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davidx Huelva - A travel report by David
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Huelva,  Spain - flag Spain
12194 readers

davidx's travel reports

Huelva, Andalucía's rather neglected province.

  18 votes
Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
I don’t seek to knock Andalucia’s more celebrated provinces – they deserve to be celebrated – but Huelva deserves it too. Doñana, Sierra de Aracena, El Rocio – seems good to me!

Distant view of El Rocio
Distant view of El Rocio
I had been to Andalucia six times but never to Huelva Province until 2004, when I combined a trip there with a return visit to my beloved Córdoba. I found I had to discipline myself severely to treat Sevilla merely as a necessary transit point but, if you do this, it’s easy enough, with an early start, to get into Huelva Province for the night from the UK. Two bus companies are particularly useful from Sevilla on. These are Damas [] and Casal. I took great pains to get Casal’s timetable by phone and, I’m sad to say, I was told lies! Get your hotel to give you a copy of the printed timetable, which I found reliable. The most distinctive place in the province is the Doñana reserve, one of Europe’s very best wetlands, which has so far avoided many natural disasters - and largely recovered from one major one. If you fancy staying there get a Damas bus from Sevilla towards Matalascanas and get off at El Rocio. El Rocio has 3 things going for it, nature [see below]’ its annual Romera [pilgrimage] and its general character, the last two being closely related. The streets and pavements are all buried in sand and from the tyre marks and hoof prints in it the latter seem far more appropriate. It seems to have floated in from several thousand miles west and more than a century ago. Later in the year I could have seen avocets and flamingoes but the variety of ducks, geese and herons – and the black winged stilts left little to be desired.
A really enjoyable way from this area to the next is to take two buses to the city of Huelva and then swop to the train to Almonaster La Real, the station actually being significantly nearer to Cortegana. The Sierra de Aracena is less magnificent than some Spanish mountain areas but no less attractive and it’s a great birding place with some different types from Doñana. Incidentally Damas run a bus during the day from Sevilla to Lisbon several times a week, which passes through this area.

Favourite spots:
La Mezquita, Aracena Las Real
La Mezquita, Aracena Las Real
Almonaster La Real is a wonderful little village, beautifully situated in the Sierra de Aracena. Like most of the Sierra villages, it lies below a mountain. These are usually either topped with woodland or the sites of castles and/or churches. This particular village has what was a fortified Mosque, with earlier incarnations as a Visigothic church and a Roman temple. There are some traces left of all this but it the basic design of a five-aisle mosque that dominates, not of course approaching the size or ornamentation of the Mezquita in Córdoba but immensely appealing in its very simplicity. Immediately adjacent to it is a 19th century bullring, still used once a year. It’s well worth while to walk down to the stream below the more modern part of the village and make your way up to the road and back to see the mosque from a number of angles.

What's really great:
Doñana 1
Doñana 1
Doñana surpassed my expectations by far. To look out from El Rocio at the plethora of birds, marsh mares and cattle wandering between the islands immediately set me on fire with desire to do the official trip. Unfortunately it was not easy to get to the Nat. Park centre where the trips start under my own steam. Would you believe it? In my hotel I met a couple now living in my birth county of Devon who had booked a trip for next day and offered me a lift! The trip is stunning – done in 4 by 4 mini-buses. For most of its length it is off roads on either sand tracks or open beach, showing a vast expanse of country separated from the sea by huge dunes and providing areas of fresh water and others of dunes in varying stages of colonisation by vegetation – up to quite large pine trees in places. Roe and fallow deer and wild boars are to be seen frequently – one large boar refusing to be diverted from the hare in his mouth by a mere vehicle! [See final section]

The castle, Cortegana
The castle, Cortegana
The Sierra de Aracena is a great centre for waymarked walks, which only call for normal fitness. I chickened out from walking through the mountains to Cortegana because I’m strongly advised not to venture beyond earshot. However, if you follow the road from Cortegana where it does a sort of semi-circle to avoid the village, between a third and half way round there is a path up to your left. I was able to follow this past the ruins of ancient mills and up as far as the crest of the hill. I wasn’t rewarded with the superb vista that should have greeted me; it was ruined by haze. Never mind; it was an enjoyable walk and you can’t win ‘em all!

From my room, Almonaster Las Real
From my room, Almonaster Las Real
Hotel Toruño, Plaza de Acebuchal, 22, tel: 959 44 23 23 is where I stayed in El Torcal. The price is well justified, with a view of that watery expanse of swamp outside. It’s comfortable and friendly enough, although English isn’t a major accomplishment here.
[If you’re thinking of going at Romería time, think again unless it’s worth an arm and a leg to you – because that’s what it costs then.
Breakfast is included and excellent – including the best breakfast coffee I’ve had anywhere in a huge cup with more on request at no extra charge.

Hotel Casa Garcia, San Martin, 2 Tel: 959 14 31 09 was my base in Almonaster La Real, a good hotel for a moderate price at the very entrance to the village from the Cortegana/station side. Beautiful views over the village to the mosque from my room, en-suite and comfortable. Well recommended.

Casa Manolo, C/Barberas 6. Tel: 959 12 80 14 in Aracena is just a house with B&B but it’s very cheap for a short stay.

Doñana 2
Doñana 2
At my hotel at Almonaster La Real there is a bar with light snacks open all day as well as the restaurant. Both cofee and beer are reasonably priced and good. Breakfast is served here and not included in the room rate.

The restaurant attached to but in a separate building from the Toruño [see hotels above] serves excellent food at moderate prices. Don’t make the mistake my Devonian friends and I made and think it might be nice to try somewhere else. It wasn’t. My octopus and peas was a mass of peas with a sort of hint of an octopus flavour. At least it was cheap. My friends had food at least as bad without any redeeming feature in the price column. We reverted to the above for pudding!

In Almonaster La Real, the restaurant is good and reasonably priced. The nearest place down the steep road opposite is equally good.

In Aracena you have a better range of choice.

Other recommendations:
Mujedar ornamentation, Aracena
Mujedar ornamentation, Aracena
To complete on Doñana – the return journey includes well over half an hour’s fast drive over hard sand with nothing in sight except the dunes on the right, the sea on the left and innumerable flocks of black headed gulls and sanderling – and at most five buildings of any kind – hardly the best known image of Spanish coast!
Matalascanas, a sort of resort, has nothing of interest except its location and I can’t say the City of Huelva grabbed me.
With other places in the Sierra de Aracena, it’s a very different story. Cortegana is bigger than Almonaster L.R. and, even by road, it’s a lovely walk between them – especially when drivers are so accommodating here! I vaguely hoped to see a black stork but i was a bit early in the year. Not to worry – who complains about an imperial eagle such as flew immediately above me as I came down from the castle at the top.
Aracena itself is another delightful place with castle ruins and an interesting church at the top.

Published on Sunday January 16th, 2005

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Mon, Jan 17 2005 - 12:52 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

hii david,
how are you ,another great report by you .

Sun, Jan 16 2005 - 11:50 PM rating by gloriajames

bravo david! 5*

Sun, Jan 16 2005 - 04:02 PM rating by britman

Another professional report and another ***** Well done!

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