Cordoba Province - Iznájar

Lakeside sunsets from Iznajar © Michelle Chaplow
Lakeside sunsets from Iznajar

IZNÁJAR

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. The town has around 4300 inhabitants.

HISTORY

The site of Iznájar was originally a prehistoric Iberian settlement, but flourished in the eighth century when Arab settlers, in the wake of the 711 AD invasion by Tariq ibn Zayid and his Moorish armies, built a castle on the promontory and called it Hins Ashar (hence the town's modern Spanish name). It became the focus of battles between various North African factions, and was finally seized by the army of Abderramán III.

After the fall of the Caliphate of Córdoba, then the capital of Al-Andalus, it fell under the rule of Granada. In 1431, during the reign of Catholic Monarch, Juan II, it was reclaimed by the Christian rulers, some sixty years before Granada was to fall in 1492. Iznájar gained brief notoriety in 1861 when the town supported an uprising against the monarchy, led by Rafael Perez del Alamo, with grimly predictable consequences.

THINGS TO SEE

Castillo
The ruins of the eighth-century Hins Ashar Castle are the obvious key attraction for visitors, although they are in a poor state of repair. Parts of the fortified town walls can also be seen on the upper levels of the town. Inside the walls, a small square called the Patio de las Comedias suggests that, despite its defensive position, Iznájar once had a theatre culture that could track back millennia. The ruins are located on Calle Villa.

Iglesia Parroquial de Santiago
This church was built between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, with a remarkable late addition in the form of a Baroque altarpiece. The cemetery next to the church only dates to 1806. Located on Calle Julio Burell.

Ermita de la Antigua o de la Piedad
The chapel was built in the seventeenth century and features a curious domed vault, which leads onto an even more unusual eighteenth-century dressing room. Iznájar also has a small but fascinating municipal museum, dedicated to its agricultural heritage and local customs. Both can be found on Calle de la Antigua.

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

Antiguo Pósito
The grain store was built in the time of Carlos III, under the instruction of his Minister, Floridablanca, between 1785 and 1786; this latter date is inscribed on one of its corners. The designer of the project was the great Madrid-born architect, Manuel Vera. It had been well preserved, though lacking a roof, for many years, until it was recently restored ready to house the municipal public library. Historically, the building underwent the restoration of many of its details by the Cordovan architects, brothers Juan, Rafael and Jose López Cardera and by Juan and Jose Zolilo Higueras, also brothers. The master mason Antonio Garrido from Iznájar did the stone work. The building is located on Calle Valle.

THINGS TO SEE OUTSIDE THE TOWN

Valdearenas Beach
Near the town is a small sandy beach on the shore of the lake Iznájar where you can swim and rent pedalo boats, canoes and inflatables. There is an Interpretation Centre for the lake, a campsite and a water sports centre. To reach Valdearenas, take the A-333 north and, once over the bridge, take a left turn down a narrow road to the lake shore. The area is crowded at weekends during the summer, but not at other times.

NATURAL AREAS

Embalse de Iznájar
The reservoir is the largest in Andalusia, and, when constructed over ten years during the 1960s, the dam was was the largest in Spain, requiring 1.4 million cubic metres of concrete. The reservoir was opened by General Franco on 3 June, 1969. As the present-day A-333 bridges were not completed in time, a ferry service was put on. Lake Iznájar collects water from the River Genil for the towns of Puente Genil and Écija, enough water for 20.000 people. The lake covers 3.000 hectares and although 200 hectares of irrigated land and 150.000 olive trees were flooded during the construction of the reservoir, the water has provided for an additional 65.000 hectares of irrigation downstream.

Iznájar itself escaped submersion and, if anything, the lake below has given further resonance to its unofficial title as the Mirador del Genil (viewpoint of Genil). Swimming and non-motorised water sports are permitted on the lake. Fishing with a license is also permitted in some areas but with complex limits on catch sizes. 

HOTELS

Caserio de Iznájar
Enjoying a stunning rural location beside the lake, this hotel is built in typical Andalusian style with a charming outdoor terrace, a refreshing swimming pool and a great restaurant. Make your holiday an adventurous one and stay active outdoors while enjoying the sunshine that Andalusia enjoys for most of the year.

GASTRONOMY

Local cuisine reflects Iznájar's position in a prime pork production region, as well as offering variations on classic Andalusian dishes. During the February Carnaval, the traditional pork sausage filling is stuffed with eggs, bread, jamón and turkey breast. Other specialities include salmorejo con naranja y bacalao (tomato soup with orange and cod) and porra (stew of tomatoes, bread, peppers and jamón). The most popular dessert is that known as huevos volaos (creamed eggs).

Festivals in Iznájar

Festivals that are popular in Iznájar are Cabalgata Reyes Magos, Día de Andalucía, Carnaval, Holy Week, Romería de San Isidro, and Feria de Septiembre. More>

NEARBY PLACES

The neighbouring villages to Iznájar are Rute, Cuevas Bajas and Archidona.

 

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Hotels

Caserio de Iznájar Caserio de Iznájar

Enjoying a stunning rural location beside a lake, this hotel is built in typical Andalusian style with a charming outdoor terrace, a refreshing swimming pool and a great restaurant. Make your holiday an adventurous one and stay active and outdoors while enjoying the sunshine that Andalusia enjoys most of the year.

 

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