JAEN is the gateway to ANDALUCIA in the heart of the Sierra de Cazorla, Segura & Las Vilas. 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 economy of the province is based on agricultural around olives and olive oil, and the interior on tourism.
The city of JAEN is located in the foothills of the Sierra Magina, the craggy heights of Santa Catalina castle, a former Arab stronghold and looms over the city and at the foot of the castle lays the OLD TOWN, where the narrow, rambling streets are full of Arab influence. To fully appreciate this beautiful city, start by walking at the PLAZA DE LA MAGDALENA, continue on to Calle Santo Domingo where you will find the PALACIO DE VILLARDOMPARDO, where underneath are remains of Arab baths, unique in Spain for their design and preservation.
In the PLAZA DE SANTA MARIA the Renaissance Cathedral dominates the square, and also the Town Hall and Bishops Palace can be found here. Behind the Cathedral, Calle Bernabe Soriano leads to one of the oldest temples in the capital, the church of San Ildefonso. There is so much to see in this beautiful, fascinating city that one day is not enough, you will simply have to stay awhile!
The cities of UBEDA & BAEZA situated in the very heart of the province of Jaen and preside over the region of La Loma, a wide expanse of olive groves in the high valley of the Guadalquivir. Antonio Machado, a great poet, compared them and said "BAEZA was a poor lady and UBEDA a queen and a gypsy."
UBEDA – THE QUEEN has a wealth of unique examples of the arrival of RENAISSANCE in Andalucia as you can see from the streets packed with churches, palaces and stately houses. There are 500 buildings listed as historical or artistic interest and a great number of private houses are noted for their beautiful patios full of light and flowers. At dusk buildings and the main square light up giving the impression that you have suddenly jumped back four centuries. Located at the entrance to the town is the HOSPITAL DE SANTIAGO which has a luminous cloister and high chapel. The PLAZA DE SANTA MARIA is considered one of the most outstanding historic artistic ensembles in the region.
The outstanding feature of UBEDA is the monumental square, the Plaza de Vazquez de Molina, in the OLD TOWN surrounded by imposing buildings such as the Palacio de las Cadenas (so named for the decorative chains which once hung from the facade). The El Salvador Chapel, Santa María de los Reales Alcázares Church and Las Cadenas Palace will take you back in time to the most grandiose days of Ubeda's history.
UBEDA awaits you to share her monumental wealth with you, the delicacies of Mediterranean fare and the sea of olive trees that permeates every space.
BAEZA – THE LADY perched on a cliff is relatively small and is a city which boasts an impressive cathedral constructed by Ferdinand 111 on the site of an old Arab Mosque. Baez is now principally fames for having some of the best-preserved examples of Italian Renaissance architecture in Spain. Baeza was added to UNESCO’S World Heritage Site in 2003.
Tiny, compact and provincial with a kind of perpetual Sunday air about it, the quiet streets retain a medieval feeling. At its heart are the combined PLAZA MAYOR and the PAESO, flanked by pavement cafes, but delightfully low key and atmospheric. The PLAZA DE LEONES is a particularly attractive cobbled square enclosed by Renaissance buildings and stands slightly back at the far end. Here on a rounded balcony the first mass of the Reconquest is reputed to have been celebrated, the impressive mansion beneath it houses the tourist office. In the centre of the square is the FOUNTAIN OF LOS LEONES, the statue of the woman above is said to be the wife of HANNIBALL.
Many other palaces and ancestral homes will guide you through this town, birthplace of nobles and aristocrats. The finest palace is the MARQUESSA DE JABALQUINTO, with an elaborate Isabelline front, beautiful patio and staircase. The building is now the site of the International University of Andalucia. Just above is the 16th century Cathedral the novelty being huge silver CUSTODIA cunningly hidden behind a painting of St Peter which whirls aside for a small donation.
Close by is a building where the great Anadalucian poet ANTONIO MACHADO taught French. A plaque outside a corner house on Plaza Cardenal Benavides records where he lived. From Los Alitores Gate there is a magnificent view over the whole Guadalquiver and the Majena and Cazorla mountain ranges. As twilight falls visit the Palacio de Jabalquinto, with a beautifully decorated facade and buttresses in Plaza de Santa Cruz, and let yourself be transported back over the centuries.
In the northern part of the province the mountains of DESPENAPERROS rise and extend west towards the SIERRA MORENA, and in the south the SIERRA MAGINA bordering Granda province.
SILES borders the province of ALBACETE. Much of the municipality is located within the Natural Park of SIERRA DE CAZORLA, SEGURA Y LAS VILLAS. It is mainly a forest town near the river; the economy based on olive and tourism, harvesting and sheep farming. The charm of the area is plentiful natural spaces with diverse flora and fauna.
The town of Arquillos has fewer than two thousand inhabitants and is the gateway to the rural area of El Condado to the north of Jaen. A short detour takes you to Banos de la Encina, a medieval town with a 1000 year old castle, and ANDUJAR with its interesting monuments and palaces. In ANDUJAR the Virgen de la Cabeza is enshrined in a forbidding sanctuary in the wild hill of the Sierra Morena with the history going back to the 13th century. The MADONNA known as "La Borenita", attracts over 1 million people who get to Cerro de la Cabeza to participate in one of the most popular pilgrimages which is declared of National tourist interest.
The Guadalquivir River passes through the town and a Roman bridge with 15 arches spans the river. A short detour takes you to the villages of HORNOS DE SEGURA and the charming mountain top town of SEGURA DE LA SIERRA, both crowned by Moorish castles and CHICLANA DE SEGURA is a picturesque hamlet perched on a hill with houses tunnelled into the rock.
North of Pozo Alcon is the birth place of the Guadalquivir River and then you can continue on to CAZORLA one of the prettiest towns in the province. The old part has an impressive castle built by the Knights Templar as was the neighouring castle at La Ireula. Outside of CAZORLA are the hauntingly beautiful Sierra de Cazorla, Segura and Las Villas Natural Park and the Sierra de Castril.
From Castril take a drive up to the Embalse del Tranco and across on a small road to join the main road for Villacarnillo to UBEDA and BAEZA and on to JAEN city. 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.
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.
Lastly we visit ALCALA LA REAL the frontier town, key to the valley of the Guadalquiver and the fertile plains of Granada, and its coat of arms has a key right in the middle. It was from here that FERDINAND and ISABELLA rode out in order to receive the keys upon surrender of Granada. Large rocks form part of the walls of La Mota Fortress which consists of Alcazaba and abbey church; here 7 doors lead down to the town where you find the old military quarters of the Muslim era and many other fascinating features.
There is 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.