This town, is one of the most enchanting pueblos blancos for multiple reasons. It is perched high on a mountain overlooking a blue pristine lake that shimmers in the warm sun. Zahara de la Sierra is surrounded in natural beauty and has numerous hiking trails near, kayaking and even an adventurous ropes course, not to mention two olive oil mills and one amazing restaurant that overlooks the stunning scene.
There are three hiking trails that are offered right outside of Zahara de la Sierra: Sendero la bodega (walk along the olive groves for a km), La Garganta Verde and Llano de Rabel (easy, flat, 8km). La Garganta Verde is the most famous hike and for good reason. This hike is moderately difficult and has stunning views. However, you must grab a permit from El Bosque, or wait until 2:30 when the national park guard isn’t around. I waited for the later so I could explore the town. This hike started out very simple, but at high altitude with loose rocks, it can be very dangerous in parts. I do not recommend this hike to people with children nor for clumsy people in general. You have to watch where you are going literally because it is a matter of life and death. The last 30 minutes of the hike there is very steep descent that finally lands you amongst mammoth white rocks at the bottom of the canyon while you stare at the sheets of rock that rise up around you in the gorge. There have been four people in the last forty years that met their death on this vary trail. I only came upon three hikers the entire trip. The total trip is around 6 kilometers. When I first arrived, earlier in the day, Discovery Aventura was taking about 6 twenty- somethings down to the caves to go canyoning through the ravine out to the other side.
Since the trail Nazi wouldn’t let me go hiking in the morning, I returned to Zahara and decided to grab a snack and putz around. I stopped by La Confiteria las Marinetas (called San Juan) because it isn’t a day trip without me shoving some pastries in my face. I tried three different ones: a turron, an almond cookie and something else that had filling (lay off me, I am about to hike!). They were all delicious. Each time I have been in Zahara (three times) I have stopped in her shop. After the pastry massacre I walked up the hill toward the old castle. The views from the top of the castle were 360 degrees of stunning.
After the castle I wandered the streets below. There were a couple artsy shops off of Calle San Juan and it was fun to walk around the streets and look out onto little balconies to the lake below. There is also a very curvy path on the side of the town that will take you back down to the parking area.
Al Lago is a terrific restaurant in this tiny town and is actually home to chef Stefan Crites, a Columbus, Ohio native that was a chef in New York for 15 years, that fell in love and moved to Zahara for his wife, Mona who manages the restaurant and hotel. His food is excellent and the service is great, not to mention the spectacular view from their terrace out side.
This is the only restaurant I can confidently recommend. I ate at Meson Los Estribos and besides the view, I wasn’t impressed, it was typical Spanish.
Where to sleep:
Al Lago is a nice bed and breakfast with unique simple rooms that overlook the reservoir. It is a great place for couples or people traveling alone. The inn keeper is very helpful and knowledgeable about activities around Zahara. Priced around 85 euro a night and located on Calle Felix Rodriguez de la Fuente, 11.
Hostal los Tadeos is an amazing option and it isn’t as well known as Al Lago but it has a pool, it located right outside of town and nestled in the olive groves. It is very peaceful. The rooms are basic but it provides a great place to rest your head for a good price and a jaunt down the street will bring you to a pretty good Italian place too. Around 60euro/night located on Paseo de la Fuente.
I have to say that the olive mills are worth a tour, especially from November to February when they are actually creating the olive oil. The two mills are Molino el Vinculo and Oleum Viride. The tours don’t take long and you get the opportunity to taste the olive oil and other local products along with understanding how the mill runs.
Photo Op Plus:
Right before you cross the reservoir pull over to the left and snap a picture of the beautiful town perched over the lake in the recreation area.