Lake Iznajar – the blue jewel of Andalucia

Iznájar is a village and municipal area in the province of Córdoba in Andalucia, southern Spain.

The unspoiled, traditional white walled, red roofed village, with its castle dating from the 8th century and church from the 16th century, has spectacular views over a 32 km long lake which hosts a variety of water-sports and fishing.

Valdearenas Beach is a beach on the lake where you can swim, rent pedalos and canoes, and learn to sail (and possibly other water sports). It tends to be busier on Sundays but is very quiet during the week, even in the height of the season. The water is beautiful to swim in, the bathing is safe and the beach has sand to lie on or for children to play in.

The lake reportedly provides excellent course fishing. Many competitions are held along its banks. It is just over a quarter of a kilometre to walk through the olive groves and on down to the lake or you can take the car down very close to the water.

Iznajar is situated near the southerly border of Córdoba province, and serves as a natural entrance to the Sierra Subeticas Natural Park. From the south, it is best reached from Junction 175 on the A92 Sevilla-Granada autovia and is only 20km from the turn off.

From the top of the town there are tremendous views where, on a nearby hillock, the old Moorish castle frowns down on the lowly houses. Also worth visiting is the Iglesia de Santiago church, built over time during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, with a remarkable late addition in the form of a Baroque altar piece. The cemetery next to the church only dates back to 1806.

The most interesting barrio (district) of Iznajar is the Barrio del Coso, a labyrinth of typical whitewashed Andalucían houses dotted around a labyrinth of narrow lanes that criss-cross the promontory. As if often the case in these hill towns, the lower part is also the newer part of town, and the central Plaza Nueva affords excellent panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. Similar views can be found at the miradores La Cruz de San Pedro and the Paseo de la Constitución. With time, it is also worth seeking out the small barrio of cave dwellings known as El Caganchuelo.

Local cuisine reflects Iznajars position in a prime pork production region, as well as variations on classic Andaluz platos. During the February carnaval, the traditional pork sausage filling is stuffed with eggs, bread, jamón and breast of turkey. Other specialities include the rich salmorejo (a thick cold tomato soup) with orange and cod, and La Porra, a cheap and filling stew of tomatoes, bread, peppers and jamón. A typical local postre (dessert) is natilla (cold creamy custard).

Unsurprisingly, Semana Santa, Easter week, is the most important festival here. Perhaps uniquely, townsfolk come together to present a religious theatrical epic in which amateur thespians take on the roles of figures in key scenes from the bible and the crucifixion. The inhabitants celebrate the day of San Marcos on April 25 by quitting the town entirely for a mass picnic in the countryside at Valdearenas, a recreational area close to the embalse. Iznajar’s annual September feria usually takes place from September 7-10. .

The principal economic activity of the area is the cultivation of olives although tourism is increasingly becoming an economic factor.

Iznájar is a classic “pueblo blanco“, or white village and I can’t impress enough upon you how stunning it is from the highest point in town.

I have been meaning to visit since I moved to this region and finally visited recently with my sister and brother-in-law. I was not disappointed. The first sight of the lake took my breath away. It is about an hour from here but a day trip is thoroughly recommended.