HOT Properties Magazine Archive
HOT Attractions - Authentic flavour of Spain
For the ancient picture postcard village of Jabugo – nestling high in the majestic Sierra de Aracena mountains in the north of Huelva - the age-old saying ‘Mighty oaks from little acorns grow’ has a uniquely appropriate meaning...
Report: Carolyn Mowlem
The quaint little town of Jabugo, with its red-tiled roofs, leafy squares and winding cobbled streets is one of the dozens of photogenic White Villages for which rural Andalucía is renowned. While justifiably reputed for their charming architecture, historic churches, cooling fountains and pretty wrought-iron balconies strewn with bright geraniums, none is as famous as Jabugo, whose name takes pride of place on the most distinguished of charcuterie counters and celebrated eateries around the world.
In common with the finest of wines, Jabugo (or Iberian) ham – known in Spain as jamón ibérico or jamón de Jabugo – has its own tightly controlled appellation, and for many foodies outranks other leading hams such as Parma, Bayonne, or Iberia’s other favourite – Serrano.
With the valuable hams costing up to several hundred euros each, the region’s pure-bred pata negra or black foot pigs spend much of their lives basking beneath the Andalusian sun in lush fields and orchards, snuffling out acorns - which they love with a passion and which give the meat its distinctively sweet, nutty flavour - it’s not such a bad life for a deservedly pampered pig in the Sierra de Aracena.
Spain’s most highly-prized gastronomic treat – eclipsing even paella and the very best of seafood - translucent wafer-thin slices of Jabugo ham are traditionally served with a glass of fino (light, dry sherry from the neighbouring province of Cádiz), and particularly at Christmas and New Year, is the undisputed star of the laden buffet table both at home and in worthy hotels and restaurants throughout the country.
As the source of the region’s major income, not surprisingly there are several ham-producing companies in Jabugo that can be visited, while you could also opt to browse the fascinating exhibits in the Museo de Jamón (Ham Museum) in the nearby village of Aracena.
But there are plenty of other good reasons to spend a relaxing break exploring the north of Huelva – inland from the fabulous beaches of the Costa de La Luz – which boasts magnificent scenery and truly awe-inspiring natural wonders.
One of Andalucía’s best-kept secrets, the province of Huelva lies between Cádiz and Sevilla to the east, and Portugal to the west, and is a leisurely four-hour drive from Marbella.
Around 100 kilometres northwest of the city of Sevilla, the area around Jabugo has been inhabited by Man since Neolithic times, a fact borne out by the archaeological finds discovered in the nearby Cueva de la Mora cave, while the settlement of El Becerro dates back to the Bronze Age. Jabugo’s principal monument of interest is the XVI century San Miguel Church, which was extended several times up until the end of the XVIII century. Surrounded by the dramatic Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche – declared a Natural Park in 1989 – it’s a good base from which to explore the vast 200,000 hectares of chestnut, oak, cork oak and holm oaks that provide the perfect habitat for an abundance of wild life.
A 30-minute drive east of Jabugo, the idyllic village of Aracena is presided over both by the ruins of its ancient castle - which once formed part of an ancient line of defence running the length of the Guadalquivir Valley - and the impressive XIII century Prioral del Castillo Church, while deep beneath the hill lie a labyrinth of chasms and passages. This is also the site of the famous and breathtakingly beautiful Gruta de las Maravillas cave system more than eleven million years old.
Discovered in 1911, it was the first cave in Spain to be opened to the public – in 1914 – and consists of some 2,200 metres of galleries, just over half of which can be visited. With no fewer than twelve main caverns of enormous proportions, including the ‘Cave of Shells’, ‘Cave of Jewels’ and ‘The Cathedral’, and together with six large subterranean lakes, the sheer splendour of the Gruta de las Maravillas (Grotto of Marvels) has served as an inspiration for many artists, musicians, poets and writers over the years. The cave system is open every day, with guided tours of tour of its three different levels lasting just under an hour.
Other attractions in Aracena include the Museum of Geology and Mining, various fine examples of XVI century religious and civil architecture such as the Santa Catalina, El Carmen, Santo Domingo and La Asunción Churches, the Town Hall, and the XVIII century Bishop’s Palace. The Open Air Museum of Contemporary Sculpture, featuring more than 30 different works, is also well worth taking in.
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