Gateway To Andalucia
The Province of Jaen is the gateway to the region of Andalusia and is a green patchwork of mountains, farmland and fertile plains dotted with sixty million olive trees.
The climate is temperate during spring and autumn, summers are usually hot, especially in the south, and the winters are harsh and extreme in the mountain areas.
The province took its shape around the Iberian culture and there are numerous archaeological sites from the period. The Romans left their imprint here and after 712 the Arab legions and the land was named Geen,(way of the caravan) or Xauen, (sanctuary).
In 1212 the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa took place and marked the beginning of Muslim domination of "Al-Andalus", the Arabic name for Islamic Spain.
The city of Jaen is located in the foothills of the Sierra Magina and high on a rocky crag Santa Catalina castle dramatically overlooks the capital. This Arab fortress is especially impressive because of its tall keep and from these heights can be viewed the old quarter of the city and villages below. The city is extremely beautiful with many monuments and the Cathedral is the most important monument, a massive Renaissance structure.
The cities of Ubeda and Baeza preside over the region of La Loma, a wide expanse of olive groves set in the high valley of the Guadalquivir. They are a showcase to the legacy of the works from the Renaissance period which brought a period of monumental and artistic splendour to these lands and embraced a good portion of the nobility and clergy starting in the 15th century. These two cities are worthy of a few days visit as there is so much to explore and they have some of the most magnificent monuments in all of Andalusia.
The cities of Alcala la Real and Andujar took on importance as transport junctions and finally in the 18th century the Monarch Carlos III established the so-called "New Towns" of the Sierra Morena headed by La Carolina.
Decades later industrial activity in the province would be centered around La Carolina and Linares because of lead mining, and today Jaen is a province whose agricultural-based economy revolves around the growing of olives and the production of olive oil.
The Via Verde del Aceite, (Green Way of the Olive Oil), a tourist and cultural venture passes through the towns of Alcaudete, Martos, Torredonjimeno, Torredelcampo and Jaen using an old railroad route for practising outdoor sport. The Via Verde starts at the town of Purcuna bordering the province of Cordoba.
The Guadalquivir river has its origins in the mountains of the Natural Park of the Sierras Cazorla, Segura and las Villas amid a green oasis located in the eastern part of the province and is the largest protected reserve of its kind in Spain.
This mountain wilderness is a refuge for golden eagles and tawny vultures and home to wild boar, deer, fallow deer and the Spanish Ibex and boasts many species of native plants.
One entrance to the park is at the town of Cazorla which has an impressive castle built by the Knights Templar as was the neighboring castle at La Ireula. The park crowns the Puerto de las Palomas where a panoramic view of the valley is afforded from the overlook.
The Segura Mountains are the largest in the area and the El Tranco reservoirs mark the way to towns with deep-rooted Arabic influences such as Hornos de Segura and Segura de la Sierra, crowned by Moorish castles.
In the northern part of the province the mountains of Despenaperros rise and extend westward to the Sierra Morena and in the south the Sierra Magina borders Granada province.
The Caliphate Route of the cultural project to promote Islamic legacy, El Legado Andalusi, connecting the cities of Cordoba and Granada, cuts through the southern part of the province and this route, which recalls the ancient frontiers of Islamic Spain, runs through mountainous landscapes.
Alcaudete is off on one side near the nature reserves of Honda and Chinche lagoons, where crowning the high quarter of the town is a castle of Moorish origin.
30 kms away is the town of Martos set amid endless olive groves at the base of an imposing cliff, formerly inhabited by Iberian tribes. The municipality produces more olive oil than anywhere else in the world and celebrates the Olive Fiesta where you can witness the process of extracting the first olive oil of the year and see villagers dressed in regional costumes of bygone era.
Holy Week has been declared of National Tourist Interest in Andalusia and is very emotional. Martos is proud of its' Renaissance town hall and 15th century Church Santa Maria with a sepulchre of San Amador, a saint born in the village. The Church of San Juan de Dios, Convent of the Trinity and the Palacio del Cabeldo are worth visiting and next to the park is the Fuente Nueva, a Renaissance fountain. The Via Verde del Aceite, (Green Way of Olive Oil) passes through the town.
Fuensanta de Martos is a little village right in the centre of the Southern Sierra region nestling between rolling countryside to the north and west and mountains to the south and east. The area is mainly given over to olive farming and another important economic activity is raising pigs - the village is the 3rd largest producer in the province.
Furniture upholstering is another activity creating numerous jobs in the area. The Church of Nuestra de la Fuensanta was built in the Renaissance style in the 16th century and is a fine example of the villages' historical past.
There is so much more to see in the province of Jaen. As you travel around go off the beaten track to visit the small towns & villages where life appears to have stood still.