Iznajar (The Lake Village)

The picturesque white village of Iznájar is 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 dramatic setting …

Topped by a Moorish castle, this friendly village is a classic "pueblo blanco". 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.

The town is built around the ruins of its 8th Century Moorish castle which tops the rocky outcrop. Although the ruins are in a poor state of repair they offer fantastic views of the surrounding area and the walk up to them through the old winding streets is lovely. It will get you fit, too … Views from the top of the town are sensational, the vast and very beautiful lake wrapped by rolling hillsides clad with olive groves.

Parts of the fortified town walls can still be seen. Also worth visiting is the Iglesia de Santiago church, built over time during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, with a remarkable Baroque altar piece which was added later.

Also of interest is the shrine of the Ermita de la Antigua, which was built in the seventeenth century and features a curious domed vault, leading on to an even more unusual 18th century dressing room.

The Barrio del Coso area is a lovely place to wander around, a labyrinth of typical whitewashed Andalusian houses dotted around a maze of narrow lanes. It is also worth seeking out the small barrio of cave dwellings known as El Caganchuelo. there is a small municipal museum, dedicated to its agricultural heritage and local customs.

An unpretentious working village of some 5,000 people, there are traditional bars where you can spend a pleasant lunch time or evening eating simple local food, with a bottle of wine or a beer. An English restaurant offers Sunday lunch and Thursday curries. There is now a smart lakeside hotel, El Caserío de Iznájar, just outside the village; the internationally renowned Hotel La Bobadilla is a 15 minute drive away. The lake hosts water sports and fishing and has its own beach at Valdearenas where you can swim, rent pedalos and canoes, or learn to sail. Spring 2014 will see the opening of a newly constructed marina for sail boats only. Extension of the water sports facilities to include kayaking, sailing school, extended restaurant facilties and much more .....

It was the creation of the huge embalse (reservoir), below the promontory on which the Iznájar sits, some 30 odd year ago, which transformed the village.

Just a kilometre from the village, 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 on weekdays, even in the height of the season.

The lake, which is a walk of just a quarter of a kilometre through the olive groves, provides excellent course fishing and many competitions are held along its banks. There is a chiringuito (summer bar) on the beach and a couple of bar / restaurants just above.

The beach disappears during the winter months when the water level is high. But in summer, as the water drops, the beach appears along with its stone tables and barbecues! Just 15 minutes from the A92 motorway, Iznájar has fast, easy access to all of Andalucía's major cities.

Situated near the southern border of Córdoba province, Iznájar serves as the natural entrance to the Sierra Subbéticas Natural Park. Just 15 minutes from the A92 motorway, it really is at the "crossroads of Andalucía" with fast, easy access to Antequera (30 minutes), Malaga and the coast (one hour), Granada (one hour), Córdoba (one hour) and Sevilla (90 minutes).

Other places of interest and beauty well worth a visit include Ronda, El Torcal Natural Park (near Antequera), the Alpujarras and Gibraltar, as well as Priego de Córdoba and the other towns and villages of the delightful Subbética Natural Park on your doorstep.

The local cuisine of the town is centered around pork and there is a fascinating carnival in February where the traditional pork sausage filling is stuffed with eggs, bread, jamón and breast of turkey.

Easter Week is very important, the townsfolk presenting a religious theatrical epic, and other festivals which include the day of San Marcos (25th April) when the whole town heads for the countryside for a mass picnic.

The town hosts its main annual feria real in September around the 7th to 10th of the month. There is a candlelight procession through the town on the 8th September.

Great views, silvery green olive trees as far as the eye can see, some seriously steep little streets, an obligatory Moorish castle at its summit (and Baroque church alongside) … this is Iznájar, the little Andaluz village with its very own "inland sea". An island rising from the waters.