El Morro- A UNESCO World Heritage Site in San Juan
Standing in the city of San Juan is a truly impressive six-level castle fortress designed to guard the city from seaward attacks. Known as El Morro, this impenetrable fort is also referred to as Castillo de San Felipe de Morro and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1933. Visiting this outstanding architectural feat is certainly an experience you won't want to miss.
Construction of El Morro took place from 1540 through to 1589 and the structure was named to honor the noble King Phillip II. A fine fort, it stands 140 ft above sea level offering exquisite views over the bay of San Juan and the Atlantic Ocean. Brilliantly designed with outposts, barracks, dungeons and a labyrinth of tunnels, El Morro was only captured once in its long history. Certain sections of the huge fort suffered damage over the years and these were carefully repaired in 1992. Today the fort of El Morro falls under the care of the National Park Service of Puerto Rico. Statistics state that some two million tourists visit this magnificent site annually to take a leisurely walk through 400 years of history.
To reach the El Morro Fortress you will have to walk across the Field of Fire. This is a large open piece of ground. All trees and plants were removed from the area so that any forces attacking the fort could be clearly seen and quickly dealt with. The entrance of El Morro requires that you cross a dry moat on the drawbridge. These moats were designed to defend the lower section of the fortress’ walls. Mounted proudly above the entranceway is a coat of arms representative of the kings of Spain. Beyond the entrance you will enter the main plaza on level five. Here you can picture the soldiers standing at attention in this courtyard as they hear their orders barked out at them or as they await inspection. Also in this section are vaulted that which once served as quarters and storerooms. Once inside you will discover audiovisual presentations, exhibits and a bookstore. To the right you will see the highest level of El Morro, level six. This area features two half-bastions as well as artillery observation posts and a lighthouse.
Walking from the main plaza you will come to the main artillery ramp used for moving cannons from the lower to the upper levels of the fort. As you stroll down you will enter lower patio or level three. Here you find more quarters, latrines, kitchens and the blacksmith’s forge. The ramp will also take you through level four which served as the main battery with its many cannons. When you make your way down from level three you will enter El Morro’s oldest section. A turret styled tower was built here in 1539. Down a further set of stairs you come to the Water Battery. Canons strategically placed here could easily cause major damage to any ships attempting to land in the harbor. Looking across you will see the Harbor Entrance which was protected by El Morro’s blazing guns.
El Morro Fort of San Juan can be visited every day of the week between 09:00 am and 05:00pm.