The picturesque white village of Iznájar is just 15 minutes from here, the southern gateway to the beautiful rolling hills and olive groves of the Subbetica Natural Park. Sitting on top of a huge rocky outcrop which towers up from the breathtakingly blue waters of the Embalse de Iznájar, the largest lake in Andalucía, it’s a magnificent setting.
Views from the top of the town are sensational, over the surrounding countryside – rolling hillsides clad with olive groves as far as the eye can see – and over the vast, beautiful lake (32 kilometres long and 6 kilometres wide) which fills the wide valley floor of the Genil river on both sides of the village.
Also known as the Lake of Andalucía, it hosts water sports and fishing and has its own beach (in summer) at Valdearenas where you can swim, rent pedalos and canoes or learn to sail.
Its beautiful, clear blue waters are safe for children to swim or play in and there’s sand to lie on. It tends to be busier on Sundays but is usually very quiet during the week, even in the height of the season.
Rute is not really on the tourist map; it’s a little town of 10,000 people, best known for its manufacture of Anís, the aniseed-flavoured liqueur. And its gastronomic delights don’t end there: it is also famous for its cured hams and delicious – and typically Spanish – sweet delicacies which are traditionally served at Christmas, such as nougat and marzipan. also overlooking the lake and dwarfed by the Sierra de Rute that looms above it, it’s a completely unpretentious, exuberant working town but nevertheless fascinating, full of old-time, original character and tradition.
Head north to Priego de Córdoba (30 km north of Iznájar), a lovely town which is Andalucía at its most refined and authentic. A dignified, convivial provincial town with a beautiful historic centre and more than its fair share of marvellous baroque churches.
All around, the spectacular countryside of the Subbética Natural Park. Incredibly beautiful, it’s a land of rugged hills and deep valleys, spectacular scenery and a thriving ecology. A vibrant and vivacious landscape, it is both robust and melodious at one and the same time. Some of Andalucía’s most delightful ‘pueblos’ are to be found here, steeped in the ancient traditions and culture of the area, both products of a fascinating history which dates back to the beginning of mankind.
Just an hour away, Granada is, of course, a must-see city. Soaring high above is the spectacular back drop of the snow-covered Sierra Nevada mountains. And what a city lies below, a city of classical beauty, the jewel in the Spanish Crown.
The mesmerising Alhambra Palace and its exquisite gardens, one of the world’s greatest wonders; the narrow, cobbled streets and beautiful walled gardens of the ancient Arab quarter, El Albaicín; the magnificent Cathedral, just one of many superb examples of Renaissance architecture; the caves of Sacramonte, nostalgic legacy of the gypsies.
A city which inspired García Lorca, Andalucía’s finest poet, it is, above all, a people’s city, full of life and colour, energy and fun.
Córdoba too, is a must-see city, once the largest city in the world, the thriving capital of Al-Andalus, the name used to describe Moorish Spain which extended throughout almost all of the Iberian Peninsular.
In its heyday it was considered the Mecca of the west. The Mesquita of Córdoba is, along with Granada’s Alhambra Palace, the finest example of Islamic Art in the western world, the grandest and most beautiful mosque constructed by the Moors in Spain. It’s one of only a handful of man-made places in the world which literally takes your breath away.
Quite apart from the Mesquita, there’s much more to discover in Córdoba. It’s very picturesque, a town to stroll around. You will come across little squares, peaceful courtyards and balconies overflowing with bougainvilleas. The aroma of lemon blossom, the exuberant colours of the flowers, the cool trickle of a fountain. It’s a beautiful town, Córdoba.
To the south west, Antequera is another very pretty town with an almost medieval air and a history to match. So much more than just another sleepy, sun-soaked ‘pueblo’ of Southern Spain.
Just beyond Antequera is El Torcal, a magnificent 1,100 hectare National Park of massive, Mars-like mountains of eroded rock formations. Here the imagination plays tricks as giants, monsters and castles seem to appear before your eyes. Unique in Europe, this dreamy, surrealistic landscape has inspired generations of artists and film makers as well as climbers, walkers and nature lovers.
Sevilla takes 2 hours. It is impossible not to be captivated by its exuberant atmosphere: stylish, confident, ancient and proud, yet also convivial, intimate and fun-loving. If you don’t know what alegría means, Sevilla is the place to learn!
It has to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. With the wide river rolling through it, there’s the elegant Arabic heritage of labyrinthine alleys and languorous gardens, the Giralda, the Alcázar and the Barrio Santa Cruz. There’s the grandiose 17th-century colonial style, when the riches plundered from the Americas were converted into a swaggering architectural confection of ornate palaces and monuments, basilicas, bullrings and fountains. And then there’s the wonderfully lavish 1920’s Sevilla, when they built grand art nouveau hotels, parks and boulevards. All of these are combined in an area small enough to wander around.
Málaga and the Mediterranean beaches on the Costa del Sol are an hour’s drive south.
Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy exploring the beautiful hillsides and little villages of La Subbética on foot, horseback, or bicycle.
The beautiful lake (32 kilometres long and 6 kilometres wide) which fills the wide valley floor of the Genil river on both sides of the Iznajár hosts water sports and fishing and has its own beach at Valdearenas where you can swim, rent pedalos and canoes or learn to sail.
There is a chiringuito (summer bar) on the beach and a couple of bar / restaurants just above.
On the northern slopes of Sierra Nevada, top class skiing is 1½ hours drive away.