Rural tourism is increasingly in demand. Relaxing in a setting where silence and nature reign supreme is very tempting. If on top of that you can do it in a charming and unique space, it is nothing short of a privilege. Here is a look at the best country houses and rural hotels in Andalusia and what makes them so special.
Have you heard of the Andalusian cortijo? A cortijo is a building with a homestead and areas dedicated to field work -traditionally cereal growing- in a rural setting surrounded by a relatively large stretch of land used for farming purposes. It is western Andalusia where these properties, which reached their peak in the eighteenth century, are known by this name. Cortijos were the places where the property owner’s family and the farm workers, known as “cortijeros”, lived. The Andalusian cortijo has its own distinctive architecture comprising a central patio (or several connected ones) entered via the main door and around which several rooms are arranged, such as the bedrooms, the gañanías (common bedroom space for the cortijeros), kitchen and farm buildings (barns) and places for livestock (stables, chicken coops, lofts, etc.). A cortijo could also include a cellar, mill and well and, in general, everything needed to operate fully self-sufficiently. Then there was the house where the owners lived, also attached to the construction.
Today, cortijo is the term given to all buildings in rural Andalusia (they can also be found in Extremadura), even if they do not bear the hallmarks of the original cortijo. In fact, even when they do maintain the traditional architectural features, the use made of these properties has radically altered with the addition of more comfort-oriented elements and their restoration as a place for rest and relaxation. That is how we can find really idyllic spaces where the central patio has become a pleasant lounge area, the wine cellar might continue to store fine wine but may just as easily have been turned into an impressive living room, and where there is a pool stretching across the lawn with views past the old threshing floor and on to the horizon.
A memorable country experience
Imagine waking up to the first rays of sunshine and sweet birdsong. Breakfasting surrounded by nature, with food grown on the property, in a haven of peace and quiet and a soul-nourishing silence. A wonderful choice for a romantic getaway, meditative retreat to reflect or write or a place to spend a few days in as a family, away from the bustle and stress of everyday life. Any excuse is good for enjoying a country retreat in a property like an Andalusian cortijo.
Rural tourism and activities
Today there is a wide range of special places to enjoy the experience of staying in an Andalusian cortijo:
Casas de Viñedo
Casas de Viñedo, or houses set in wineries, are surrounded by land used for winegrowing and usually feature spaces set aside to showcase the different stages of its production and storage. The wine world attracts a great deal of interest from the cultural and tourism viewpoint today. In 2018, the industry accounted for €81 million in Spain alone. Wine tourism, an offshoot of food tourism, allows people to discover and tour winemaking facilities and sample the different wines. This type of experience is on offer in rural homesteads across Andalusia called Viñas in the Jerez area, one of the main producing regions where wine can be found and sampled.
Casa DE huerta /vega
As with a Casa de Viñedo, a Casa de Huerta or Vega is a property that usually, as the name in Spanish suggests, stands on a plain or in a place with good access to water and features land turned over to irrigation crops. The property often faces south to get enough sunlight to allow the crops to grow well.
Cortijo or Casería de Cereal
Cortijos were properties originally dedicated to growing cereals and had large expanses of land, together with a house and outbuildings like a barn and curing room. As we have seen, cortijos can be found all over Andalusia and their name has been taken on by other similar constructions.
Homesteads and farms dedicated to traditional olive oil production.
Very similar to the cortijo are Caserías de Olivar, with their olive mills, presses and, of course, groves (the olive grove creates a characteristic landscape of Andalusia and the Mediterranean and was a candidate for UNESCO World Heritage Agricultural Landscape classification). The increasing interest in respecting nature is producing an upswing in the recovery of traditional and organic farming techniques to grow organic produce. This means we can find cortijos and farmsteads with an eco-friendly orchard and olive grove to enjoy high-quality organic produce.
In the style of wine tourism, places offer the chance to discover the world of olive oil, increasingly in demand as the star product of Mediterranean and Spanish culture for its great cultural wealth and many health and beauty properties. If knowing different wine varieties and their characteristics was a way to show your foodie credentials, being able to select a fine oil is now the hallmark.
Ronda, in Malaga province, boasts a place with a very special hotel: Cortijo LA Organic, designed by renowned architect Philippe Starck. A space where traditional Andalusian architecture and avant-garde design go hand in hand. A hotel that has begun operations with four spacious, luxury rooms overlooking the Grazalema mountain range, set in a privileged natural environment surrounded by an organic olive grove, vineyard and orchard, teeming with art and where you can enjoy oil tourism, high-end cuisine and a host of activities built around the fascinating world of extra virgin olive oil.