The province of Jaén is one of the eight provinces that make up the region of Andalusia. This territory in the south of Spain fascinates first and foremost by the beauty of its landscapes. As the largest producer of olive oil in the world, there are numerous olive groves. They share the space with the vegetation and the relief of the national parks, a nature that offers walkers the possibility of restful hikes. As everywhere in Andalusia and beyond throughout the country, history has left remarkable monuments, in cities, some of which are the cradle of the Renaissance, while others reveal medieval castles that once protected the inhabitants from battles. An overview of a region which, although still too little known, is undoubtedly worthy of attention.

A province where you can discover an exceptional heritage

A first stop in the province of Jaén can be made in the eponymous capital. Surrounded by lush green hills, the city boasts a beautiful architectural heritage. Starting, of course, with its sumptuous Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, one of the most imposing in Andalusia. Of Renaissance design, its architecture has inspired some of Latin America's great places of worship. Next, head to the Plaza de San Francisco to see the Provincial Palace, which is Baroque in style and opens onto a large interior patio. Not far away is the Arc del Consuelo, a first stop in the area before going to sit in one of the oldest bistros in the city. Back on the street, it is highly recommended to go and admire the Arab baths, the largest in Europe. Situated in the basement of the 11th century palace of Villardompardo, they were built according to Roman terms and are an incredibly rich testimony. Overlooking Jaén with its majestic appearance, the Santa Catalina Castle includes a fortified enclosure and no less than six towers. It should be noted that although it is of Arabic origin, it was remodelled by Ferdinand III after the Christian conquest. Its history is recounted inside the monument at the Tourist Interpretation Centre.

On other days, we also take the opportunity to dive into the heart of the Renaissance, thanks to the presence of two cities whose architectural richness has earned them a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2003. These are Úbeda and Baeza, other pearls of the region. In Úbeda, you can spend hours contemplating the marvels of the Sacred Chapel of the Saviour, the Hospital de Santiago, the Palacio del Deán Ortega and the Palacio Vela de Los Cobos. Certainly the city's most remarkable monument, the collegiate church of Santa María de los Reales Alcázares offers a journey between the 13th and 19th centuries. Only 8 km away is Baeza. From its cathedral to the 16th century facade, passing by the old university, the old butcher's shops and the Jabalquinto palace with its exceptional façade decorated with diamond points and coats of arms, one never ceases to marvel at the beauty of the buildings. Without forgetting a stop at the Pópulo square to photograph its fountain and the Casa del Pópulo, a former courthouse.

Archaeology enthusiasts will also have a great time, as the Iberian culture has left incredible remains in the area. A unique and varied heritage, places such as the fortified cities of Cástulo and Puente Tablas, Toya's burial chamber and the Iberian sanctuaries of Cueva de los Muñecos and Cueva La Lobera reveal the way the first inhabitants of Spain organised themselves from an architectural as well as a societal point of view

To learn even more about the history of the region and the country, you should also take the time to walk the Route of the Castles of Jaén. The province of Jaén witnessed two of the most important battles in Spain: the Battle of Bailén in 1808 between Napoleon's empire and the Kingdom of Spain and the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, when the peninsula was reconquered by the Christians. To face the enemy, many castles were built, making the province one of the European provinces with the highest density of castles. In Baños de la Encina, Burgalimar Castle is a superb 10th-century military fortress with an oval shape and 15 towers. On a hill overlooking Alcalá la Real, the fortress of La Mota shines with its ensembles from different eras: the abbey churches of the Christian citadel and the Arab alcazaba. The Calatravo de Alcaudete castle and its ancestral stones are also a real eye-catcher, as is its location, which dominates the municipality and the surrounding landscape. Also worth seeing are the ruins of the castle of Lopera and the castle of El Trovador Macías in Arjonilla, which continues to live on from the legend of the unhappy love between the young troubadour Macías and Doña Elvira

Walking in the midst of captivating nature

The first contact with nature in the province of Jaén leads walkers into the heart of the olive groves. For the province is quite simply the largest producer of olive oil in the world! Introduced by the Romans, the famous green-grey trees were abandoned during the Arab period, before regaining the landscape during the 19th century. Here, 60% of Spanish production is produced and the province has also opted forolive tourism, a concept that consists of pleasant walks in the olive groves, visits to companies and factories, followed by moments of tasting

Proof that the province of Jaén is well suited to hikers is the presence of no less than four natural parks. Starting with the Parque Natural de Despeñaperros in the north. Here you will find vegetation that includes oak, alder, willow, ash and different types of pine. In the parade, dug into the Sierra Morana by the Despeñaperros river, you can also access vertiginous rock walls, like the beautiful sites such as "Los Órganos". In the Parque Natural de la Sierra de Andújar, which overlooks the Guadalquivir valley, the landscapes are also contrasted, between densely vegetated ravines where lynx, wild boar and deer roam, and wide meadows where different wild animals feed. For those who love walking, the walking sessions can give way to a few moments of fishing in the torrents of the park. Also worth mentioning are the areas of the Parque Natural de Sierra Mágina, where the 19,000 hectares of plains are covered with immense forests of oaks and holm oaks. The observation of animals leads to the sighting of species such as the chamois on the ground, and in the air the golden eagle and the peregrine falcon.

And then how to pass by the Parque Natural Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas. This is the largest protected area in the country. In this park, where the Guadalquivir was born, people love to hike and to walk through landscapes of great diversity. From the deep gorges of the Pinar Negro, you can hike through semi-desert landscapes or the fields of Hernán Perea, before raising your head and seeing peaks at more than 2,000 m, such as the Cerro de la Empanada. Walking, canyoning, quad biking, the whole family will find something to do between two sessions to observe fallow deer, mouflons, foxes, roe deer, deer, griffon vultures and endemic plant species such as the superb violet of Cazorla.