As borders continue to open and countries eagerly roll out the tourism red carpet, we happily re-begin our blogging for unique travels with a new twist. Yearning to share with our jet setting readers a number of global destinations that are both bucket list destinations for their beauty and cultural gifts, but have a rich history of manufacturing leather whether hired by high end designers or retailing bespoke leather pieces representing Spain.
Spain is celebrated for its craftsmanship in the categories of lace, ceramics/pottery, handmade jewelry, hand-carved and hand lacquered Spanish guitars and lastly leather.
Mass production among makers, for the most part, has been frowned upon, making it easier for visitors to buy direct from an artisan’s small business, town markets, or local department stores.
Ubrique Spain and Leather – A Love Story
Ubrique is located in the middle of the Los Alcornocales Natural Park and Grazalema Mountains claim to fame is its vineyards, olive farms, bullfighting, classic Spanish architecture of pueblo blanco (white towns) and the long-standing art of leather-crafting. The town is in the Province of Cadiz within the region of Andalusia.
Leather is one of the main industries (whether in manufacturing or sourcing for retail) in a number of larger cities in Spain such as Barcelona and Madrid, However, this quaint unknown town of a population of 17,000 has around 100 mostly family-run manufacturer that supposedly are sourced by top designers including Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Hermes, Chanel, Close, Loewe and Carolina Herrera who have commissioned artisans to make leather accessories. Which is all kept under wraps (i.e., all factory workers signing confidentiality contracts) to prevent copycat and knock-off products.
The crafting of leather in this Cadiz Province goes back to the 18th century when it was exported to the France, Germany and the Netherlands for luxury leather goods and military equipment (belts, saddlery for both weapons and horses).
At one point the entire production and manufacturing of luxury leather goods including the tanning process and the leatherwork was all done in Ubrique. Today, the leather is tanned elsewhere, but the skilled labor is still strong as every as more than half of Ubrique’s population is in some way involved in the leather industry.
The artisan skills are multi-generational as children are groomed by their parents to love working with leather to build exquisite handmade products. Over the years, demand has pushed some factories into incorporating assembling line process however there are others who remain true to the art of one artisan making one bag at a time.
In the early 2000s, Asian countries severely impacted the leather designer supply chain by producing cheaper and more volume which he town of Ubrique struggled but survived that mass exodus of designer brands which found consumers of their high end products quality trumps quantity. Sustaining the leather industry is so important to this region that a leather Professional Training School was built to train the next generation of artisans. In addition a number of private and public institutions created The Foundation MOVEX Leather Technology Centre of Andalusia to support the development of the industry through innovation and technological development.
Although known to create premium designer bags who are reluctant to disclose, some of the the best leather product retailers who source directly from Ubrique include the British Clothing and Leather Goods Company Connolly, Spain and London based La Portegna, leather goods specialists in Ubrique, Café Leather and El Potro who both manufacturers and market their own handbag and accessories brand to name a few.
To get to this tiny remote town means relying on a car and the ability (and courage) to navigate through winding and steep hilly roads. The nearest airports from the city center are:
- Jerez Airport (34.4 miles / 55.3 kilometers)
- Gibraltar International Airport (36.8 miles / 59.2 kilometers)
- Málaga Airport (52.5 miles / 84.5 kilometers)
- Seville Airport (56.8 miles / 91.5 kilometers)
Public transportation to and from the airport and during your stay can be arranged through major car rental companies stationed at the larger airports or reserve a car service for the duration of your stay. Private Rentals companies such as City Tours Spain or arrange ground transportation through a trip advisor site called Viator Trip Advisor
A gorgeous selection of apartments, villas and homes are located in and surrounding towns of Ubrique that can accommodate romantic stays for two or large families. The rental housing scene is an immersion of possibilities ranging from family’s private hosting to 4-star properties located 2 hours away in larger metropolitan cities. The nearest high ranking hotel on booking sites to the center of Ubrique is the Hotel Sierra de Ubrique situated on the outskirts of Ubrique.
Luxury Hotel properties are located in nearby towns and cities within a 20 mile radius of Ubrique including the Hotel Fuerte Grazalema located in the heart of the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park or the Hotel Molina Del Arco in nearby city of Ronda Malaga.
Surrounded by rocky landscape, the town is divided in half by the Ubrique River. Whether you’re an adventurous traveler or just want to take in the scenery, this small town is a great place to experience nature in all her glory. Within 30 miles (48.2 km) of the city center:
- Botanial Garden El Castillejo (7.6 mi / 12.2 km)
- Manantial Charco del Moro (8.9 mi / 14.4 km)
- Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park (9.7 mi / 15.7 km)
- Puerto de las Palomas (10.1 mi / 16.3 km)
- Los Alcornocales Natural Park (11.9 mi / 19.2 km)
- Alameda Del Tajo (17.4 mi / 28 km)
Staying with the theme of your visit is experiencing all things leather, it is required to schedule time to tour the Ubrique’s Leather Museum’s whose home is in the revamped monastery, the Baroque Convent of the Capuchins.
Throughout the year Spain hosts a number of bullfighting festivals including in the Southern region of Cadiz. Ubrique’s bullfighting fair takes place every September. Additionally, it also hosts the traditional ‘Corrida de la Piel’ (Leather Bullfighting) in the month of March, dedicated to ‘petaqueros’, leatherworkers.
Architecture consists of homes with brown or red tiled roofs and being whitewashed for both aesthetics and maintaining cooler housing temperatures during hot summers. The town’s churches and government buildings were constructed in the 16th-19th centuries.
Most restaurants are situated on the main drag of Ubrique consisting of Mediterranean steakhouses, Moroccan and Spanish cuisine to feast on. Also some hotels and restaurants offer private Spanish cooking classes to learn dishes such as Paella.
Other activities to engage in:
- Visit an olive oil mill and tasting
- Wine Vineyards located within 30 miles
- If your preference is to holiday by water, the coastal city of Costa del Sol know for its beach lifestyle and golf courses is a mere 25 miles away from Ubrique
Travel Advisories and Covid-19 guidelines
Effective as of September 6, 2021, U.S. citizens can travel from the United States to Spain on non-essential travel, (such as tourism) if they show proof of vaccination.
Additionally, U.S. citizens travelling from the United States to Spain must present upon arrival in Spain a QR code generated through the Spain Travel Health portal, obtained through the website or by downloading the “SpTH app” in Google Play Store or iTunes App Store for each traveler, regardless of their age.
Domestic travel is not restricted, but some conditions may apply
- Face masks are mandatory on public transportation
- There is a social distancing requirement of 1.5 metres
- Nationwide control measures in place
- Observe COVID-19 safety rules including public or private gatherings are limited to six people are enforced in religious facilities, funeral homes, shops, restaurants, and bars
- Regional restriction measures in place
US Department of State Current Travel Advisory
The State Department advises to reconsider travel to Spain due to COVID-19. Exercise increased caution in Spain due to terrorism and civil unrest. The Center for Disease Control and
Prevention have issued a level 3 indicating a high level of COVID-19 in the country.
Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Spain. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, and other public areas.
The State Department also advises that demonstrations are common. They may take place in response to political or economic issues, on politically significant holidays, and during international events.
As admirers of exceptional professionals in the leather industry, our desire is continue this blog series of showing off our artisanal peers for our readers who enjoy this fusion of their love of travel and designing treks to regions of the world that pay homage to the crafting of leather. – AJ
Share your thoughts in the comment section below or on Twitter!
Thank you to the following sites for blog content.
BBC.com – The Secret Supplier to the World’s Top Designers
Reservations.com – Ubrique Spain Luxury Properties
US Embassy Travel to Spain Covid Guidelines
Department of State – Spain Travel Advisory
Thank you to the following photographers for their visual contribution:
Frank Nürnberger – Castle in Andulusia
DDZphoto – White Buildings
Sergio Guzmán – Malaga
PatternPictures – Bullfighting Ring
Jacqueline Macou – Olive Farm
Rainer Maiores – Costa Del Sol Beach
Paul Edney – Cadiz Cathedral
Juliasorokina – City of Cadiz
Pablo Valerio – City of Ubrique