EUROPE
Rota sign at the waterfront

Rota sign at the waterfront (Kat Nickola)

People have been living in the coastal area around Rota since prehistoric times. The first settlement was called Astaroth and was established by the local Tartessian culture. Later, in 1100 B.C., the seafaring Phoenicians built up the town and port as part of their large trade network around the Mediterranean. The Iberian Peninsula became part of the Roman empire in the 200s B.C. during which time the city’s name was changed to “Speculum Rotae.”

The town of Rota from the roof of Castillo de Luna

The town of Rota from the roof of Castillo de Luna (Kat Nickola)

Castillo de Luna

After the area was subsumed by the Muslim caliphate in the 700s, a fortress, or rabat, was built. The city around the fort became known as Rabat Ruta, and it grew in size. You can still visit the location of the fortress today in downtown Rota and see some of the original wall murals in the beautiful courtyard. It suffered damage through numerous military campaigns, especially during fighting between Muslim and Christian forces of the 1200s. Once Muslim occupants were expelled, the Spanish king gifted the region to Guzman the Great and built a new castle upon the old fort in 1295. Called Castillo de Luna, it was the property of the Dukes of Arcos, the Ponce de León family who governed the area until the last descendent died in 1780. Nowadays, the original Islamic-inspired architecture has been restored and the building houses Rota’s City Hall.

Inside the Castillo de Luna in Rota, Spain

Inside the Castillo de Luna in Rota, Spain (Kat Nickola)

Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la O

In 1537 work was completed on the parish church of Our Lady of the O. It is an interesting combination of gothic, renaissance and baroque styles that reflect many time periods of renovation and addition. Our Lady of the O refers to the biblical Mary when she was expecting Jesus’s birth. The O antiphons (evening chants) are affiliated with her feast day, Dec. 18. Inside the church are five chapels that contain ornate religious images that are paraded during holy processions throughout the year. The oldest and most revered is Our Lady of the Rosary, the patron saint of Rota.

Rota’s city wall gate and Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la O

Rota’s city wall gate and Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la O (Kat Nickola)

Calabaza

When walking around the small streets of downtown Rota, look for the 150 pumpkin sculptures that adorn buildings and fountains. They were installed by the group Intervenciones Artísticas de Rotato to honor the local produce. Both tomatoes and pumpkins came to Spain from their colonial outposts in the Americas and were found to grow well in the Rota area. The calabaza (pumpkin) is so well-loved that has come to represent Rota.

Pumpkin sculpture on a fountain in Rota, Spain

Pumpkin sculpture on a fountain in Rota, Spain (Kat Nickola)

La Playa

In the summertime, the beaches around Rota attract throngs of local Spanish families and tourists. While parking lots may be full, bars and restaurants loud with vacationers, and revelers staying up late into the night, the actual beaches are big enough to handle the influx. Except for a small rocky point, you would walk the 16km north from Rota to Chipiona on a sandy expanse of beach. The Playa de la Costilla is adjacent to the old town of Rota and has a very popular promenade that extends northward from the port and it’s lighthouse.

Rota’s long beachfront promenade

Rota’s long beachfront promenade (Kat Nickola)

Fiestas

There are reasons to celebrate all year in Rota. Carnaval Start the celebratory season by dressing up for Carnaval and attending the parades. Holy week, or Semana Santa is next on the calendar and is a much more penitential celebration with religious processions that begin on Good Friday. At the beginning of May, the Feria de Primavera welcomes spring in typical Andalusian style with flamenco, horse carts and a fun, noisy fair. The Fiesta de San Juan in June has a unique tradition of bonfires on the beach and the burning of “juanillos” dolls. The local fish favorite fish, called the urta, is celebrated with a four-day performance festival in August. And, in October, Our Lady of the Rosary, the patron saint of Rota is paraded from the church through town as part of a four day festival in her honor.

Find more things to do in Rota at the local tourist board website.

Our Lady of the Rosary, patron saint of Rota

Our Lady of the Rosary, patron saint of Rota (Kat Nickola)

author picture
Kat is a travel and lifestyle writer based in Kaiserslautern, Germany with a special interest in anything outdoorsy or ancient. She has a bachelor’s degree in geography from Penn State University and has been a travel writer for a long while. Currently, she is in the depths of an archaeology dissertation for a degree at the University of the Highlands and Islands.

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