Cordoba is a pretty city in Andalusia, Southern Spain. Its history goes back to at least the 10th century, if not further, and it was once deemed to be the most populous city in the world. The old town houses plenty of architectural reminders of Cordoba’s prolonged dominance during the Roman Empire, and its strong presence as the capital of the Islamic Emirate and then Caliphate of Cordoba, or Qurtubah, as the city was then known.
Today the city is home to approximately 330,000 residents and is popular with locals and tourists alike, offering both culinary delights and fascinating architecture to explore; one example of which is the truly marvellous Mezquita, which draws in thousands of tourists through its arched doorway every year. The historic centre of the city, where the Mezquita stands, has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Cordoba is popular year round, and even more so during the mid-April to mid-June period, when the city hosts the majority of its fiestas.
However, if you’re interested in escaping the usual tourist melee and, at the same time, get some respite from the heat, it’s worth visiting the medieval mountain village of Zuheros.
Situated on the fringe of the Sierra Subbetica Natural Park, the village offers lots of scenic walking and biking routes as well as the fascinating Murcielagos Cave, which are home to one of the largest bat colonies in Andalusia as well as fascinating Neolithic artefacts.
The Neolithic burial remains discovered there show evidence of human occupation as far back as 35,000 years ago, some of the finds of which can be viewed in the archaeological museum located in the cave. It has been documented that the residents lived mostly in the cave entrance, built fires, cooked food and produced tools from flint and bone, and fashioned clay pots using the distinctive almagre red pigment for decoration. There is also evidence of Roman occupation.
The caves extend for at least two kilometres, but you are only allowed to visit 450 metres of them. There are a total of 700 steps, which take you 63 metres below sea level. The steps are suitable for all ages, with the walk taking about 45 minutes. You are also able to park right outside the attraction.
But let’s return to the bats (relax, Robin, I don’t need you right now). You probably won’t even see many – or even any – bats if they’re roosting; but, in any case, be assured they’re not at all interested in you!
If you like, you can take an hour-long guided tour to visit the caves. This can be booked in advance on 957 694 545. Be aware, the tour is conducted in Spanish, but the guides will also hand out English information sheets if required.
Just as an aside, the village is also internationally recognised for its cheese factory, Las Balanchares, where locally bred goats from the Sierras provide the milk. The cheese can be bought directly from the factory.
Directions to reach the village from Cordoba are as follows: take the A432 south until just past Baena. Take the turn-off for Doña Mencía; the road to Zuheros is opposite this village. To reach the caves from Zuheros, leave the village opposite the Museo de Costumbres y Artes Populares, where you will then see the cave signposted.