At the frontier
Castellar and Jimena
Right in the heart of the province, in the Los Alcornocales Natural Park, there was a frontier that divided the Christian and Muslim worlds for many centuries and which left a linguistic, gastronomic and cultural legacy that is still felt today.
Two days are really needed to spend time strolling through these two charming villages, enjoying the hospitality of the local residents, the tradition of their customs, their historical legacy, their strategic location and the beauty of their streets and homes, monuments, churches etc. And this is all in a unique setting, between the Los Alcornocales park, known as the European jungle, contains the most extensive cork forest on the Iberian peninsula, and the Straits of Gibraltar, which is also a natural park and home to whales and dolphins that are a joy to watch.
Castellar de la Frontera, built on a rocky crag with its magnificent castle that looks out over the whole Bay of Algeciras and the Rock of Gibraltar, is set in the heart of the countryside. Its origin can be traced back to the Bronze age, but it acquired its real identity with the Muslim conquest when its name was changed to Al-Qars.
There are actually two Castellars, Castellar Viejo, the old town that we recommend visiting, and the Nuevo or new, 9 km from the former. The old town is home to the fort built in the 12th-15th centuries and there is one of the few existing examples of an inhabited urban centre inside a fortification within the castle. The town still has a medieval structure with a maze of narrow streets and whitewashed homes. You can see Africa on a clear day.
The La Almoraima estate is within easy reach of the town. This former 17th-century convent became the property of the Duke of Medinaceli, who turned it into a hunting estate and a cork company was set up there in the 20th century. It is now a hotel and restaurant, and an ideal spot to get away from it all.
The town is on the Horse and Bull route, which visitors can follow to discover this area where the toro bravo (fighting bulls) lives in its natural setting and learn about the careful breeding work that goes into protecting this breed, which can be seen grazing in the meadows of La Almoraima and El Boyal.
You should also visit the Los Alcornocales Natural Park where there are many different outdoor sports and activities to choose from.
Jimena de la Frontera is located between the Sierra de Ronda mountain range and the Bay of Algeciras, and its fort rises up from the top of the hill over the town that clings to the slopes. The castle, built in the 13th and 14th centuries, is of note with its battlemented walls, Keep, the Albarrana tower, the cisterns and the Arco de Reloj (Watch Arch) gateway. The Baths of the Moorish Queen are behind the castle. The town also has several churches that are fine examples of the religious architecture of the 15-17th centuries.
Spend time strolling through this pretty town, with its charming white houses and narrow streets, taste the local cuisine and, above all, get to know its residents. And take the opportunity to try the piñonate, a delicious Arab pastry, and the chantarelles in autumn, those mushrooms that are so tasty and just one of the many varieties to be found at the only mushroom auction room in Spain, which operates in the town during the autumn.
Mushrooms are important in Jimena, and throughout the Los Alcornocales Natural Park, and each year Mycological Seminars are held here and are steadily growing in importance.Visit the Mycological Center.
As the town is in the Los Alcornocales Natural Park, some of the most interesting activities on offer include hiking, cycle touring and horse riding.The River Hozgarganta route follows the course of the river and is noted for its beautiful setting among cork, wild olive and oak trees.
Jimena hosts cultural activities of note: the Flamenco Festival at Jimena Station.