Aracena, Natural Park Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche
Aracena and the mountain that bears its name are located in the heart of Natural Park Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche on the edge of National Road 433, Seville, Lisbon, at Kilometre 89.
The first known human settlements date from prehistoric times; there are archaeological remains at the Cueva de la Mora, (The Cave of Mora) in the Umbrian village dating from the megalithic times (III millennium BC). The mineral wealth of the area has led to various settlements, such as Castañuelo (the village of castanets) in which there are two different cultures, one belonging to the Bronze Age (second millennium BC) and another to the Iron Age (mid-I Millennium BC).
The Romans exploited the minerals in the third century AD, this mining supported several agricultural settlements that were probably the origin of Aracena and several towns in the area. The first fort was erected on the remains of the Castillo de Aracena in the Islamic era. The Almohads showed their strength by building monuments in the cities of their new empire and the tower of La Iglesia de Castillo is typical of an Almohad tower. At this time the area was dependant on Condado de Niebla (Fog County)
The Christian conquest, in the early thirteenth century, was undertaken by the Portuguese King Sancho II who wanted to include the area as part of the High Algarve. However, in 1255, the intervention of St. Ferdinand and his son Alfonso X the Wise opted Aracena, as unappropriated land of Castile, to become part of the kingdom of Seville. In the late thirteenth century King Sancho IV began to repopulate Asturias and used the people of Aracena and district in Asturias, León and Galicia. He built a fortress on the hill as a defensive enclave against the neighbouring kingdom of Portugal, its defence having been entrusted to the Order of Santiago.
Aracena continued to grow from Cerro del Castillo (Castle Hill) to the valley during the late medieval and early modern period, such as Priorato Real (Royal Priory) in the fourteenth century and the estate under the jurisdiction of the Duke of Olivares, in the seventeenth century, and later the Earl of Altamira, who was entitled Prince of Aracena.
One of the leading figures of the time was the humanist Benito Arias Montano, who founded a Càtedra de Latinidad in Aracena in 1597; this remained the focus of culture until the late nineteenth century. Another notable figure was Sister Maria of the Trinity, mystic and poet, founder of the Convent of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in 1671.
In 1833 with the new administrative division, Aracena was separated from Seville and became part of the province of Huelva. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Aracena had a growth momentum and expanded its urban area into the flat areas, on which were built stately homes and large buildings of the municipality of Santa Catalina, the Casino de Arias Montano, La Plaza de Abastos (Slaughter square )etc. The discovery of La Gruta de las Maravillas (Cave of Wonders) in 1866 along with the gentle summer temperatures led to Aracena becoming the place of leisure for many members of the Spanish Royal family, for these reasons the city has become an important tourist centre.
The civil war and then a period of autarchy, which extended until the late fifties when Franco’s regime became isolated, marked the crisis of agrarian capital (a social and political philosophy which stresses the viewpoint of a rural or semi-rural lifestyle) and the primary sector of the mountain economy. The improvement of road communications and the declaration of protected natural areas within the Natural Park Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche, make Aracena and its villages a first class tourist destination, where urban and rural life coexist in perfect harmony.
In 1956, Aracena was declared a tourist city and now much of the town is protected by a Special Plan.
San Pedro Chapel
San Roque Chapel
Santa Lucía Chapel
Santa Catalina Church
Arias Montano Casino
Santo Domingo Church
The Old Chapter House
San Jerónimo Hermitage
Santa Catalina Town Hall
Obispo Moya Palatial Home
Jesús, María y José Convent
Lavaderos de la Fuente del Consejo
Ntra. Sra. del Carmen Parish Church
Ntra. Sra. de la Asunción Parish Church
Nuestra Señora del Mayor Dolor Parish Church
Open-Air Museum of Contemporary Art (MACA)
Aracena’s cuisine is characterized by the variety of its own food and canning techniques of meat products. In this beautiful town of Huelva are typical Iberian pork products, such as loin, sirloin, shoulder, ribs, and the famous ham from acorn fed pigs, cane loin and sausage. Other products and typical dishes such as migas, scrambled egg with asparagus, ham ratatouille, winter gazpacho, mushrooms and cheese are among a long list.
The typical desserts of Aracena are the fine sweets, marzipan, fritters, candied pine nuts, custard with burnt crust, the compote of apples, pears, quince, chestnut soup, chestnut in liquor or syrup, dried apricots and the Easter doughnuts, etc…
From Seville head for Merida, SE-30 and after passing Santiponce and Las Pajanosas you will reach the crossroads of Aracena-Portugal (CN-433), take this road and after about 60 km you will find the village. (You will have passed through El Garrobo, Valdeflores and Higuera de la Sierra.)
From Huelva come via Huelva-Badajoz (CN-435), here are several possibilities, the simplest is to reach the junction with the CN-433, after passing Jabugo, and take this road towards Sevilla, and after about 7 km you will find Fuenteheridos. Another option is to leave the CN-435 once it passes through Zalamea la Real and the mining area (Rio Tinto, Nerva, and Campofrio) towards Aracena.
From Extremadura go to Huelva and from Huelva (CN-435) follow the instructions above.
Distances from Aracena
Nerva 36 km
Huelva 101 km
Cortegana 29 km
Monesterio 65 km
Zalamea la Real 39 km
Cumbres Mayores 39 km
Valverde del Camino 57 km
Arroyo Molinos de León 34 km