Alcalá de los Gazules

General

This is one of the “pueblos blancos” of Andalucía, so named because the outsides of most of the buildings are painted white. It is located in the interior of the province of Cádiz on the A-381 highway and by bus is 2 hours from Sevilla, 40 minutes from Cádiz and Jerez, and 30 minutes from Algeciras. Bus routes to Alcalá can be found here and here. All buses pick up and drop off at the front of the Paseo de la Playa; to go south, stand on the side of the street with the taxi stand, and to go north, stand on the Paseo side. Their website is here, and their website specifically for tourism is here. There is a Spanish-language blog here, and a blog written by English expats here.

Lodging

There is a 3-star hotel, La Palmosa, which is located about 2km outside the town center in an industrial park on the side of the highway. Not great for beautiful views or those who are traveling without a car, but it does have free wifi. There is a two-star hotel in town, Hotel San Jorge, and a hostel, Pension Pizarro. Both are run by the same company, and both are located directly in the center of town. You can also stay at the rural apartments Antigua Fonda, but they don’t accept credit cards. There is also a campground.

Food

There are a lot of places to eat in Alcalá de los Gazules, and at most of them you will get a decent meal. Some of the better restaurants are La Cabaña, across the street from the park, La Parada, at the beginning of the Paseo, Casa Jimenez, next to the Colegio Juan Armario, and El Campanero, by the BP gas station. There are 2 “Super Arcos” supermarkets and one “Día”, but if you want a Mercadona you’ll have to go to Medina, and for a Carrefour you’ll have to go to Algeciras or Jerez. Same with El Corte Inglés. There are 2 chinos where you can buy basically anything you could ever want; one is across from El Campanero and one is at the far end of the Paseo. The one across from El Campanero has more variety of products. There are also a few fruterías, but the cheapest and freshest produce comes from a fruit stand that sets up behind Calle Santo Domingo every Wednesday and Saturday morning. Saturday morning is also when the street market sets up, and it runs up and down Calle Santo Domingo from the Mercado de Abastos (which is also open every weekday morning), around the corner to Calle de Rodríguez Valcárcel, to the Paseo de la Playa.

Shopping

Further up the hill there are several locally owned shops which are good to patronize. The “shopping street” is Calle Real, from where it meets Calle Las Brozas until the Plaza Alameda. There are several clothing and household stores. Right off of Calle Real, on Calle las Brozas, you will see a red sign for Despacho Horno de Luna. This is where you can buy local and traditional pastries and breads, as well as local goat cheese. There are also two very interesting shops on Calle de la Constitución: a leather goods shop called Guarnicionería Pedro Jimenez, and an glass artist’s workshop called Cote de Campo: Creaciones en Vidrio. They are locally owned and operated and the goods are handmade as well.

Tourism

Alcalá does have a castle, but it is mostly ruins and there are no signs or guides. There are some nice views from the top of the hill where the castle is, however, so to get there, walk up to the Plaza San Jorge and take the side street next to the church and follow it to the end. Walking down the other side of the hill from the castle also lands you by the Roman fountains, which are also ruins, but are still surrounded by the traditional Roman herbs (so if you find you need some rosemary, just go grab yourself some!). There is a museum on Calle del Río Verde which details life in Alcalá throughout history, but it is rarely open. You can peek in the windows though. There is a tourist information kiosk at the bus station which has recently gained a sign. There are also two information offices that give information about the national park Los Alcornocales. One is in the Plaza San Jorge at the top of the hill next to the original ayuntamiento building, and it is a general information office for the park. The other is a building off of the A-381 exit 42 roundabout and it is the information office for El Aljibe, a mountain in the area.

Hiking

There are many hikes that leave from the town center or close to it. The Paseo de los Pozos is an easy walk of less than a kilometer along a route of old public fountains. You can do a 4km round trip walk on the bike path, which runs from the fairgrounds on the edge of town to A-381 exit 45. This walk is mostly flat, but it creeps downward almost totally unnoticed as you head toward the highway, and when you turn around to walk back you get the unpleasant surprise of struggling uphill. Another easy 4km walk is a loop around the back part of the town starting at the Vereda del Barbate by the BP gas station and ending at the old Roman bridge by the Prado. It’s better to hike it in this direction, rather than the other way as the link suggests, because there is a severe decline for the first half of the walk, which can get muddy and slippery if it has rained recently, and I wouldn’t want to attempt it uphill. A longer walk takes the same route as the Vereda del Barbate path but continues straight at the fork in the path instead of turning left, then goes under the highway and ends up at the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de los Santos. Once you cross the highway you can follow the signs to get to the sanctuary, and going inside the church and looking at the prayer artwork (called exvotos) is a great reward at the end of your journey. Going there and back from the town is about 10km. Really dedicated hikers can continue on from the sanctuary another 6km (one way) on the Cañadas de la Janda path, which I have not done (yet).

For those with a car, or those who don’t mind walking to a trailhead, and then walking again, the surrounding area has many good hikes as well. The Lomo del Judío bike path is on the other side of the highway and can be reached by following the previously mentioned bike path to the La Palmosa area, then walking along the service road for a kilometer or 2 to reach the underpass. This walk is about 10km round trip by itself, not including walking to get there, and it will take you south to the Barbate Lake. The 4km round trip Ruta de los Molinos is by the campground at the end of the road to Patrite, which itself is about 6km outside the town center. The hike is fairly short and pretty flat, but the mountains are beautiful and the venta (restaurant) at the beginning of the trail serves really good chicharrones. The Río Rocinejo hike also leaves from this general area, but the turnoff for the path is before you reach the venta or the campgrounds, only 3.5km outside of town. The hike itself is 10km round trip. For another way to reach the Barbate Lake without taking the Lomo del Judío, the Cañada Real los Ratones path will also get you there, which is 14km in total to go to the end and back. However, you can halve the hike and make it a 7km roundtrip journey and still reach the lake. The trailhead for that hike is 2km outside of town and can be reached by taking the road that links Alcalá with A-381 exit 42. Most of the other hikes in the area, including the summits of Picacho and Aljibe, leave from the Área Recreativa El Picacho, which is 12km north of town.

Everyday life

There are 3 elementary schools in Alcalá: La Sagrada Familia (or Safa), El Beaterio (run by nuns), and Juan Armario. Safa is the biggest school, and Juan Armario and el Beaterio are smaller (about 200 students each). Juan Armario is located by the Día, and Safa is up by Plaza San Jorge on the top of the hill. I don’t know where el Beaterio is yet. There is one high school down by the fairgrounds called Sainz de Andino. There is an adult education center near the always-closed history museum, as well as a cultural center located behind the Mercado de Abastos. All of these centers have activities and events open to the public, and the best way to find out what is going on is to look for posters as you walk around town. Common past activities have been employment workshops, information sessions for elders, the unemployed, youth, etc., game nights for kids, seasonal plays and celebrations, and cultural movie nights.

There are 2 places to play soccer in Alcalá: the soccer pitch on the Prado, which is outdoors, and the Polideportivo between La Cabaña and the high school, which is indoors. The Polideportivo, as its name suggests, can also be used as a basketball court, and outside of the building there are tennis and paddleball courts as well as some outdoor soccer/basketball areas. There is also a public pool right at the start of the Prado, which hasn’t been open yet, but typically opens up once school lets out.

The library used to be up in the Plaza Alameda, but it’s now in a brand new space in the El Huerto building. It looks closed from the front, but if you go down the alley like you were going to the Hotel San Jorge, you will see the door on your right. There are a couple of computers with Internet access and spaces for reading and studying. The library is open every weekday evening from 5 to 9 pm. The Guadalinfo center is in the building behind the information kiosk, and it has about 20 computers with Internet access for free. It is open Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings (until 3 pm) and Monday and Wednesday afternoons (until 10 pm), as well as Thursday afternoons (from 5 to 8 pm). If you really need to use the Internet when both the library and the Guadalinfo center are closed, there is an Internet café in the Paseo called “OcioGazul” which has about 10 computers for use at about 1 euro an hour.

There is a language exchange every Wednesday evening from 7 to 8 pm in the Youth Center (located in the Plaza Alameda). It is a good way to both practice your Spanish and help a non-native speaker practice his or her English. Many of the expats in the language exchange work or study at Painting in Spain, which is located just up the street on Calle de Nuestra Señora de los Santos.

One Response to Alcalá de los Gazules

  1. I have lived here for several years but I have learnt something new from you about the local walking routes – thank you.

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