There in the distance, beyond the blossoming cherry trees, was our first glimpse of the citadel; an ancient walled city; an integral part of Andalucía’s Al Andalus history.
This view of the iconic Alcala la Real, a beautiful town in Jaen Province has seduced writer and travellers over the centuries.
I’ve been wanting to see this place for a few years, and this spring day I had finally made it along the winding roads to the top of the hilltop town.
It may be April, but the temperature soared to almost 30 degrees centigrade (that’s 86 Fahrenheit for US readers), whilst incongruously in this heat, the sun glinted off the snow still covering the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Jaen is one of the least visited provinces of Andalucía, yet boasts extraordinary natural parks, like Cazorla Natural Park; Renaissance cities and ancient citadels dating back hundreds of years to the Muslim occupation.
The regional government is now investing millions of euro, making this medieval alcazaba into a world-class visitor attraction.
The Christian Church that now stands on the Arab ruins is the venue for a high tech and very impressive audio visual, cinematic style presentation that takes you back to Al Andalus.
Andalucía is trying hard to pull quality tourism inland, so that it strays further afield from the well trodden trail of Granada’s Alhambra and other over visited destinations. Tourist authorities have created new routes, such as the ‘Route of Washington Irving’ (after the US ambassador and writer) and the ‘Route of the Caliphate’ to pull together some of threads of Andalucía’s rich history and culture.
Alcala al Real is on these cultural, architectural and gastronomic routes and is no doubt set to be a block buster destination in due course, as the word spreads.