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Jaén province

Jaén province

The rugged Sierra Mágina Natural Park covers 19,900ha of rocky, steep limestone terrain, with precipitous cliffs and high summits that are often snow-capped in winter. Evocatively named by the Moors as the mountain of the spirits, the Sierra has a fascinating history glimpsed in its prehistoric cave paintings and defensive architecture built by warring Christians and Muslims. In the 10th century it harboured Moorish rebel leaders and much later, bandits. Its remote corners also provided a refuge for bears, wolves and the pardel lynx.

The gently rolling 74,774ha Sierra de Andújar, part of the vast Sierra Morena, is densely wooded and boasts one of Andalucia's best preserved expanses of Mediterranean forest and scrubland. Flowing through the rocky hills is the Yeguas river, with many lovely spots to sit and meditate along its banks. Its more remote areas are inhabited by an impressive number of endangered species, such as the pardel lynx, wolf, black vulture and imperial eagle.

With a total surface area of 209,920ha and covering almost a fifth of Jaen province, this is Spain's largest protected area and one its most extensive forested zones. Located in eastern Jaen province, it connects the Sierra Morena and the Subbética mountain ranges. The highest peak in this immense park is Pico Empanada at 2,107m and the entire park is higher than 600m.

The Despeñaperros Natural Park is a magnificent sheer-walled rocky river gorge that forms the backdrop of the most dramatic gateway into Andalucia. As the only natural break in the 500km-long Sierra Morena, it used to be one of the main routes into Andalucia from the north and Madrid. Today it is occupied by the A4 motorway and the Cadiz-Madrid railway line.

Baeza is tiny, compact and provincial with a kind of perpetual Sunday air about it. At its heart is the combined Plaza Mayor and the paseo which is flanked by pavement cafes but delightfully low key and atmospheric. The Plaza de Leones is a particularly attractive cobbled square enclosed by Renaissance buildings and stands slightly back at the far end.

Marmolejo is popular with travellers who enjoy rural and active tourism. It is also home to one of Andalusia’s many spas, and part of its lands are at the foot of Sierra Morena, within the protected area that makes up the Sierra de Andújar Natural Park, an ideal enclave for sports such as hiking. It has about 6,760 inhabitants.

Festivals in Lopera: Cabalgata Reyes Magos, La Candelaria, Día de Andalucía, Carnaval, Semana Santa, Fiesta a la Virgen de la Cabeza, Los Mayos, Romería de San Isidro and more.

Lopera has its origins in the Bronze Age, with remains from this period having been found in the farmhouses of Almazán, Lanzarino I and Cuatro Hermanas. From the Iron Age period, remains of Iberian culture stand out, such as the deposits of Cerro de la Casa, Cerro de los Pollos and Cerro de San Cristóbal.

Lopera has gained international fame due its distinct shipyard which is situated amongst olive groves. The shipyard has produced winning vessels of important nautical competitions. The town has about 3,650 inhabitants.

Lahiguera offers incredible views of the surrounding mountains of the province, as well as the Guadalquivir River, which borders part of the town. It has about 1,680 inhabitants.

Espelúy is a small town located in the middle of mountainous countryside. The Guadalquivir River, as the protagonist of this region, provides sustenance to the community’s agricultural activity. The town about 620 inhabitants.

Arjona has achieved popularity and fame for its olive oil production. The integration of the olive tree into the landscape, the economy and the way of life of the locals over the centuries have accumulated a cultural background for the town with the olive tree and its products as the main exponents. It has about 5,500 inhabitants.

Arjonilla is situated on the far western side of the province of Jaén, surrounded by olive groves. Indeed, it sits in the heart of a region well known for olive oil production. The area is also rich in archaeological remains. Arjonilla has about 3,570 inhabitants.

Escañuela is formed entirely of cultivated lands, dependent on the local olive monoculture. The small irrigation systems stemming from the Arroyo Salado de Arjona, once dedicated to herbaceous creeks, have been colonized by new olive plantations, which now provide an income to the town’s 940 inhabitants.

Cazalilla is situated in the heart of the Jaén province, near the Guadalquivir River. Its lands, used exclusively for agriculture, comprise an unmistakable landscape of olive groves, cereal crops and orchards. It has about 800 inhabitants.

La Campiña de Jaen is the rural area in the north western part of the province.

The Sierra Sur comarca or area of Jaen province is the mountain range in the southern part of the province.