Sierra de Cazorla, also known as Alto Guadalquivir or Cazorla Region, is a region belonging to the province of Jaén. With an extension of more than 1300 km2, it is part of the Sierras de Cazorla, Segura and Las Villas Natural Park.
The region of the Sierra de Cazorla has an economy based primarily on rural tourism and agriculture. Rural tourism takes place mainly in the municipality of Cazorla, its surroundings and the interior of the Sierras de Cazorla, Segura and Las Villas Natural Park. On the other hand, agriculture is mostly present because of the olive grove, present in almost all the territory, and for orchards and crops such as asparagus in places near the rivers.
Inside the Sierra de Cazorla are the municipalities of Santo Tomé, Chilluévar, La Iruela, Cazorla, Peal de Becerro, Quesada, Pozo Alcón, Hinojares and Huesa, and within these there are important towns and districts such as Burunchel and Arroyo Frío.
To better analyze the historical sites of the Sierra de Cazorla, we are going to see municipality by municipality the most outstanding aspects so that you can build a scheme of the most important architectural heritage of the region. For this we will go through the Sierra de Cazorla from north to south.
First and further north, we find the Santo Tomé municipality, where you can see the bell tower of the Church of Saint Tomás from the 14th century, which fulfills defensive functions as a watchtower but joined the church with the formation of the town. Another interesting construction to appreciate is the Casa Grande from the 16th century, which in 1997 was included in the General Catalog of Andalusian Historical Heritage.
Secondly, Chilluévar is located, to show you the Parish Church of Our Lady of Peace, the Roman road and the Roman bridge, that is located on the Cañamares river, and the archaeological remains of the Roman site of Los Almansas.
Continuing south inside the Sierra de Cazorla, you will find the municipality of La Iruela. In this municipality the Castle of La Iruela stands out of Almohad origin and declared in 1985 Historical Monument, and the Church of Saint Domingo of the XVI century and of Renaissance origin.
In the municipality that gives its name to the Sierra de Cazorla, Cazorla, will present as a jewel of its heritage the Castle of the Yedra of Arab origin in the Cerro de Salvatierra and, in a second place, the Castle of the Five Corners of the century XIV crowning that same hill.
In Peal de Becerro, the most characteristic monument is that of the sepulchral chamber of La Toya, which is considered one of the most important Iberian constructions discovered.
Going already to the southern half of the Sierra de Cazorla, is the municipality of Quesada, which contains different caves with rock art for its municipal term, the ruins of the Roman Villa of Bruñel, the castle of Tíscar or the Arch of the Saints.
In Pozo Alcón it is worth noting the Parish of Our Lady of the Incarnation, located in the center of the town.
At the end of the region of the Sierra de Cazorla you will see the municipality of Hinojares, where you can see its characteristic Iberian settlement of the Castellones de Ceal.
Finally, we have Huesa, where we must highlight the Parish Church Our Lady of the Head, but it also houses places such as Los Rincones, Cerro Negro, Olivar de Brazo Fuerte and Molino Harinero el Gato.
Regarding the natural heritage of the Sierra de Cazorla, the most notable is the Sierras de Cazorla, Segura and Las Villas Natural Park. This natural park that is located northeast of the province of Jaén occupying an area of 214,300 hectares and is that it is the largest protected area in Spain and the second in Europe.
The Sierras de Cazorla, Segura and Las Villas Natural Park has been declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1983 and Special Protection Area (SPA) in 1987. It is within the Prebaetic System, coming to join with Sierra Morena in its easternmost part. It makes up 40% of the Sierra de Cazorla region, 90% of the Sierra de Segura region and part of the Las Villas region.
In its interior this natural park preserves different natural sites such as the Cerrada de Elías or the Salto de los Órganos in the Borosa river, La Toba next to the Segura river and the Anguijones Caves in the Sierra de Segura.
Regarding the flora of the Sierras de Cazorla, Segura and Las Villas Natural Park, it should be noted that in its interior there is the highest concentration of pine forests in Spain and among them the longest specimen in Europe, between 1500 and 2000 years. On the other hand, there are other species such as the olive tree, some with more than 1000 years of history.
When it comes to wildlife, the most representative animal was the ibex, although its population decreased at the beginning of the 20th century due to hunting. Other mammals that you can find are deer, wild boar, fallow deer and mouflon. Among the birds stand out the griffon vulture, the golden eagle and the bearded vulture. And in reptiles Valverde lizard and snout viper.
Most of the customs and traditions that exist in the world have been transmitted between generations, and in the Sierra de Cazorla it was not going to be less. These customs and traditions are generally influenced by religion. Today, many of them are at risk of disappearance, mainly affected by the effect of globalization.
In general, in most of the region the festivities stand out in relation to fire or bonfires, but depending on the town you are in the Sierra de Cazorla, you can find some customs or others.
In Cazorla there are some traditions such as the “caracoladas” of Saint Isicio, where representations of snail shells filled with oil and a wick are used to light them with the saint; the entrance of the sheep, auctioned in the pilgrimage of the Virgin of the Head; the procession of Christ of Consuelo; and the entrance of the wheat, custom of profane character.
As a common tradition of the Sierra de Cazorla, but especially in Santo Tomé and Chilluévar, is the festivity of Saint Isidro, typical in the rural environment and patron of the farmers.
In smaller municipalities such as Hinojares you can find customs that come from far behind, such as the Saint Marcos festival. A cake is hung on his hand reflecting collective charity, distributing many others among those present. This celebration is also typical of Peal de Becerro where it is also customary to wet the saint and those who procession him.
In Huesa, the day of Saint Silvestre is traditional, where the charges of its procession are raffled among the candidates who request it and who are dressed in military clothes of the 18th century. Very similar to this is the festivity of the “God Boy” of Quesada, in which the charges are also distributed among the applicants.
The pilgrimage of the Virgin of Tíscar is one of the most attractive in the Sierra de Cazorla. It should be noted the wait of the virgin by the inhabitants of Quesada in the Cruz del Humilladero.
In general, there are different customs and traditional celebrations in the different places of the Sierra de Cazorla, which are mainly based on performing games, dances and craft activities, remembering extinct professions, dressing in traditional clothes and enjoying the typical cuisine.
In the region of the Sierra de Cazorla you can enjoy within the population centers, the different museums among which you will find some to learn more about the customs and traditions of this region and each municipality, as well as guided visits by the different villages and their most interesting places.
On the other hand, you can take advantage of the wide natural environment for sports activities such as hiking, climbing a via ferrata, canoeing, horse riding, canyoning, etc. And in the case that you prefer more recreational activities instead of sports you can take advantage of the Sierra de Cazorla to enjoy gifts of nature such as the bellow.