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Smugglers Trails of the Sierra de Aracena - 8 Days

Smugglers Trails of the Sierra de Aracena - 8 Days

Trip Highlights

  • Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche Natural Park
  • Historic white villages
  • Moorish Forts and ancient Arabic Acequia

Trip Summary

Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche is the second largest Natural Park of Andalucía (declared a Natural Park in 1989 and awarded the European Charter for sustainable tourism), lying in the north of Huelva province, which in turn is the most westerly province of Andalucía, not far indeed from the Portuguese border. With only 40,000 inhabitants scattered over its 3.000 sq km it is probably one of the least known and visited of all the parks in Andalucia. You’ll be surprised by the lush vegetation almost all year round, the profusion of wild flowers through spring, the autumnal colours lighting up la Sierra and a gourmets feast of wild mushrooms found in masses given the right conditions. The rolling hills and white villages offer wonderful walking opportunities. The character of the villages has changed little over the centuries, their history reflected in their architecture and the landscape surrounding them. On walks you pass along Roman cobbled tracks, glimpsing abandoned watermills and ancient hill forts left by the Moors. You can still see villagers working their small allotments, hear the ringing of goat bells among the oaks and chestnuts, and the bubbling of the many streams and springs which abound in these hills. Many of these tracks are accompanied by the ancient arabian water system “acequia” and were frequently used during the Spanish Civil War and after to smuggle goods into Spain from Portugal. Herds of the black Iberian pig grazing among the groves of cork and holm oak are a common sight. The area is rich in bird life with an important population of black vultures. Other raptors are common and include the Golden, Short-toed and Bonelli’s eagles. You can see stork’s nests on almost every village church as well as the endangered black stork, and as you wander along the streams, sightings of heron and egrets are common. Andalucía suffered acutely during “La epoca negra” – the black period – or simply “el hambre” - the hunger - during the 1940’s and 50’s, after the Spanish Civil War, forcing emigration to larger cities and abroad to find work to support their families. In La Sierra some opted to join the smuggling trade and become “Mochileros” – packmen. It was a tough and risky business carrying up to 30kgs in homemade backpacks from the Portugese border village Barrancos into the Sierra to be then moved down to Sevilla. Organised by smuggling bosses, the mochileros would carry loads of main staples beans, coffee and tobacco over 100 km in a 24 hr period. Empty mule trains would be used along the wider paths to distract the Guardia Civil whilst the Mochileros would use the higher, rockier paths to stealthily enter La Sierra and deliver their goods to places such as La Posada in Alájar where hiding places where provided until the goods were moved on.

Suitability

The tour is graded moderate (Grade 3); the terrain is not difficult but there are some ascents and descents. Fitness: The walking should present no difficulty to anyone in good general health who is accustomed to hiking.

Itinerary

Make your own way to Aracena. Time permitting a wander around this lively market town, a visit to the “Gruta de las Maravillas (“cave of wonders”) and a guided tour around the Jamón museum will give you some insight on the journey you are about to undertake. Accommodation: You will be staying two nights in a recently converted mill, which has been tastefully decorated in a rustic style with wonderful little touches.

Meals:  Nil

An easy to moderate morning’s walk giving a good idea of the area with tracks meandering through small holdings and then the pretty countryside to Corteconcepción following. This is a good place to stop for a breather and there is a church with memorable views across to a reservoir. The return journey begins on a lovely ancient cobbled path which converts into a wide vehicle track for a couple of kilometres which makes walking easy, however there is a last steep stretch before dropping down to Aracena on a footpath skirting allotments with magnificent views of the town and its fortified church. You can spend the rest of the day visiting Aracena and the caves. If you wish to visit an award winning family run Iberian ham producer in Corteconcepción before returning to Aracena, a visit can be arranged. (37.50€ per person – reservation required, visits start at 11am and last for approx. 3 hours)

Meals:  B

A great day’s walk taking you through thoroughly varied countryside. The route mainly follows the GR43.1, but originally these were the paths that everybody used to connect village to village. You begin through well kept chestnut plantations which changes into cork oak woods, olive groves and also vineyards before you reach Los Marines. You walk through two villages, Los Marines and Fuenteheridos which both have bars in for refreshments. Galaroza is situated in the river Múrtiga valley providing an abundance of water and a thick canopy of vegetation, which has provided a great carpentry tradition in the village. Along the steep and cobbled streets you can find the typical whitewashed houses usually bedecked with flowers. A walk up the hill that dominates the village will take you to the hermitage of Saint Brigit (Ermita de Santa Brígida) patron saint of the vine and all fruit trees. You get a great panoramic view from the top of the village and around. Accommodation: You stay two nights at the top of the village in a 2 star aparthotel with lovely views across the sierra and with its own restaurant and swimming pool.

Meals:  B

This walk provides a vary varied scenery, passing through small holdings, cork oak forest, mixed woodland and the small town of Valedelarco. This includes the Navahermoso barranco - a glorious river walk where there is plenty of bird life. After heavy rain the streams may be quite high and there are a couple of crossings that don’t have bridges, but are fords or stepping stones so you may need to take your boots off when crossing. Valdelarco is an interesting village dating back to Roman times and had its own Jewish Quarter or ghetto. Today it has only a couple of bars.

Meals:  B

Heading to Alájar today you walk to the highest village of the Sierra, Castaño del Robledo which boasts two large churches. Here you have the option to do a slightly shorter (11 km) walk or the longer version (14.5km). The first stage of the walk takes you up the valley to Castaño del Robledo along the Rivera de Jabugo, an area of special interest due to the flora and fauna found along the walk. The shorter option brings you to Alájar vía La Peña de Arias Montano, with wonderful views south as you descend. The longer option takes you to the outskirts of Santa Ana before heading east to Alájar. It’s one of our favourites, along the valley amongst ancient cork and holm oaks. Life in Alájar revolves around its squares and its narrow cobbled streets radiate outwards from there. Many houses in Alájar have their own unique cobbled thresholds and there are many well-preserved houses here with architectural elements typical of the Sierra. Accommodation: For three nights, our 'Posada'-small hotel has rooms all with large south facing terraces overlooking the dining terrace, garden and swimming pool. All the bedrooms have under floor heating and cooling systems for the hotter summer months. Each room is unique and is tastefully furnished with antique furniture. The upstairs lounge has a small bar open to guests and there is WiFi.

Meals:  B,D

The Peña de Arias Montano and its bell tower are the 2nd most visited sites in the park, after the caves in Aracena. This walk takes you up to the Peña and beyond where the views to the south are fantastic. On a clear day you can see the sun reflecting on the sea on the coastline of Huelva. You will visit three viewpoints on the walk but with a couple of shorter options if you prefer to take it a bit easier. The walk through the chestnut groves which are abound with wild peonies in April and May is well worth the climb though!

Meals:  B,D

One of the prettiest cicular walks in the area, following the country path, once cobbled, to the almost abandoned Madroñeros, a tiny hamlet which throws you back in time as you can imagine how people lived until quite recently in humble houses without running water or electricity. The inhabitants moved to Alájar and Linares when running water was supplied to each house in these villages in the mid seventies. Linares de La Sierra another fine example of a sierra village almost suspended in time with its narrow cobbled streets and the intricate stone “door mats” outside the front doors; originally done to distinguish the front door from the side door, which was the entrance for animals. The return walk to Alájar on the northern route involves a short steep climb before descending along the rivera de Alájar to return to the village.

Meals:  B,D

Depart Alájar.

Meals:  B

What's Included

  • 7 breakfasts, 3 dinners
  • 7 nights accommodation in a mixture of hotels and inns on a twin share basis with ensuite facilities
  • Luggage transfer
  • Information pack including route notes & maps
  • Emergency hotline

What's Not Included

  • 3 dinners, all lunches & beverages
  • Entrance fees
  • Travel insurance
  • Travel to the start and from the end point of the trip
  • Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
  • Unscheduled transfers required during the trip

Upcoming Travel Dates

AT A GLANCE

Duration:8 Days
Countries:Spain
Starting Point:Aracena
Finishing Point:Alájar
Activities:Self-Guided Walking
Grade:Moderate  Click for more information
Trip Code:JAC
Prices From:GBP£730 Per Person
single supplement:GBP£130  Click for more information
Single Supplement - 2017:GBP£140  Click for more information
solo traveller:GBP£230  Click for more information
Solo Traveller 2017:GBP£250  Click for more information