in the centre of Andalucía

The peaceful, olive-strewn Subbética region sits halfway between historical Córdoba and magical Granada, with sunny Málaga just over an hour’s drive south on the Mediterranean coast and dazzling Seville just over two hours to the west. At the rural heart of central Andalucía, this refreshingly untouristed pocket of southeast Córdoba province offers a tantalising taste of wild Spain, with superb hiking, cycling, water sports and adventure activities on the doorstep, especially in the 320-sq-km Parque Natural Sierras Subbéticas. The Subbética’s fabulous ecofriendly hotels make an idyllic undiscovered-Andalucía base, hidden out among the olive groves or in beautiful old white villages.

Southern Córdoba

Some of the loveliest white towns in Andalucía lie sprinkled among the craggy peaks and verdant valleys of the Subbética area, near the borders with Málaga, Seville and Jaén provinces. This whole region is threaded with spectacular walking trails, mountain-biking routes and pueblos blancos, yet it’s only an hour’s drive south from Córdoba, with its mesmerising Mezquita, Moorish-origin Alcázar and labyrinthine Judería (Jewish Quarter). It’s also known across Spain for its award-winning olive oils, fine goat’s cheeses and sherry-style Montilla-Moriles wines, which you’ll delight in trying at local restaurants, tapas bars and rural hotels and B&Bs.

Strike out from enchanting Córdoba white towns such as castle-crowned Zuheros, Baroque Priego de Córdoba or lake-hugging Iznájar, and you’ll instantly see why the Subbética is a jewel of authentic Spain.

Gateway to Granada

If you’re looking for inspiring rural hotels near Granada, Córdoba’s Subbética is just the ticket. From tempting sustainable accommodation options such as restored farmhouses, converted ancient mansions and gourmet B&Bs here, you can venture out on day trips to Granada – in just over an hour’s drive you’ll be feasting on the city’s famously generous tapas. Wander around the Alhambra, take in the views from the Albayzín, catch a fiery flamenco show and track down Granada’s lesser-known Moorish sights, before retreating back to your peaceful Subbética countryside escape among the olive trees, for Andalucian cooking classes, secret nature walks and homemade meals under the ultra-clear skies.

Inland from Málaga

Anyone on the hunt for outdoor adventures in the mountains near Málaga will be blown away by the natural beauty of the Subbética, which awaits just over an hour’s drive north from the Costa del Sol’s capital and its very convenient airport. If you fancy a Málaga day trip, it’s a quick hop south from Córdoba’s Subbética through off-the-beaten-track Andalucía to roam around thrilling seaside sights such as the 11th-century Alcazaba, the Carmen-Thyssen Museum or the Picasso Museum. The often-overlooked Málaga-province town of Antequera, with its Unesco-listed dolmens, is also a stone’s throw from the Subbética. A perfect combination of Andalucía’s cultural big-hitters with a touch of beautifully remote rural Spain.

A Unesco Geopark in the centre of Andalucía

Rippling across 320 sq km of limestone crags, rushing-river gorges and wild olive trees, Córdoba’s Parque Natural Sierras Subbéticas is a lesser-known highlight of outdoors Andalucía, whether you’re keen to join a walking holiday in southern Spain, try horse riding in the hills or go kayaking across a twinkling lake. This long-established nature reserve dates back to the 1980s and makes up the core of the Subbética, with white towns such as Priego de Córdoba, Carcabuey, Luque, Cabra, Iznájar and Zuheros dotted around its fringes. Another unmissable adventure attraction is the Vía Verde del Aceite greenway, a repurposed railway line for hiking and biking along the natural park’s northern border.

The final frontier

Dotted with strategically placed hilltop towns and centuries-old fortified castles, this wonderfully secluded pocket of Andalucía once stood on the turbulent medieval border between Christian and Islamic Spain. Dive into Spanish history by weaving along today’s Ruta del Califato (Route of the Caliphate), which passes through Montilla, Lucena, Priego de Córdoba, Zuheros and more on its journey between the two great Moorish cities of Granada and Córdoba. And if you wind the clock back further, there are awe-inspiring Roman, Iberian and prehistoric relics to uncover all over the Subbética – even Córdoba’s famous award-winning local olive oil is a Roman legacy.

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