An insider’s guide to exploring Aracena, Huelva’s hidden gem

Swap the beaches for the undulating countryside of Huelva and make the quaint town of Aracena your next holiday destination

Aracena: A close-up shot of the Aracena castle during the day

The province of Huelva may remain unexplored territory for some. Yet, for those brave enough to swap their traditional annual getaway for something off-the-beaten-track, Aracena is a pure delight. Nestled away in the north of Huelva, in the heart of the Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche National Park, the whitewashed town of Aracena dazzles visitors with its stunning natural surroundings and fascinating heritage. Keen to explore the Spanish countryside of Andalusia? Discover how to spend your next holiday in Aracena, Huelva.

When to visit Aracena?

The sizzling Spanish summer sun is at its strongest during July and August Due to Aracena’s landlocked position, to get the best out of this destination visit during the Spring or early Autumn. March to June and September to November are ideal periods for exploring the Andalusian countryside as the weather remains dry, without the fiery summer temperatures.

Sierra de Aracena: Green sloping hills populated with trees in the national park

The Sierra de Aracena National Park

What makes Aracena, Huelva a top destination for your next escape?

Aracena is a picture-perfect example of an Andalusian village with whitewashed houses and orange-tiled roofs. While this sleepy town of 9000 inhabitants may seem like it has little to offer, its location in the middle of a National Park, also a biosphere reserve, provides endless plans for outdoor enthusiasts. Rural life reigns supreme in Aracena with traditional and sustainable farming methods promoted throughout the region. This can be witnessed firsthand with the highly sought-after Jabugo ham - a product with strict quality controls.

Yet, it is not just Aracena agricultural advances that put this town on the map. Explore its captivating history at the various archaeological sites and emblematic landmarks such as the Moorish Castle of Aracena, just a day trip away from some of the best cities in Andalusia.

The town of Aracena from a distance at sunset

The town of Aracena

Add these Aracena attractions to your itinerary for your holiday in the Huelva region

The historic centre of Aracena was declared a place of cultural interest in 1991. The historic old town centres around the castle and the Nuestra Señora del Mayor Dolor church and is noted to be one of the most picturesque old towns in the whole province. Explore its Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque style architecture and uncover centuries of culture as you discover these top Aracena attractions on your Huelva holiday.

Aracena: A close-up of a church overlooking the old part of Aracena at night

Aracena Old Town at night

Aracena Castle

Perhaps the most eye-catching landmark in Aracena and one of the first things you will see when you arrive, Aracena Castle is a must-visit during your travels. Perched high up on a hill, overlooking some of the best countryside in Spain, this Moorish castle invites curious minds to travel back in time and explore the intricate elements of a traditional Alcazaba (Moorish fortress).

The Nuestra Señora del Mayor Dolor Church

Located inside the impressive Aracena Castle lies the beautifully preserved church of Nuestra Señora del Mayor Dolor, the oldest church in the town. Built between the 12th and 15th centuries, the long construction process resulted in an eclectic mix of architectural styles and in 1995, the church was given the status of Monument of Cultural Interest

The most iconic part of the church is the Mudejar-style 15th-century tower which clearly shows the Moorish influence of the time

The most iconic part of the church is the Mudejar-style 15th-century tower which clearly shows the Moorish influence of the time. If you want to explore the Castle, the church and other of Aracena’s main features such as the Ham Museum and the Grotto of Marvels, it is worth looking into the Aracena tourist pass to make things easier and cheaper. 

Visit the Grotto of Marvels

Once done visiting the castle and its grounds, head down the hill and explore one of Aracena’s most stunning landmarks, the Grotto of Marvels. This cave’s spectacular appearance is the result of years of water erosion of the hill’s limestone rock. It was the first cave to open to the public in 1914 and has enchanted visitors with its beauty ever since. It is said that the cave was first discovered during a search for silver. Yet, while no treasure was found, the stalactites, stalagmites, petrified lava flows and underground lakes inside the 2-kilometre-long cave provide a dazzling glimpse of the power of nature. 

A close of the inside of the Grotto of Marvels

The Grotto of Marvels

Learn all about Jabugo Ham at the Aracena Ham Museum

Foodies will delight at the prospect of spending the day learning all about the local delicacy- ham. The name comes from the municipality of Jabugo which combines four towns: Jabugo, El Repilado, Los Romeros and El Quejigo. In Jabugo, the acorn-fed Iberian pigs have become famous for their high-quality meat.

In Jabugo, the acorn-fed Iberian pigs have become famous for their high-quality meat

At the Aracena Ham Museum and Iberian-Pig Visitors Centre, visitors can learn all about the rearing process, and the role acorns play in the pig’s diet and discover the secrets of the curing and maturing techniques used to produce such delicious ham. Of course, don’t pass up the chance to visit the museum shop and bring some ham back as a souvenir. 

Jabugo Ham: A close-up of a place of Spanish Iberian ham with acorns

Jabugo Ham-  a local delicacy in Aracena

Explore some of the best countryside in Spain in the Sierra de Aracena National Park

The Sierra de Aracena National Park forms part of the larger Sierra Morena mountainscape. In this privileged area, you can find some of the best rural hotels in Spain that offer guests expansive views of Andalusia’s natural landscape. If you are staying in Aracena, be sure to venture out into the national park to witness firsthand the beautiful forests and iconic dehesas - protected forest areas converted into pastures where traditional farming methods are used to conserve the Andalusian forests.

The park, which covers over 200,000 acres of protected area, is home to a wealth of flora and fauna. If you are lucky, you may get to catch a glimpse of a leopard lynx, a black vulture, a black stork or Iberian pigs. Yet, what really draws people to the park are the extensive trekking routes which ramble across 600 kilometres of countryside. If hiking is not your thing, go rock climbing at Risco de Levante or practice watersports in the Zufre or Aracena reservoirs

Best rural hotels in Spain: A view of the Barceló Aracena hotel & pool and the Sierra de Aracena

The Barceló Aracena 

Catch amazing views from the Mirador de Alájar

Just on the outskirts of Aracena lies the village of Alájar, one of the prettiest in the Sierra. Here nature, history and local legend intertwine and invite visitors to explore the dramatic landscape dominated by the Peña de Arias Montano mountains and the Alájar caves. This area has become a pilgrimage site for those seeking inspiration, mindfulness and a creative boost. It is said that Saint Victor used this spot for mediation and later on, Benito Arias Montano librarian to King Philip II used this place as a refuge and a safe place to store esoteric documents. Today, its enigmatic energy permeates the valley of olive groves, and oak and chestnut trees. To get the best view of this impressive natural landscape head to the Mirador de Alájar where you will be awestruck by the beauty of nature.

Huelva Region: A close-up of the lookout point, the Mirador de Alájar

The Mirador de Alájar lookout point