Untours Cafe

Priego de Cordoba – Our Untour “Home Town” in Andalusia

Priego de Cordoba Side Street

Two fountains, interesting narrow streets to explore, a fine collection of Baroque churches, several good restaurants, and shopping for groceries and basic supplies are the major offerings of this Untour “home town” village.

Parking is the main problem in this village. Most will “cheat” and park free at the underground parking of the supermarket. Others will use the on-street parking meters near the center of town or the parking garage. Beware the hours of the parking garage – the gates lock and your car may be in for the weekend. Metered parking is cheap and even free during siesta time, holidays, and Sunday. The meters are centrally located every block and take only coins up to 1 Euro. Get the ticket from the meter and put it on the dash of your car.

The fountains La Fuente del Rey and La Fuente de la Salud are just a short walk from the central plaza.

El Barrio de la Villa offers spectacular views from a natural cliff (El Adarve) that protects the barrio and provides as interesting walk among the white-washed apartments and stores along the narrow streets. Most have flowers in the balconies, on the walls, or windows. All of the entry doors are solid wood with ornate hardware. Stretch your arms out in some streets and you can touch both walls!

There are several interesting churches. One being the Parroquia de le Asuncion has elaborate décor. A side chapel has many interesting sculptures, many statues of Mary, some with sad somber expressions and large lacy halos. And another being the Iglesia de la Aurora which you will find out more about at the end of this travel blog.

Eating Out

Balcon del Adarve (Priego de Cordoba) is located at the end of your walk along the cliff. It has two levels of dining, a bar, and outside seating (recommended). It overlooks the valley and the surrounding hills covered with olive trees. It is a good place to meet with other Idyller’s to discuss the day’s outing. There are a great variety of dishes and on two visits we were pleased with the food, service, and price. The house wines at all restaurants
are very good – and cheap. Olives and crusty bread are usually served with your wine at no extra cost.

Café Rio (downtown near plaza in Priego de Cordoba) Family restaurant and bar with a variety of selections, but no English menu. Prices are reasonable. You should be aware that you must live with cigarette smoke in every café/bar.

Café El Alijbe (Priego de Cordoba) located near the Plaza del Santa Ana. English menu and excellent atmosphere of locals. The meals are cheap and the house wine less than 1 Euro per glass.

El Maňo (Ubeda) Located on the SE corner of the Plaza del 1 del Mayo. Charming café-bar just of the plaza. Good for people watching and reasonably priced food.

Los Plancos Resturante (on the Plaza de Paz in Zuheros). Nicely appointed restaurant with both inside and outside seating. The food is excellent and they also sell local olives, goat cheese, olive oil, and honey. Like all the village restaurants they have good house wine and local olives.

La Fuente de Zagrilla Restaurante (in Zagrilla – follow the signs). The restaurant/bar was the scene of our Idyll sponsored luncheon of traditional Andalusian dishes.

Places to Visit

Baeza Baeza was a regional capital under the Moors, but also saw the building of a most impressive Catholic Cathedral. Talk about your gold and silver! This place has tons of it! But by far the most interesting feature of the cathedral is hidden from view behind a rather plain painting of St. Peter on metal. The painting will move away to reveal a massive silver
“custodia” used for special services. To get the painting to move out of the way requires the insertion of 1 Euro into a coin slot. We waited until a Spanish family deposited their coin! In all your visits to villages large and small find the central square where families can gather and walk and talk.

A small white-washed town on the top of a mountain, with the requisite castle nearby. Getting to these small villages is part of the days’ adventure. The last 5 to 10 km was on very narrow twisting mountain roads. Another small interesting baroque church. Lots of gold and silver frills on the reardos and a rather interesting seated Jesus. We toured the
castle ruins next door, climbing to the highest point for an excellent view of the white-washed town on one side and the country-side on the other. All of this is in the Plaza de Paz. If one was looking for the postcard white-washed village of the area – this would be a good choice.


Seville Plan to spend a night in Seville to give yourself time to at least see the main sights and wander the streets. Make your hotel arrangements at the travel office in downtown Priego de Cordoba. They can get you the best prices. Also consider a mid-week visit as the hotel prices will be
much less. We stayed at the Hotel Fernando III whose location enables walking to all the attractions. Driving to Seville is a breeze with good highways and directional signs. As you get into Seville the roads gets more crowded so start looking for hotel signs. All the major hotels have directional signs – just trust the signs and follow them. The main road suddenly becomes a very narrow one lane – one way – road and you find yourself avoiding pedestrians instead of cars. But soon you will see your hotel.

Another thing that you might do is hire a guide for the major sites. There were 8 in our Untour group staying at the hotel at the same time and we had Maria arrange for Luis (who teaches Spanish in Seville) to be our group guide. Well worth the price. You also must experience Flamenco dancing.

Your guide books will describe all you need to know about Seville. We concentrated our tour on four areas. The neighborhood of shops between our hotel and the Cathedral, the Cathedral, the Reales Alcazares (a complex of gardens, patios and palaces that show Moorish and Christian influences), and the Barrio of Santa Cruz, which was formerly the Jewish Quarter of Seville. Luis, our guide, gave us a first class tour and a good history and cultural background to help our understanding of what we were seeing. So bring your walking shoes and enjoy the sights!

Granada We made two visits to Granada. It is only 90 minutes away and has much to offer. There is plentiful parking above the main entrance. Our first visit was to the Alhambra. Do get your tickets in advance before you leave the USA. Even at this off-season time the lines were
long and they only allow so many people in each day. Your ticket is for an appointed entry hour. Pick up your ticket early (there is a special line for those who have purchased in advance). You can not get in the main gate before that hour, but if you walk about half-way down the walkway that follows the Alhambra wall you will find a side entrance that is open to let you visit the museum, shop and eat. In fact that entrance is very close to the palace where you start your tour.

Our first stop was the Royal Palace of Carlos V, built for his honeymoon. It has a fine museum that is certainly worth a visit. Rick Steve’s guide (you can print it off the internet) was excellent to get you from room to room in the The Nasrid Palaces, which were the high point of our visit. The walls were covered with intricate carvings – no people or animals, since these were things only Allah could make. So you saw verses from the Koran and endless tributes to Allah. Water is abundant with soothing fountains and running in aqueducts throughout the grounds. The “jealousies” are windows covered with lattice-work and carvings that allowed women to look out but not be seen. Their husbands did not want them to be seen! The Lion’s Fountain has twelve lions around it and once operated as a clock – until the Christians took it apart to see what made it work – and it never worked again. That happened in 1492 – an eventful year for this part of the world!

The 12 Lion Clock

Our second visit to Granada focused on the old city. We again parked at the familiar lot at the Alhambra and decided to walk to the city. It is far and a very very steep downhill hike. Recommendation. If you do the walk stay close to the Alhambra walls on the way down and you will get to the center of town. And, of course, take the Alhambra bus back to the parking lot. It would be like climbing a mountain to walk back from the old city. If you see a large fountain and statue of Queen Isabella on her throne and Columbus kneeling at her feet – you are at the center of the old town.

We went to the Capilla Real (The Royal Chapel). Isabella and Ferdinand are supposedly buried here with other family members. You will also see a beautiful Spanish grille between dating from 1518 that frames the entry to the transept with scenes of the 12 apostles. The tombs are covered with marble. The main altar piece is by Vigirney – Christ on the cross in the center, at the side John the Baptist and the bottom Virgin and Child with the Magi. In the very bottom tier are relief’s of the king surrendering and the christening of Muslim men and women. The sacristy contains a lot of works of art collected by Isabella, including works by Flemish masters and Boticelli.

We did some shopping in the narrow alleys and streets and then had lunch at a large plaza behind the cathedral. It was great for people watching – especially the families. Our waiter then gave us excellent directions to the open markets where we could buy the rare saffron. We discovered several spice markets located in the area behind the church – very colorful!

Cordoba The drive to Cordoba is easy and the parking (before you cross the river turn right) is free if you don’t fall for the fake parking attendants in the official looking green municipal vests that charge you to park in free parking spaces. Live and learn!

Moorish Arches

We visited the Mezquita Cathedral (Cathedral de Cordoba) which is the former Mosque of Cordoba. You enter from bright daylight into a dark room and as your eyes adjust you realize that the room is vast and full of Moorish arches and columns (856) all red and white striped. One can imagine men (no women allowed) lying prostrate all over this floor. Of course, dropped in the middle of this scene is the cathedral and all around the edges are 50 or so small chapels. The main cathedral area has the usual over the top décor. Much gold and silver and a choir of carved solid mahogany. The cross with the crucified Jesus behind the altar is not big, but looks suspended in space. However, almost every other surface is covered with ornamentation. One spot has a statue of Mary, but she is almost hidden behind hundreds of candles. The treasury has more gold and silver icons, crosses, etc. It is also notable for one beautiful ivory crucifix and also a huge silver “monstrance” located in one of the side chapels. We had lunch in a lovely garden restaurant next to the Jewish Quarter enjoying wine, olives, bread, and typical Cordoba dishes – bull’s tail for Maggie and meatballs for Pete.

Alcalá La Real and the La Mota Fortress This village is located directly East of Priego de Cordoba about a half hour away. It is not mentioned in your guide book. This village and the fortress is a gem! Don’t miss visiting this village!

The village is important to the history of Andalusia. The first part of its name comes from the Arabic and means “fortified settlement.” It was a frontier town in a key valley. The Moors lived there for more than 600 years and the village grew around the fortress. The village changed hands many times, but fell into Christian hands in the 12th century. It was from this village that Ferdinand and Isabella rode out to receive the keys upon the surrender of Granada.

It is a charming city with a lot of wide streets and a beautiful city plaza. It is a long climb up by car to the entrance to the La Mota Fortress. From the ticket office (clean bathrooms) it is a steep and long climb to the fortress grounds, but well worth the effort. The site is a vast archeological dig that is open to the public. The centerpieces are the Alcazaba and the Abbey Church. The Alcazaba offers excellent historical artifacts and a tower that offers a good view of the grounds and the city far below. As you walk the grounds you are guided to dig sites that explore the history of the buildings and people that lived here in ages past. The Abbey Church was a ruin decades ago, but preservationists put a new roof on it and are digging treasures from the past that are on display in a small room on the second floor.

Malaga The afternoon before returning home we ventured into downtown Malaga to visit the Picasso Museum. The museum is a family gift to the city of his birth. One gets a full history of his painting style in the main part of the museum. An extra on our visit was a special display of
Picasso’s ceramic work presented aside ceramics of antiquity done between 200 and the 12th century. It was amazing to note the antiquities influence on Picasso’s work. The works were displayed side by side – like a plate done by Picasso and one done in the 2nd century. We began to cover up the identification cards and attempted to guess which work was Picasso’s. We often got it wrong – identifying the antiquity as Picasso. In the basement of the museum there is an archeological display that is also very interesting. The building site became a dig site and has been preserved so that you get the archeological history of this section of Malaga.

Interesting Experiences

The Brotherhood of the Aurora is a group of men and boys from the Iglesia de la Aurora church in Priego de Cordoba. Every Saturday evening they dress in black cloaks and parade through the streets singing and playing instruments. Upon our arrival at the church we were identified immediately as “English” and invited inside the church. We were led past the men and boys getting ready for the parade and into the very small and very baroque main church, described by many as “wedding cake” decorations, plus cherubs everywhere. We sat with the wives until the signal for the parade to begin.

the brotherhood in full voice

The parade or musicians wove through the narrow streets with the strumming of mandolins and guitars and to the melody of a flute and the beat of a tambourine. Suddenly the group stopped in front of a bar. Two men – one carrying a silver pitcher, closed at the mouth, but a slit for an opening – went into the bar and the rest of the group broke into their Aurora folk song, with beautiful tenor voices echoing in the narrow street. The men with the pitcher were collecting donations in the bar and soon emerged with some of the bar patrons following. As we went from bar to bar the parade grew in numbers. A brief rain shower drove us back to our car, but the parade continued through the narrow streets of Priego.

Town Plazas. We were always drawn to the town squares in all the villages and cities, to watch the people and to marvel at the animated conversations carried on by older men. There were always complete families and lots of babies to admire. Each town plaza served its purpose as a gathering place.

a village square conversation

Sometimes the plaza would be our entertainment for the day. Once in Priego de Cordoba we came across a group of young people that were in a band, whose concert we had just missed. But as they waited for their buses to arrive a young trumpet player, coaxed on by others, would play bull fight tunes. Others were joking and playing around. Soon an older woman started to dance to the trumpet player’s tunes and all at once the trumpet player was playing music for her to dance and the crowd joined in and everyone had a wonderful interlude watching and listening to two generations of Spaniards enjoying each other.

Have fun in Spain!

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Comment by sue schregel on August 14, 2007 at 7:48am
So delighted to read your Spain journal. We are hoping to do that next Spring, early, as soon as Untour opens which I believe is mid-March. We will be going this fall to South Tuscany. I see you have already been there as well.

I do wonder what time of year you visited, whether you would advise lengthening the trip by 2 weeks and finding a resort (like Sunset Bay resort) near Malaga on the sea to stay for the final 2 weeks, whether being illiterate in Spainish is a problem. Thanks so much.
Comment by Hal Taussig on August 18, 2007 at 5:07pm
Pete & Magie:
The way you describe your Spanish Untour, I think I was right: When i first discovered this region, I said to myself :"this is the most ideal spot for an Untour--in all of Europe." There are no tourists in the area. I asked people in the airport "How do I get to Subettica?" "Never heard of the place" was the answer. No turists,but it's an absolutely lovely part of Spain. Your account, especially the perfect way you've combined your perfect photographs with your text. I want to go again. Soon!


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