The combination of warm summer sun and good winter rainfall stimulates lush vegetation in stream-fed hills, wooded valleys and meadows. The hills are thickly wooded with cork oak, Mediterranean oak and sweet chestnut; rocky outcrops offer wonderful far-reaching views.
The Sierra de Aracena is probably the greenest of Andalucía’s provinces.
In Spring an abundance of wild flowers carpets the meadows. Among others there are irises, orchids, and wild gladioli; bright red dots of peonies colour the fresh green fields. After the warm summer colour returns to the countryside in autumn as the leaves of chestnuts and poplars, walnuts and figs, turn from green to gold, red, rust and brown.
In Spring an abundance of wild flowers carpets the meadows.
The Sierra de Aracena lies in the province of Huelva, to the northwest of Sevilla and close to Spain’s border with Portugal. It traditionally has enjoyed a relative remoteness, until only recently the road to Seville has been improved. Nowadays this mountainous, thickly wooded Natural Park is just an hour’s drive north of Seville.
In this undisturbed world life has changed remarkably little in comparison to other areas of Andalucía. The people still work the land, keep goats and sheep, and carefully maintain the irrigation channels developed by the Moors. The paths along these Moorish canals together with ancient Roman walkways and mule paths form a magnificent network of trails that makes the Sierra de Aracena a terrific trekking country.
The people are friendly and outgoing.
Summer is fiesta time, when the deserted village streets slumbering in the stifling heat suddenly spring to life as the gentle night breezes bring their welcome relief. People spill out into the squares in exuberant fiestas.
The men come into town on horseback, bringing their women in flamenco dresses.
There is always a fiesta somewhere.
There are miles and miles of delightful paths and tracks which criss-cross the rolling hills, passing through wonderful countryside, linking the villages together. You pass along Roman cobbled tracks, glimpsing abandoned water mills and ancient hill forts left by the Moors.
For nature lovers the Sierra de Aracena is the perfect destiny.
On your walks you can still see mules ploughing small allotments, hear the ringing of goat bells among the oaks and chestnuts, and the bubbling of the many streams and springs which abound in these hills. Most of the landscape in this area is Dehesa: miles and miles of meadows, scattered with cork, holm oak and chestnuts, where sheep, pigs, goats, horses and deer roam freely. When you have booked with us we will add some of the best marked routes in this wonderful area to your information pack, thus you can easily go off on your own to explore the Sierra.
Everywhere, there are splendid views.
There are thickly wooded hills, meadows, lakes, streams and waterfalls, which invite the visitor to enjoy outdoor activities such as horse riding, cycling, fishing, painting, photography, mountain biking and bird watching.
Rocky heights offer a habitat to a significant variety of birds of prey, including the rare black vultures and the Spanish Imperial Eagle. An increasing numbers of birds have returned thanks to the building of reservoirs in the region.
Over 85 species of birds reside here or migrate through the sierra.
Small predators such as weasels, stone martens, badgers, polecats, wildcats, lynx, and otter have returned as well. Dangerous animals, like bears and wolves are no longer to be found in the Sierra de Aracena.
Deer and wild boar are common.
Black Iberian pigs are a vital part of the local economy. They range free in the forests during autumn, where they feast on acorns under the holm oaks. The hams are salted and left to cure in dark caverns for a year and a half, to become the delicious Jamon Iberico, a gourmet delicacy.
The cured ham from these pigs, Pata Negra (black leg), is world famous.
Local produce include sweet chestnuts, walnuts, honey, goat’s cheese, and the much prized wild mushrooms, when in autumn you will see locals sneaking off into the woods, armed with a basket and a pocket knife.
It is only an hour’s drive to Seville.
It is only an hour’s drive to Seville, where you can re-join the hustle and bustle of city life. Seville is a beautiful city and boasts some fine architecture and wonderful little bars, but we can guarantee that after a few hours you will be longing for the peace and tranquillity of the Sierra once again.
Aracena is a busy, pretty and welcoming town. Above the town on the hill are castle ruins and a well-preserved thirteenth century church built by the Knights Templar. Do visit Aracena’s Gruta de las Maravillas. This “cave of wonders” is truly a marvel of subterranean lakes, striking colours and all manner of exquisitely adorned stalagmites and stalactites. Café-Bar Manzano opposite the square is a popular tapas stop where you can sample cured hams and setas (wild mushrooms) in autumn. There are plenty of other good bars and restaurants, as well as museums and walks in Aracena.
Aracena’s Gruta de las Maravillas are a must for visitors.
Other villages well worth visiting in the Sierra are
Almonaster la Real, famous for its enormous 10th century mosque, that has somehow survived centuries of Christendom;
Galaroza, is a small village with an easy pace of life. It has an abundance of flowing waters and is surrounded by lush vegetation and thick woodlands where Iberian pigs root around for acorns.
Linares is a well-preserved villages that serve as starting or finishing points for many walks.
Alájar, set in a deep valley, is famous for its imposing 17th century shrine of Arias Montano. This stands on a rocky outcrop high above the pretty village. An annual pilgrimage here attracts thousands of people, many on horseback or in horse drawn carts.
La Peña de Arias Montano is a fantastic rocky outcrop whose views are only matched by the Sierra’s high point, Riscos Altos, not far from Castaño de Robledo.
Fuenteheridos is an exemplary untouched village, with plenty of terraces on the main square where the village fountain gushes two million litres of water a day from a dozen spouts.
Jabugo is maybe nothing special as a village, yet it is renowned for its good quality Iberian hams
Seville is a vibrant city at only an hours drive. It has some of the finest remainders of ancient cultures, is famous for its nightlife and flamenco and offers wonderful restaurants and amazing little bars.
Doñana Natural Park is one of the world’s most protected biospheres, just 1,5 hours away. It has sand dunes, marshes, pinewoods and freshwater lagoons where flamingos, rare buzzards, lynx, mongoose and a startling variety of migratory birds live.
Rio Tinto sprawling wetlands at the mouths of the river Tinto, where there is a profusion of water fowl.
The Atlantic coast The untouched white sandy beaches of the Costa de la Luz are just a couple of hours drive.