such a thrilling route than at the fortress of all fortresses, the castle of all castles: the fabulous Alhambra, its palaces, gardens and beautiful walled enclosure towering over the Albaicín district.

Like the rest of castles along the Castles and Battles Route,it stands on a hill, known as Al-Sabika, with the Darro river at its foot.

Its position could not be more strategic. From here, the whole of the city of Granada, and the Granada plain was controlled.

The entire site is fully walled and the reddish colour of its walls gives it its name, Alhambra, in Arabic "qa'lat al-Hamra”, "Red Castle”.

There are many reasons why you should venture to travel the most epic route of Andalusia, that of Castles and Battles. From a night in a castle and a medieval lunch, to the spectacular viewpoints between the ramparts of an ancient fortress.

Places filled with legends, with unique experiences in fantastic settings, such as this one, the Mirador de San Nicolás viewpoint in Granada, where we want to take our leave opposite one of the greatest treasures on this route, in Andalusia and certainly one of the most beautiful ever built by man: the Alhambra.

Castles and Battles Route, the epic side of Andalusia
Alcalá la Real, Alcaudete, Baños de la Encina, Granada, Jaén (Granada, Jaén)