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Explore the White Village of Olvera in Andalucía - 10 Things to Do and See!
Olvera is another one of those fairytale villages that from a distance is spellbinding. As you cross the rugged plains of the Sierra de Grazalema you will at once see, rising out of the surrounding olive groves, an exquisite white village with a soaring cathedral and castle at its center.
Olvera is yet another chance to go back in time and explore these ancient white villages along the now famous "pueblos blancos" route in southern Spain. If you are thinking of visiting these beautiful towns, Olvera is one not to miss.
The town was also declared a center of "Artistic and Historic Importance" in 1983 by the Spanish government.
Where is Olvera Located?
The Moorish village of Olvera sits at the crossroads where the provinces of Cadiz, Seville and Malaga meet. It is in the north west corner of Cadiz and about 50 min north of one of Andalucía's most treasured villages, Ronda.
The town rises 643 meters above sea level with extraordinary views of the surrounding mountains, patchwork farmland and olive plantations.
The town is small so a visit to Olvera will only take you about half a day.
If you're planning to overnight in one of the villages along the "pueblos blancos" route, Olvera has a few options, but not as many as some of the neighboring towns. You might want to check out the hotels on these pages as well... Grazalema, Zahara de la Sierra & Setenil de las Bodegas.
A Little History
Little is really known about the history of Olvera. It seems we have more questions than answers as to how it came to be.
One thing we do know is that some sort of settlement has existed here for more than two thousand years. And, through relics that have been found locally, we know that human life has been flourishing in this area since Paleolithic times (12,000 years ago!!).
Olvera was definitely inhabited by both the Phoenicians and the Romans. We also know that the Romans called the village "Hippa" or "Hippo Nova" which some argue translates to a 'well', 'woodland' or 'olive grove'.
The Moors most likely invaded and moved into the area in the 9th century. They began construction of the town they called "Wubira" or "Uriwila". They would have remained in the area until conquered by the Christians in 1327.
One very interesting fact is that a future Mayor of the city of Lima (Peru) was born in Olvera in 1487.
Not long after the Christians conquered Olvera, control was given to the Guzman family who had been very active in the defense of Tarifa during the Reconquest. But, later the Duke of Osuna took control of the town and his son (Nicolás de Ribera) was the leader of the Spanish conquest of Peru. Ribera became mayor of Lima in 1535.
10 Things You Must See in Olvera!
1. The Villa Neighborhood
La Villa is the original Moorish village that included the Cathedral (which was a mosque at the time), the Plaza Iglesia surrounding it, the castle and the maze of tiny streets just below. During Moorish times the entire town would have resided in this neighborhood, the surrounding areas were undeveloped.
Take a stroll through the narrow streets of this picturesque area. The houses are all whitewashed in the typical Spanish style and adorned with colorful flowers overflowing from their pots. The maze of cobblestone streets winds around in every direction, revealing glimpses of the magnificent countryside around every corner.
2. The Arab Castle
The Olvera Castle looks just like a castle should, with towers, turrets and built into the highest point of the craggy cliffs overlooking the town below...
It was built at the end of the 12th century and was part of an elaborate communication system of watchtowers and castles that protected the western most part of the Muslim Kingdom. It was in the perfect location between the great strongholds of Seville and Ronda.
You will find the castle entrance just across the plaza from the church, be aware that it is just a small doorway that is easily missed. Before entering, you must first go to the tourist office (in the corner of the church plaza) and pay the entrance fee (2.00 euros). Once inside you can explore the entire castle on your own. The highest point is inside the tower and up a spiral staircase to the rooftop terrace. The views from the top are definitely worth the climb.
3. The Church of Nuestra Senora de la Encarnation
The Church of the Encarnation looks like something you would see in one of the larger cities like Madrid or Barcelona, not in a little village surrounded by countryside for miles and miles. But here it is... and it's glorious!
It's a neo-classical style church built in 1841 on the site of what was once a gothic style church and before that a mosque.
No 31 Bed & Breakfast - No 31 is a Bed & Breakfast located right in the heart of Olvera. Its located just under the cathedral and has beautiful views of the castle at night. Breakfast is included.
Casa Vagón Vía Verde de la Sierra - Very neat hotel that is built into a set of old railway cars along the famous Via Verde hiking and cycling route, about 15 minutes from town.
4. Parish Cemetery
Protected by the Castle and soaring cliffs above is the Olvera Parish Cemetery. It has been the burial site for residents going back centuries. It's a small site but has breathtaking views of the mountains and village below.
5. La Cilla
Back in the day when Olvera was controlled by the Duke of Osuna, La Cilla was used as storage for grains. "La Cilla" actually means grain store. It was also used at one point as a women's prison.
Today La Cilla is the town's museum. It's a collection of small buildings surrounding a small plaza. The tower, which was once a rampart from the castle, is currently being used as an exhibition room.
The local Tourist Office is also part of the La Cilla complex.
6. Ayutamiento (Town Hall) and City Streets
The Ayutamiento (Town Hall) is just at the bottom of the steps from the Plaza de Iglesia. The original town hall was built in 1783 but was later demolished. The current building was constructed in the 20th century.
From the Town Hall take a walk down the street into town. There are numerous cafes and restaurants along the way.
Ayutamiento (Town Hall) - 956 130 011
Monday - Friday: 7:30 am - 3:00 pm
7. Peñon del Sagrado Corazon
Leaving the "La Villa" area and heading down into town you will find the Peñon del Sagrado Corazon about mid-way down the street on your right.
If you are ready for another climb, start up the stairway on the far end of the Plaza de Andalucía. The Peñon (or rock) is a hanging garden that has been a local gathering spot for centuries. The stairs wind up and around in every direction, covered in ivy and full of lush plants and flowers all the way to the top.
Once you've reached the small terrace at the top, you will find the statue of "The Sacred Heart of Jesus" and beautiful views back towards the church and castle. This is the perfect spot to take a photo of Olvera from a distance.
8. Via Verde de la Sierra
If you're up for an adventure, the Via Verde (or green way) is fantastic! It's a 38 km award winning hiking / bicycling route along an old abandoned rail line that once connected the town with Puerto Serrano.
Why is it abandoned? In the 1920's General Rivera decided to build a rail line between the towns of Almargen and Jerez de la Frontera, Olvera was supposed to be the main stop in-between. The bridges, viaducts and tunnels were all finished but the rail lines were never completed, the project stalled and remained in a state of disrepair for years.
Today the Via Verde is flourishing and becoming one of the most hiked and cycled routes in Andalucía. Most of the path is flat with visitors going over bridges and through tunnels and stopping at rail-side restaurants along the way. There are even two hotels along the route (one on either end).
You can also stop to see the Peñon de Zaframagon Nature Reserve which is home to Andalucía's largest Griffon (vulture) colony along this portion of the Via Verde.
Casa Vagón Vía Verde de la Sierra - Very neat hotel that is built into a set of old railway cars along the route.
Hotel Estación Vía Verde - A two-star hotel along the via verde route that was converted from an old railway station.
9. Santuario de los Remedios
A pretty little chapel just 2 km outside the town of Olvera that is dedicated to the Virgen of the Remedies. The second Monday after Easter all the towns people come down to the church to give a blessing and have a picnic together under the olive trees.
10. Lavadero de Pino
This is a quaint little washing house that has been used by the local women for centuries. They carried their clothes all the way from Olvera (2 km away) and spent the day washing and chatting. At the time the basins were fed by a local spring, but today the lavadero de Pino is no longer in use.
11. The Surrounding Countryside
Once you've visited the Santuario de los Remedios, head towards the town of Setenil de las Bodegas (another fantastic white village along the route). The surrounding countryside changes yet again and you will find yourself driving lower and lower into a deep ravine.
In Setenil de las Bodegas all the homes are built into caves....
Other Important Information You Should Know About Olvera
1. Olvera is One of the Famous Villages on the "Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos"
The White Towns of Andalusia, or Pueblos Blancos, are a series of towns and large villages in the northern part of the provinces of Cádiz and Málaga in southern Spain, mostly within the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park.
Other villages on this route are: Casares, Zahara de la Sierra, Mijas Pueblo, Villaluenga del Rosario, Benaocaz, Ubrique, Benamahoma, El Bosque, Prado del Rey, Puerto Serrano, Algodonales, El Gastor, Setenil de las Bodegas, Alcalá del Valle, Torre Alhaquime, Grazalema, Arcos de la Frontera, Algar, Espera, Bornos and Villamartín, Vejer de la Frontera and Frigiliana.
2. Distances to Other Important Towns:
Larger Cities / Towns
Malaga; 122 km / 1 hr 37 min
Cádiz: 127 km / 1 hr 27 min
Sevilla: 103 km / 1 hr 26 min
Ronda: 52 km / 50 min
Other Smaller White Villages
Jerez de la Frontera: 96 km / 1 hr 13 min
Villamartín: 47 km / 40 min
Zahara de la Sierra: 28 km / 30 min
Grazalema: 40 km / 44 min
3. When is the Best Time to Come
- During the months of April, May and October you are most likely to experience good weather with pleasant average temperatures that fall between 20 degrees Celsius (68°F) and 25 degrees Celsius (77°F).
- On average, the warmest month(s) are July and August, with July being the hottest.
- The months of January, February, March, April, August, September and October have a high chance of precipitation, with November being the wettest.
- On average, the coolest month is January.
- June is the driest month.
The gastronomy of Olvera is based around its pure olive oil, which flows from its many olive groves. There are many flavors and varieties.
Other popular dishes are: "dough cakes" dipped in honey, homemade liver sausage, traditional "pegás soups" with wild asparagus, tomato soups, stuffed sirloin, "rice with rabbit" and "scrambled eggs". For dessert, "porridge" is enjoyed.
There are several fiestas that standout in Olvera that are worth enjoying.
San José - March 19th - This holiday has been celebrated for more than 200 years. Each year the locals go out in a procession through the streets with an image of the saint ending with a mass at 6 pm.
San Agustín - August - A few days of fun with celebrations of all kinds, such as bullfighting, music and dancing. Its origins date back to the year 1710 when King Felipe V granted this celebration in return for the services provided to him by his citizens.
Quasimodo Monday Pilgrimage - Second Monday after Easter - Another very popular pilgrimage during which the towns people meet in the Santuario de los Remedios to give thanks to the virgin. A custom dating from the eighteenth century when the people suffered a severe drought and asked the virgin for rain... rain came... and now they say thank you every year with this procession.
6. How To Arrive
From Ronda: Follow A-374 and Carr. de Antequera / A-384 to Olvera.
From Cadiz: Take AP-4, A-382, A-384 and Carr. de Antequera to Olvera.
Most of the designated parking is at the bottom of town and you will have to walk up. You can park on the street on Calle Belavista and in a car park on Calle Vereda Ancha.
There is another car park beside the swimming pool on Avenida Manuel de Falla.
That about covers it for now! This should be all you need for a great day in Olvera!! Have a safe trip!! ;-)
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