The Sierra de Aracena & Picos de Aroche Natural Park is situated in the North of the province of Huelva and at the West of the Sierra Morena. We are less than an hour by road from Seville and also close to Badajoz on the Silver Route. Its proximity to Portugal means that the nearest airports are, logically, Seville but also Faro on the Algarve.
This hilly area, less than 2,000m high, which receive abundant rain, was declared a Biosphere Reserve in 2002 as the result of the excellent state of conversation of the dehesas (woodland) of holm oaks and cork trees. It is also the natural habitat of its prime protagonist – the Iberian Pig.
This animal is so important that the breading and the processing if its meat has produced one of the greatest delicacies in the World – The Air-cured Iberian Ham, protected under the Denomination of Origin “Jabugo”.
The “dehesa” is one of the most extensive farming systems in the Iberian Peninsula where farm animals live side-by-side with a large selection if wild animals. Within this Natural Park we should mention the large population of ungulates together with most of the carnivores such as the fox, the genet, the mongoose and the otters which populate the streams.
This area of Southern Europe is the most densely wooded part of Andalucía. As a result of the abundant rainfall and the gentle climate the Sierra is populated with many of the species that one associates with the Atlantic coastline such as ancient oak and chestnut trees and an exuberant woodland gallery. The abundant rainfall and the excellent soil make the Park especially apt for a group of plants such as orchids which are becoming a special attraction for nature lovers. It’s worth mentioning that the intimate contact of the local population with the land has resulted in the villages being sources of considerable bio-ethnic knowledge. Edible and medicinal plants, together with the purely aromatic, are still widely used in the villages of the Sierra.
Due to the high levels of humidity in many areas of the Natural Park a large variety of amphibians and reptiles survive. Amongst the most numerous are salamanders and different species of tritons and frogs which can be seen during the autumn rainy season and the long nights in winter and Spring.
Ornithology is an ecotourism activity of considerable importance in our Sierra as it is the home of species such as the black vulture, the imperial eagle or the black stork. Also, due to the damp woodlands, it is the wintering stop for many of the insect eating birds of Europe such as the kingfisher, the lavanderas and the sandpipers.
The disseminated villages and the low density of population in the Sierra, together with the absence of major communication routes, have resulted in the conservation of a very extensive network of tracks and paths which are still maintained. These hills are crisscrossed by a network of 700 kilometres of paths which have been catalogued by the Spanish Mountaineering Federation, together with a multitude of local tracks, which are signed and maintained by the various Municipalities. This means that this area is ideal for all countryside tourist activities.
This is one of the best places in Europe to enjoy clear nighttime skies due to the warm climate and the influence of the anticyclones from the Azores. This means that we have clear skies for many days a year. The Sierra de Aracena & Picos de Aroche Natural Park, together with the rest of the Sierra Morena range, has been declared a Starlight Reserve by UNESCO. But the considerable distances between villages and their small populations make our skies perfect for observing the universe. Since Palaeolithic times there are remains of the union between man and the stars such as the megaliths of the “Pasada del Abad” or the various dolmen settlements. The nighttime trails under a full moon, the astronomic initiation lectures or nighttime photography are some of the astro-tourism attractions.
The Sierra de Aracena & Picos de Aroche is made up by twenty nine municipalities. Fourteen of these have historic centres catalogued as being of Cultural Interest. The proximity of these villages means that it is possible to visit several of them in a day – in fact some of them can be visited by foot in a day.
The beauty of the houses, the cobbled streets, their rich culture and history are outstanding features. In these villages one can visit eleven castles, two forts as well as numerous fountains and community laundries, ancient bridges, innumerable public buildings and noble houses of considerable architectural value.
The long history of the Sierra has given the villages a rich cultural heritage which translated into diverse and unique festivities, cultures and traditions which fill the calendar of this protected area.
The services offered by the various types of accommodation specialised in ecotourism, the companies offering activity tourism, and restaurants makes it possible for visitors to enjoy and take advantage of the various activities offered in the area, with absolute respect for the environment and in harmony with the sustainable development of a rural area such as this.
Plan your trip in: http://parquenaturalsierradearacena.com (Only Spanish)
The Ecotourism Club in Spain
The Sierra de Aracena&Picos de Aroche is a member of the Ecotourist Club in Spain, which is a pioneering initiative that offers sustainable ecotourism experiences, ensuring the traveler his contribution to the local development and to the conservation of biodiversity in the protected areas he visits and in the tourist services he enjoys.
Tourist destinations and companies which belong to the Ecotourism Club in Spain comply with the environmental requirements established by the European Charter of Sustainable Tourism in the Protected Areas of the EUROPARC Federation and similar systems in the Biosphere Reserves and Geoparks, offering authentic and memorable experiences linked to the natural and cultural heritage.
Under the brand name and the portal of the Club www.ecotouristinspain.com you may find:
- Protected areas throughout Spain which stand out for their landscapes and for implementing a sustainable tourist plan.
- Professional and high quality accommodation and tourist service companies, which collaborate with the protected areas, supporting the conservation and the local development.
- Experiences and various activities suitable for all ages and interests, to enjoy while discovering the spaces (birdwatching, wildwatching, hiking, cycling, cultural activities, local gastronomy, etc.)