There are many castles and fortifications all across the region of Andalucía, often not much more than stumps of ancient watchtowers. It can be hard to imagine life back then with communication being fire or smoke from tower to tower.
Out of the eight provinces in Andalucia Jaén has the most medieval defense structures its most famous being and best preserved from the Al-Andalus era is the castle – Castillo de Burgalimar in Baños de la Encina to the north of Jaén province. It was built in the form of an oval with fourteen towers and its ‘tabiyya’ walls are the best example of Andalusian military architecture in Europe.
Route of the Castles and Battles of Jaén
Castillo de Burgalimar is one of many on the Route of the Castles and Battles of Jaén, a route following the medieval defenses and battlefields, it also includes some recreational and theatrical tours. The Route of Castles and Battles crosses the western part of the province from north to south. The area has the greatest concentration of castles and fortresses in Europe, and is also home to two of the most important Spanish battles – The Battle of Bailén in 1808 and the Battle of Navas de Tolosa in 1212.
The full route goes through part of Ciudad Real and ends at the most impressive fortress of all – The Alhambra but Jaén has the largest number of monuments and it would need at least two days to visit them all. Beginning in the Natural Park of Despeñaperros, the natural path through the rocky terrain separating Castilla-La Mancha and Andalucia is the battleground of Navas de Tolosa, the ruins of the castles of Castro Ferral in Santa Elena, Navas de Tolosa in La Carolina and Vilches.
Heading towards Linares and the city´s castle there is also the caste of Santa Eufemia next to the ancient site of Cástulo one of the most prosperous ancient cities in Andalucia and the birthplace of Princess Himilce who became the wife of Hannibal.
Next comes the the 15th century castle-palace La Tobaruela and then the 10th century Castillo de Burgalimar. Continuing south to the plains surrounding Bailén city and the site of Napoleon´s first major defeat in 1808.
Leaving the mountains of the Sierra Morena behind and moving into the olive groves of Jaén the city of Andújar on the banks of the mighty River Guadalquivir with parts of its medieval city walls intact.
Crossing the famous river to the town of Arjonilla and its castle El Trovador Macias and neighbouring Arjona with remains of its Arab city walls and also the birthplace of Muhammad I the first Nasrid king of Granada.
The 12th century El Berrueco castle is next on the route before heading into Jaén city and the 13th century castle Santa Catalina which reigns over it.
About half an hour south of the provincial capital is Torredonjimeno site of a 12/13th century castle reformed in the 15th century after Christian conquest by the Order of Calatrava into a palace-reseidence. In the nearby olive growing capital of Martos there are two castles La Peña, now a hilltop ruin, and La Villa, currently being restored. On the outskirts of Martos overlooking a reservoir is Viboras castle en route to Alcaudete and one of the best preserved fortresses in Andalucia.
Photo – Model of Forteleza La Mota
The last monument before entering the province of Granada is the stunning Forteleza La Mota once an important defense and Muslim city – a really interesting and informational visit to end the route and if you don´t mind enclosed spaces do a tour of the tunnels on your visit.
If history is your thing Jaén really is a must visit. Read more about the Route of Castles and Battles.