This Route is dedicated precisely to the protagonists of that important chapter, to the Nasrid Dynasty, which created and headed the last state of al-Andalus, and whose trajectory encompassed, uncountable events of a political or bellicose order apart, artistic and cultural accomplishements as magnificent as the Alhambra itself.
This journey directly links Jaén and Granada, and inaugurates the final third of the Route, which moves across the southern face of the Sierra Mágina and ends in the Cambil and Huelma highlands. From that point, the itinerary changes province and moves into the region of the Eastern Mountains of Granada via Guadahortuna, along the banks of its river, which flows eastward. The high plateau continues from Guadahortuna towards Píñar and Iznalloz, where it appears to be cloven by the River Cubillas valley and the mountainous range of the Sierra Arana, with its characteristic chasms and caves, which rises to over 2,000 m. and is a prelude to the massive reliefs of the Sierra Nevada.
Towards the end of the journey, the path joins the course of the River Cubillas and slips down into the Vega, with its poplar groves and irrigation channels and reaches the final stops along the Route: Albolote, Maracena and Granada. Behind, like a backdrop, rises the imposing mass of the Sierra Nevada, the highest in the Peninsula and crowned by the 3,482 m. Mulhacén peak.
This is an itinerary that speaks of the vicissitudes of two peoples in a constant confrontation of ideas, beliefs and customs, but also of epic and humane interchanges and the birth of something that has come to be called the frontier culture. In spite of everything, one musn’t consider this frontier as something irremovable or static; on the contrary, more like a pliable fabric, which gave, according to how much one pulled on it.
Navas de Tolosa, La Carolina, Baños de la Encina, Bailén, Mengíbar, Andújar, Arjona, Porcuna, Torredonjimeno, Martos, Torredelcampo, Linares, Úbeda, Baeza, Jódar, Jimena, Mancha Real, Jaén, La Guardia, Cambil, Huelma, Guadahortuna, Píñar, Iznalloz, Deifontes, Albolote, Maracena and Granada.
About 275 kms.
This Route brings us closer to a typically changing landscape. From the Sierra Morena to the Penibética chain of mountains, passing the Guadalquivir river plain to get a closer view of the highest point of the Iberian Peninsula. Lush fertile valleys, pastures, and farmlands all blend with rocky slopes and high mountains.
Our journey passes natural areas such as the Sierra de Andújar, Despeñaperros or the Sierra Mágina, and natural springs and fountains with acknowledged medicinal properties. This countryside has a wealth of flora and fauna, evident in species such as wild boar, eagles, vultures, holm and gall oak forests, and rosemary, lavender and cistus brushwood.
This area is dotted with castles, silent witnesses to the many battles fought between Muslims and Christians in the medieval past. Their many functions ranged from defensive watchtowers to storerooms for foodstuffs or prisons. Porcuna, Úbeda, Jimena, Píñar, Baños de la Encina, Jóda… are some of the castles on the Route.
The Baroque style of the Spanish–Muslim art in the Nasrid period is particularly significant. The most symbolic example of this period is the Alhambra of Granada, its construction ordered by Muhammad I. The patios and gardens are outstanding, together with its pointed and foliated arches, columns, honeycomb vaulted ceilings…. all of them examples of exquisite beauty and elegance.
The Medieval history of this area has left its vestiges in handcrafted goods and hand-made items. Hunting is a deep-rooted pastime here, thanks to the abundant wild animal population, and the skills of taxidermy and saddlery flourish. From the plants that grow on the banks of the river, chairs upholstered with rushes, wickerwork items, and objects crafted in esparto grass are made. In the Middle Ages, wicker baskets were made for olive collecting and pressing. The textile industry is also represented by crocheted items and lacework, traditional in these parts. Andújar is renowned for its ceramics and potteries. Lastly, you can find a metalwork forge where bronze bells are made in Torredonjimeno.
The festivities in these villages are a mixture of both Christian and pagan traditions. There are many celebrations throughout the year. Spring features the livestock fairs and pilgrimages that are a joyous occasion in the villages. On the feast days of St. Anthony and St. Isidro, many villages celebrate by making a trip to the countryside. The pilgrimage of the Virgen de la Cabeza of Andújar, Las Cruces in Mengíbar and Granada, the Moors and Christians festivity in Iznalloz, the commemoration of the founding of La Carolina, and the victory in the battle of Bailén are also special occasions to celebrate. As always, the celebration of Holy Week in the villages along the Route are particularly worthy of mention.
There are musical occasions, which take place in Úbeda with the Music and Dance Festival of the city of Úbeda, and in Porcuna with the Pipirrana Flamenca.
The olive features as the staple produce. Fruit of the olive tree, the olive that was once food for the lower classes is now an appetizer and a plate of either stuffed or dressed olives are always present on the tables of these villages.
The same can be said for the extra virgin olive oil, so appreciated in worldwide cuisines and a vital ingredient in all the dishes.