Iznajar appears like an island that rises out of the surrounding water and is perched on a hilltop. It is some 10 minutes by car from Cortijo las Rosas. Its transformation occurred some years ago with the creation of the water reservoir. Iznajar now has a waterfront overlooking an inland sea some thirty kilometres long, and containing an estimated 900 million cubic metres of water.
Iznajar is situated near the southerly border of Córdoba province, and serves as a natural entrance to the Sierra Subbeticas Natural Park. The village was originally a prehistoric Iberian settlement, but flourished in the eighth century when Arab settlers built a castle on the promontory and called it ‘Hins Ashar’ (hence the modern Spanish name).
The ruins of the 1,200-year-old castle are a key attraction for the visitor, although they are in a poor state of repair. Parts of the fortified town walls can also be seen in the upper reaches of the town. Inside the town walls, a small square called the Patio de las Comedias suggests that, despite its defensive position, Iznajar once had a theatre culture that probably tracks back millennia. Also worth visiting is the Iglesia de Santiago church, built over time during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, with a remarkable late addition in the form of a Baroque altar piece.
Also of interest is the shrine of the Ermita de la Antigua, de la Piedad, which was built in the seventeenth century and features a curious domed vault, which leads on to an even more unusual eighteenth century dressing room. Iznajar also has a small but fascinating municipal museum, dedicated to its agricultural heritage and local customs.
Local cuisine reflects Iznajar’s position in a prime pork production region, as well as variations on classic Andaluz platos. During the February carnaval, the traditional pork sausage filling is stuffed with eggs, bread, jamón and breast of turkey. Other specialities include the rich salmorejo with orange and cod, and La Porra, a cheap and filling stew of tomatoes, bread, peppers and jamón. A typical local postre, dessert, is creamed eggs.
Semana Santa, Easter week is the most important festival here. Townsfolk come together to present a religious theatrical epic in which amateur thespians take on the roles of figures in key scenes from the bible and the crucifixion. The inhabitants celebrate the day of San Marcos on April 25 by quitting the town entirely for a mass picnic in the countryside at Valdearenas, a recreational area close to the embalse. Iznajar’s annual September feria usually takes place from September 7-10.