Jaen information

Introduction to the Province of Jaen
The province of Jaen in the community of Andalucia is probably the least- visited of all the Andalucian provinces. As a result it is an unspoilt, traditional and relaxed place to explore with plenty of opportunities to visit its historic towns, villages and castles, enjoy Spain’s largest Natural Park of Cazorla and sample the hearty traditional gastronomy of the area at leisure.

Jaen City
Jaen city is a delightfully relatively quiet place compared to most provincial capital cities. Its sturdy Cathedral and even sturdier Castle dominate the city, which is compact and flat enough to be able to easily explore all its corners on foot.

The construction of the Cathedral of Jaen began in the 16th Century but it wasn’t completed until the 18th and as a result is a mixture of architectural styles. A reliquary in the vast Cathedral holds a cloth, the Reliquia del Santo Rostro de Cristo, that is supposed to bear an imprint of the face of Jesus. The nearby Church of San Ildefonso contains a much-venerated chapel dedicated to the patron saint of Jaen, the Virgen de la Capilla. Jaen’s oldest church is the Iglesia de la Magdalena with a lovely Moorish courtyard to its rear.

The barrios of La Magdalena and of San Juan make up the oldest part of Jaen. Here you will find the handsome Palacio de Villardompardo, which houses the city’s huge Arabic Baths (Baños Arabes) which have been very skilfully restored, and also a fine art museum, the Museo Internacional de Arte Naif which should really not be missed.

The old part of the city winds around the bottom of a hill, the Cerro de Santa Catalina at the summit of which is the impressive castle of Jaen, the Castillo de Santa Catalina, which also now houses a parador. Underground passages were constructed to connect the castle with the barrios below.

Around Jaen City and Beyond
If your idea of Andalucia includes olive trees, then the province of Jaen will not disappoint. It is a land that is pretty much wall to wall olive trees for as far as the eye can see but interspersed with some delightful towns and villages, impressive castles and of course mountains.

In the north east of Jaen, the towns of Baeza and Ubeda make for interesting stops. Baeza is packed with some fine Renaissance buildings and enticing squares. Of particular note are the Palacio de Jabalquinto, the Casa Consistoriales Altas and the Plaza del Populo with a lion fountain at its centre. Ubeda’s Plaza Vazquez de Molina is stunning by night when it’s illuminated. Ubeda is also known for its glazed pottery and esparto (grass) artisan products.

To the west and south of the province, the towns of Baños de la Encina (with its massive Moorish castle), Alcala la Real (dominated by the striking Fortaleza de la Mota) and Frailes (star of the book, “Factory of Light” by Michael Jacobs) should not be missed.

The Despeñaperros Pass, which is now one the main road route in and out of Andalucia, was once infamous for the number of bandits who would prey on passing travellers.

The Parque Natural Sierra Magina is very mountainous, great for walking and famous for its 300 varieties of wild mushrooms that grow here. Jodar or Huelma make good starting points to explore this park.

The attractive town of Cazorla, 45km south east of Ubeda, is of course the main gateway to the Cazorla Natural Park, the largest in Spain. Cazorla Natural Park can be explored by car or, better still on foot. Be aware that it can get very busy at weekends in high season. The park is heavily wooded, with pines, mixed woodlands and oaks as well as having gorgeous wild flower displays in May. It’s also full of wildlife, deer especially but also ibex, lynx, wild boars, polecats and otters. The rivers and reservoirs are teeming with life too. Thee are marked walking trails of varying length and difficulty, the most popular of which takes in the Rio Boroso Gorge. Alternatively you can drive across the expanse of park from Cazorla to Segura la Sierra.

The Gastronomy of Jaen
The cuisine of Jaen is rich and varied, drawing on its diverse natural food resources and, of course, olive oil is used a great deal in its dishes. Venison, wild boar, goat and partridge are commonly to be found in Jaen’s typical dishes.

Some traditional dishes that you might find include Cabrito Asado (roasted goat), Ensalada de Perdiz (partridge salad), Lomo de Orza (marinated pork loin), Carruecano (a dish of squash/pumpkin with garlic and chorizo) and Rin-Ran (a dish of potatoes and cod in a pimento and garlic sauce). Flores are little sweet, sugar-coated fried fritters, another speciality of Jaen.

Although not yet well known, the wines from Jaen are as fine as any you’ll taste in Spain. The Bailen region produces some good reds whilst the Torreperogil region produces both excellent reds and whites.

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