The most inland segment of the province of Cádiz is where this beautiful town is located. What you see in Olvera is related to its history and natural environment. Away from the beach areas such as Conil, Rota, Zahara de los Atunes or Chiclana, its monuments and routes allow you to discover its past on the Nasrid border, as well as its prosperous era in the Modern Age. A town that shows, along with Medina Sidonia, Grazalema or Castellar, how interesting the inland towns of Cádiz are. These are the great landmarks of Olvera.
Olvera’s most epic monument is undoubtedly its medieval Moorish castle. The remains of this great stone mass dominate the town. Perched on the highest point of the town, it has a curious layout that adapts to the terrain. It has a very protected gate, cisterns, underground areas and its own walls. Further up, the strong keep stands out. It has two floors and can be visited, along with other parts of the fortress.
Its role was key in the 12th century, when it was built, to defend Nasrid territory. From the beginning it was part of the border with the Christian kingdoms. Its wall, parts of which survive, was a challenge that the Castilians chose to avoid until 1327. After an attempt the previous year, Alfonso XI managed to break the spirit of the Arabs by using siege machinery. The final target of the campaign was to conquer Gibraltar and its countryside, where La Línea de la Concepción or San Roque currently stands. The surrender brought advantageous conditions to the former inhabitants of the place. Later on, there were several reforms and Olvera ended up in the hands of the Dukes of Osuna.
Castle of Ayamonte or Carastas
On the outskirts of the town, which depends on the Arab castle of Olvera, are the ruins of the castle of Ayamonte or Carastas. Much more humble than the urban fortress, it was taken at the same time as this one. Nowadays, remains of the access ramp and the gate, protected by the keep, survive. Also parts of an internal building. From the crag that dominates, you can get great views of the Olvera population. However, it is not accessible beyond the entrance.
The old Olvera cemetery offers some of the best views of the town of Cádiz. It dates from the XVI century and is located under the homage tower of the Moorish castle. Under its auspices it extends briefly to the walls. At the same time, it is also supported by the back of several houses in the town’s district, which is guarded by Muslim paintings. White is the main colour of this cemetery, a feature it shares with the village. Not in vain does it form part of the white Andalusian villages.
Church of La Encarnación
The 18th-century church of La Encarnación rises above the houses that surround the Arab castle. Located in the quarter of the town, it is together with the fortress the most typical picture of the place. A viewpoint on its main façade is another of the key points for enjoying panoramic views of the municipal environment. Besides, it isolates in a certain way the beautiful neoclassical temple. Next to the building is the church square, one of the main squares in Olvera.
On the same site, there was a previous church, which was demolished in 1822 to allow the current one to be built. The sober exterior, in which the two bell towers of the front door stand out, gives an idea of the three naves into which the rich interior is divided. altars of the different districts are especially noteworthy. The main one is dedicated to San José, the patron saint of Olvera.
It is worth noting that Holy Week is one of the major events in this town of Cádiz. From Palm Sunday to Good Friday the processions follow one another. Shortly afterwards, on the second Monday after Easter Sunday, there is a large pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Los Remedios, known as Quasimodo Monday. There, people eat some cakes that are named after the festivity. In fact, today they are one of the most characteristic elements of Olvera’s gastronomy.
Sanctuary of Los Remedios
The aforementioned Los Remedios Sanctuary is the second most important religious site in Olvera. Baroque and 18th century, it is about two kilometres from the town centre. Here you can find a carving of the virgin that the town worships. The reason for this is that at the beginning of the sixteenth century a great drought was raging in the municipality. The Town Hall itself requested that the image be taken to the urban centre. Coincidentally or not, the fact is that the rains came back. Such a jubilation was established on the Monday of Quasimodo described above. Before the sanctuary of Los Remedios was built, there was a hermitage there.
Convent of Caños Santos
Also from a hermitage comes the convent of Caños Santos. According to tradition, the reason for creating a temple on the site came from the discovery of a virgin in the vicinity shortly after 1500. During the 16th century, the construction of the church was started and it soon became a great success. In this way it was extended until it became a Franciscan convent. The figure moved to Cañete la Real in the province of Málaga.
In addition to the three temples mentioned above, it is also worth paying attention to two others. On the one hand, the church of Socorro, built in the seventeenth century in Gothic-Mudejar style. On the other hand there is the church of La Victoria, which dates from the 1960s.
La Cilla and the wall
The Muslim walls that protected the city marked the early urban expansion. Thanks to this, the district of the town shows a disorder in its layout typical of the Arab period. In addition, the slopes are very common in this part of the city, so it is advisable to go with your legs prepared. Seven buttresses and the one known as the Duke’s tower survive. In the latter is located the museum of La Cilla.
This structure was used by the local lords to store the grain they collected from their servants. Today, however, it has come to be used as an exhibition hall and open-air auditorium. The museum space deals with local history, as an information centre. In addition, without leaving the quarter of the village, it is worth paying attention to the tower of the Bread. It was a bakery under Nazi rule.
Peñón del Sagrado Corazón and Plaza de Andalucía
Another of the main centres to see in Olvera is the Plaza de Andalucía and the Peñón del Sagrado Corazón. The promenade that makes up this is also known as the Alameda. It is considered a historic place as it was where Alfonso XI camped during the Christian takeover of the city. It has a colorful and abundant vegetation. Several terraced areas can be accessed. Thus, it is one of the main gardens of the city. It is worth noting that there are many parks in this town of Cádiz, although most of them are in the newer and flatter area.
At the top is the Peñon del Sagrado Corazón. The religious statue was executed by the artist from Granada José Navas Parejo. The year it was unveiled was 1929. However, the rest of the ensemble was commissioned four years earlier. From such a space you can enjoy great views of the town and the surroundings, with sunsets that have nothing to envy to the rest of the sunsets in Cádiz.
More Olvera civil monuments
There are other interesting civilian elements to see on Olvera. For example, Pino’s washing place. To get to know it, you have to get away from the centre. This way, you have to take the road to the sanctuary of Los Remedios. A couple of hundred meters before that, this fountain will be located. It was used until the late 20th century both for water and for washing. However, it is much earlier and had a great use during the 17th century. You can still see the pools and the patio where the washerwomen used to work decades ago.
As for the town hall, it dates back to 1968. It is not the first of the buildings that fulfils this function, as the previous one stood from the end of the 18th century until it had to be replaced and the new one erected. Likewise, there are several stately homes on Calle Llana, between Plaza de Andalucía and the La Encarnación church. Their styles range from the Baroque to the nineteenth century.
Vía Verde de la Sierra
In the early 20th century there was a plan to build a railway line from Jerez de la Frontera to Almargen in Málaga. However, the plans did not succeed either during the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera or during the Second Republic. As usual at this time, the Civil War put an end to any possibility of success. Thus, the structures created did not serve much purpose.
A project rescued part of the route in the form of the La Vía Verde. A foundation has been managing it since 2000. At present it covers 36 and a half kilometres of linear route. Its great infrastructure has earned it several awards and it has been named Route of Tourist Interest. It also allows you to get to know the local olive-growing environment. The route passes through a total of 30 tunnels and 4 viaducts. In addition, it has several readapted stations where you can stop. The first one is Puerto Serrano, where the route starts. Further on, Coripe awaits and, finally, Olvera. On weekends and holidays, the service known as Patrulla Verde (Green Patrol) works. Four locals walk along the road helping those who travel.
In the final stretch it is possible to observe griffon vultures relatively often. The reason for this is that it passes through Zaframogón Rock. Its more than four hundred hectares make up a natural reserve. The colony of the above-mentioned birds is the largest in the Autonomous Community. In total there are about 200 pairs. Different types of birds of prey, owls or crows, among other species, live with them.
Other landmarks and routes of interest in Olvera
The municipality has several small nuclei in its territory, although they are not too interesting beyond a brief visit. The Toconal dolmen is most notable. It has hardly been excavated, dates from the Copper Age and is located in the Sierra Blanquilla. Meanwhile, instead of beaches such as Sancti Petri, Roche or Palmar de Vejer de la Frontera, Olvera has an enviable mountain setting. The Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park stands out, offering a variety of routes in an environment dominated by the Mediterranean forest. The recreational areas of the Prado or the Chacón and Ildefonso streams are also worth mentioning.
Finally, it should not be overlooked that Olvera is part of the Way to Santiago de la Frontera. This branch line is very much related to the origin of the place, as it runs through the area that was disputed by Christians and Nasrids during the Middle Ages. It is closely related to the so-called Vía Serrana, which starts from the Línea de la Concepción, passing through Ronda, and reaches Olvera before turning to Utrera and Seville. On the other hand, the Border Way takes the way of Estepa and Ecija to finally reach Los Santos de Maimona, next to Zafra. There it connects with the Vía de la Plata. An original alternative well marked in the municipality, and the whole route, thanks to the Villae Naevae association.