While searching for a rural Spanish location, suitable for an active family holiday, we stumbled across the beautiful traditional town of Olvera, set on a hill in the heart of the mountainous Andalusian landscape.
Just an hour and a half from Malaga airport, Olvera is a far cry from the tourism drenched beaches of the Costa Del Sol. The town is still resolutely Spanish, the winding cobbled streets evoking feelings of romanticism for an altogether slower pace of life.
Olvera’s old town is absolutely beautiful, the classic white and terracotta colours enhanced by the surrounding olive groves, hills & mountains.
Things To Do In Olvera
We tried to fit as much as possible into our trip to Olvera, taking in social and cultural points of interest as well as feeding our outdoor activity requirements.
Castillo De Olvera
Olvera’s 12th century Arab built castle dominates the view of the town for miles around, and with it being only a stones throw from Lemon Tree Patio we found ourselves wandering back time and time again to catch the views at different times of day.
Turism Olvera were kind enough to open the castle just before sunrise for us one day, out of normal hours, and watching sunrise from the top of the tower was one of the highlights of our entire stay.
The view of the neighbouring church, Iglesia de la Encarnación, is truly spectacular and worth the small entrance fee alone.
Walking distance from where we stayed and only a couple of euros to get in.
Turism Olvera website
Lake Zahara sits on the northern side of the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park, a UNESCO Biosphere reserve.
There’s a popular swimming centre on the eastern tip of the lake, but we opted for the free car park across the road and made our way along the shore until we found a quiet spot all to ourselves. The sun beats down on this location, with beautiful turquoise waters to cool off in.
We’d read a bit about the hill side village of Zahara De La Sierra, so we stopped in there after a few hours sun bathing and playing ball near the lake. The village has wonderful views but not much else – one for a quick stop and a couple of photos but not much else to do or see there.
20 minutes drive from Olvera, free to park and access the lake.
Castillo De Hierro
From the tower of Olvera’s Arab castle we spotted this location in the distance, a memorable focal point on the horizon as it’s hill top setting lifts it into view.
A 12th century build on the site of an ancient Roman camp, Castillo De Hierro offers simply breathtaking 360 degrees of the Andalusian landscape. The white houses of nearby town of Pruna spill out across the immediate valley floor, while Olvera looks over invitingly from the reverse view.
Parking is just a short 20-odd minute walk from the 664m summit, with a steep and narrow cobbled path leading the eyes and feet to the top.
We watched sunrise from here, as the light beamed out magnificently over Pruna town.
10 minutes drive from Olvera and free to enter.
Via Verde Cycling
The Via Verde de la Sierra is an off road cycle route built on an abandoned railway line between two disused railway stations of Olvera and Puerto Serrano.
The trail covers 36km each way, through a large nature reserve and interestingly 30 old railway tunnels. Some of the tunnels are unlit which adds a bit of mildly dangerous fun to the proceedings.
One of the highlights of the route is the old Zaframagon Station, now a centre of information about the colony of Griffon Vultures in the reserve, one of the largest in the world with over 200 pairs of birds. The vultures glide elegantly around the mountain summits opposite the station, making it a great place for a rest.
Walking distance from where we stayed in Olvera and approx 12 euros each to hire a good quality mountain bike.
Via Verde website
Gastro Bar La Piscina
Of all the places we ate in the Olvera region, Gastro Bar La Piscina stands head and shoulders above the competition.
Chef and owner Jose Antonio Morales has created a sumptuous menu of locally sourced ingredients that makes the mouth water just thinking about it.
Situated just outside the rural mountain village of El Gastor, Gastro Bar benefits from incredible views, all day sunshine and a fantastic swimming pool, all wrapped up with a great family friendly vibe.
The locals obviously adore this place, which pretty much says everything one needs to know. We ate here three times in the week we stayed in Olvera…
20 minutes drive from Olvera on a beautiful mountain road, free to enter, buy a drink to use the swimming pool.
Gastrobar on Instagram
Puento Nuevo Ronda
The city of Ronda was the most tourist-orientated location we visited, and despite the crowds the enormous Puento Nuevo bridge was really worth the 50 minute drive from Olvera.
Ronda city is situated on both sides of a 120m gorge through which the Guadaleviín river flows, with Puento Nuevo being the largest of three bridges that traverse the gap.
50 minutes drive from Olvera, free to view.
Casa Don Bosco
An unexpected find just a few moments from Puento Nuevo bridge, Casa Don Bosco is a beautiful town house and gardens open to the public.
Don Bosco was a Roman Catholic priest who built the home for disadvantaged children in the Ronda area.
The house itself is lovely, but the real gem is the view from the immaculately kept gardens.
50 minutes drive from Olvera, 2 minutes walk from the Puento Nuevo bridge, 1 euro each to get in.
Don Bosco website
Setenil de las Bodegas is small town of just 3,000 inhabitants to the north east of Cadiz.
What makes it worth a visit is that much of the town is built directly into the overhanging cliff faces aside the river Río Guadalporcún, created by enlarging natural caves or overhangs and installing an external wall.
The town is also famous for it’s chorizo meat, but we visited mid afternoon (siesta time) and only managed to find one bar open for drinks – a return visit is in order.
30 minutes drive from Olvera, the public car park cost a few euros for a couple of hours.
We stayed at a delightful self catering cottage in the centre of Olvera’s old town called Lemon Tree Patio, just a short walk from the main street, castle and church.
Lemon Tree Patio features a lovely open lounge, fully fitted kitchen, two bathrooms, one master bedroom and a sofa bed in the lounge.
To the rear of the cottage there’s a two tier patio area, the lower perfect for enjoying breakfast under the shade of the arched lemon tree, and the upper section an ideal sun trap.
We used a private car hire company called Marbesol for the trip, located just a few minutes from Malaga airport they transferred us with minimal fuss and provided a sound little hatchback for a very reasonable price (a lot cheaper than the companies based inside the actual airport).
Driving on the wrong side of the road is always a bit odd to start with, but we were quickly out of Malaga city and onto the quieter roads leading to Olvera. The Andalusian roads benefit from a loss less traffic than UK roads, and we didn’t encounter any issues during the trip.
Olvera has a great selection of independent food shops, a tobacconist, a couple of banks/ATMs and a large number of cafes, bars & restaurants.
The new side of town has a larger supermarket, commercial hotel and petrol station.
We had breakfast a couple of times at a friendly little place called Bar El Patio on the old town’s high street, which did great Jamon & Queso toasties (ham & cheese). Bar La Plaza was also really cute, with lovely tapas and a view of the church and castle from it’s courtyard setting.
There is very little English spoken by the Olvera locals, and we enjoyed trying to maximise our limited Spanish. Our attempts were greeted with warm smiles and a willingness to help.