Tessa left her home country for Lesotho in 1973. Since then, she has travelled extensively and has no plans to stop.
Once a Moorish Fortress, Now an Olive Production Community
With fewer than 9,000 people, Olvera is one of those villages stuck in the hills of Spain that is mostly forgotten by the tourist trade. Yet a fair number of Brits and other ex-pats retire in the village, content to live in one of the loveliest and quaintest villages in Andalucia (a province in the far south of Spain). The Olvera countryside is full of olive trees and provides some of the prize-winning olives in the area. This quaint little village has been awarded the Denominación de Origen de la Sierra de Cádiz for her excellence in olive production. The community also prides itself on having a high number of businesses run as co-operatives for which it has been acknowledged by the government.
Geographically, Seville—a city with a Moorish heritage—is in the west, while Malaga and Granada are in the east. Cordoba is situated to the north. Part of the TV series Game of Thrones was filmed in Seville.
Many pensioners and retirees find their way to Olvera and, consequently, there is a sizeable English community in the village. There are also those who work in other areas, sometimes spending weeks in other countries, then returning to Olvera for weekends. Others have bought holiday homes in the village/town and rent them from about £75/$100 to about £300/$450 per month to holiday-makers.
Views From Olvera
This little town has spectacular views. It doesn't matter where you stand; there's a view. Having watched the TV series A Place in the Sun and knowing how important views are to some people, I could easily recommend it on that criterion alone.
The Olvera Lifestyle
It is excessively hot and the town closes down for a few hours in the early afternoon. Siesta! Supper is late - about ten in the evening. There are many taverns around town which provide food and drink for those who don't wish to prepare their own food.
There is a free bus that circulates the town every half an hour during the day - between eight in the morning and two in the afternoon. Everything, however, is within walking distance. It's just the heat that gets to you.
Of course, where there are views, there are hills, and they are very serious hills. Using the free bus service is a way of avoiding climbing hills during the heat of hte day.
Beer and tapas are served in the early evening and there are a plethora of eating and drinking places. Tapas are a small Spanish savoury which are generally served with drinks (You pay for them mostly). The mood is light-hearted and friendly. There is a cake shop in the village centre to which I quickly became adddicted.
Roof-top living is quite normal in the village. The roofs are flat and they are used as places of entertainment. In the evening, though, people congregate in the streets outside their homes and chatter to neighbours.
Theres a strong gypsy element in the area.
Directions From Seville, Malaga, and Granada
There are only two ways to get to Olvera - by bus or by car. It cost me EU9 - and two or three hours - by bus to journey from Seville to Olvera. I slept most of the way because I had done an all-nighter from Gatwick Airport in London in order to get the dirt cheap Easy Jet flight at 6.25 in the morning. In any event, the bus fare was about $10.00 (about £6). Buses also run from Granada and Malaga. Seville, Granada, and Malaga all have international airports so you can fly directly to them and then take the bus.
A Backpacker's Delight!
Olvera is right in the centre of Andalusia, so if you're planning on spending a month or so in this area, it's inexpensive and gives you easy access to Cordoba, Malaga, Seville, Cadiz, and many delightful small villages.
It also has a very active ex-pat crowd who are very friendly and will include you in the social activities in the area.
Accommodation starts at about $40 per night at the guest house, Hostal Medina. The village does not boast a hostel. If you would like to stay for a while, you would approach the local real estate agency in order to find a cheaper monthly rental. You can also approach someone from the ex-pat community on a Wednesday evening when they congregate to listen local band - the Blue Raiders. Someone is sure to know of something. It's a small community.
The village can easily be seen in a few hours, so you might just like to bus in from Seville or Malaga. Bus tickets are about €10 ($9). It's a nice day trip. The area boasts a thousand energy producing wind-mills, dry brush, many hills, and quaint villages along the way. You might also want to summer in Olvera and then you would definitely look for a longer term rental. From Olvera, it's easy to bus to other places to explore Andalucia.
I stayed in Olvera for three months and my budget was $350 per month. That enabled me to pay rent, buy food, and travel to other places.
As an ardent traveler, I have long given up on buying souvenirs as they take up both space and too much budget. Instead, for the past 10 years I buy fridge magnets for all the places I visit!
Souvenir Collection—Fridge Magnets From Olvera!
Taking the Bus to Seville, Cadiz, Cordoba, Malaga, etc.
There are buses leaving Olvera for the bigger cities every half hour, and they're inexpensive ranging in price from about 5 to 10 euros. On the weekend, the locals take the bus to Cadiz (about an hour) so they can spend the day on the beach. Cadiz, however, is a lot more than a beach town. It was a Moor stronghold, and the architecture is divine. I stood on the old fortress where Pierce Brosnan played his Bond part!
The Tourist Sites in Olvera
Although Olvera seems to have tours visiting, it's not really a tourist town. There's an Arabian Castle from the days of the Moors that overlooks the town. There is also an impressive cathedral—Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación—built in 1822 by the Duke of Osuna on top of the ruins of the old Mosque. Mostly what tourists come to see are the lovely white houses with their black burglar bars, the flowers on the window sills, narrow cobbled streets, plus to get the feel of an authentic Spanish village untrammelled by tourists and time. Below are some photos I took of the Arabian castle and the cathedral.
The Prettiest Graveyard You've Ever Seen!
The necropolis just below the Arabian castle is probably the prettiest cemetery I have ever seen. Painted in white with tombs built into walls, it is immaculately clean, plus it has spectacular views. On the day I visited, there must have been a funeral the previous day, as there were many wreaths and fresh flowers placed on a particular grave.
Ex-Pats in Olvera
Comparative to the population of the village, there is a largish ex-pat population in Olvera. Most of them are British and everybody speaks English. There is an active social life.
That's Nigel and Steve (Blue Raiders) playing in Olvera on a Wednesday night. It's an evening for ex-pats!
About a mile down the road from Olvera, Pruna buzzes with night life and culture.
Cost of Homes and Living Expenses in Olvera
If you wanted to retire in Olvera, or perhaps you wanted a place to chill for a few weeks each year, and then rent out your holiday home while you were away, you might be interested in the cost of homes. The range would be from about $10,000/Eu8,000/£7000 up. I kid you not. Of course, the more you pay, the nicer the home. A two bedroom 45 square metre (490 square feet) with one bathroom would set you about about EU46,000. That's the equivalent of £32,000 or $52,000.
Lastly, My Favourite Picture of Olvera!
When one travels with a camera in one's hand, there are invariably moments that capture a particular mood or moment. This was taken one evening, standing far up on the hill and looking down on the town.
There is a romance in traveling, in viewing the world in moments, each time different. It's my favourite photo, not because it's particularly good, but because it caught my mood. I'm lucky to have seen what I have seen.
© 2015 Tessa Schlesinger
Tessa Schlesinger (author) on August 12, 2018:
Hi Bill, There are many little villages just around the corner from Olvera. Pruna is just up the road and many Gypsies live there. The mayor of the village believes in providing entertainment, so most weekends there is quite a bit happening in village life - with bands and dancing. It's really lovely.
There are buses that will take you towards the bigger cities - Cordoba, Cadiz, Malaga, Seville, etc. Along the way, there are many little villages, and you can just get off and explore. You can also ask the driver which villages are worth exploring, but to my mind, they are all worth doing so. :) It just depends on whether you love old buildings, love talking to people, enjoy tapas in the bar in early evening, etc. If you're not accustomed to extreme heat, wear a hat! :)
Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on August 10, 2018:
Hi Tessa. We are heading to southern Spain this fall and were thinking of doing a tour of the white villages, including Olvera, which looks beautiful. Have you been to any of the other villages in this area? Do you have a favorite? What a great opportunity to spend months in this beautiful area.
Nikki Khan from London on March 15, 2018:
Amazing photography and great place to visit.
You have done a great job dear.Would love to explore more about this city when I’d visit.
Thanks for your insightful writing about this beautiful place.
Tony Muse from Texas, USA on December 01, 2017:
Looks like a fabulous place to visit or live.
Sima Ioana from Bucharest, Romania on November 27, 2017:
Beautiful photos and location :)
Mary @ Over 40 and a Mum to One on June 22, 2015:
I've visited Olvera a number of times over the last 10 years as its quite near to where my parents live. I have many similar shots and favourite spots!
Cameron on June 21, 2015:
Love the article.
John Hansen from Queensland Australia on June 21, 2015:
Interesting hub highlighting Olvera. Great photos. Thanks for sharing Tess.