Alájar is a typical village of the Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche. Despite relatively recent improvements in communication and access, Alájar still maintains its age old traditions and characteristics. Its traditions, buildings, cobbled streets, customs and crafts, have achieved heritage status.
Alájar is a picturesque village of the Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche with the impressive rocky outcrop towering above it, La Peña de Arias Montano which gives name to the place (Alájar means “the stone” in arabic). From the Peña there is a stunning view of Alájar, its fields of cork and holm oaks and the gently undulating plain south of the Sierra.
The village resembles the shape of a lizard from above but down below the life revolves around its squares and its narrow cobbled streets radiate outwards from there. Many houses in Alájar have their own unique cobbled thresholds and there are many well-preserved houses here with architectural elements typical of the Sierra.
The village has plenty of places of interest to visit: the large 16th-century church of San Marcos, its size a reflection of the large population that lived here in the 18th century when the church was enlarged, the church of Santísima Trinidad (15th century), the hermitage of San Bartolomé (15th century) and the Peña de Arias Montano. Although it can be crowded at weekends and holidays, the Peña de Arias Montano is a tranquil place during the week with superb views, abundant springs and good picnic spots under its cork oaks.
The Ermita de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles was built on the site of a Medieval temple and has had several additions, most notably in the 16th , 18th and 20th centuries. Its interior was nearly destroyed in the Civil War and the 13th-century figure of the virgin has been restored. In the 16th century Philip II’s confessor and theologian, Benito Arias Montano, came here on retreat. In 1576 Philip II himself paid a visit to the Peña and meditated here in a cave subsequently called the ‘Sillita del Rey’ (the King’s Seat). It has a wonderful whitewashed belfry set on the edge of the cliff away from the church. There is also a small visitor’s centre with information about the life of Arias Montano. (open Monday to Friday mornings only).
The Alájar village itself is dominated by the church dedicated to St Marcos, patron of the village, whose Feast Day is celebrated on the 3rd Sunday of April. Please ask in reception if you wish to visit the church.
Alájar is a village with fewer than 800 inhabitants but it has plenty to offer: several good restaurants, traditional bars with a choice of regional tapas, a national bank with ATM, a pharmacy and health centre. Shops, big and small, old fashioned and modern, stock a great range of goods. Much sought after local products as Iberian ham, various cured sausages from the Iberian black pig, local goats cheese, honey and ceramics are readily available.
The Peña de Arias Montano is Alájar’s landmark, a limestone crag overlooking the village, providing stunning views over Alájar and beyond. The site is named after the humanist Don Benito Arias Montano, who after studying for the priesthood was given his first parish in Castaño del Robledo. He rose to become chief political advisor and Royal Confessor to King Philip II in the XVII century. Arias Montano chose this spot as a retreat and received a visit from King Philip at the Peña which is commemorated by the 16th Century triumphal arch still visible today. It is a good place to find handicrafts, pottery and local produce especially at the weekends. There is also a bar which provides homemade tapas and desserts.