In the Footsteps of Columbus – Huelva

In Fourteen Hundred and Ninety Two Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Most people are aware of that, but did you know he set sail from the Huelva region in Andalusia, South West Spain? There are several sites in the environs of the city which help you to understand the story of his remarkable journey to the so-called New World.

To the South of the city of Huelva, where the Rio Tinto meets the River Odiel, stands a huge sculpture, some 37 metres high. Officially, its name is Monument to the Discovery Faith but it is widely known as the Monument to Columbus. According to the information at its base, it is open to the public every Saturday from 10:00 until 13:00 when presumably you can climb up inside. The American sculptor Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney was respobsible for the design of this monument which dominates the skyline all around. There remains some debate as to whether the figure leaning on a Tau (T-shaped) cross represents Columbus himself or a friar from the monastery at nearby La Rabida.

Across the Rio Tinto stands the town of La Rábida. This is where arguably the most interesting part of your Columbus journey lies. The impressive Muelle de las Carabelas is an admittedly touristy complex where you can get up close and personal with the conditions of the sailors who ventured out with Columbus. Three replica ships, the Nina, Pina and Santa Maria, sit side by side at the dock and you are free to explore their cramped inner spaces. At only €3.60 a head to visit, it represented tremendous value. The museum was nicely laid out too, and dioramas of the New World are placed all around the quayside.

From the quayside you can look to the top of the hill at La Rábida where the Monument to the Discoverers stands proudly above everything else. You can drive up there, or you can walk up the Avenida de la Americas which will take you past the national coats of arms of all the South and Central American nations. Don’t miss the Aztec calendar about half way up (or down if you have driven to the top!). There are a handful of monuments around and some wonderful gardens. It’s also the site of the monastery where Columbus himself stayed for two years whilst he waited to see if he had secured funding for his voyage of discovery. You can visit the monastery for a few Euros if you wish.

A few kilometres further away is the small town of Palos de la Frontera. It’s a nice place for a wander around with plenty of nods to Columbus and the Voyage of Discovery. Some of the architecture is beautiful and keep a special look out for the town hall and its wonderful external decor.

Whilst the city of Huelva doesn’t appeal to everyone, it serves as a great base for your own voyage of discovery. Why not go in search of Christopher Colubus yourself?!

In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

He had three ships and left from Spain;
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.

He sailed by night; he sailed by day;
He used the stars to find his way.

A compass also helped him know
How to find the way to go.

Ninety sailors were on board;
Some men worked while others snored.

Then the workers went to sleep;
And others watched the ocean deep.

Day after day they looked for land;
They dreamed of trees and rocks and sand.

October 12 their dream came true,
You never saw a happier crew!

“Indians!  Indians!”  Columbus cried;
His heart was filled with joyful pride.

But “India” the land was not;
It was the Bahamas, and it was hot.

The Arakawa natives were very nice;
They gave the sailors food and spice.

Columbus sailed on to find some gold
To bring back home, as he’d been told.

He made the trip again and again,
Trading gold to bring to Spain.

The first American?  No, not quite.
But Columbus was brave, and he was bright.

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