This beautiful white village rises over a spectacular rock in the Sierras Subbéticas Natural Park. Nearby, we will find the famous cavity they call the “neolithic cathedral”: the Bats Cave. Learn the history and what to see in Zuheros through this article.
It will take us a whole morning to visit the old town of Zuheros and stop at its two museums. This way, we can leave the most remarkable activity for the afternoon: visiting its famous Bats Cave. If we want more, we can expand our trip to Baena in the north. We could also pay a visit to the Sierras Subbéticas Natural Park and the fortress of Carcabuey. Likewise, it would be nice to travel to Cabra or Lucena, as well as the capital of the province: good old Córdoba.
Regarding the best restaurants and hotels in the village, we can tell you where to sleep and where to eat in Zuheros. This place is also perfect for those who love active tourism, mainly due to its privileged location.
Understanding its past is key for getting to fully enjoy Zuheros. To start with, Neanderthals inhabited this place approximately 40000 years ago. Homo sapiens took over during the Upper Palaeolithic. However, the richest remains in the area come from the Neolithic period (4400-3150 BC). The item that stands out the most is perhaps the cup of Zuheros, kept at the Archaeological Museum of Córdoba.
Much later, in 712, the Muslim lineage of Banu Himsi ordered to conduct a series of constructions on the rocky lands of Zuheros. Omar Al-Udri, a geographer and historian from Al-Andalus, mentioned this place named Sujaira in his Book of the Roads and the Kingdoms.
At the end of the 19th century, the Muladí people built the fortress of Sujaira and joined the guerrilla lead by Omar Ben Hafsún, successfully fighting the Emirate of Córdoba for decades. In 921, their warlord Musa Ben Yazid surrendered the castle to the troops of the Emirate of Córdoba, and they were forced to demolish it. Nine years later, it was called the “Place of the Banu Himsi”. Formerly part of the cora of Granada, this place came to belong to Priego. Eventually, in the 12th century, both the castle and the walls were rebuilt by the Almohads.
In May 1241, the inhabitants of Zuheros made a deal with Fernando III of Castile. This way, they gave up the village in exchange of being able to stay there and enjoy some privileges. The monarch gifted the village to his second wife, Queen Joan of Dammartin. When she returned to France, the queen gave this territory to her youngest son, Louis of Castile. Then the mosque turned into a church dedicated to Saint Mary. Muslim people were then forced to move out of the precinct, where they built another mosque. This is how the suburb outside the walls was created, including the current Calle Nueva and its surroundings.
In 1284, when Alfonso X of Spain died, his youngest son Juan of Castile was gifted Zuheros as part of his inheritance. However, when he plotted against his brother Sancho IV, the latter made the council of Córdoba take Zuheros in retaliation. The following year, Juan went into exile to Marruecos, supporting the Marinids in the siege of Tarifa, defended by Guzmán el Bueno.
In 1441, Juan II handed the lordship of Zuheros to Pedro Ferández de Córdoba, lord of Aguilar. This family would found a series of religious buildings and his own palace. Later on, in 1868, they became aware of the importance of the Bats Cave. Nonetheless, it would not become a museum and be open to public until 1991. In 2003, the Villa was declared a historic-artistic monument.
Zuheros beautifully adapts the human-made elements to the natural setting. The old town is a maze of slopes, stairs, and narrow streets. The cluster of white little houses gathers on the rocks. The castle dates back to the 10th century, although most of its current looks belong to Renaissance architecture. This has to do with the 16th century reform carried out by the architect Hernán Ruiz III by order of Juan Fernández de Córdoba. The fortress preserves its keep and the Arab cistern.
Right in the centre of the village we will find the church of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, built between the 16th and the 18th centuries. The building is partially supported by the old exterior Arab walls. The tower was built in 1795, making use of the minaret of the new mosque the Mudejar citizens constructed in 1241. Back then, they had to leave their homes and move out of the walls. Among its most remarkable elements stand out the Baroque main altarpiece and the paintings.
Another appealing aspect of Zuheros would be its surrounding landscapes. In order to fully enjoy the village, it would be advisable to calmly explore its lookouts. For example, we have the one in the street of Horno, “Mirador del Villa”, or the lookout on the crossroads with Calle Nueva, “Mirador de las Escominillas”.
Most of the vestiges of the past that have been found in Zuheros’ surroundings are kept in the Historic and Archaeologic Museum of Zuheros, in the street of La Paz. Those who are not familiar with the rural lifestyle of the mountains may be interested in visiting the Museum of Popular Arts and Customs, held in a building called Casa Grande.
The Bats Cave is only about 4 kilometres away. The cave encompasses 2 kilometres of spectacular karst formations and rich archaeological sites. It has been called the “Neolothic Cathedral” due to its precious findings, like the cup of Zuheros and its cave paintings.
The Bats Cave was inhabited up to Roman times. In order to explore its 800 walkable metres, one must walk down about 700 steps. At this crazy steepness, one will reach a depth of 80 metres. We suggest previously checking the opening hours. Either way, this is definitely a must-see in Zuheros.
The old railways of Tren del Aceite (“The Oil Train”) nowadays serve as a path for hikers and riders. They also belong to Vía Verde, the green way that spreads in the Sierras Subbéticas Natural Park.
41° 27′ 54″ N, 2° 51′ 40″ W
Córdoba 74 km, Seville 179 km, Madrid 396 km.
There is a car park next to the Museum of Popular Arts and Customs and another one next to the Bailón river.
These are the main festivities in Zuheros: Carnaval (Melenchón), Semana Santa (and Semana Santa Chiquita), Día de la Cruz (first Sunday in May), Fiestas Patronales en Honor a la Virgen de los Remedios (15 August), and Fiesta en Honor a Jesús Nazareno (14 September).
These are other notable events in Zuheros: Romería de San Isidro (15 May, with a walk up to the Bats Cave), Fiesta Medieval Zuheros (June), Fiesta del Queso Villa de Zuheros (Third weekend in September), and Matanza Popular (Paseo de la Constitución, February).
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