The Sierras Subbéticas Natural Park is a stunningly beautiful, rugged park located in the heart of Andalucia between the three great cities of Cordoba, Granada and Seville. It lies within a comarca or district also called Sierras Subetticas.
The Subbetica of Cordoba is an area of cultural, natural and historic interest in the southern part of the province of Cordoba. It takes in fascinating towns like Priego de Cordoba, Cabra or Baena and villages like Zuheros, Luque and Iznajar.
The Cueva de los Murciélagos (the Cave of the Bats) is a system of caves situated on the edges of the limestone Sierras Subbéticas Natural Park, 4km from the attractive village of Zuheros. Of the 60 caves registered in the park, the most important one is the Cueva de los Murciélagos, internationally renowned for its schematic and unique rock paintings and significant archaeological remains dating from Neolithic times.
The Via Verde Subbeticas is a southern extention of the Vía Verde of the Olive Oil that originates in Jaen city. The Via Verde Subbeticas covers 56 km, much of it on the fringes of the limestone mountainous area of the Sierras Subbéticas Natural Park. It links a series of beautiful villages, such as Zuheros, Luque and Cabra.
The distinct geographical setting of of Palenciana, set almost precisely on the border between the provinces of Córdoba and Málaga, means that the village is surrounded by a curious mixture of almond trees and the plains of the famous Llanos de Antequera. It has around 1,500 inhabitants.
Fuente Tójar preserves an ancestral tradition that is celebrated during its Feria Real de San Isidro Labrador. The event features a troupe of famous dancers, made up of eight men dressed in multicoloured costumes that dance to the sound of their own instruments. The village has around 700 inhabitants.
Encinas Reales has a beautiful Neoclassical temple dedicated to La Advocación de La Expectación, and from nearby Vadofresno, one can see amazing views over the River Genil. In line with its name, this town was once surrounded by encinas (holm oaks) and, according to legend, was renamed "Encinas Reales" because Queen Isabel La Católica rested under the shade of these trees on one of her trips.
Doña Mencía offers a wonderful blend of nature, culture and history, attracting a huge variety of visitors. Significantly, it is part of the protected Natural Park of the Sierras Subbéticas, where the Vía Verde de la Subbética is located. The town has around 4700 inhabitants.
Benamejí sits curiously on the edge of an immense crack that has grown over the years, causing many houses to disappear. Despite its dangerous implications for locals, this geological phenomenon has become one of the main tourist attractions of the town, which has around 5000 inhabitants.
At first glance, Lucena appears to be composed entirely of furniture factories and retail outlets; however, the old town hosts many exquisite churches reflecting its importance in the Subbetica during the Baroque era, and encouraging visits by history lovers. The town has around 42, 500 inhabitants.
La Carlota is named after King Carlos III, who founded the present day town in a desert area known as La Parilla in an attempt to re-populate the area. The area attracted immigrants from central Europe, a fact that can still be seen in the facial features of the local descendants of these, mainly German, founders. It has around 14, 000 inhabitants.
Rute overlooks the Iznájar reservoir, and is dwarfed by the Sierra de Rute that looms above it. It is best known for manufacturing aguardiente de anís, an aniseed-flavoured liqueur, the industry for which has been thriving here since the nineteenth century. It has around 9800 inhabitants.
One of the most unique elements of Almedinilla is the way locals keep the flies and heat out of their homes. Traditional houses across Andalusia usually have plain metal or cloth curtains hung over the doors, however, in this town, you will see colourful curtains featuring interesting handmade decorations and hunting scenes.
Cabra is the modern Spanish word for 'goat', but it is unlikely that local flocks inspired this town's name. It is thought to come from "Al-Cabri", a local poet from the tenth century whose full name was Muqaddan Irn Muafaa. The town now has around 20,400 inhabitants.
Priego de Córdoba is a prosperous olive-farming town standing on a plateau, overlooking the rolling hills of the Sierras Subbéticas Natural Park, and is famous for its Baroque churches, in which convoluted patterns are elegantly incised into the stone façades. It has around 22, 500 inhabitants.
Glaring light reflecting from chalky white walls against the Mediterranean blue sky is everybody's image of a "pueblo blanco" (white village). Zuheros is one of the best of these. It has around 640 inhabitants.
As well as being a beautiful town, Baena is also an excellent base for exploring the Sierras Subbéticas Natural Park. Anyone keen on walking in these Sierras should try to get hold of the CNIG 1:500,000 map, Parque Natural Sierras Subbéticas.
Luque is on the fringes of the rugged Sierras Subbéticas Natural Park, picturesquely set on a hillside, crowned by a castle and medieval defensive walls overlooking the main square. The town has around 3000 inhabitants.
Iznájar was transformed some decades ago by the construction of an embalse (reservoir) below the promontory on which Iznájar sits in the River Genil valley. Today, Iznájar feels as though it has a waterfront overlooking an inland sea some thirty kilometres long, and containing an estimated 900 million m³ of water destined for domestic consumption.