An area where People and the Environment can live in harmony
In the most western area of Sierra Morena, to the north of the pro-vince of Huelva is a group of medium-height mountain ranges which make up the Natural Park Sierra de Aracena and Picos de Aroche, a landscape which has been respectfully modelled by its inhabitants for centuries.
Most of the green landscape is made up of large forests of holm oaks, cork oaks and Portuguese oaks which are the main vegetation of the meadows along with chestnut trees, strawberry trees, mastic bushes, rosemary bushes and other species. With an area of 186,827 hectares spread out along its 28 towns, this spot re-presents the second largest protected area in Andalusia. However, the Mountain Region covers a larger area than that of the Natural Park itself. Altogether there are some 300,775 hectares of land including 29 towns.
The high rate of rainfall registered means there is an extensive river system which flows into the basins of the Guadalquivir, the Guadiana and the Odiel rivers. Because of this rainfall and an ideal climate (with mild temperatures in summer and high rainfalls in autumn and winter), lush species like the chestnut tree can grow. The more than 5,000 hectares in the area joining Aracena and Cortegana offer some of the best landscape views in Andalusia with the coming of autumn.
This natural landscape has other species which are typical in the Mediterranean hills, giving shape to the meadows. It is a system in which humans and the environment live together in harmony with a relationship of mutual respect, proving that coexistence and sustainability are possible.
Nowadays the meadowlands offer a wide range of possibilities for all their inhabitants. Because of the environmental resources it treasures, bees find their nectar here to make delicious honey. Farmers dispose of lands which are suitable for non-irrigated crops. The Iberian pig finds its main food, the acorn. The forest provides wood which is turned into vegetable charcoal and the cork oak gives us valuable cork from the bark covering its trunk.
The high rainfall registered in the area allows some 500 mushroom species (classed by international experts) to grow. The first autumn rains, followed by some sunny days (21, according to local experts) bring about the annual miracle when thousands of different species of mushrooms pop up, some of them edible and others poisonous. They are then used abundantly in the exquisite local cuisine. The most important species are the Amanita caesarea, the Amanita ponderosa, different species of Boletus, Lactaruis deliciosus, Cantarelus ciba-rius or the Macrolepiota procera.
Not only is the vegetation rich and plentiful in the area but also the fauna. Among the birds of prey that regularly nest in the Park is the black swan, the golden eagle or the lesser kestrel. The meadowlands also provide a habitat for species like the wild cat, the genet, the fox, the marten and other animals of great hunting value like the boar or the deer. The goshawk, the sparrow hawk and the black vulture also nest here and the area of Aroche and Encinasola has one of the largest colonies in Europe.
The conservation and development promoted by this Natural Park for generations has been compensated with a large number of distinctions and awards. Since 2004 it follows a Sustainable Development Plan, a proposal by the regional Andalusian government which makes the park a leader in sustainable initiatives. It has also received the ISO 14001 certificate, a European quality standard that certifies the environmental management standard of the Park.
The Natural Park of Aracena and the Aroche Peaks also holds the European Card for Sustainable Tourism, a voluntary instrument for people involved in the tourist development to ensure the application of the principles of sustainable tourism through a series of actions.
Perhaps the most important distinction to be awarded to the park is the declaration of Biosphere Reserve of the Meadowlands of Sierra Morena by the UNESCO in 2002.