Hidden Corners of Natural Beauty
Imposing rural geography of the mountains of the Sierras, with thickly wooded with cork oaks and where the famous black Serrano ham pigs graze beneath the sweet chestnut and Holm trees.
The mountains of the Sierra Norte, are named for being situated north of the province of Seville, (90 km from the city). At its highest point, the mountains reach 962m (Cerro de la Capitana), and mostly have a soft, rolling rounded shape. There are two main rivers running through the area, the Odiel and Murtigas. At 177,484 ha, it is one of the largest protected areas in Andalusia.
Two very scenic sites not to miss are the Huesna River Waterfalls and El Cerro de Hierro that have both been declared as national heritage sites. El Cerro de Hierro has been used since Roman times for iron mining, and the nearby waterfalls are surrounded by breath taking woodland, ideal for picnics.
Within the central section of the Sierra Morena lies the National Park, the land is rich in archaeological sites, including a Roman necropolis and megalithic tombs. In the caves of Santiago, Cazalla de la Sierra various species of bats can still be seen.
There are large forests of Holm Oak, which produce cork and acorns to feed the Iberian pigs, which adds to the ham’s unique flavour. The wood also makes exceptional charcoal.
The clearings in the forest are known as “dehesas” and cover approximately one third of the park. Dehesas are used as open pasture land for the grazing of both cattle and the black or brown Iberian pigs. Because of the dehesas, in 2002 the park was recognised as a part of the Unesco biosphere reserve.
Birdlife and Other Animals
Wild animals commonly found in the area include deer and wild boar which are hunted within the park. Hunting permits are available, and permits for fishing trout. You may also catch sight of lynx, foxes, polecats, badgers, mongoose, otters, hares, rabbits and the shy mountain cat. Birdlife abounds in the park, including the imperial eagle, black vulture, black stork and the dipper.
Other birds of prey which can be spotted are red kites, eagle owls and Bonelli’s eagles, The woodland areas are inhabited by golden orioles, hawfinches and blue winged magpies. There are a wide variety of butterflies within the park, many of which are endangered species.
Activities and Gastronomy
Numerous activities are available to the visitor, from rock climbing, water sports (including canoeing), horse trekking, photography, caving and hiking or bicycle tours.
The gastronomy of this region reflects the delicious game readily available. Many dishes containing rabbit, venison, wild boar and partridge are always available. ‘Migas’ (fried spicy breadcrumbs) are a delicious dish not to be missed. The Iberian pork produces excellent ham and sausages.
Sweet treats are offered in La Puebla de los Infantes, including olive oil tarts, aniseed twists and sponge cakes, which are baked according to age old recipes. During the autumn the local bars and restaurants specialise in offering a variety of tasty wild mushrooms picked locally. The wine particular to this area is the famous Vino de la Tierra Sierra Norte de Sevilla.
The villages and towns are few, but well worth a visit to admire their narrow, steep Moorish cobbled streets. If you wished to spend longer than a day trip, there is a variety of accommodation on offer from camping to hotels.
Visitor Centre “El Robledo”
Details of activities and an exhibition about the park can be found at the visitors centre called El Robledo, which sits between Constantina and El Pedroso. Here you can find information on all the activities available and a map of the park.
The centre also houses a botanical garden, exhibiting many of the plants, which can be found living wild in the park. A second visitor’s centre is to the west of the park, close to Almaden de la Plata where silver was once mined, and this has a picnic area and restaurant.