Route of the Horse and Bull
Cadiz is probably the Spanish province where the horse best blends into its natural setting and where the equestrian tradition is most striking. The outcome of this deep-rooted equestrian tradition, which can be traced back in the Tartestian cultural mythology that flourished in this region, are the many horse-related activities to be found here.
The horse features in a wide range of activities to be enjoyed in Cadiz, whether it is the horse staring in competitions, shows or as an element for the many different horse-riding opportunities. Riding schools, hacking through the countryside, driving, classical and high school dressage exhibitions, shows, trail riding, polo matches.... and even horse racing reflecting this sport in all its glory, make up the wide range of equestrian activities for the tourist to enjoy in Cadiz. And if there is one activity that stands out among these, it is the Sanlúcar de Barrameda Horse Races, a tradition dating back 160 years old, and which are held on the city's beach every August. The races have been declared of International Tourist Interest.
From time immemorial, the bull has always held a sacred place, generally associated to strength, in Andalusia. This relationship between our ancestors and the bull would be at the roots of sacred rites and popular entertainment and leisure activities, which were wide-spreading during the Greek and Roman civilisations.
Nowadays, the countryside of Cadiz, where the "Retina" bull, famed for its meat, is also raised, has over thirty fighting bull stock forms, which makes this Andalusian province a real must-visit destination to how this animal lives in the countryside. This route is an invitation to discover the life of the bull in its natural setting and the breeding programmes to ensure the preservation of the fighting bull and the strength and nobility that define these animals.
And the bull is so important in this province that it is the icon of one of the best known and recognised wineries, the Osborne wineries, which are well worth a visit. The famous Osborne Bull has now become a true national symbol.
The most important bullrings in Cadiz, both due from the perspective of their architecture and tradition and their bullfighting programme, include the ones in El Puerto de Santa Maria built by Tomás Osborne y Bóhl de Faber in 1880, which is the venue for many celebrations in summer; Jerez de la Frontera (1894),; the bullring in Algeciras (1969), San Fernando (1871); La Línea de la Concepción (1883) and Sanlúcar de Barrameda (1900), where bull-fights are held during their most important fairs and festivities. The small Villaluenga del Rosario bullring, constructed in stone in a magnificent mountain setting, is considered to be a genuine relic of bullfighting architecture, due to the attractive unusual shape of its ring in the form of an irregular extended polygon, together with the antiquity of its origins (18th century).
Even though this route is recommended at any time of the year, it is at its best in spring (March, April and May), to be able to enjoy and discover the festivities and events featuring the bull and which are part of the culture of the province of Cadiz.
JEREZ DE LA FRONTERA-MEDINA SIDONIA
Jerez provides the ideal backdrop for the Spanish horse and is where this tradition is most deep rooted. It was in the valley of the River Guadalete where the monks of the Carthusian Monastery of Santa María de la Defensión started to breed a line of horses in the 15th century that overtime would become one of the most acclaimed breeds in the world: the Carthusian or Andalusian horse. After the plundering of the monastery during the Peninsular War, the breeding of the Carthusian horses continued and its new owner set up the famous Yeguada de la Cartuja - Hierro del Bocado stud farm. Make time to visit the stud to learn about the history of the famous Carthusian horse and enjoy the dressage and driving exhibitions featuring some of the fine animals kept here.
Jerez can truly claim to be the Spanish capital of the horse thanks to the numerous stud and stock farms with their horse breeding and selection programmes, and the many different festivities where the figure of the horse is the undisputed star. These include its famous Horse Fair, declared to be an event of International Tourist Interest, with an extensive programme where the horse appears in its many different facets, or the Autumn Fair with its magnificent equestrian parade and the "Ancades" international show-jumping competition, that is held in the Chapin stadium. Jerez's long equestrian tradition has been recognised when the city has been chosen as the venue to host major events, such as the World Equestrian Games in 2002. The Spanish horse has truly left its mark on Jerez down through the ages.
The horse that is most commonly found in Cadiz is the so-called cross-breed, which can be broken down into three bloodlines Spanish, Arab and English, where the genetic combinations and crosses sought to obtain the characteristic qualities and functions. Special mention should be made of the Spanish-Arab horse, which is considered to be the prototype of the Andalusian horse, thanks to its beauty, strength, resistance and elegance.
The city and the surrounding area offer a wide range of equestrian activities in the city itself and on the stud and stock farms, that are real musts for horse lovers and for the public in general: horse shows, exhibitions in ménages and plazas de tienta (small bullrings where the bulls are tested), hacking and horse trekking, dressage and driving exhibitions, riding courses, etc.
Make sure you take time to visit the city: stroll through the old city, visit the Cathedral and the Arab Fortress, an example of Almohad architecture whose walled complex is home to the Mosque. Palaces, aristocratic mansions and the Gothic, Mudejar and Renaissance churches are the gems of this city brimming with history.
Medina Sidonia is a delightful town in the province of Cadiz that preserves intact the medieval and Arab feel in its urban layout of whitewashed houses and narrow and terraced streets. Founded by the Phoenicians, it was an important Roman colony. The castle ruins still remain from the medieval era, along with some arches and gateways to the old town, such as the Arco de la Pastora (Shepherdess Arch - 10th century), del Sol (Sun Arch - 10th-13th century) and Arco de Belén (Nativity Arch - 12th-15th century). Worth visiting is the town's parish church Santa María la Mayor Coronada (15th-17th century) in the Gothic and Plateresque styles.
Special mention should be made of the area's gastronomic delights and, in particular, the Medina Arab pastries, whose ingredients include almonds, honey, pistachios, cinnamon, sesame and species.
Medina has traditionally been on what is known as the Route of the Bull given the large number of fighting bull stock farms locally. It is an opportunity to discover this stunning and noble animal in its natural environment and the selection and breeding programmes for the fighting bulls.
There are several stock farms along the route. One of the local estates, Los Alburejos, offers a unique visit, "A campo abierto" (In the Heart of the Country), with an exhibition of horses and bulls against a truly beautiful natural backdrop. At the Herederos de Cebada Gago estate, expert guides will show you around as your discover these unique animals in a natural setting. Their beauty, their customs, breeding, raising and selection the bulls... An incredible experience alongside thoroughbred animals!
Most of the route runs through the Los Alcornocales Natural Park, a beautiful setting with thick cork and holm oak forests, which is home to many of these stock farms, most of which can be visited and where you can discover for yourself all the work that goes into raising this animal.
BENALUP-CASAS VIEJAS - ALCALÁ DE LOS GAZULES- VEJER DE LA FRONTERA
Mile after mile of meadows and fields of green, juicy grass where the bull grazes freely is a common sight along this route that will take you first of all to San José del Valle, then on to Paterna, a Benalup-Casas Viejas, Alcalá de los Gazules y Vejer de la Frontera, towns that make up the heart of the La Campiña and are inside Cadiz's La Janda region.
Benalup-Casas Viejas, a small town that is known for "what went on in Casas Viejas", the 1933 anarchist uprising in the struggle for decent living conditions and which is the town's most important historical event. The libertarian uprising was stamped out by the police and soldiers and left 22 dead civilians. These sad events turned Benalup into the symbol for anarchist freedom and an icon for the peasant movement.
The Hotel Utopía reopened a few years ago. This cult destination has created the atmosphere of the 1930s and boasts one of the best collections of that time. A chronicle of everyday life, society and culture of a key decade of the 20th century, recreated in a museum, a theatre-coffee restaurant and in the 16 rooms and suites of this hotel.
Alcalá de los Gazules, the gateway to the Los Alcornocales Natural Park, is a beautiful Andalusian village, which was home to the Phoenicians, Romans and Arabs.... with steep whitewashed streets that lead to large square. Make sure you take time to stroll through this village and discover the hidden spots and people that reflect the best of other eras, of other ways of life. Then continue on your way and visit the park that is home to the largest cork oak forest on the Iberian peninsula and is one of the largest in Europe, and where a wide range of outdoors activities are on offer.
Then make your way to Vejer de la Frontera, one of the most beautiful and picturesque towns in the province and has been declared a Historical-Artistic Site. It preserves its Arab legacy that can be seen in its popular architecture and in its urban layout, such as the Jewish quarter. The town has been walled right from earliest times and 4 medieval gateways, several towers and the remains of the castle (11th-16th centuries) can still be seen. Vejer is just 9 kilometres from the coast and you can stop off at the stunning beaches with its fine golden sand, such as El Palmar, where you can go horse-riding or find out why it is such a top destination with surfers.
Within the municipal district, around 15 km from the town along the A-48 road (km. 42), you will come to Montenmedio, a cutting-edge complex with stabling for 1500 horses and designed to host any type of regional, national or international competitions in the field of dressage, show jumping, cross country, field dressage ("doma vaquero"), driving and 3-day eventing. It is the venue for the "Circuito Hípico del Sol" dressage and show-jumping circuit every spring. This complex is often visited by the leading members of international royalty.
This centre combines tourist facilities with sport and artistic events. Its contemporary art collection, with works by artists of the ilk of James Turrell or Marina Abramovic, is well worth visiting. The complex has a variety of restaurants and leisure activities for everyone: Horse-riding, quads, 4x4, bird watching...
SAN ROQUE: THE MECCA OF POLO
Considered to the European centre of polo par excellence, the sport is played year round in Sotogrande, with important tournaments that attract teams from around the world, during the Easter, July, August and Christmas seasons. The municipality currently has eleven first-rate polo fields. There is a polo school, where classes are taught to students of all ages and tournaments are organised.
Since the 1960s, Santa María Polo Club has built up its reputation and is now one of the top three polo clubs in Europe, where you can play the sport all year round. It is the only polo club in the world that annually holds two tournaments that are part of the World Polo Tour: the Silver Cup and the Gold Cup. Each year, the Lexus Polo Tournament is widely covered by the international and national media.
The municipality is on the Route of the Bull and is home, as is the whole of the Campo de Gibraltar region, including Los Barrios, Castellar, Jimena and Tarifa, to a large number of stock farms, which welcome visitors, in an attractive upland setting with thick holm and cork oak forests. This area is well worth visiting and boasts a wide range of leisure, outdoor, gourmet, sports and cultural activities.
Enjoy your stay!
Traditional festivities related to the horse and bull
-Horse Fair- May-Jerez de la Frontera
-Circuito Hípico del Sol show-jumping and dressage circuit - spring-Dehesa Monteenmedio- Vejer de la Frontera
-Horse Racing -August -Playa de Sanlúcar de Barrameda
-"Embolao" bull with Flaming Horns Run- Easter Sunday - Vejer de la Frontera and Los Barrios
-"Enmaromados" roped bulls -23 April - Alcalá de los Gazules
-Aleluya bull running - Easter Sunday - Paterna and Arcos de la Frontera
-Aguardiente bull run- San Roque (August), Puerto Serrano (January)
-Roped bull run- Easter Sunday -Benamahoma, Benaocaz,Grazalema
Yeguada La Cartuja-Hierro del Bocado stud farm (Saturdays) Telf: +34 956 162 809
Williams & Humbert winery All year Telf: 677 452 256
LIVESTOCK AND STUD FARMS WITH TOURISTS ACTIVITIES
Estates in Jerez
Cortijo La Peñuela. Fermin Bohorquez
Farms in Medina Sidonia
Finca Los Alburejos- "A campo abierto" (In the Heart of the Country) Torrestrella-Alvaro Domecq
Finca Herederos de Cebada Gago Ctra. Jerez-Medina, A-381-km.31
Cortijo Fuenterey. Fermín Bohorquez. Ctra.Jerez-Medina,km. 21
Toros tours. Guided visits to livestock farms
Estates in Vejer
Estates in Castellar
La Almoraima Convent. Finca La Almoraima
Santa María Polo Club. Finca Los Pinos,Ctra. A-7,exit a133. Sotogrande
Sotogrande Club Hípico. Los Pinos-Sotogrande polo fields
HACE- Charm hotels
Hotel Utopía. Benalup-Casas Viejas
Hacienda del agua. Alcalá de los Gazules
Hoteles NH. San Roque
This route takes you through many spots of the province where you can find other activities outside the world of the horse and the bull to round off your visit:
Jerez de la Frontera
Alcázar de Jerez
Camara obscura - Visits
1 May - 15 September, from 11.00 a.m. - 08.00 p.m.
1 May - 15 September, from 10.00 a.m. to 17.30 p.m.
La Atalaya Centre Museums: The Palace of Time and The Mystery of Jerez
We have two recommended activities for you if you are travelling with children:
Jerez Zoo, one of the oldest in Spain. There are over 1,200 animals from 225 species and 400 botanical species. The zoo is home to a large number of threatened species, in danger of extinction, which are part of a major research and conservation project that makes it one of the most important zoos in the country.
Kariba Crocodile Farm, which is the only one of its kind in Spain
Dinner and Flamenco shows
Tablao del Bereber- for a drink and a disco. Telf: 0034 956341720
You should also take time to visit the ancient Roman Asido Caesarina, an archaeological site that still has the remains of the sewage system, drains, rooms, houses and part of the pathway that runs four metres under the street. The Ethnographic Museum, located in a mansion, contains many of the items that were part of daily life in the past of Medina Sidonia.
Municipal Archaeological Museum . Asido Caesarina Roman Archaeological Complex
Tajo de las Figuras Cave - Cave paintings
Ask for further information at the Tourist Office - Tel: 0034 956 424 009
Jimena de la Frontera
Cork Workshop - making products out of the cork harvested in the Los Alcornocales Natural Park.- Further information available from the Town Hall
In the heart of the Campo de Gibraltar, San Roque is the home of the ruins of the city of Carteja. This settlement, which dates back to Phoenician times (c. 7th century B.C.) and was home to the Romans from II B.C. onwards, played a particularly important role due to its strategic location close to the Straits of Gibraltar. One of the highlights of the visit is the thermal pool, which seems to have been recently built, but in fact is over two thousand years old.
Take exit 117 from the A-7 motorway towards Guadarranque to reach Carteia.
Baelo Claudia is in Bolonia, roughly 15 km. away. This Roman city was founded in the 2nd century B.C. and became an important urban and economic hub. Its main industry was fish salting, with most of the catch coming from the almadraba net system introduced by the Phoenicians, and producing the famous garum sauce, that was exported throughout the Roman Empire. We strongly recommend making time to visit it.
Before starting the visit through the archaeological complex, you should visit the Baelo Claudia Visitors' Centre, in order to get an overall and full view and it will help you to learn about and appreciate this artistic enclave. You will also be struck by the unrivalled views of the archaeological site, the Cadiz coast and the Straits of Gibraltar.
Day trip: A boat trip in the Straits to go whale watching, where you can see different types of dolphins, pilot whales, fin whales, and if you are lucky the sperm whale and killer whale.