If you want to travel off the beaten path while enjoying great food in charming villages full of tradition and surrounded by a beautiful lush scenery, then the Sierra de Aracena and Picos de Aroche is the place to go! The Sierra is a protected natural park located in the northern part of the province of Huelva in Spain. It is northwest of Seville and near the Portuguese border (only 45km from Finca Bravo). With plenty of rainfall during the winter months (and well into spring this year), it is probably the greenest of all areas in Andalusia. Over 40,000 people live here and since March of this year we feel privileged to call this area our home.
Today the Sierra is mostly famous for its rearing of black Iberian pigs who can be seen roaming under holm oak trees all year round, where they fatten up on the acorns that give the famous jamón de pata negra its world renowned quality.
Nonethless, besides its famous jamón the park has plenty of other things to offer and places to explore. As it is only an hour away from Seville, many city dwelling Spaniards come to the Sierra during the weekends for a rural getaway. Although it is relatively unknown, this area definitely has a lot to offer if you love nature, hiking, great food and are looking for some peace and quiet in the countryside. In a nutshell, Sierra de Aracena is truly a hidden gem.
What to do: Nature and hiking trails
If you enjoy nature and hiking, the Sierra de Aracena is the place for you. There are over 600km of trails running through the 185,000 hectares that cover the park. The endless tracks that travel across the rolling hills take you through beautiful natural areas from one charming village to the other. You walk on ancient Roman cobblestone paths, discover streams and waterfalls with abandoned water mills and ancient Moorish castles towering above the mountain tops.
The most common landscape in the Sierra is the dehesa where you can find kilometres of meadows, speckled with cork or holm oak and chestnut trees filled with free roaming sheep, pigs, goats, horses and deer. The fauna in the Sierra is very varied and its especially popular for birdwatchers as more than 85 different species of birds live or migrate through here.
What to See: Whitewashed villages
The Sierra has 28 whitewashed villages tucked away in valleys with dramatic hilltop castles, churches, hermitages and even a mosque.
These lovely towns are definitely worth a visit:
- Aracena – It has a 13th century castle and the Gruta de las Maravillas (probably the most touristy place in the Sierra) which is a breathtaking underground cave with lakes, stalagmites and stalactites.
- Linares de la Sierra – Picturesque village that serves as a starting or end point for many walks.
- Alájar – It has the impressive 17th century sanctuary Peña de Arias Montano with beautiful views of the town and the Sierra
- Zufre – Pretty village with a beautiful church and city hall. It also offers 360 views over the surroundings, including the nearby Zufre dam
- Almonaster la Real – Worth going just to visit the 10th century mosque that rises over the village
- Fuenteheridos – Untouched village with numerous terraces on the village square
- Cañaveral de Léon – Great town to visit during summer as it’s main square has been turned into a huge natural bathing pool (no seriously, I am not kidding).
What to Eat: Local gastronomy
People from the Sierra take food very seriously. The black Iberian pigs are an essential part of the typical dishes of the region. Other delicacies include the sweet chestnuts, wild flower honey, sheep and goat’s cheeses and the wild mushrooms which normally complement the local pig dishes. If you come to the Sierra, you will definitely eat well at very reasonable prices.
- Arrieros (Linares de la Sierra) – Charming Michelin recommended restaurant and probably the best restaurant in the Sierra. Local ingredients and wonderful service. Highly recommended!
- Jesus Carrion (Aracena) – Much more traditional than the logo would suggest. Local tapas at great prices and very friendly staff
- Essentia (Aracena) – Refined and creative tapas in the hotel restaurant. Highly recommended!
- Meson Los Canastos (El Repilado) – Local and fresh produce dishes, right around the corner from Finca Bravo
- La Plazita (Alájar) – Small rustic pizzeria with a proper wood fired oven that offers flamenco performances every Sunday evening
- Los Benitos (Zufre) – Simple local food with great prices
- Seville – This is by far my favourite city in Andalusia. What’s not to love with its flamenco, nightlife, friendly locals, fantastic restaurants/bars and historic center full of churches, palaces, fortresses and beautiful gardens.
- Doñana National Park – A natural reserve near Huelva full of sand dunes, marsh areas, pine forests and fresh water lagoons with flamingos and an amazing amount of migratory birds.
- Minas de Rio Tinto – Copper-mining town where you can visit the Mining Park. It’s also the only place near our Finca that has a proper hospital so if Pep breaks a leg, this is where we will be heading.
- Reserva Castillo de las Guardas – Animal park for kids where you can travel by train or your own car for 15km to see more than 1000 animals and over 100 species.
- Evora (Portugal) – Capital of Alentejo region in Portugal where you can visit the ruins of an ancient Roman Temple and the skeleton-adorned Chapel of Bones at the Igreja de São Francisco.
- Monsaraz (Portugal) – Beautiful village located on the top of a hill where you can stroll through the streets and enjoy the view over the valley and the Alqueva Lake, one of the biggest artificial lakes in Europe.