One of the loveliest villages in Spain

2016-11-21 07:00:00

A prehistoric cave, a spectacular canyon and a pretty urban centre are just some of the attractions which capture the attention of those who visit the peaceful village of Zuheros. Situated in the south-east of Cordoba province, in the Subbética region, it is considered one of the loveliest villages in the country thanks, among other things, to the efforts of local people to keep their streets well-cared for and a remarkable landscape, where olive groves have forged an aesthetic alliance with the limestone mountains.
The centre of the village, which was classified as a Historic-Artistic Site in 2003, is situated beside dizzying gorges and rocky areas which are as surprising for their shapes as for their dimensions.
Historically, this karst landscape has been advantageous for the people of Zuheros. Today it may appear to be an idyllic Andalusian mountain village, but centuries ago it was made almost impregnable by its fortress, which resists the passage of time on a rocky crag. This walled precinct is reached through the pretty streets and public squares of this charming Cordoban village.
The walled area, which has spectacular views over the surrounding area, is thought to have been built by the Moors in the ninth century. Inside, there are the remains of a later Renaissance palace.
Beside the castle stands another emblem of the village, Los Remedios church, whose precedent was a small chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The present building was constructed over this at the end of the 16th century, although the works were not fully completed until a century later. It was in the year 1696 that the final details were added to the church, with a Baroque altarpiece, a semi-circular dome and the chapels of El Señor de la Humildad and El Rosario.
Later, several changes were made to the structure of the building, and these have given it its present austere appearance.
However, apart from these two places of interest, anyone who visits Zuheros should wander through the labyrinthine network of narrow and sometimes steep streets, which are worthy of any picture postcard of rural Andalucía. Between the streets there are some pretty squares decorated with pots of flowers, and lookout points with lovely views over the agricultural and mountainous countryside.
By wandering in this way, visitors will arrive at some of the other places of interest in Zuheros, its museums. One of these is the house and studio of local artist Francisco Poyato, which contains a permanent exhibition of his surrealist works, comprising drawings, paintings and sculptures.
Another, in what is known locally as the ‘Casa Grande’, or ‘Big House’ is the Museum of Arts and Customs which is named after another illustrious Zuheros resident, Juan Fernández Cruz (although he was born in Jaén).
The four floors of the building are divided into 28 separate spaces showing the economic and social life of Zuheros during the past few centuries. There are also old farm tools and items which would have been found in any rural home in the past.
The third museum in Zuheros is dedicated to archaeology, and more specifically to the remains which have been found in the nearby Cueva de los Murciélagos (Bat Cave). Unsurprisingly, this collection includes some prehistoric items found in the cave, including ceramics, decorative items and all types of utensils made from stone and bone. In addition, the collection includes remains from the Roman era such as a sculpture of a person wearing a toga and a sarcophagus made from stone.
But of course a visit to this museum would not make sense if you did not go beforehand or afterwards to the aforementioned Cueva de los Murciélagos. To reach it, you have to go up the hill of the same name, which is about four kilometres outside the village.
As you can guess, it gets its name from the presence of these small flying mammals throughout history. What is most surprising about this cave, however, is not the bats but the beauty of its different limestone rock formations, the stalactites and stalagmites.
Apart from its remarkable beauty, which has resulted in it deservedly being classified as a Natural Monument of Andalucía, this cave in Zuheros is also classified as a Site of Cultural Interest thanks to the remains which have been found there and put on display at the Archaeological Museum, and the paintings which can be seen on its walls. It is important to note that a visit to the cave needs to be booked in advance if you are not to miss seeing this marvel of nature.
If the limestone geology is the main feature of the interior of this cave, that is also the case in another of the natural enclaves which lie close to the village, the canyon of the Bailón river. To get a good look at this gorge, you can stop at the viewing point on the road which leads up to the Murciélagos hill. From there, you will be able to see the dimensions of this karst gorge, and also the location of the Cueva del Fraile cave, where prehistoric remains have also been discovered.
Within the canyon there is a spectacular waterfall, but to see it you will need to follow a walking route beside the river, which curiously has a great deal of water when it passes through the gorge but not so much as it flows through the village. This is due to the geology along its route, because in some places the water seeps away.
In addition to this walking route, there are other interesting ones around this village in Cordoba province, such as those along the Vía Verde de la Subbética.
After touring the delights of Zuheros, there is nothing better than to sample some of its varied gastronomy. In this agricultural village, the virgin extra olive oil is a staple part of the local cuisine and is used in dishes such as the ‘mojete de patatas’, ‘clavelina’ and the oranges ‘picás’ in oil. As well as this liquid gold, the other star product of the village is the cheese made from locally-reared goats.
This weekend would be the ideal time to sample these and other local specialities, because the final part of the Zuheros Tapas Route is taking place, with a variety of dishes to try at a very reasonable price.source surinenglish