Jaén Province – Andalusia
Historically a natural link between the Castilian plateau and the región of Andalusia, the Jaén province is well connected with the rest of Spain via the A-44 which joins the A-4 (Cádiz-Madrid) to the north and the A-92 to the south (Granada and Malaga). Its climate is softened by the Atlantic breeze which blows through the Betica depression, creating warm summers and temperatures ranging between 4 and 6ºC during the winter. This frontier land boasts a great variety of landscapes with the extensive olive groves which produce the enormously important olive oil, as well as numerous protected natural areas, renaissance towns which have been declared World Heritage Sites, valuable vestiges of the Iberian culture, and castles from the gothic period. A unique inland destination which is waiting to be discovered.
Art and Culture
In an area which has been inhabited since prehistoric times, it was the Iberians who left the most important early vestiges. Examples include the cave sanctuary in the Cueva de la Lobera (Castellar), the archaeological site of Cástulo (Linares), the Heroico del Pajarillo Sanctuary in Huelma, and the Cerrillo Blanco necropolis in Porcuna. This was a land that marked the frontier between the Muslims and Christians, and as a result numerous defensive structures were built. These now form part of a fascinating cultural itinerary, the Castles and Battles Route, which features the settings of famous confrontations throughout history including the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212) between the Christians and the Moors, or the Battle of Bailén (1808) which was fought against the forces of Napoleon.
The whole kingdom of Jaén and particularly the towns of Úbeda and Baeza, both of which have been declared World Heritage Sites, contains an unprecedented level of artistic and cultural splendor thanks to the great protagonist of the Renaissance stlye, Andrés de Vandelvira, and above all, to the patronage of wealthy families such as the Cobos or the Molinas. The Cathedral of Jaén, the Church of San Francisco in Baeza and the Sacred Chapel of El Salvador in Úbeda are the finest examples of this architectural style.
Jaén has always been important for the production of pottery, a craft which is very much alive in towns like: Bailén with its typical glazed ceramic cooking pots; Andújar which produces its “grotesque” jugs and blue and white ceramic whistles; Úbeda with its unusual pieces decorated with white almagre; and Arjonilla, with their miniatures and reproductions of famous names. In places such as Los Villares or Peal del Becerro there are a number of workshops producing cane, wicker, and esparto objects whose unique combination of traditional techniques and more modern materials and designs have brought considerable renown to the local crafts sector.
Metalwork is also in good health in the province, with the finest examples being the popular glass and tinplate lanterns produced in Úbeda, as well as the artistic wrought iron work and cast iron bells which are typical of Torredonjimeno. Other crafts include stained glass window making, leatherwork, and high quality taxidermy, a process which is thriving in Andújar thanks to the considerable amount of hunting which takes place in the province.
Festivals and Traditions in Jaén Province
Easter week celebrations in the province are characterized by the solemnity of the processions and the great artist value of the effigies carried on the floats. The most notable examples can be seen in the three great towns and cities of the Andalusian renaissance (Jaén, Úbeda and Baeza), as well as in Linares and Alcalá la Real. During the spring there are numerous pilgrimages, including that of the Virgen de la Cabeza, in Andújar, which attracts more than half a million pilgrims to El Cerro del Cabezo in the very heart of the Sierra Morena.
Other interesting celebrations include the Moors and Christians festivals, Candlemas, the May Crosses, the fiestas to commemorate the Battle of Bailén, and Santa Lucía. The province´s calendar of cultural activities includes a number of interesting musical events including the prestigious BluesCazorla, which is hel every year and features internationally known bands and soloists like Little Charlie or Sax Gordon. Other interesting events include Etnosur (Alcalá la Real), the “Ciudad de Úbeda” Jazz festival, the Torreperogil Rock&Blues Festival, the Gazpacho Flamenco festival in Andújar, and the Aire El Yelmo International Film Festival which is held in Sierra de Segura.
The most essential element in Jaén´s gastronomy is its range of olive oils produced from the picual variety of olive which are protected by five different denominations of origin: Sierra de Cazorla, Sierra de Segura, Sierra Mágica, Campiñas de Jaén, and Jaén Sierra Sur. Jaén´s golden liquid is present in traditional vegetable stews, such as alboronía, as well as in a wide variety of cured meats, and salads such as the popular pipirrana (prepared with green peppers, tomatoes, and garlic) and ajilimójili.
There are also a number of delicious dishes which are simply prepared with flour and olive oil, and combined with a variety of vegetables or even leftlovers. These include garbanzos “mareaos” (mashed chickpeas), ajoharina, garlic potatoes, gachamiga, andrajos, and scrambled eggs with garlic shoots. Also popular are dishes prepared with big and small game or the outstanding trout or segureño lamb. These should ideally be accompanied by the cuerva, a type of sangria with slices of peach which is typical of the area.
Olive oil is also one of the essential ingredients of numerous confectionery products and the traditional cakes and pastries made in the province´s convents, such as the delicious ochíos with salt and paprika, the tortas de masa with aniseed, and the hornazos, amongst others.
Jaén Province Nature and Active Tourism
Jaén is the Andalusian province with the largest area of protected zones, thanks to the 214.300 hectares of the Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas Nature Park, which is the biggest and most visited in Andalusia. Declared a Biosphere Reserve, the park provides a habitat for the Spanish ilex and game species such as deer, wild boar, and mouflon, which can be seen in a semi-natural state in the “Collado del Almendral” game park.
Jaén also boasts other popular nature parks including: the Despeñaperros, historically the only natural point of access to Andalusia from the Castilian plateau; the Sierra de Andújar (a magnificent example of Mediterranean ecosystem); and the Sierra Mágina, which has the highest peaks in the province. Nature reserves such as Laguna Honda and Laguna del Chinche, areas of outstanding natural beauty such as the Laguna Grande, the Cimbarra waterfall, and the upper Gudalquivir, as well as numerous natural monuments (Quejigo del Amor del Carbón, Órganos de Despeñaperros, Pinar de Cánavas, the Dinosaur Tracks in Santisteban del Puerto, El Piélago) complete the impressive natural heritage of the Jaén province.
All these areas are ideal for a wide range of outdoor pursuits, including walking and cyclotourism, and the Vía Verde del Aceite green route (which follows the old railway tracks between Jaén and Campo Real) is a favourite amongst lovers of active tourism. Jaén also offers a wide range of possibilities for hunting and particularly fishing in its more than 20 trout fishing reserves. Its numerous reservoirs are home to carp, barbell and black-bass, etc and are also ideal spots for water sports, bird watching, and photography.
Jaén Province Routes
The Condado Route
This route covers the area between the River Guadalimar and the province of Ciudad Real, and is especially notable for its extensive olive groves and the hillsides which provide a habitat for the wild bull. The more mountainous area to the north, with abundant species of small game, contrasts with the beauty of the typical Mediterranean hillside landscape to the south. Of particular interest is the Huellas de Dinosaurio Natural Monument in Santisteban del Puerto, with its 24 dinosaur footprints.
The Campiña Route
The Campiña area is situated in the northern part of Sierra de Andújar Nature Park (at the heart of the Sierra Morena) which is particularly popular with hunters. Apart from the Sanctuary of the Virgen de la Cabeza (Andújar), with its deeply rooted and extremely popular pilgrimage, this route offers visitors the chance to see two important archaeological sites featuring remains of the Iberian culture: the Oppidum de Maquiz in Mengíbar, and the Cerrillo Blanco necropolis in Porcuna, with its valuable collection of sculptures.
The Sierra de Segura Route
The Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas Nature Park, and the El Tranco Reservoir form an area of beautiful landscapes which, due to their topography has become a mecca for lovers of aerial sports so much so that the El Cornicabral aerodrome in Beas de Segura has become one of the busiest in Andalusia. Also of considerable interest are the castles of Hornos and Segura de la Sierra, the latter being in the village where poet Jorge Manrique was born.
Jaén and its surroundings
This area covers the campiña to the south of the river Guadalquivir and boasts the natural beauty of the Sierra Mágina Nature Park and the Peña del Águila peak (Mancha Real), and the olive groves seem to reach the horizon in every direction. In the city of Jaen, capital of the Holy Kingdom, the most important monuments are the Castle of Santa Catalina and the Cathedral of La Asunción de la Virgen, one of the finest works by Andrés de Vandelvira, whose sepulcher lies in the church of San Ildefonso.
Route of la Loma and Las Villas
This route takes the visitor to the seat of Renaissance and Humanist thinking in Jaen, the towns of Baeza and Úbeda (both declared World Heritage Sites), which contain emblematic buildings such as the Jabalquinto Palace (Baeza) or the Sacred Chapel of El Salvador (Ubeda). Also of interest are the renaissance fortified palace of Sabiote or the Canena Castle which is very near to the Laguna Grande nature area.
The Northern Area Route
This route combines both campiña and sierra and is split between the Despeñaperros Nature Park and the Cascada de la Cimbarra nature area. Tourists should take the opportunity to visit the archaeological remains of Cástulo (Linares), the Caliphal Castle of Baños de la Encina, and La Carolina with its typical colonial style architecture.
The Upper Guadalquivir Route
This is a route which perfectly combines nature and art. The visitor can enjoy the natural beauty of the Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas Nature Park, and the range of active outdoors pursuits it has to offer, whilst also appreciating the Templar Castle of La Iruela or the de la Yedra Castle in Cazorla.
The Sierra Sur Route
Set between the mountainous landscape and the olive groves are picturesque villages with a rich historical legacy. These include Alcalá la Real with its De la Mota fortress, Alcaudete with its castle, and Martos, with its defensive walls.
The Sierra Mágina Route
A route which is especially attractive for lovers of the untamed nature which is typical of the Sierra Mágina Nature Park. This was a frontier area in the battle between Moors and Christians as can be seen dry the Arabic castles in places such as Bélmez de la Moraleda, Jódar, La Guardia de Jaén and Huelma.