Just a short one about the Sierra Subbética as I’ve blogged about the area quite a bit after my last holiday to the region in November…. (Running & Hiking in Andalucia, Off-road cycling in the Sierra Subbética, Cordoba, running on the Vía Verde, road cycling in the Sierra Subbética …. I like the Sierra Subbética!)
The Sierra Subbética is a little known national park in Andalucia, between Cordoba, Granada and Malaga. It’s an area of rolling limestone hills, reaching 1568m at their peak but in general seeming less remote and foreboding than the area around El Chorro. This may be because the valleys are filled with olive groves, as far as the eye can see, all farmed by hand in the traditional way (due to the steepness of the slopes). This area was producing olives from the Roman era, and in fact one of Rome’s hills – Mont Testaccio – is almost entirely made up of fragments of amphora from the Subbética region (olive oil was imported into Italy from Spain in these amphora).
The scenery is just stunning, my favourite scenery in Andalucia due to the sheer timelessness of it. Ancient watchtowers from Moorish times stand along the ridges, olives as far as the eye can see, and nestled here and there are small white villages in the traditional Andalucian style.
We stayed at Casa Olea, a remote boutique hotel near the villages of Zamoranos and only a 10 minute drive from Priego de Cordoba (or a 20 minute cycle). I’ve stayed there before and blogged about it before:
a small, boutique hotel which prides itself on its eco credentials and on supporting the local economy. It’s beautiful, set in the middle of a river valley with no other buildings around, and Claire (one of the owners-her husband, Tim, is the other owner) is a fantastic cook. Casa Olea has some of the best breakfasts I’ve ever seen and the dinners are delicious.
And just a reminder of those breakfasts…..
I went slightly overboard at breakfast and helped myself to a few spoonfuls of melon topped with pomegranate seeds, a boiled egg, a slice of chorizo, a slice of manchego cheese, and TWO homemade muffins
The muffins were incredible.
We drove over from El Chorro on a rainy morning, me constantly pointing out of the car’s windscreen at blue sky in the distance – “that’s where we’re heading!” And yep, it was exactly where we were heading. It was still grey when we reached Zuheros, where we had a nice lunch of croquettes, jamon, and a huge amount of cheese, and went for a two hour walk up the river bed.
I started to plan our eventual cycle around the world, culminating in an adaptation of the child’s game .. “When Alice and James cycled around the world they took an atlas …. When Alice and James cycled around the world they took an atlas and a bicycle …. When Alice and James …. etc etc!”
Just as we arrived at Casa Olea the sun came out, so we quickly brought our stuff into our room and headed out on another walk, steeply up an olive grove, our shoes becoming caked in mud, to a tower on the top of the ridge, and then along the ridge to another tower.
Casa Olea has several sheets printed out with directions for walks in the area, giving estimated times and detailed routes along with pictures. However, we didn’t really need one as a guide came along with us … Ruby, the owners’ dog!
She knows all the routes and clearly knew exactly where to go, looking back at us at every junction to make sure we were going the right way. It was a beautiful two hour walk and we ended up back at Casa Olea in perfect time for dinner.
The hotel is owned by Tim and Claire, with Claire doing the cooking most evenings. And her cooking really is superb. We had a wonderful meal and a bottle of wine followed by an early night ahead of our 100km cycle the next day.
And the day after the cycle, it was off to Antequera for our last day of the holiday……