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Spain’s Secret Sierra

Andalucia - chestnut woods & hidden valleys
Holiday information
Nights: 7
Grade: 1-2, occasional ascents & descents 
Terrain: woodland, lush valleys, rolling hills
Hotels: two rural inns; one country hotel
Meals: 7 breakfasts, 3 dinners, 2 picnics
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Extend your stay
To further explore this fascinating region, walk on to Aracena, for a luxurious 2-night stay in a delightful boutique hotel. Alternatively, if you are flying via vibrant Seville, add on a city break for a contrast to your walking holiday.
  About Aracena >Declared a Natural Park in 1989, the Aracena Sierra forms part of the western reaches of the Sierra Morena, Spain’s longest mountain range. Its allure lies not just in its gently rolling landscapes, but also in its timelessness. There are only 40,000 inhabitants scattered over its 3,000 square kilometres, and the villages – and their ways of life – have changed little over the centuries. Ruined castles hint at more turbulent times – the border with Portugal is not far away – while mosques built by the Moors and cobbled Roman roads transport you even further back in time. You can still see mules ploughing allotments, hear the ringing of goat bells in the woods, and see men leading donkeys laden with shiny chestnuts. Sleek black Iberian pigs roam the oak forests, their diet of acorns making for delicious air-cured ham which is famous throughout Spain. Indeed, the regional gastronomy is excellent, featuring succulent gurumelo mushrooms, distinctive shellfish and caracoles (snails).
 
This Holiday in a nutshell
  • self-guided hotel-to-hotel walking, luggage transported
  • authentic villages rich in architectural treasures
  • picturesque, undiscovered sierra
  • excellent regional gastronomy
  • add-on a luxury stay in Aracena

Tucked away close to the Portuguese border, Andalucia’s Aracena Sierra is a land of glorious woodland and far-reaching views, of soft, rounded hills and crystal-clear streams. Our enchanting route meanders leisurely through the hills to the picturesque lower valleys, the beautiful chestnut forests giving way to magnificent cork-oak woods as you progress eastwards.
We grew very fond of sleepy Alájar, with its too-narrow-to-drive-down streets, its shuttered Baroque church and, rising high above on a cliff face, the shrine of the Peña de Arias Montano glinting whitely.
     
The Independent
Along the way you pass through many of the friendly, workaday villages that are scattered in the valleys and on the hillsides and which are full of southern spirit. Their inhabitants live in harmony with the land and, as you walk along inviting paths, you see men leading donkeys laden with shiny chestnuts, workers preparing for the cork harvest and farmers tending the sleek black pigs which provide the region’s prized air-cured ham that is served alongside dishes featuring wild asparagus, snails, chestnuts and wild mushrooms according to season. Seemingly every village hides an architectural treasure, be it the 16th-century chapel of Nuestra Señora in Alájar, or Spain’s oldest mihrab in the 9th-century mosque at Almonaster.
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