Huelva Province – Andalusia
Covering an area of some 10.000 square kilometres from open beaches to lush sierras, Huelva province marks the frontier between Spain and Portugal. It enjoys an agreeable climate, with mild temperatures all year round, and the quality of the light is very special in itself. With a rich, varied landscape, its traditions and gastronomy make Huelva a unique destination, a place to delve into a land of discoveries.
The improvement in communications has contributed to increasing the number of visitors who have come to appreciate the many attractions of the province. The nearby international airports in Seville and Faro, and the excellent road and rail networks have brought it much closer to the rest of Spain, Europe, and the world as a whole.
Art and Culture
Naturally a mixed society, Huelva has always been both an importer and exporter of cultures. Throughout history, many different civilizations have been attracted by the wealth of possibilities this lands has to offer. Thus the Tartessians, Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths, Moors and Christians have all left their mark, for example, on the city walls of Niebla, the Mosque of Almonaster, and the ancient mine workings of Riotinto.
If there is one historical event which is indebibly linked to the province it is the discovery of America. The first voyage by Columbus to the New World was planned and organized in La Rábida and many of the brave seafarers who manned the ships came from Palos de la Frontera and Moguer, most notably the Pinzones and Niño brothers. Around these towns, the places and monuments which witnessed those events, have now become part of the Route of the Columbus Sites.
The great mineral wealth that lies beneath the ground has attracted the attention of numerous peoples over the course of time, and especially around Riotinto, there is a rich mining heritage. There are still many vestiges of the British presence in the town and they also left their mark in Punta Umbría and the city of Huelva itself.
Traditional crafts in Huelva are notable for the production of goods and implements associated with farming and the rearing of livestock. Thus, the making of country style boots, saddles and riding tackle, cowbells, and earthenware products for cooking and storing water are all important craft industries. The town of Valverde del Camino for example, apart from producing boots which have become famous all over the world, is also known for making traditional cowbells from sheets of iron and brass.
The equestrian world plays an important role in the survival of craft industries and products such as saddles, reins, and leather chap continue to be made in the province. Similarly metal spurs and bits are still being produced in Cortegana, which has the only tow forges dedicated to these products still operating in Spain.
The El Rocío pilgrimage is important for these crafts which is why there are a number of workshops producing horse accessories in the nearby towns of Almonte and La Palma del Condado. Another craft which continues to thrive is that of barrel making, to serve the wine industry, particularly in the town of Bollullos Par del Condado.
Festivals and Traditions in Huelva Province
Ancient traditions and more modern celebrations combine to make up the festive calendar of Huelva, but the most important event is undoubtedly the hugely popular pilgrimage to El Rocío, in the heart of Doñana. Easter Week is also great importance and the processions in Huelva, Moguer, and Ayamonte are particularly notable. Other interesting and unusual festivities include the Crosses in Berrocal, the Los Jarritos water battle in Galaroza, the sword dance in La Puebla de Guzmán, and the pilgrimages of the Virgen de los Ángeles in la Peña de Arias Montano and San Benito Abad in El Cerro del Andévalo. The ritual surrounding the slaughter of the pigs is another tradition which remains popular in areas such as the Sierra.
The art of flamenco is also very much alive in the province, with an endless range of different styles depending on its place of origin. Prestigious and successful cultural events include the Ibero-American Film Festival in Huelva, the Theatre and Dance Festival Castle of Niebla, and the Classical Music Festival in Ayamonte. There is also a Medieval Festival in Cortegana, whilst the Ibero-American Forum in La Rábida programmes a number of events throughout the year.
Huelva Province Gastronomy
Diversity is the essential feature of Huelva´s cuisine, with a combination of seafood and products from the sierra which means that shellfish and ham are the two most important ingredients. The sierra is famous for its Iberian pigs with ham bearing the Jamón de Huelva Denomination of Origin being by far the most emblematic product. Other cured meats include cañas de lomo, chorizos, and morcones and there are fresh meats such as salomillo, presa, secreto, and pluma. Another delicious product of the sierra are the mushrooms.
The sea, the other great larder of the province, yields up shellfish and mollusks including the delicious and much heralded white prawns, king prawns, as well as small, donnax, and razor shell clams. Fish such as tuna, monkfish, and shade fish are also landed and no meal table in Huelva is complete without the famous choco or cuttlefish.
The wines from El Condado, young, fruity, and generous, are highly renowned, as is the vinegar, and both have their own Denominations of Origin. Citrus fruits, which are widely grown and are of exceptional quality, are a main ingredient in the traditional cakes and pastries.
Huelva Province Nature and Active Tourism
Nature has been generous to the Huelva province and in fact a third of it comprises protected natural areas. These include: the Natural and National Parks of Doñana, which make up the largest single protected area in Spain, and thanks to the eight other natural areas of great ecological value three natural reserves and five natural monuments. These spaces are truly unique natural environments with a combination of marshlands, dunes, wooded hillsides, and gallery forests which are home to emblematic species such as the Iberian lynx, the imperial eagle, the black stork, and the black vulture.
The beaches of Huelva, occupying some 120 kilometres of coastline are another major attraction, and the province has one of the lowest densities of coastal development in Spain, which guarantees that visitors can enjoy some remarkably unspoilt beaches. The range of different landscapes means that the scope for outdoor pursuits is almost unlimited. The are ten different marinas and sailing clubs for lovers of water sports whilst for those who prefer walking there is an extensive network to cater for all tastes.
There are some 700 kilometres of tracks and paths in the Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche Nature Park and there also three green corridors: those of the river Guadiana, the water mills, and the coast.
Other activities such as routes on horseback or hunting are available in the Andévalo area. There are a considerable number of golf courses and the range of facilities is expanding to cater for a demand which is growing thanks to the perfect climate, which allows golfers to practice their sport all year round, and the wonderful surroundings in which the courses are situated.
HUELVA PROVINCE ROUTES
The Coastal Route
From the mouth of the Guadiana to the mouth of the Guadalquivir Huelva´s Costa de la Luz offers 122 kilometres of almost uninterrupted beaches of white sand, bordered by pine woods. Apart from the luminosity of the natural light and the mild climate, the coast offers an unusually unspoilt natural environment which is illustrated by the large number of officially protected areas: the Marismas de Isla Cristina, Marismas del Piedras y Flecha del Rompido, Los Enebrales, Marismas del Odiel, Doñana. The 11 municipalities of the route (Aljaraque, Almonte, Ayamonte, Cartaya, Huelva, Isla Cristina, Lepe, Moguer, Palos de la Frontera, Punta Umbría and Villablanca) offer an artistic heritage which reflects the profound history of these lands and can only add to their list of attractions.
The Route of the Columbus Sites
Moguer (birthplace of Nobel Prize Winner Juan Ramón Jiménez), Palos de la Frontera, and La Rábida are the towns which go to make up the unique areas which are known as the Columbus Sites due to their decisive role in the discovery of the New World. Witnesses to this great event are the Convent of Santa María in La Rábida, the Church of San Jorge y La Fontanilla in Palos, and the convents of St. Clara and San Francisco in Moguer. Other interesting places include the University of La Rábida, the Las Carabelas quay, and the Celestino Mutis Botanical Park.
The Condado Route
From the ancient walled city of Niebla, to the beautiful bodegas which produce the renowned local wines, and Doñana, with its hamlet of El Rocío, the El Condado area offers the visitor a wide range of possibilities. The prosperity of the past is clearly evident in historic places such as Niebla with its wonderful monuments such as the Castle of Guzmanes or the churches of San Martín and Santa María de la Granada. There is no doubt however that the most attractive feature of the area is the Doñana Natural and National Park which has been designated a World Heritage Site, and a Biosphere Reserve, in recognition of its enormous ecological value. At the heart of the park is the hamlet of El Rocío, which, each year during Pentecost, attracts approximately a million pilgrims, making it the larges religious pilgrimage in Spain.
The Andévalo Route
The Andévalo area stretches from the sierra to the sea, on the eastern bank of the river Guadiana. This land, which has always been a mixture of hillside meadows and mining areas, has two key elements which make it so attractive: fresh air and water. Old windills such as that of La Divisa, in Cabezas Rubias, have now been joined by the modern wind farms which are dotted around the landscape, whilst water has a route of its own: the Guadiana route. Heading upstream from Ayamonte, we come across the small port of Sanlúcar de Guadiana, which precedes the old mining port of La Laja. As well as the natural environment, with its rich variety of wildlife, there is also the architecture of the white villages with their local gastronomy and unusual fiestas, as well as their deeply rooted traditions such as the fandango, a type of song which is particularly popular in Alosno and Calañas.
The Route of the Mines
This route passes through the municipalities of the Andévalo mining area: Berrocal, Campofrío, El Campillo, La Granada de Río Tinto, Minas de Río Tinto, Nerva, and Zalamea la Real. The mineral wealth of the area is the central theme and a visit to the Río Tinto Mining Park is highly recommended. Its attractions include: the fascinating Mining Museum; Corta Atalaya, the biggest open cast mine in Europe; the tourist train passing through the mine works; and the Peña del Hierro mine. One mustn´t forget that the mining operation was in the hands of British companies and their time here is still clearly visible in the English barrios such as Bellavista, as well as the Presbyterian chapel, and the English Club.This has its own significance as it was the first place both football and golf was played in the Iberian Peninsula.
As an interesting footnote, NASA is currently investigating the similarity between the area around Rio Tinto and the planet Mars.
The Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche Route
The Sierra de Huelva, part of which comprises the Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche Nature Park, offers a wide range of attractive, colourful landscapes, and surrounds the towns of Cortegana and Aracena. The chestnuts, holm oaks, and cork trees form the natural habitat of a wide range of species, some of which, like the wildcat, the genet, ferret, or otter, are in danger of extinction. There are also a significant number of birds of prey, including the black and griffon vultures. A well established network of hundreds of kilo-metres of sign-posted walks allows the visitor to feel part of this rich natural environment.
In terms of historical buildings the towns and villages all have much to offer and the medieval castles of Santa Olalla del Cala, Cumbres Mayores, Aracena and Cortegana still stand watch over the sierra. The gastronomy is notable particularly for the delicious ham which is produced all over the sierra and is protected by the Jamón de Huelva Denomination of Origin.