The Natural Park area of the Sierras Subbéticas in Cordoba

As the thermometer rises in Granada, I like to head inland into the Andalusian hills and leave the city behind. The nighttime temperatures are lower there in those wide open spaces in the countryside. Just North of Granada and Malaga, this area is the heart of Andalusia.

We chose to stay in a rural cottage between Priego de Cordoba and Iznajar, a contrast to my usual city centre apartment. The rural accommodation Cortijo La Presa was a farmhouse for many generations but for the last 7 years was refurbished as 7 welcoming and comfortable rural cottages.

I expected something quite different before I arrived. The immaculate swimming pool and gardens was certainly a surprise, I though that rural meant shabby ;  ) but not here!

One of the huge draws of rural tourism (I realise now) is the feeling that you are in with the locals, the hearty country food, the laid back timetable and of course the views of the landscape all around you. I came across of this property when looking at the HomeAway website for Spain. They have many rural cottages around Cordoba and Granada but have an important international network of accommodation if you are travelling elsewhere too.We visited in June, a great time for festivities in the nearby towns and villages. Although anytime between April to end of June is recommended. Easter, the Patio festival, Corpus Christi, local fiestas are all concentrated in these months of the year.I didn’t actually do any hiking or horse riding but I can see that this area is perfect for an activity holiday.  Mountain biking, horse riding and guided rambling days are all organised in this area and the countryside is perfect for it. I also noticed that the cottage in which I stayed had a fireplace with firewood ready for the autumn and winter months. Probably will come back in the winter to try that out!So after arriving and discovering our base for the weekend, marvelling over the countryside views, we drove along to Priego de Cordoba. One of the towns on the Caliphate Route  which was named as a Major Cultural Route by the Council of Europe for its historic importance to Spain.

The first thing I notice as we arrive in Priego de Cordoba are the plants. There seem to be trees, shrubs, flowers and plants wherever you look. This exotic looking tree (pictured below) was just outside the tourist information centre in the Plaza de la Constitucion.

We walked through the main part of Priego, seeing the Castle which was built in the 9th & 10th century, a square watchtower and solid surrounding wall is in a central area of the town. Then we wandered along to the Barrio de la Villa, the old town with winding streets, patios covered in red and pink geraniums and images of religious figures decorating the walls of the white washed houses.

As we only had one day to visit Priego de Cordoba we had to choose between different activities that the Priego Tourist Office suggested to us. One of the options was a Mill tour and Olive oil tasting. Olive oil is really important in this region of Spain. Priego has actually been given its own denominational label or DO. The Extra Virgin olive Oil uses the best olives and has a characteristic strong flavour. I bought two bottles to use at home. Other activities possible on that day were the Arab baths in Barrio La Villa, Paint balling or Archery in nearby Rute or a guided tour of Priego.

Of all the activities offered I decided that I had come to unwind and opted for the Arab Baths in the Barrio de la Villa. The Casa Baños de la Villais a small Hammam style baths offering three pools and with a 15 minute massage included in the price. The session lasts 90 minutes and I really enjoyed the contrasting temperatures between the pools and the relaxing atmosphere inside. As I had walked in high heels up some steep hills the day before I had a lot of tension in my upper leg muscles. The excellent massage soon solved that. After completing the session at the Arab baths we wandered along to the Balcon de Adarve. The Balcon de Adarve is a balcony at the end of the main street in Priego overlooking the countryside. Offering impressive views as it is high above the gorge below. Historically this has been a strategic advantage for the town as invaders or attacks could be see from far away. We continued to walk through this delightful town onto the fountains of the King and the fountain of Health.

These two fountains, La Fuente del Rey and La Fuente de la Salud dating from the 16th century are important monuments in the town. The King´s Fountain has one hundred and thirty nine spouts and a large statue of King Neptune, hence the name the King´s fountain. I didn’t get to see all the things I would have liked in Priego that day, but I´m sure I´ll be coming back to this area. The following day we were planning on having a late breakfast and driving along to Iznajar to see the massive reservoir there. At Cortijo La Presa for dessert at dinner that evening I go to try the amazing Pionono from Rute.

I live in Granada where the Pionono of Santa Fé is well known and served in many cafés and restaurants. To hear that in Rute, Cordoba they had done their own take on this dessert was amusing. The thing is though the Rute version is light as a feather, it was delicious. The Rute pionono is pictured above in the top centre of this photo, it´s a creamy wedge of light sponge cake. 

The next morning I was invited by the owner to take part in a morning Yoga class before breakfast. It was really great to be able to do the class outside in the gardens of the cottage with the morning sun and the impressive views of hundreds of olive trees on the hills surrounding us. Breakfast afterwards was served outside on the patio.

Plenty of fresh fruit, chilled melon, fresh orange juice and homemade apple compote. Chunky toast made from local bread, frothy coffee, cheese and ham. The thing I notice about being in rural accommodation is that time is not an issue, there are no timetables and it´s so relaxing. I think we finished breakfast around 11.30am that morning. We put the suitcases in the car and headed off to Iznajar.

The reservoir at Iznajar is enormous. It´s length is 30 kilometres long. (over 18 miles) The colour of the water is a bright turquoise colour, there are plants on the bottom of the reservoir that give it that characteristic colour. There is a waterfront and sandy area on one side of the reservoir which we saw briefly. Large stretches of golden sand alongside the green water.  

In this area is the village of Rute which we didnt actually visit (next time!) which is famous for it´s Aniseed liqueur and it´s traditional sweet pastries and cakes. At Christmas time the village makes a huge Nativity scene made of chocolate. Last year it measured over 50 metres long!

After leaving Iznajar we drove the 1 hour journey home to Granada  sure that we´ll be coming back to this area again.

By the way do let me know if you have comments about this post or if you want my next post to be about a specific subject. I am a real person on the other side of the screen!  ;  )