Sierra de Cazorla, also called Alto Guadalquivir or Comarca de Cazorla, is the name of a region in the province of Jaen. A significant part of its territory is part of Sierra de Cazorla, Segura and Las Villas Natural Park, which with an area of 214,336 hectares is the largest protected area in Spain and the second in Europe. It has been declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO since 1983, a Nature Park since 1986, and a Special Protection Area for Birds (ZEPA) since 1987. All its scenic beauty and biological richness join the cultural heritage that exists in this area. a place that makes its surroundings one of the most visited natural areas in all of Spain.
Theirs the fauna is rich and diverse, highlighting the large herd of deer, mountain goats and wild boar, as well as important populations of mouflon and fallow deer, the latter two introduced for hunting purposes. The mountain goat is one of the emblematic animals of the park, but its population was greatly reduced in the early 20th century due to hunting. Among the birds, the bald eagle and the golden eagle stand out, as well as the bearded vulture, which is in the process of re-introduction. Many of these animals can be seen on walks in the area, which has many marked and safe routes.
The economy of the region is mainly based on two pillars: Tourism (mostly rural) and agriculture. The first is found in greater quantity in Cazorla and in the surroundings and interior of the natural park. Meanwhile, agriculture is found in the rest of the territory, emphasizing the cultivation of olive groves. This allowed the development of oil tourism, a new model of sustainable tourism that was born with the aim of conveying the excellence of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) and making the culture of the olive tree known. And what better context than this, since Jaén is the world’s leading producer of olive oil. “Oleoturismo Cazorla” offers visitors the best scenario for this with a varied offer related to olive groves and oil: museums, oil mills, specialized restaurants, rural accommodation, tastings and oil tastings and even an Oil Thematic Center and Spa Oleo Salud, where you can enjoy massages, wraps, baths and body scrubs with EVOO, as well as other relaxing and healthy treatments.
But apart from that, in the region we have a rich cultural offer, just walking around its ancient cities (some even ancient). Unforgettable enclaves for tourists are Castillo de la Yedra and the Museum of Arts and Customs, the ruins of Santa Maria or Mirador de Zabaleta, in the municipality of Cazorla itself, or Castillo de La Iruela, a beautiful town about 5 kilometers from Cazorla.
What and where to eat?
Apparently the gastronomy of the area has olive oil as a reference, game meat or Segureño lamb (IGP) and fish offered by Guadalquivir, and you will find many restaurants, for all budgets, with a rich gastronomic offer. But since we’re on vacation, we’ll talk about where to treat ourselves to a small and sophisticated culinary treat.
This is the Hotel Spa Coto del Valle, a 4-star complex for rural tourism, in the heart of the natural park, about 20 kilometers from the municipality of Cazorla. An incomparable place to rest and enjoy nature.
On the restaurant’s menu, we can find specialties such as partridge and deer pâté bonbons with apple coulis and mango vinaigrette; mushrooms and candied mushrooms with Sierra flavor and goat cheese crumbles; Segureño sweet lamb confit with thyme and rosemary oil; fried venison sausages with Padrón peppers; grilled venison with Cumberland sauce; fallow deer stew with mushrooms; marinade for big game; trout blocks with Serrano marinade; or trout tataki from Aguasmulas.
And for those of us who do not miss exploring a wine region, if we have it nearby, from Cazorla we only have to travel a few 30 kilometers to get to Torreperogil, a municipality that gives its name to the protected geographical indication that we suggest you discover. There is documentary evidence that viticulture existed as far back as Roman times in Torreperogil. Even under Muslim rule. Since the beginning of its cultivation, grapes are not only consumed as a dessert in their fresh and natural state, but their raisins are also used to enrich the most pretentious pantries, being a preferred dessert during the long winters. Musta converted into “arrope” – from Spanish Arabic scruband that from classical Arabic scrub or mostillo-, was also used to make must cakes that were the delight of the most discerning diners, the grapes of the Torreperogil vineyards were converted almost entirely to the production of white or red wine, which, as it was put on sale, tried by the Muslims, both Jews and Christians. By the time of the constable of Castile, Lucas Iranzo, in the 15th century, Torreperogil wines had already achieved great fame as they were consumed in the inns and taverns of the municipality, transported by mule trains in skins or leather containers. It would be in the 16th century when Jaén wines consolidated and gained more prestige. It was in 1890 that the terrible epidemic of phylloxera appeared in the province of Jaén, which caused almost all the plantations to disappear, but little by little the cultivation of American crack was restored. In 1956, the SCA Nuestra Señora de la Misericordia was founded with the intention of uniting the many vintners in the area, becoming a driving force behind the development of the viticultural sector in the region.
In 2009, the use of the Certified Quality mark was authorized for wines covered by the Vinos de la Tierra de Torreperogil designation. Finally in 2011 the mention Wines from the land of Torreperogil it adapts to current European regulations, becoming a protected geographical indication.
So don’t think about it: nature, relaxation, gastronomy and health. Quite a vacation plan.