Conquest of the Moors Tour Overview
We follow in the footsteps of the ‘Moors’ as we cycle through Al-Andalus from Silves (Portugal) to Cordoba (Spain). The Moorish occupation of the Iberian peninsular began in the year 707 and lasted over 700 years and has left an indelible mark. Our 12 day journey gives us chance to explore this remarkable period of European history with the Islamic influence still very much apparent across southern Portugal and Spain.
Beginning on the Algarve in Portugal our journey starts in the town of Silves, that was the ancient capital of the region. Under the Moors it held significant strategic importance with boats arriving from North Africa along the River Arade. It served as an important trading post and defensive stronghold and so the Silves castle serves as a great starting point for our Iberian journey.
From here we stay above the busy coastline, for which the Algarve is better known today, and remain on the road less travelled as we head towards Spain via the hamlet of Querença. After crossing the border into Spain we then head into the Parque Nacional de Doñana before descending down the coast to the town of Jerez de la Frontera. Latterly known for its sherry production, equestrian art and flamenco, it’s old quarter is built around the 11th century Moorish fortress Alcázar de Jerez. It merits a two night stay and serves as a great place to enjoy a rest day.
Panorama of the Alhambra palace in Granada.
Continuing eastwards we visit the enchanting towns of Ronda and Antequera with their rich Islamic architectural heritage. On the way we will have the option of walking the spectacular Caminito del Rey which has to be seen to be believed. We then reach one of the jewels in the Moorish crown – Granada – where again we’ll have a two night stay. Situated in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains this city is home to the sprawling fortress called Alhambra (pictured above) which is UNESCO listed and a true highlight of any visit to the area.
Granada serves as another great spot for a day off the bike or in the case of the more ambitious we will provide the opportunity to climb the highest paved road in Europe with an ascent of Pico del Veleta (3380 metres). This 40 kilometre climb is a brutal ride but its so close to the city it would be amiss to include it! For most of the group we’re sure that a day of exploring the enchanting town of Granada will hold more appeal.
From Granada we then head north and slightly back on ourselves as we ride towards the capital of Al -Andalus – Cordoba. Cordoba serves as a fitting end to our tour with the entire historic centre UNESCO listed due to its Moorish heritage. The immense La Mezquita is a remarkable example of Moorish architecture and provides a great backdrop for the end of our Conquest of the Moors tour.
Conquest of the Moors Bike Tour Highlights
> Marvel at the remarkable UNESCO sites of Alhambra (Granada) & La Mezquita (Cordoba)
> Cycle the road less travelled in the southern Portuguese region of the Algarve
> Discover the wonders of Moorish architecture in the enchanting town of Ronda
> Sample the finest sherry and marvel at the equestrian art and flamenco in the town of Jerez
> Take on the highest paved road in Europe – the Pico de Veleta (3380 metres) – this is optional
> Learn about the Moorish legacy with guided tours in Ronda, Granada and Cordoba
> Indulge yourself in the varied gastronomy of Andalucia that embraces the art of the Mediterranean diet
Conquest of the Moors Bike Tour Dates 2020
|Stage||Start Date||End Date||Days||Distance||Cost (Euros)|
|Silves to Cordoba||8 Oct||20 Oct||12 Days / 11 Nights||850 km / 528 miles||€4950|
Conquest of the Moors Accommodation
As a new tour for 2020 not all of the hotels have been confirmed. The selection below though are hotels that made an immediate impression when we were scouting and were pencilled in straight away on the roster. The local charm and character they offer, combined with the usual frills, is such that they fit the remit we set for all our hotel selections.
Casa Viña de Alcántara (Jerez de la Frontera)
Set in gardens and surrounded by trees, our accommodation just outside Jerez has a lovely homely feel. With all the rooms decorated in pale earth tones that reflect the natural surroundings of the house it exudes a sense of relaxation. The lovely outside pool is the icing on the cake.
Hotel Catalonia Reina Victoria (Ronda)
Our hotel in Ronda is a wonderful spa facility overlooking the spectacular Tajo Gorge. Renovated in 2012 the hotel is perfectly positioned to explore the lovely town of Ronda. With extensive gardens and a great restaurant it is was an instant favourite when we first visited it.
Parador de Antequera (Antequera)
This peaceful Parador Hotel is surrounded by beautiful gardens and a has a lovely pool to dive into for post ride refreshment. With stunning views of the Andalusian landscape and a great restaurant it is the perfect spot from which to visit the interesting town of Antequera.
Richard Fletcher’s Moorish Spain tells the story of a vital period in Spanish history which transformed the culture and society, not only of Spain, but of the rest of Europe as well. He manages to both entertain and enlighten the reader as he explores the influence of the Moors have had over architecture, literature, art, and learning in general. The author manages to provide a broad overview without getting bogged down in the minutia. Fletcher’s book provides a great introduction in the subject at hand.
Driving Over Lemons is lighthearted account about life in rural Andalucia. Based around a mountain farm in Las Alpujarras it recounts the experiences of Chris and Ana in this beguiling part the world. With a cast of misfits, peasants, hippies and shepherds the author paints an entertaining picture of life in the region. An entertaining yarn that has parallels with Peter Mayle’s experiences in Provence. This is an easy reading travel book that gives the reader a wonderful insight into the trials, tribulations and joys of living on the farm. A great book to put you in the mood for travelling through the area.
The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise provides a reassessment of medieval Spain, proving that the Muslims were not, in fact, benevolent rulers. Much that is written about “al-Andalus” contends that it was a kind of a multicultural paradise where the main religious groups lived in harmony. Fernández Morera contends that there is a significant issue with this perception – it is a myth!
Hugh Kennedy book – Muslims in Spain and Portugal – is the first study in English of the political history of Muslim Spain and Portugal, based on Arab sources. As such is provides a very interesting alternative perspective since most of the literature in the West views the Moors through the prism of the Christian Reconquest. It provides comprehensive coverage of events across the whole of the region from 711 to the fall of Granada in 1492 ostensibly through Arab eyes.
In Andalus Jason Webster embarks on a quest to discover Spain’s hidden Moorish legacy and lift the lid on a country once forged by both Muslims and Christians. A enchanting yarn that charts the friendship between Webster and a young Moroccan immigrant, Zine, as their lives become entwined through circumstance. A roller-coaster of a ride provides a modern day perspective on the Moorish legacy.
Conquest of the Moors Bike Tour History
The word Moors derives from the Latin mauri, a name for the Berber tribes living in Roman Mauretania (modern day Algeria and Morocco). It has no ethnographic meaning but can be used to refer to all Muslims, Berber or Arab, who conquered the Iberian Peninsula. These Moors, who were religious fanatics, arrived in Spain in the year 711 and thus began a period of history which would shape Iberia differently than the rest of Europe as the land adapted to a new religion, language and culture. Hispania became a part of the caliph of Damascus which was the capital of the Muslim world.
This Moorish land was known as Al-Andalus and included all of the Iberian Peninsula except for the extreme north-west from where the Christian Reconquest would originate.
Strangely Moorish Spain wasn’t really ruled by Arabs. It is true that many high positions were taken by Arabs but most of the Moors were Berbers. Later Muwallads (converted Christians) together with the offspring of the first invaders became dominant in Moorish Spain. The invaders brought no women so the second generation of Moors were already half Hispanic!
The first 40 years of Moorish rule was volatile and Al-Andalus needed order and unity which came in the form of Abd-er-Rahman who arrived in Almuñecar on the coast of Granada in 755. Within a year he became Emir of Al-Andalus and during his 32 year reign he would transform this land into an independent state which was the cultural light of Europe.
In Cordoba Abd-er-Rahman I founded the Mezquita in 785 when he purchased the Christian section of the San Vicente Church, a place the two faiths had shared for 50 years. The Mosque was expanded to its final glory over the next two centuries. This became the second most important place of worship in the Muslim world after Mecca.
The Moors expanded and improved Roman irrigation systems to help develop a strong agricultural sector. They introduced many new crops including the orange, lemon, peach, apricot, fig and pomegranate as well as saffron, sugar cane, cotton, silk and rice which remain some of Spain’s main products today.
Our Conquest of the Moors tour will seek to investigate the significance of the 700 years of Moorish rule in Spain and Portugal and explore the legacy left by this intriguing period in European history.
Tour at a Glance
Length: 12 days I 11 nights
Distance: 850 km / 528 miles
Dates: October 8 - 20 2020aa