Exploring Jaén Province and Natural Parks
Often overlooked and mostly mispronounced, Jaén (´Hi-en´) the province and city in the north of Andalucía, my adopted homeland, should be on your travel plans. Jaén, the province, is a massive natural area of mountain ranges, olive groves and protected parks. White towns and tiny villages scatter the landscape, clinging to rocky slopes and surrounded by olive trees. Castles and watchtowers – Jaén supposedly has more of these than any other area in Europe – survey the surrounding landscape.
Cazorla Natural Park
Cazorla, Segura & Las Villas Natural Park
To the south, the Sierra Sur de Jaén or Southern Mountains of Jaén, has a gentler though still rugged terrain than the northern part, most of which is the Natural Park of Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas. Three parks rolled into one magnificent mass of wilderness. This is the lar the GR 247 – the Bosques del Sur or Southern Woodlands Route a challenging, circular route through forests and tracks. The 317km trail travels through magical scenery and stunning landscapes with incredible views, you´ll more likely spot deer, wild boar and birds of prey here than fellow walkers. It´s also suitable for mountain bikers.
Olive Groves in Jaén
Jaén´s Sea of Olive Groves
The province of Jaén is the largest olive oil producing area in the world. Within the province there are over 66 million olive trees, spreading into other provinces. The landscape is smothered with silver-green trees that march in straight lines toward every horizon. The area between Jaén and Estepa in Seville province has been named ´The Sea of Olives´ and spans 1.3 million hectares and counts more than 180 million olive trees. Its bid to become a UNESCO protected area may be granted in July 2024. If it is successful, the Sea of Olives – Mar de Olivos —will be added Spain’s other 45 World Heritage Sites.
Sierra Magina Natural Park
In the centre of the province Sierra Mágina Natural Park rises up, a rocky, limestone massif covering around 20,000 hectares surrounded by a sea of olive trees, almost merging with the mountains of Cazorla.
Sierra de Andújar Natural Park
The Sierra de Andújar is part of the vast Sierra Morena which stretches 400 kms along four provinces – Huelva, Seville, Córdoba and Jaén and has over seventy towns and villages within its border. The Sierra de Andújar has had massive success in protecting and reintroducing Lynx into their natural habitat and with luck and patience it´s quite easy to spot them here.
The Sanctuario Virgen de la Cabeza is home to the oldest pilgrimage, one which rivals the Romeria El Rocio in Huelva. Since 1277 pilgrims have climbed up to the sanctuary, these days an estimated 500,000 pilgrims gather every year on the last Sunday in April to see the virgin.
Despeñaperros Natural Park
Despeñaperros Natural Park is an awesome, sheer-walled rocky gorge, and the dramatic entrance to Andalucia from Castilla -La Mancha. It´s the only natural break in the extensive Sierra Morena, and so is the main route into Andalucia from the north, with both road and railway now running through the stunning walls of rock.
As you can see, Jaén province is mostly nature—pure and unadulterated, and deserves its tourist board motto of Paraiso Interior or Inland Paradise.
Allow at least a week for exploring. I’m still doing it!
BeSeeingYou In: Jaén province
Good To Know: A car is needed to explore this area
WOW Factor: Segura de la Sierra in Cazorla Natural Park is a stunning little town and in the association of Spain´s Most Beautiful Villages
TIP: Summer and Spanish Bank Holidays can be very busy especially on the smaller roads in the Natural Parks
Author BIO: Rachel Webb