Molino Rio Alájar
Not even an hour has passed after leaving Seville but as we turn off the main road another enchanted world comes into view. It is still early morning and the sun has yet to dissipate the mist as we drive down the winding mountain road surrounded, as it is, by thick oak and chestnut woods.
And then there it is, the village of Alájar spread along the majestic valley like a red lizard lying in the sun. Alájar, arabic for stone, derives its name from an imposing stone promontory above the village that is crowned by the Peña de Arias Montero monastery. This idyllic village lies in one of the most beautiful valleys of the almost unknown natural park “Picos de Aroche y Sierra de Aracena”, 80 km northwest of Seville. Spared by mass tourism, this pearl of Andalusia is also home to “Jabugo ham”, one of the best hams in the world. The small black pigs with their long thin legs feed on the fallen acorns during the autumn and winter months.
Still in awe of this breathtaking beauty, we turn left through flowering meadows, then along a narrow trail beside a centuries old stone wall until a small river crosses the track. The sign Molino Rio Alájar encourages us to drive through the shallow water, frogs jumping to either side.
The Molino’s six stone cottages house 2 to 6 people and blend in perfectly with the location. Decor is rustic, rather than luxurious, but still full of charming details and utterly comfortable. All materials and furnishings used during construction were taken from neighbouring country houses giving the interiors a cosy feel.
Each cottage has its own fully equipped kitchen, although given the excellent cuisine of the region and the large amount of highly recommended restaurants nearby you might not get a chance to use it. Run on a self catering basis the Molino Rio Alájar does not serve breakfast.
We recommend that you book a breakfast basket for the day of arrival that includes local specialities such as mountain honey, handcut Jamón, fabulous Caña de Lomo (air cured pork filet), butter, preserves and freshly baked bread. For the remaining days of your stay, Peter and Monika will have given you all necessary directions where to buy fresh local produce.
But you might not have this chance once you taste José Vicente’s dishes in Aracena, just a fascinating 10 km drive along the valley. This small and intimate restaurant has a menu but we suggest letting José have full reign and one of his surprises made from the freshest seasonal ingredients that will leave your taste buds reeling.
Besides the fabulous ham try the Salmorejo (cold tomato soup) with slices of tuna sautéed in Jabugo lard. José Vicente cooks with everything local nature provides. In autumn and spring his wild mushroom dishes accompanied by scrambled eggs with wild asparagus are not to be missed. It is the combination of tastes of this simple cuisine that will delight the most knowledgeable gourmet.
Back on the terrace of your cottage at the Molino Rio Alájar the fragrance of the Andalusia night and the untouched nature will make your forget all worldly things that might have bothered you at home. In colder winter nights a fireplace and heated floor will welcome you inside the cosy cottages.
You might want to spend the next day at the pool or perhaps take a 1 ½ hour hike from Alájar to Linares de la Sierra. A small mountain creek there will refresh you on hot summer days.
Out and About in Alájar
Some places in Alájar are worth travelling just because of the food alone. We highlight a couple of our favourite places to eat that are sure to leave your taste buds reeling. Plus where to buy the finest ham in the region.
Traditional mountain cuisine with creative touches, using fresh produce from Sierra de Aracena and fruit and vegetables from the orchards surrounding Linares de la Sierra.
Arrieros s/n, Linares de la Sierra, Huelva, Tel: +34 959 46 3717
Restaurante Jose Vicente
Mountain cuisine based on Iberian pork sausage and meats as well as wild mushrooms of the area. It is advisable to book in advance.
Avenida de Andalucía, 53, Aracena, Tel: +34 959128455
Casa El Padrino
Another excellent restaurant specialising in local cuisine using the best and freshest ingredients of the region.
Pl. Miguel Moya, 2 21340 Alájar, Huelva, Tel: +34 959 125 601
Jabugo de Sánchez Romero Carvajal
The place to purchase the finest “Jamon” ham. Made from Noblanza purebred Iberian pigs and reared on the open range in Spanish woodlands on a diet of acorns.
Bollullos Par del Condado, Huelva.ter Bedroom
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