Detour to Zahara with kids in Spain

 In Destinations, Europe


Every travel adventure deserves a detour. When you travel with kids it’s almost a natural thing. Someone has to use the toilet, is hungry, needs to run out some energy or saw a cool sign on the side of the road.

While we were traveling with my parents through Andalusia this past fall there was one distraction that captured us all. In the distance sat a white hill town with a tower on its peak. This was the small town of Zahara, and we were meant to go there.

Zahara really isn’t anything special. It barely shows up in guidebooks except to mention the old Moorish castle at the top of the hill. There are two churches worth a look and a few restaurants catering to the random tourist that pops in, but most travelers stay for a few hours before continuing on to Ronda, Granada or the coast.

The real draw to Zahara is the tower in the old castle ruins. This is the most intact part of the structure and promises amazing views once you make the climb up. The hike will take you about 15 minutes, but is well worth it. Once at the top, grab your flashlight (you packed a flashlight right?) and head into the castle and up the steps of the tower.


The Moorish castle in Zahara

An arid landscape surrounds the reservoir below, greeting you as you emerge from the darkness of the stairway and into the light. The wind can really kick up as nothing gets in its path. As you take in the view, just image the Moors as they defended their stronghold from the Christians trying to take back their land. According to my Rick Steves’ guidebook, “locals tell of the Spanish conquest of the Moors’ castle (in 1482) as if it happened yesterday.”

The tower may have been the sight that brought us to Zahara, but the quiet calm throughout town was music to our ears. We had been running nonstop in Seville and Ronda; a little low-key travel was in order.

Our detour was a welcome respite from the constant pace of traveling with kids, but we knew it could only last so long. We would head to Granada next, another city packed with amazing sights, sounds and tastes. Our serene moment in Zahara would be our little bit of calm before the rush of activities that awaited us a our next destination.


Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant just down the main road from the castle


Know before you go

  • Zahara Castle: free to the public
  • Parking: in the town square or at the base of the hill. There is only one direction into town and one direction out. You can’t miss the castle parking.
  • Flashlight: The stairways are dark and there are no lights in it.
  • Stroller friendly: No. Pack your baby carrier to hike with little ones to the top.
  • Warning: The climb can be steep in spots and there are no fences to catch you if you fall. Hold onto children’s hands to make sure they don’t fall down the mountain.
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Showing 5 comments
  • Gran Canaria Local

    This sounds like a lovely spot. We remember talking to a Canarian friend about La Lechuza on Gran Canaria. It had been recommended by The Guardian. The local’s response?”But there’s nothing there.” That’s the point he was missing.

  • Cat of Sunshine and Siestas

    Small towns in Spain are the best part of Spain (and particularly Andalusia). I find that the food is the best and the people, the friendliest and most genuine.

  • robin

    I love the idea behind your blog!

  • Mom

    One of my favorite memories! The restaurant is Meson Los Estribos. And don’t forget the equally amazing view from the floor to ceiling windows! So much fun exploring a castle with a little boy. Makes all the fairy tale books come alive!

  • Rob

    Lovely little detour – it’s always nice to explore off the beaten path. Seems like you all got lucky with such a beautiful place!

    I know you and your family love to travel, so I thought you might be interested in a project I’ve been working on. I’ve recently created a new series of travel books for kids to teach them about different countries and cultures – check them out at Thanks!