Based on Roman fortifications, the castle you see today was built by the Moors in the 13th century. We recommend a sunset visit to the castle.
A Rustical Client wrote: "Drive up to the square about 1,5 hours before sundown, and walk the rest of the way. The narrow cobbled streets are sparsely populated by elderly Jimenians sitting on their stoops, and children playing in the streets, and many cats and dogs. The castle and the grounds were virtually deserted and magical. The views are spectacular. As the sun sets, one can look over the entire town while the houses turn from white to pink to a deep rose to gray, and the hills descend into darkness, and the swallows come out and begin circling the castle like acrobats. One gets a strong feeling of the history of the place, both human and geological; it's humbling and dreamlike."
Walk along the banks of the river below Jimena and you´ll come across the remains of an aqueduct and artillery blast furnace made by King Carlos III in the 1770's to furnish cannonballs for the battles of Gibraltar. Children might like to throw bread to the turtles and fish. You may see kingfishers, swallows and, if you're lucky, otters or mongeese. There are spots along the river for swimming.
NATURAL PARK OF ALCORNOCALES
Jimena is located within the "cork oak park" and it is this emblematic tree which forms rich forest by the village. Walks in the forest will inevitably show you trunks semi-stripped for the cork, which is exported from there all over the world.
LA LAJA CAVE
Deep within the Natural Park, in the Gomero Gorge, La Laja Cave has some very special prehistoric paintings. Discovered only in 1978, the schematic representations are fascinatingly unique in depicting pre-Roman sailing vessels, which would have plied across the Strait of Gibraltar between the nearby coast and northern Africa.
In less than 40 minutes you can be at the coast. Rustical Travel's recommended beaches are at Torreguadiaro, Playa de las Arenas which stretches out from Cala de la Sardina bay, and Playa de Chullera at Manilva.
BEST OF THE REST
Historic sites by Jimena Castle
The Moorish Queen's Bath (Baño de la Reina Mora) behind the castle is the name given to a deep stone basin that is probably not Moorish at all, but Christian in origin, and used for baptisms.
The Church of 'La Misericordia', possibly the first church built after the Christian reconquest of Jimena in the 15th century, is no longer a place of worship and now houses the Tourism Office and the Los Alcornocales Nature Park Information Point. It is frequently used for recitals and concerts by visiting musicians. Located just below the Castle.
The very pleasant public pool at the foot of the village is open on weekdays during July and August. Another pool, this time at the top of the village: is generally open June to October at the campsite (camping), which is on the road out of the village towards Ubrique.
A modest park in the lower reaches of Jimena town has tall, leafy trees that make it a pleasant, shady place to sit during the heat of the day.
A ranch 5 minutes from the Jimena offers some stunning rides in the forest and crossing rivers.
A 40-minute drive down the A-405 road brings you to three golf courses at Sotogrande: Real Club de Valderrama, La Reserva de Sotogrande and San Roque.
Jimena's train station is in nearby Los Angeles. There are departures to Ronda on a pleasant little train with large windows, but only 3 a day. If you get up early enough, there's a morning train to Granada, which would allow you to see the Alhambra on a day trip.
Tarifa (1 hr)
This is where the Atlantic's sandy beaches begin. Tarifa is especially well-known for windsurfing and kitesurfing. There's a fast ferry from Tarifa to Tangiers in Morocco making daytrips a possibility. Boat trips are also available to go whale watching (best in July) and dolphin watching.
Gibraltar (1 hr)
The British overseas territory gives the impression of being trapped in a time warp from 30 years ago. Take the cable car at the end of Main Street to visit the limestone caves: St Michael's Cave, the old siege tunnels and the old Moorish castle. Visit also the Trafalgar cemetery for its interesting headstones. Watch the monkeys (semi-wild Barbary Macaques) but watch they don't snatch your things! Or take a boat trip to see and maybe even swim with the dolphins. Duty-free shopping is available in Gibraltar.
Ronda (1 hr 15 mins)
The historic town is a big draw for many with its Puente Nuevo bridge over the deep gorge, bullring (the oldest in Spain) and museum, gardens and palaces. The drive to Ronda along he mountain road from Gaucin is an attraction in itself.
Carnaval, celebrated on Shrove Tuesday, has a local tradition amongst the women of a game throwing each other a pot or a pumpkin, trying to keep it from falling to the ground.
Día de la Cruz: on 3rd May, old clothes are stuffed with paper to make dolls with pots for heads (tíos de ricia), which are then placed in streets with signs alluding to some local (preferably scandalous) event that has happened during the previous year.
Feria de Mayo: in mid May, a show which centres on livestock and cattle breeding.
Feria de Agosto: the main summer fair is usually held on the second weekend in August.
Nuestra Señora de los Remedios: on 7th September the image of the village's patron Virgin Mary is carried from her sanctuary down to Jimena village, where it is left on display for 3 days, before being ceremoniously returned by the townspeople. The events are marked by the risky throwing of bangers, jumping jacks and other fireworks, the idea being to jump away and evade them...
FOOD AND DRINK
For all general provisions, there's one supermarket opposite the petrol station and another (Ruiz Galan) opposite La Cuenca restaurant. For the best butcher's (carnicería) in Jimena go to the shop run by Carlos, 50 metres past the health centre as you drive into the village. Market day in Jimena is Friday.
For restaurants in Jimena, there are a number of options conveniently close to each other in the centre of town.
• El Anon - It has a lovely old pub-style atmosphere and good "international" food.
• El Ventorrillo - The owner is likely to come to your table and ask what you like rather than have a waiter give you a menu. Terrific for fish, also lamb and venison, also local mushroom dishes in season.
• Bar-Restaurante Cuenca - It is a large establishment which divides into three parts. At the front is a bar where you can get tapas and raciones; in the middle there's the more formal sit-down restaurant; and at the back is a large open-air terrace with views where you can also order food. A good place for typical Spanish dishes that was once voted the best tapas bar in Andalucia, but we think that reputation is frankly overrated.
• La Tasca - Situated on the main square, one Rustical Travel client lamented its poor value, while another told us that it gave them the best meal of the trip. When we tried it out, we thought it was perfectly good and had a congenial atmosphere to boot.
Close to Jimena, in Los Angeles:
• La Vía - Upmarket fish restaurant run by a former chef at El Copo, Algeciras. It has a summer terrace and an air-conditioned indoor dining room. We recommend the home-made desserts.
In San Pablo is perhaps the best restaurant in the Jimena area:
• La Estación - It is made from a converted train station building, it has lots of charm and excellent Mediterranean cuisine. Curiously, passengers can still alight and get on trains here. So you could leave the car here, take a train to Ronda (or Algeciras, even Granada if you change trains, although that's a long way), come back, have dinner at the restaurant and drive home.
Recommendations for Ronda restaurants and tapas bars are listed in the complete, detailed Jimena de la Frontera guide that we send our clients.