If you shut your eyes tight and imagine a traditional white village in the heart of the Andalusian countryside, the image you’ll conjure up will probably bear an uncanny resemblance to Zahara de la Sierra. Certainly it has all the quintessential ingredients – the neat sugar cube houses, colourful geranium-strewn balconies, ancient churches, steep cobbled streets winding their way ever upward… And yet, declared a ‘Historic Artistic Place’ in 1983, Zahara has more, much more besides.
Sheer, vertical cliffs – crowned both with the ruins of a 13th century Moorish castle and the Torre del Homenaje dating from the 15th century – form a dramatic backdrop to the sleepy little village of just 1,500 inhabitants, while the still blue waters of the lake that stretches out beneath it lend Zahara something of an Alpine feel.
And, perhaps surprisingly given its diminutive size, there’s plenty of sights to see and things to do in the village itself, which is also the perfect base from which to explore the Sierra de Grazalema nature park as well as the grand Andalusian cities of Sevilla, Jerez, Cádiz and Ronda.
It might be less than a 90-minute drive from Marbella, but it’s a world apart.