[Spain] Sierra de Aracena: Hiking and Jamón

Just got here early this evening! Sierra de Arecena is one of the least visited corners of Spain. I’m basing myself in a small sierra village and later a small town half an hour away. The 2 main things to do here (for me) are hiking and eating Iberico pork.

After 4 buses from Taviria, Portugal I’ve reached Alajar (pronounced “Ah-la-hah”). A village with a population of about 800. It’s so quiet here after very busy, touristy Tavira. I feel like my old self again being surrounded by nature and silence.

After the 3rd bus I had an hour to kill before catching another one. This was lunch. Just jamón, bread, olives and beer.

More beer at the “station” before boarding the bus, which was right in front of me. There’s no real bus station, buses park next to a bar and you pay the driver when you get on the bus. The mountain road is so narrow, 2 vehicles can barely pass each other at the same time. Both have to slow down as they pass. Endless curves and bends all the way. It’s not far but you can’t drive fast because of all this. The driver was careful and I felt safe. Unlike in Morocco. The mountain road and impatient drivers gave me a fright of my life.

Everything in this whole area is about Jamón. This is a supermarket.

In Alajar now. Nobody on the street. Sometimes you see a very elderly person walks around and they walk like a boss. Without any aid. Like in Okinawa.

Key in a door.

View from my lodging. Gonna hike up the arch one of these days. That’s where you get a nice view of this village.

Whilst waiting for the only restaurant that’s open on weekday to open for dinner. Drinking craft beers from Aracena by the pool at my lodging.

As soon as the restaurant is open for dinner…

Tomatoes are seasoned with coarse salt, oil and I think maybe a splash of vinegar.

Sabores de la sierra.

I think it’s the fillet cut.

My lodging comes with breakfast deal so I have to get up on time. Hate it but I have to also be on time for hiking. Too late in the day and it will be too hot.


I’ve been hiking every day since I got here. So dead by the time I got back and only have enough energy to drink beer.

Did an 8 hour hike on the first day, the longest trail in this area. About 37km in total but I did 27km (16 miles?). My my, how things have changed. In the old days the rich had cars and you had donkeys or horses. Now the rich have horses and almost everyone has a car or can afford one. You walked long distances (maybe with your horse or mule carrying things for you) because you had to. Now you hike for pleasure. Not to mention it costs more and sometimes some hassles to get to places you want to do walking/hiking and to be surrounded by nature (unless you live in the Alps or Nordic countries).

Took about 30 mins to walk up here for marvellous views of my base village. Just asked the owner of my lodging this morning, the population is still around 700.

Where I took the above photo of the village

I like this weathervane in a hamlet I was passing through. Btw, some hamlets are so downright eerily “spooky”!

People be like “why don’t you just take the bus or drive?”! For this route I had to walk there and back because the bus only goes once a day at a certain god-forsaken scheduled time. Also, I would have to go to another town to take the bus and there’s no bus to get back.

Finally reached the border of Jabugo village.

Years ago whilst on holiday in Portugal where I had my first taste of exquisite Jamón Ibérico de Jabugo. I looked it up and said one day I’d go there. So here I am making my Jamón dream come true.


Even the village’s square is called ham. Jabugo is famous for the hams. Most residents work in the ham producing industry. There’s no hotel, or B&B or any kind of lodging. You come here on a day trip by car or in my case, walking.

A typical empty street like in most sierra villages. This one is very long.

Ham specialist shops are full of hanging hams of all price levels. This is just a few.

Lunch break now. First a plate of hand-carved ham in one of the most famoust ham producing towns in all of Spain.

Ham is in a lot of things. This is chips with fried egg topped with ham. “Sartena” on the receipt.

“Presa” is a shoulder cut. Some sites say shoulder loin. Very juicy. Note that Spanish love chips (fries) and they are served with most meals. I prefer plain boiled potatoes half the time but haven’t seen that option here yet.

For dinner I had more hams and nice hard sheep’s cheese bought in Jabugo. We could managed to finish 1 package of ham.


Start and end of hiking trails are well marked but sometimes there’s no sign at a junction, and if you don’t have a phone with map and GPS it could be tricky.

There’s also always this board with trail and flora/fauna etc info.


The first hamlet I reached on this route

It’s tiny and eerily “spooky”. It gave me goose bumps. No cobbled paths, just bare earth.

Houses are a lot smaller and have different styles. Actually, I went there again this afternoon and had a better look around. Time stands still in this hamlet.

The next village is pretty Linares. Has about 300 inhabitants an a Michelin restaurant. I didn’t even know and didn’t care but went there anyway.

Seen from a distance

Just like my base village Alajar, Linares has mosaic in front of every house. Each house has a different mosaic design. The step shows path is steep. Living in the mountains you walk up and down all day. Not many spots are flat.

Typical narrow cobbled path and typical two-toned grey and stark white houses.

Restaurant I happened to see whilst wandering round


We were the only ones in there because we were “early”. The Spanish arrived at 3pm.

The employee explained the menu of the day and we ordered a couple of things.

Boiled potatoes marinated in stock. What I thought how they had been done. This came before the tomatoes and ham and we didn’t even order it.

Of course jamon and tomatoes.


No sense of plating and styling for the 2 main courses.

Pluma is an extremely high fat cut, the Wagyu of pork. Minced pluma with mushrooms. I cut one open to make the photo look a bit interesting that’s all.

We sat outside because it was so dark inside

Interior of the restaurant




Every time I try something a bit fancy I like the local cheap and cheerful places more. But am always glad I give something different a go.

Btw, these explain the Iberian cuts of pork. I also found out cuts such as pluma and secreto can be pale. That’s due to them being either being less used and hidden in the fat.



On the trail to Fuenteheridos village. Population is about 700, like my base village Alajar but not as pretty.

Some trails begin as a small path and not easily spotted.

There’s always something to see along the hiking trail. Locals are crazy about wild mushrooms but someone has sliced a small one open and left the rest behind. One is huge. At first I thought it was boletus but apparently it wasn’t that’s why it was sliced and left behind. Probably toxic kind.

Common to see Andalucian horses on the farms. They always come to you and walk along the fence looking at you until you are out of sight.

What has happened to my knight? Only his white horse made it back.

If you are lucky you see them closer to the fence. I did today but this photo was taken the other day.

Each pig requires a space the size of a football field and the farm must have at least 80% of acorn producing trees. Regulations and controls are strict. The outstanding taste in Iberian pork products is the proof.

Lunch in Fuenteheridos. We can’t have enough of the tomatoes and ham.


Thought I’d try something differerent. Spinach with chickpeas is an Andalucian classic. Though, I would never dream of cooking my spinach to death.

“Secreto” is a super succulent cut of pork.

Some beers I’ve been drinking. This one has a taste of acorn, aparently.

The IPA came with me from Portugal.


Wonderful travelogue, Presunto. Glorious photos!


Many thanks, Jimmy!

This was on a hike to Aracena, the biggest town in the area and is also a transport hub. Coming from a place with a population of 700 to 8000 almost did my head in. Having not seen a face all day and then so many people and too noisy everywhere. We were happy to F off back to Alajar right after lunch.

First time eating seafood since Portugal. Sweet and meaty cockles.

Rosa tomatoes. Just saw the price per kilo of these tomatoes in the supermarket here in Aracena. More expensive than most other varieties.

Had no idea what it was and wanted to find out.

Looked it up later and turned out Flamequin is common in Cordoba. Here they do the same but using Jamón Ibérico. Basically, deep-fried ham.

To get to Aracena one has to pass through pretty Linares (second time for us).

Population 300 and is popular with hikers. They all come here wherever they stay in this area. I think it’s more pretty than Alajar.

Typical sun-drenched stark white houses and empty narrow lanes.

There are key holes and there are Spanish old door key holes. Even a key hole wants to be noticed!

Back in my base village, there’s someone who drives round selling fresh fruits and produce.

Only in Alajar and Linares where you see these mosaic designs in front of every house. This design is the symbol of the village.


A new flavour to me. Spaniards love fried eggs in savoury meals. I would never have thought to make crisps with taste of fried eggs. Just got a bag, gonna try it later tonight.


Finally a proper dinner at one of the village’s restaurants. There are 4, 3 of which are only open from Fri-Sun and lunch only on Sun. It’s not profitable to open on weekdays simply because most visitors come here at weekends.

Craft beer from a nearby village (Fuenteheridos).


The best tomatoes and olive oil so far. We returned the following evening just to eat them. Sweet, flavourful tomatoes. Olive oil is the most “powerful” I’ve ever had. Very strong and peppery. Perhaps even bitter to those who are sensitive to bitter but I have a high tolerance for bitter so it was super delicious to me.

Assorted Ibérico charcuterie, all exceptionally delicious. Left to right: Jamón, lomo (loin), morcilla (blood sausage), and chorizo. (Note that in Spain you pronounce “c” as “th”. So you say “choritho”, “grathias” etc etc. A beautiful sounding language.)

Can a cut of pork be more succulent and juicy? Yes, the “pluma” is that cut. The Wagyu of pork, the most prized cut in Spain. Can a meal be more rich? This restaurant thinks so. The pluma comes with a thin disc of foie.

I’ve found another chart of Ibérico cuts of pork

Here’s a quick description of 3 popular cuts again

The restaurant is housed inside an old mill



They have the loin cooks sous vide


Charcuterie and cheese


Most visited restaurant in the village. Every tourist makes sure they get a table here. Padrino has his own pigs. It’s quite normal that some restaurants and bars around here have their own pigs, meat and hams.

They have wild mushrooms by the entrance but somehow I missed it.

The first 3 things I always want to eat in Spain are tomatoes, olive oil and ham. Most tourists are Spaniards and they want to eat the best, or very good quality of these 3 ingredients. So if you run a restaurant catering to these tourists then you’d better have the good stuff.

Padrino’s own Jamón Ibérico.

Chard stuffed with Ibérico mince.


Slice of ham was on top of the shoulder steak, which I had moved aside to make this photo.

Super juicy and tender shoulder cut

Pine nut trees are common in the area. I was thinking of a softer flan surrounded by a pool of caramel.

Breakfast at my lodging. I tried everything on the first morning, but after that I only ate bread with olive oils.


The unfiltered oil is the best.

Saves for the butter everything is homemade. 2 dishes in the foreground are (chicken) liver pâté and Schmalz (rendered Ibérico pork fat).

The IPA is OK but the pale ale is rubbish.



Some photos around my base village.

A pair of very elderly people who often sits in front of their house late in the afternoon, either in the shadow or when the sun is about to set. My lodging is at the end of the street so I see them every day…

When bags of nuts are hung outside they are at home. During siesta they don’t close the door completely.

The elderly señora always says hello and tries to talk to us. One day I decided to come inside to see what she sells. This is all the stuff she sells in her living room. I bought a bag of oregano to eat with tomatoes. My rucksack is already full of charcuterie, honey and olive oil.

And one tomato

Post office operating hours:

It was Saturday, lots of domestic tourists came to the lookout. Some locals sell things from their gardens or things they have made themselves.

Homemade sweets

More homemade things in plastic containers

There’s more to Spanish cheese than Manchego. These are from this area alone. Mostly sheep’s and goat’s cheeses. Cow’s cheese is not common around here.

And honeys from the area besides cheese.

99% of tourists coming by car to the lookout don’t hike to the other lookout. It’s a continuous ascend, rocky at some parts.

Rosemary bushes everywhere along the trail.

Finally, the lookout. We were all alone.

The circle is the arch where all the tourists hang around. At this height it blends into the whole village below but in reality it’s half way between the village and where I was standing.

Best views of the village and the Sierra up here. My hiking shoes are falling apart, more with every trip.


Lunch at Bar Roman, one of the village’s watering holes. The bar has their own pigs.



Pisto is a vegetable stew

Other places in Spain have albondigas/meatballs. In the Sierra de la Aracena they have albóndigas ibéricas/Iberico pork meatballs.

The bill

Have been in Sevilla for 3 nights now and I deeply regret being here longer than 1 night. It’s either a nuthouse or I am a mental case. Should have stayed in the Sierra the whole time.

On the bus to Sevilla I saw 32C on the temperature display and my stomach sank. It’s so hot and super touristy here. OMFG. Air quality is bad. How bad? I’ve lost my voice, my eyes are sore and I have some difficulty breathing.

The eating culture and extroverted culture are both huge. If you are an extrovert who loves eating out you would absolutely love it here.


We were taken on a private tour to a pig farm and a place where they hang the legs to cure. If you see pigs near the fence and want them to come closer just throw acorns over the fence.

3 sows and their piglets quickly came to the fence when they heard the sound of acorns falling onto the ground.

Fat being cure

Black label indicates 100% acorn fed Ibérico pig

Ibérico pigs have slender ballerina ankles, unlike white pigs.

There are more legs but this photo is brightest and clearest

Carving session



Not all Ibérico hams and meat are equal. This chart explains it. Ever since I’ve learnt about the classification of Ibérico hams I always check to see what kind of colour tag the leg has. Each leg should have a tag intact.


I liked the tomatoes and oil at this restaurant so I came back the following evening just to eat them again.

The employee went to the kitchen and brought the oil to show me then doused the tomatoes in more oil.

From a hike on the same day:

The pigs were under the trees back there but it’s not hard to get them to come to the fence. Just throw acorns over the fence.

Walked through this “primitive” hamlet again on today’s route. The B&B owner told me they want to remain “primitive” and unchanged.


Life from death. A new tree grows out of a dead, hollow oak stump. You see it all the time here.

The most common trees in this part of Spain, all 3 types of oak trees. Bark is removed every 10 years or so and is done manually. Men use ladders to get up the tree, peel the bark, then the donkeys take it away. It’s hard work. The terrain is vast and much of it is steep slopes. Every time you drink wine with a real cork I hope you appreciate it. We don’t need plastic corks to pollute even more.

Close-up of the bark layers

2 more bottles of wine we drank. Both are produced locally.

My village Alajar has a row of iron rings on the houses. Usually just 1 ring on each side of the door. In the old days you would tie your horse to the ring.


One last hike before getting a lift to the next town later in the afternoon.

In the Sierra I walked between silent farms, here in Sevilla I walk between loud, perfume-drenched tourists and locals.

At first only 1 piglet noticed me. Then shortly after the whole family came to the fence. The trick is to let them see you have acorns but don’t throw them over the fence yet.


3 different types of acorn are grown here and they are vital to the land and economy. It’s bad that these days the acorns fall on the ground so soon and so young. It’s been so dry and the lack of rain is worrisome.

Last look at Andalusian silent landscape

Heading back to the village for the last time

Last look at the village’s caves and the lookouts

Last lunch in Alajar, at the village’s other watering hole.


Finally, got to try this cut “lagarto”, meaning lizard, a long piece of meat.

Location of lagarto


Moved on the Aracena after Alajar.

The biggest key hole on a massive church door

A delicatessen has fresh wild mushrooms. It’s still very hot and dry so not sure where exactly they came from.

No more violence of any kind, period.

Already did my shopping at the big supermarket next door but I wanted to check out Lidl anyway. Puts our Lidl at home to shame.

Shopping trolleys come in 2 sizes


Ready to eat octopus.

Cooked hake roe available year round. I guess they cook and vacuum seal them all when in season. Here I only get roe in the winter.

Brawn and duck liver foie gras on top shelf.

Iberico pork cuts in the fridge


Fried egg flavoured crisps. I bought a bag. This flavour is very common, all the brands have it.

Even cockle or clam flavour

Frozen shellfish


2 hour lunch of pork. Good tomatoes and best jamon.

Piece of loin and 3 ribs. I have been refraining from ordering the loin (not my favourite cut) but had to try it at least once. It was still moist and tender thanks to the high fat content.

Trotters. Surprisingly bony.

Top notch jamon. Cinco Jotas is the most famous jamon producer in Jabugo. “5J” is the highest grade, and “J” stands for Jabugo.

Good restaurants have a bunch of different types of olive oil for you to try. When you mop up all the oil in the tomatoes you can try a different oil. Or for in your salad, for your bread, potatoes etc.

It was a quiet afternoon, the cook and I had a chat then he showed me around his kitchen. Posing for me with his hams.

Jose Vincente’s restaurant is well known by the locals and people from other sierra villages. He only uses good material. Asked if I liked the tomatoes. I did. Said he used good tomatoes and even skinned them. He does all the cooking and is the only one running the kitchen. His sons will take over when he has pension (I asked).

Proud cook/owner and his sons (one in the foreground acted is our translator).

We always ate such big lunches and dinner was only something simple. More drinking than eating.


White thing is queso fresco


Estupendo! Pig Heaven! Every pig should be raised like this!

Thanks for sharing. So Beautiful!

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So hot and dry, but that’s not all. The hills in Aracena are steep. Trust me you’ll get tired fast. At home they say “keep busy and get as much done as possible in a day”. In hot countries they do the complete opposite and for good reason.

We went to see the cave that makes this small town of 8000 famous. I don’t usually like caves but this one left me gasping. Each hall stunned me into silence with its natural beauty and brilliance. Absolutely mind-blowing how nature can create such marvels. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside the cave. It’s dark in there anyway. Also, only a group of 35 can enter the cave at a time. Most tourists come by coaches from Sevilla to see it then they go right back.


We also visited the Jamon museum of course. I had Jinhua ham in Kumming, China. You don’t have to even try it. Salty and one dimensional. Don’t care for Italian, Belgian and French versions, either. I like German and Austrian. Portuguese is OK.

Jamones from Jabugo is the cream of the crop. I recognise the Sierra villages listed in bottom photo. Some I don’t know because they are located in Extremadura, which is not so far from the Sierra.

Jamones are another reason many domestic tourists come to Aracena for.

Lunch at a place we like. Opened at 1pm and we were the first to arrive. Spaniards don’t come that early. They always bring us a plate of something when we sit down. We got a small plate of Rosa tomatoes.

Their freshly cooked chips are also good, as is the cider from Asturia. Dry and not sweet. I hate sweet cider. More people arrived and they all got the freshly cooked chips.

Super ripe and juicy Rosa tomatoes

Jamon because it’s Jamon heartland

Black label. 100% Iberico de bellota.

Pluma, the Wagyu of pork.



Last day in Aracena. We went walking around one last time and had lunch before going to the bus station.

The castle seen from my neighbourhood. The arch is the symbol of the town. The magnificient cave is 100 metres directly under the castle.


Cheese tasting at a cheese shop, also owned by the cheesemaker herself. All cheeses come from around here in the Sierra.

Went back to the hotel to pick up our bags and walked up the hill to the bus station. Our lunch restaurant is near the station and we ate here only the other day. They eat green tomatoes here, too. This small plate was brought to us as soon as we ordered the beer.

Top notch Jamon again of course

Server asked if we were sharing the main course. The chef put 2 identical portions on different plates. Half the portion was already too much for one person. Presa is one of the most popular succulent Iberico cuts. A piece of crispy fried Iberico fat on top of the meat. The chef, Jose Vincente, doesn’t care for drama on a plate. He simply puts everything on the plate.

Red like a medium rare steak but tastes like pork. Jose only sources the best ingredients available.

We made it to Seville, dropped off the bags and went straight to the craft beer bar across the street. The main reason I booked the lodging.

My favourite styles:

Rio Azul is from Sevilla. Their tasting room is not anywhere near the centre, however, so we drank all we could in town.

The bar finally opened and we were some of the first people to arrive. They all sat outside inhaling exhaust.

This bar has the most taps in town. Unfortunately, sometimes 1/3 of the taps are not working.

Enough bottles if there’s nothing good on tap or when they don’t work.

Went to another beer place nearby. It was already dark by now.

It’s so dark inside also. Couldn’t even take a photo of the sign in this darkness. I ordered number 1 and 3.

Actually a tiny, tiny book shop. They quickly learnt they’d make a better living selling craft beers, not books. Notice there’s also booze sold here in a book shop.

Finally got seats inside half way through. Sitting on a stool on the pavement was not comfortable. That’s about all the books they have in the shop.

I wanted to go back to the first bar but the partner reminded me we had food back in the room. This popular bar is around the corner from us and it’s always so crowded. At night people basically stand on the street and wherever they can squeeze in.

And another bar across the street from it. I smelt the cheese from the street. These cheese wheels take half the space of the counter in the tiny bar.

Picnic in the room. Queso fresco in plastic cups. We don’t have queso fresco at home in land of rubber cheese. Tinned seafood came with me from Tavira, Portugal. Honey from the Sierra. Fried egg flavoured crisps are very common in Spain.


Sevilla is extremely touristy and air quality is poor. By the end of today I lost my voice and had some breathing difficulty. I’m like an instrument for measuring air quality. Anyway, it’s very hard to find a quiet spot for photos. All the attractions are heaving with tourists. We tried to get into Alcazar palace but failed all 3 times. The queue was long and there’s a limit of visitors, plus the hours it stays open.

30C and overcast is no good for photos




We checked out 2 markets and now it’s time for lunch. After 10 days of good tomatoes in the Sierra the same thing they serve in was not on the same level.

I felt it immediately in my wallet. The same meal in the Algarve, Portugal costs half the price, and food tax is higher in Portugal (in Sevilla food tax is 10%).


Walked around some more in the heat. With so many people everywhere we got tired real fast. Too bad that the craft beer bars are mostly open in the evening. Some are open a couple of hours in the afternoon only, then re-open in the evening. Industrial mass-produced beer Cruzcampo can be had any time and everywhere.

Made a mistake with the pointed finger. It’s supposed to be strawberry Berliner Weisse (number 3 on the chalk board).

Then back to the bar across the street from my lodging


Dinner in the room again

Oh yeah, I found 2 more flavours of Lay’s “Gourmet” range. Expensive! “Truffle” and “cream cheese & caramelised onions”. The “Gourmet” crisps are super crunchy and the flavours are subtle. I think you pay the extra for the fancy packaging, that’s all.



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