Spain’s Secret Sierra
The Natural Park Parque Natural Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche The 187,000 hectares was designated a natural park in 1986. It is the 2nd largest park in Andalucia and is by far the most varied thanks to the mixed Mediterranean and Atlantic climate we enjoy. There are 4 ecosystems which allow an enormous variety of flora and fauna. You can spot birds of prey such as golden eagles, black vultures, black and red kites; carnivores such as wild cats, genets, foxes, beech martens and otters wild boar and deer. The park traditionally harvests cork from the cork oak tree and wild mushroom picking is common. A variety of animals are reared here but the most famous and widespread is the Iberian pig which is one of the pillars of the region´s rich gastronomy.
You will notice a similarity in the architectural elements throughout the area but all the villages have something slightly different to offer like the decorated thresholds in Linares de La Sierra and Alájar, the upper balconies used to dry the ham and charcuterie in Fuenteheridos and Valdelarco, the only rural mosque in Almonaster and the Roman pillars and capitols found in ordinary houses in Aroche. Below you will find a brief description of the villages in our immediate area with links to their web sites.
Lack of contamination and light pollution La Sierra Morena became the largest Starlight Natural Reserva yet. Strecthing from Huelva all the way east to Jaen the mountain range Sierra Morena has night skies to envy, all the villages are getting behind the project and are gradually improving the street lighting so that we don’t have to go too far out of the villages to observe. Alájar has set up a viewing point just 6km south of the village along a tarmaced road where telescopes have power points to be able set up for a star gazing session.
Linares de La Sierra – probably the most visited village for our guests given that it is a beautiful 11km circular walk that can be managed by most and a great introdction to the area. Great ceramics shop there.
Santa Ana La Real – “First Nordic Walking Village of Andalucia” the village is attracting various sporting events and has developed some interesting short walking routes
Fuenteheridos – On the other side of the hill, many people believe that La Peña de Arias Montano belongs to Fuenteheridos. It is easier to access given that it is just off the N433. The source of the river Murtiga is in the centre of the village where it daily gushes out 2 million litres of water!
Castaño del Robledo – the highest village in the Sierra, the name comes from the two trees Castaños (Chestnuts) and Robledo (Oak wood). The second “church” is unconsecrated and is used as a civic centre through out the year.
Almonaster La Real – Boasts a unique rural mosque which is the oldest and smallest in Spain. The fiestas in May are very colourful and the walk upto the highest accesible peak in the area rewards you with great views.
Aracena – The largest town of the area where you can find most things if you wish to do a bit of souvenir shopping. The caves and a guided vist to the recently partly renovated castle are well worth a visit, along with the Parks information centre and the Jamón museum. Plenty of good restaurants there too. If you are thinking of coming to the area by public transport this is the main hub.
Jabugo – Most Spanish people have heard of this small village as it is the heart of the Iberian Ham industry. It isn’t one of our favourites to visit in the sierra but worth a mention as it’s name has put the whole area on the map!
Galaroza – We stay in Galaroza on our Sierra Circuit Holiday – surrounded by chestnut woods it has a long tradition of carpentry with a few artisans existing today.
Cortegana – The second largest town in the area the medieveal castle has been renovated and is open to the public along with the roman ruins of Turobriga which can be found below the town.