On the tip of Old San Juan, you'll find Fort San Felipe del Morro, better known as El Morro. A 16th-century citadel constructed to protect the town from attack by sea, El Morro is one of the highlights of any tour of the old city, a rocky web of tunnels and barracks, towers and prisons. Probably the most famous monument from Spanish colonial times, the fortress stands out on a rocky islet, forever a reminder of a different age.
El Morro history began in 1539 by Spanish settlers and took about 50 years before it was fully functional. Named after King Phillip II of Spain, the Puerto Rico El Morro design has little difference from similar fortifications found on the other former Spanish colonies spread throughout the Caribbean. Cuba, the Dominican Republic and even Acapulco once had fortresses similar to those found here. But over the course of 400 years of El Morro history, the fort's many complex and fascinating additions have changed the citadel such that it is truly one of a kind. El Morro is now a World Heritage Site and covers over 70 acres of the craggy northwestern tip of San Juan.
Puerto Rico El Morro rises almost 150 in the air and features a number of garitas - dome covered sentry outposts that have become one of the defining icons of the island itself. El Morro's long list of successes repelling foreign attacks also adds to the fort's legend. Effectively defending the city from both the English and the Dutch over the course of many years, El Morro history is heavily scrutinized inside the museum that now calls the fort home, its primary function to detail the most important battles that took place off the shores of San Juan. The fort last saw action during a naval bombardment in 1898, during the Spanish-American War. After the U.S.'s eventual success in this skirmish, Puerto Rico was handed over as part of reparations, and El Morro history since then has been peaceful - the conversion from military outpost to celebrated monument was a slow and uneventful one.
Nowadays, Puerto Rico El Morro is one of the most visited tourist attractions on the island. Overlooking Old San Juan on one side and the azure Caribbean on the other, El Morro is a haven for picture ops, and photos taken here are found on just about every postcard available in the San Juan area. It's relatively inexpensive to stroll throughout the old ramparts, costing less than $5 and providing an afternoon worth of entertainment. You can also buy a combo ticket that gains you entrance in both El Morro and the nearby Fuerte San Cristobal for discounted prices.
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