Olvera, Spain is where I have called home for the last 7 months. It’s a small village of about 8,000 people located in the Sierra de Cadiz (mountain range of Cadiz). It’s just over an hour to major cities like Malaga, Sevilla, Jerez, and Cadiz. Olvera is located high on top of a mountain so it looks down over the countryside. On cloudy days, you can sometimes see above the clouds.
Olvera is one of the famous Pueblos Blancos, or White Villages of Cadiz. It’s located along the White Village Route (Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos). It’s called this because all the buildings are painted a bright white which stands out for a clean and historic look against the clear blue sky and green mountain landscape below.
1700 years ago, the Moors ruled Southern Spain. Olvera was on the dividing line between Moorish rule and Christian rule. Moors and Christians lived together in peace for 8 centuries until finally Christianity reclaimed Southern Spain. Today, Olvera is predominantly Christian, although there are still a few descendants of Moorish ancestry living in Olvera.
Olvera is divided into the “new town” and the “old town.” The old town was built strategically on top of the mountain to protect it from approaching armies. The houses are ancient, built of concrete with no insulation. Some homes have installed wood burners for heat in the winter months, and the concrete homes stay cool in the hot summer months. The new town has expanded down the side of the mountain to flatter ground with one main street that runs through. Homes are more modern although still authentically Spanish with tile floors and whitewashed facades, but some of the newer homes have heating units installed.
The two main attractions of Olvera are the church on top of the hill and the old Moorish castle. The church is still in use every day, and the castle has a small fee for visitors to enter and appreciate the views from the highest point in Olvera. The castle is in good condition for its age and is well worth a visit. Some other noteworthy sites of Olvera are La Alameda, a green garden with a stone waterfall, huge statue of Jesus that overlooks the village, and small zoo of birds, chickens, and peacocks. Finally, the sanctuary of Nuestra Senora de Los Remedios is located just outside the village but connected via a footpath. It is famous on the Lunes de Quasimodo when the Virgen is paraded through the streets of Olvera and taken to the sanctuary to celebrate a much needed rain during a period of drought. It is common for people to make pilgrimages to Olvera for this celebration.
The Via Verde is a path that runs from Olvera to Puerto Serrano, 38 kilometers. You can hike, ride a bike, or even horseback ride down this picturesque trail. From high up on top of the mountain, you can see for miles, and there are even binoculars at some points along the trail. It’s an excellent place for exercise or just to enjoy the scenery.
Olvera is home to 2 high schools and 2 primary schools, which is surprising in a town of only 8,000 people. One of the high schools, Zaframagón, is bilingual, meaning many of the subjects are taught in both English and Spanish. (Currently, I work as an English language assistant at Zaframagón.) There is also an adult education school that teaches English to local Spanish people and Spanish to English-speaking expats.
A local joke in Olvera is that there are 99 bars in the 2-mile long town. Even though it’s said jokingly, I strongly believe this is a true fact! There are many bars in Olvera, some of which are also cafes that serve tapas. There are 2 nightclubs and a few lounges as well. There are also 2 hotels for visitors.
Olvera is famous for its olive oil. The village is surrounded by farms and olive groves and the town even produces its own olive oil called Los Remedios which is completely natural, local, and delicious. In fact, southern Spain is the top producer of olive oil in the world, with Italy coming in second. I don’t doubt this fact for a second after driving through Andalucía for 7 months.
At first glance, you might think Olvera is a small, boring town, but don’t underestimate this wonderful little village! It has plenty to offer: 99 bars, 3 public parks, a medieval castle, a public swimming pool and fútbol field, camping sites, the via verde, a dance school that teaches flamenco, 2 gyms, and plenty more. This gem has stolen my heart and I recommend that everyone visit Olvera.