Discover the Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche Natural Park in Huelva, Spain
Have you ever heard of the Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche Natural Park? It is a nature reserve in southwestern Spain (province Huelva), within the Sierra Morena mountain range, and a true gem. A fantastic area to explore with all its natural beauty, traditional villages, local delicacies, friendly people, and sustainable tourism initiatives.
Even though it’s located in Andalucia, only one hour away from Sevilla, this region has a whole different climate. Being in the South of Spain, you would expect it to be very dry in summer, but we immediately noticed how green it was. The park’s microclimate is mild, with temperatures ranging from 10-25°C throughout the year.
In the national park, you can find a diverse range of flora and fauna, including cork oaks, chestnut trees, and the rare Iberian lynx. And there are, of course, many hiking paths that take you deep into the woods. And besides that, don’t forget to discover the lovely villages such as Aracena or Aroche and delicious local food.
One of the ways to explore the Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche Natural Park is the Jabugo route. This scenic route takes you through the heart of the park and shows you more of the traditional process of producing Jabugo ham, and the history of this region.
We spent 4 amazing days in the park in June and in this article, we’ll share what to do in Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche, where to eat, and the best places to stay for the night.
How to get there?
First, however, let’s talk about how to get to Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche Natural Park. As said before, this park is located in Andalucia, in southern Spain, close to the border with Portugal.
The closest big city is Sevilla, which is only one hour away from the park by car. So the easiest way to reach this region is by flying to Sevilla and renting a car at the airport. This is also how we did it.
If you’re traveling by public transport you could take the train to nearby towns such as Huelva, Seville, or Extremadura. From there, you can take a bus to towns such as Aracena, Aroche, or Alajar to reach the park.
However, having a car provides the most flexibility for exploring the park and the surrounding area. The park is easily accessible by road, and there are several routes you can take depending on your starting point.
Ecotourism in the National Park
The Sierra de Aaracena y Picos de Aroche Natural Park is a member of the Ecotourism Club in Spain. This initiative offers authentic ecotourism experiences, making sure that travelers contribute to the local development and conservation of the biodiversity in the park.
In the national park many tour companies, accommodations, and organizations belong to the Ecotourism Club in Spain (check this website to find out which ones). That means they offer authentic and memorable experiences in a sustainable way, preserving the natural and cultural heritage.
Ecotourism activities in the park include guided nature hikes, birdwatching tours, wildlife observation, educational workshops, sustainable farming experiences, visits to traditional villages and cultural sites, and overnight stays in eco-friendly accommodations.
What to do in the Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche National Park
The Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche Natural Park offers a range of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy. Popular things to do in the park include hiking, observing wildlife, visiting caves, discovering the towns and culture, enjoying the local gastronomy and so much more.
Taste the local products
The Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche Natural Park is known for its rich culinary traditions and local products, which are deeply rooted in the region’s history and culture.
Sample the local cuisine, which features specialties like Iberian ham (jamón ibérico), chestnuts, wild mushrooms, honey, cheese, and homemade sausages. Many restaurants in the area offer traditional dishes made with locally sourced ingredients. Explore local markets and shops to find unique souvenirs and taste the flavors of the region.
Here are two fantastic culinary activities we experienced in the Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche Natural Park, that are great for learning how they sustainably produce those local delicacies.
Jabugo Ham – Jamones Eiriz Jabugo
This is a type of cured ham made from the acorn-fed Iberian pig that is native to the region. The ham is cured for several years and has a distinct flavor and texture that is highly prized by food enthusiasts.
You can visit the Denomination of Protected Origin (DPO) Jabugo center to know more about how they protect the ham. In this beautiful building designed by Anibal Gonzàlez you get more information about the label, the bodega, and how to respect the ecosystem in this unique and exceptional natural environment.
After visiting this center you can head to Jamones Eiriz Jabugo. This is a family-owned ham curer where you can have a complete experience of the history and tradition of the Jabugo ham. First, you will visit the Dehesa and meet the pigs so you can understand where they live. After that, you will visit their drying rooms and learn more about the different steps of the traditional production process.
You’ll end the visit with a delicious tasting session of the Eiriz products paired with some local wines.
Goat cheese – Monte Robledo
The region is also known for its high-quality goat cheese, which is made using traditional methods. The cheese is typically aged for several months and has a tangy, slightly salty flavor that pairs well with local wines.
Close to Aracena, you can do a workshop at the Monte Robledo Cheese factory. First, you will visit the farm and the goats. If you’re lucky, you can even milk one of the goats. After that, you can make your own goat cheese.
The process of how goat cheese is made by hand is fully explained to you. You start by heating the goat’s milk. Then we add a cure so that it starts to bind. You place the cheese in a ring and let it rest for a few days or weeks. Then you can add herbs or others according to taste.
After producing your own goat cheese it’s time for a tasting. They also have a beautiful shop in the center of Aracena. You can buy all the other local products of the region in their shop as well.
Explore the villages and their history
The park is dotted with charming villages that offer a glimpse into the traditional way of life in the region. Explore picturesque towns like Aracena, Alajar, and Aroche, and visit historic landmarks, churches, and traditional architecture.
Aracena is a very good location to stay when you want to discover the Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche Natural Park. It is a super cozy city with all amenities, restaurants, shops, and a beautiful castle on top of the hill with the most beautiful caves hidden inside the hill.
The castle of Aracena is a medieval castle and is one of the town’s most iconic landmarks. It was built in the 13th century and served as a strategic fortress during the Reconquista. Today, you can explore the castle’s towers, walls, and courtyards, and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
Next to the castle, you can find the beautiful Church of Nuestra Señora del Mayor Dolor. It features a stunning baroque facade, intricate stonework, and a beautiful altarpiece.
After visiting the Castle you can have to head to the spectacular Gruta de las Maravillas. The entrance door is in the center of the city, as the caves are located on the hill under the castle. The caves are filled with stunning rock formations and emerald-blue underground lakes. You can only visit with a guide to explore the caves’ various chambers and learn about their geology and history.
The lovely town of Aroche is great for walking through the small historic streets or enjoying a meal or drink on one of the terraces. Here you can also find the town’s beautiful castle.
One of the main attractions of Aroche, a short ride outside of town, is its Roman ruins, which are some of the best-preserved in the region. There’s also a beautiful and colorful church to discover, based on the prior Roman basilisk.
The city of Arucci Turobriga was founded in the time of Augustus at the end of the first century BC (15-10BC). The forum, the market, the house of the column, the house of the peristyle, the north house, the campus, and some parts of the north necropolis have already been excavated.
You can also see the ruins of the Roman baths, which were once a popular destination for locals and visitors alike. But they’re still excavating today, so there’s more to be discovered.
The location of the ruins is magnificent, surrounded by the rolling hills of the Picos de Aroche. Even if you don’t like history, it’s a fantastic place to wander around.
Alájar – La Peña de Arias Montano
Alájar is a charming village with stunning natural surroundings and a tranquil atmosphere. The village is known for its picturesque setting, with traditional whitewashed houses adorned with colorful flower pots and narrow, winding streets.
One of the notable landmarks in Alájar is the Church of San Marcos, a beautiful 16th-century church with Mudéjar-style architecture. Its bell tower, which stands tall above the village, offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
On the hill overlooking Alájar, lies Peña de Arias Montana, a magical and mysterious place that is steeped in history and legend. You can hike to the top of the rock formation, where they will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Or you can drive to the top and park your car next to the church.
Discover the stunning nature of the national park
The Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche Natural Park is renowned for its rich biodiversity and diverse ecosystems. The park is characterized by Mediterranean forests dominated by cork oaks, holm oaks, and chestnut trees. These forests provide a habitat for numerous plant species and support a variety of wildlife.
This means it’s a haven for birdwatchers, with over 180 bird species recorded. You may even spot the big vultures in the region of Aroche. This region is also home to various mammal species, including the Iberian lynx, wild boar, deer, otter, and the rare Iberian wolf.
To explore the natural park as a visitor, you can choose between many well-marked hiking and walking trails. Also, cycling and horseback riding are some of the options.
But if you really want to explore the region, you can choose to do a guided tour. We went on a hike with Gorge from LYNXAIA, an ecotourism local tour company.
They have a range of tours and activities such as hiking tours, learning about plants and which ones you can use to eat or for medicine, wildlife-watching, “Birds of the Forest” ornithology, or ” Creatures of the Night”. They also offer stargazing activities.
We went on a hike, got a lot of explanations about the plants, animals, and history of this place, and even visited a cave. Very interesting and we can highly recommend it.
Best places to eat in the Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche National Park
The Sierra de Aracena and Picos de Aroche National Park region in Spain offers a variety of dining options where you can savor the delicious local cuisine.
Here are some recommendations for places to eat in the area that we personally enjoyed a lot.
Restaurants in Aracena
- Restaurante Jesús Carrión: this tapas restaurant is known for its exquisite cuisine and warm atmosphere. The restaurant offers a delicious menu that combines traditional flavors with a modern twist. They emphasize locally sourced ingredients, including Iberian pork, wild mushrooms, and fresh seasonal produce.
- Restaurante Puerta 20: located at the central square of Aracena, this charming restaurant combines traditional Andalusian cuisine with contemporary touches. The menu features a variety of dishes made with locally sourced ingredients, including grilled meats, fresh seafood, and vegetarian options.
- Hotel Restaurante Essentia: this restaurant is located within the Essentia Hotel in Aracena. Sitting outside in the courtyard, you can enjoy their delicious fusion dishes made from locally sourced produce and meats combined with the best fine wines.
Restaurants in other places
- Restaurante La Barcina in Corteconcepcion: very close to the Jamones Eiriz Jabugo factory, you can find this local restaurant. They specialize in dishes prepared with the local Jabugo ham.
- Hotel Restaurant Conde del Alamo – Aroche: in the center of Aroche lies this beautiful hotel and restaurant that serves delicious local dishes with a modern touch. We were big fans of their food and can highly recommend it.
Where to stay in the Aracenas National Park
Nature Space Jabugo
Nature Space Jabugo is located in the village of Quejigo, about 20min drive from Aracenas. It has two houses in the middle of the forest, Origanum and Lavándula, at Finca Monte Gallina.
The houses have been restored from old buildings which were used as shelters for shepherds. Local materials like stone and oven-baked brick were used to renovate the houses. The houses are fully equipped with a bathroom, kitchen, double bedroom, and living room with its own fireplace.
María, the owner, will be happy to show you around her property and teach you about the local habitat and her animals. We loved our stay here!
Casa Palacio Conde Del Alamo in Aroche
This fully restored 18th-century palace in the center of Aroche offers a unique stay. At Hotel Palacia Conde del Álamo, each room is decorated in its own beautiful style, there are different stylish decorated seating areas and a fantastic pool overlooking the town castle and the town of Aroche.
If you are hungry, you don’t have to go far as the restaurant of the hotel serves delicious local dishes with a modern touch.
Barceló Hotel Aracena is a well-known hotel located in the town of Aracena. It offers comfortable accommodations and a range of amenities for guests to enjoy. The hotel’s architecture and interior design reflect a modern and contemporary style.
The rooms are spacious and well-appointed, providing a comfortable environment for relaxation. And there is also the swimming pool, overlooking the beautiful town of Aracena.
I hope we convinced you to go to the Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche Natural Park in Spain. If you have any remarks or questions, let us know in the comments.