Aracena is located in the Parque Natural Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche and has plenty to offer. It has been declared a city of sights and was named a Tourist Municipality of Andalucía. It is also famous for its Cave of wonders and its museum of ham.
Aracena is the largest town in the Parque Natural Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche with a population approaching 8,000.
The mineral wealth of the area resulted in several settlements during the Bronze Age and Iron Age. Mining was also the reason for the Roman settlements from the first century BC.
Following the Christian conquest of the Muslims under the Portuguese King Sancho II in the mid-thirteenth century, the region become part of the High Sierra Algarve. But the intervention of Ferdinand III and his son Alfonso X el Sabio (the wise) allowed Aracena to become part of the kingdom of Seville in 1255.
At the end of the thirteenth century King Sancho IV began the repopulation of the area and built a fortress on the hill as a defence against the neighbouring kingdom of Portugal.
Aracena continued to grow from the Cerro del Castillo to the valley during the fourteenth century and under the jurisdiction of the Conde Duque de Olivares in the seventeenth century. Later the Earl Altamira became the Prince of Aracena.
Leading figures of the time were the humanist Benito Arias Montano who founded a chair of Latinity Aracena in 1597 and Maria de la Trinidad, mystic and poet, founder of the Convent of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in 1671.
In 1833 the province of Huelva was formed and Aracena became part of the new province.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Aracena was reinvigorated and expanded its city limits over the flat areas where houses and buildings of importance were built.
The discovery of the Cave of Wonders in 1886 coupled with the gentle summer temperatures and leisure visits of many members of the Spanish royal family, turned the city into a major tourist centre.
Following the civil war (1936-1939) until the late 50's it was a time of economic crisis requiring changes in social structure and city services. The improvement of road communications and the declaration of protected areas of the Natural Park Sierra de Aracena and Picos de Aroche returned Aracena and the surrounding villages to a prime tourist destination.
Moreover, in the early 20th century Aracena was favoured as a holiday resort by employees of the Río Tinto Mining Company, so much so that they built houses there on the Alájar road.
In 1956, Aracena was declared a city sights and now much of the town is protected. In 2006, Aracena was named a Tourist Municipality of Andalucía and became the first town in the province of Huelva to achieve this recognition.
What to see and enjoy.
Aracena is famous for its stunning limestone caves The Gruta de las Maravillas (The Cave of Marvels). Twelve caves covering 1,200m are located below the Aracena Castle. The caves have several caverns and lakes which are linked by narrow passages and coloured lighting adds to the effects of the unusual formations of minerals and there is a small geological museum. The complex is one of the most spectacular cave systems in Spain. They are said to have been found by a boy looking for a lost pig in 1886.
Aracena castle. The castle was built in the thirteenth century on the site of a Muslim settlement and fortress of the Almohad Dynasty (1121–1269). It stands on a hilltop overlooking the town and has recently undergone restoration work to the walls, battlements and towers and access gained to one of the posterns, a concealed gate which allowed the occupants to come and go inconspicuously.
El Museo del Jamón de Aracena (Museum of Ham). Here in the seven rooms you will find the history, cultures and traditions surrounding the famous Iberian pig. Should you so wish you can also purchase products from their shop.
After the museum you can try jamón ibérico in one of the local bars or of course an excellent choice of typical serrano dishes and setas (wild mushrooms) then move on to Aracena honey, chestnut marmalade and hand crafted confectionary.
In the Aracena area there are plenty of walks to enjoy along pretty footpaths taking you through groves of chestnut trees or along river banks. For the experienced walker there is a trail through Linares to the tiny hamlet of Los Madroñeros and then on to Alájar.
Oficina de turismo Aracena
Calle Pozo de la Nieve,
663 937 877
Town Hall Address
Ayuntamiento de Aracena
Plaza Marquesa de Aracena,
Tel: 959 126 250
© 2012 John Powell DiscoverHuelva.com