Jus an hour away from Seville and the city of Huelva it is one of the most amazing natural sites in Andalusia.
It is the Natural Park Sierra de Aracena and Picos de Aroche, although everyone knows it as the Sierra de Aracena, the area where the town of Jabugo is located, known worldwide for the pata negra Iberian ham but that also is very appreciated for its landscapes and picturesque villages.
In this article we will go over some of the best places to visit in the Sierra de Aracena, as well as activities that you can only experience in this unique environment.
Gruta de las Maravillas
Our first stop on this trip takes us underground, because in the depths of the capital of the area, Aracena, there's a large cave full of geological magic, thanks to the stalactites, stalagmites and eccentrics that create this unreal subway world.
Known as Gruta de las Maravillas ('Grotto of Wonders' in English), the name is perfect, because during the visit to the cave, which lasts about an hour, your mouth will drop several times. The cave, besides being very beautiful, was the first cave in Spain to be prepared for visitors, more than 100 years ago, in 1914.
Such was its worldwide fame that several movies were even filmed inside, such as one that recreated the famous Jules Verne novel Journey to the Center of the Earth, although the damage done to the cave by these recordings was such that they ended this practice.
Nowadays the visits are guided, delimited by the path, and full of amazing nooks and crannies. Undoubtedly, an excellent way to begin to know Sierra de Aracena.
Since we are in the town of Aracena, what better than to explore a little by walking through its streets full of white houses, as is typical in Andalusia.
A good walk through Aracena starts in the Plaza de San Pedro, next to the entrance to the Gruta de las Maravillas, to walk through different streets towards the ramp that goes up to the castle.
On the way you can visit the oldest streets of Aracena, as well as interesting places such as the Parish Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, the Interpretation Center of the Natural Park and, finally, reach the Prior Church of Nuestra Señora del Mayor Dolor and the medieval castle of the thirteenth century.
From the remains of the castle there are wonderful views of the entire village and the surrounding area, being highly recommended to visit it at sunset, which is when you can enjoy the scenery the most. Keep in mind that only part of the castle wall remains, which, of course, you can visit and walk along it.
Almonaster la Real
This is one of the most beautiful villages in Spain, and you only have to see the picture of the village to fall in love with it.
The white houses on the mountainside, crowned by the tower of the 10th century mosque, create a beautiful image of a village in the Sierra de Aracena.
Almonaster la Real is a very small village, with less than 2,000 inhabitants, being the most interesting thing to visit the aforementioned mosque, an archaic and robust construction that stands out for its interior arcade, as well as for being attached to the bullring.
To say the least, a curious architecture.
There are several villages to visit in the Sierra de Aracena, being possibly Alájar one of the most quiet and charming, as it is a little further away from the tourist itineraries.
Located in the shadows of the Peña de Arias Montano (which we will visit later), this is the typical village of Sierra de Aracena, formed by white houses of two heights, with a large church in the center, in this case the Parish Church of San Marcos, with several restaurants, where you can eat very well, and some charming accommodations, such as the Posada San Marcos.
Alájar is a quiet village in the mountains, being a good choice to stay if you are looking for tranquility and it has easy access to the mountains if you want to hike.
Peña de Arias Montano
Benito Arias Montano was a wise theologian of the sixteenth century who participated in one of the meetings of the Council of Trent, was appointed chaplain to King Philip II and creator of the edition of the Polyglot Bible of Antwerp.
Such was his historical importance that several important places in his life have statues in his memory, such as the town where he was born, Fregenal de la Sierra, or this rock, where Arias Montano retired to study the sacred scriptures.
Today, part of the history of Benito Arias Montano is remembered with the documentation in the Hermitage of la Reina de los Ángeles, as well as with the monument that serves as a balcony to the entire Sierra de Aracena.
The views from this rock are amazing, being able to enjoy the landscape of Alájar and all the forests of this mountain range.
Linares de la Sierra
The last of the picturesque villages of this sierra is Linares de la Sierra, easily recognized by the cobblestone entrances to the houses, decorated with floral motifs, animals or any other that has created the imagination of the owners of the house.
This is a tradition that is preserved in very few villages in Spain, and has a close relationship with the nearby Portuguese villages.
In Linares de la Sierra they still maintain the tradition, so a walk discovering these cobblestones is very enriching.
Trails in the Natural Park Sierra de Aracena and Picos de Aroche
Hiking is one of the most attractive activities to do in the Sierra de Aracena, as there are many routes that run alongside rivers and go into the woods, getting to know better the most natural part of this mountain range.
Three of the most interesting routes are known as La Ruta de los Molinos de Agua de Cortegana, which in its 8 kilometers runs through one of the most beautiful places of Aracena, next to the river, dotted with old water mills; El bosque encantado, which joins Fuenteheridos and Galaroza in a path of almost 6 kilometers; and the path between Aracena and Linares de la Sierra, a circular route of almost 13 kilometers that takes you into the woods.
Whatever type of route you are looking for, you will find it in Sierra de Aracena.
Visit to an Iberian pig farm
Iberian pork cold meat is the best known product of the Sierra de Aracena, so one of the most local activities you can do is to visit a dehesa where the adorable Iberian pigs are being raised.
There are many farms in this area, and all of them respect the rule that it takes one hectare of dehesa to raise 1.25 Iberian pigs, thus ensuring animal welfare and that they have enough food for their proper development.
Visits to the farms usually include a visit to the animals in the pasture (one of the most sustainable man-made landscapes in existence), a tour of the cold meat dryer and a tasting of the different types of products produced.
Cheese workshop in the Monte Robledo Cheese Factory
In addition to products derived from the Iberian pig, Sierra de Aracena also makes very good cheese.
In the Monte Robledo Cheese Factory you can prepare your own cheese with the milk of the farm animals, such as goats and sheep, and then mature it at home according to the point you want it to reach, from fresh to very cured.
Undoubtedly a very peculiar gastronomic experience.
These are some of the most interesting places to visit in the Sierra de Aracena, in Huelva. There are many more, and this mountain range is full of surprises for the visitor to enjoy at any time of the year.