Sierra Norte Natural Park is the belt of mountains in northern Seville province. It is part of Sierra Morena Biosphere Reserve together with Aracena and Hornachuelos Natural Parks.
It is the northwest border of Andalusia, where the well-known Galician band was built. Castles, walls, towers and different military structures were built between the 13th and the 16th centuries all along the frontier to protect the old kingdom of Seville against the attacks from closer noble states. During this time wars between different noble families were very common, exactly like in Game of Thrones (but there were no dragons or valyrian fire). One of the most famous armed struggles was the war of the king Peter the First against his bastard brother Enrique Trastamara in the 14th century. It is known as the War of the 5 Years, and it totally divided Castilla and the new conquered areas of Al-Andalus. The old kingdom of Ishbiliya (Seville) was divided in different parts and given to different noble Castillian families after the Christian conquest in the 13th century.These families were supporting Peter or Enrique depending on their interests. The result is that different noble areas of the province of Seville were supporting different kings, and the castles were frequently used as refuge for the local population.
In this area witness to all this wars I have visited recently San Nicolas, Constantina, Alanís and Cazalla de la Sierra. But this post is not to talk only about wars and battles. These towns are located in the mountains of Sierra Morena, where the countryside predominantly consists of large pastures with oak trees like in the pic above this post. The landscape of oaks in Sierra Morena is called dehesa, and it has very high social importance in the Iberian peninsula because of its relevance in maintaining rural population levels and economy. The ecosystem of dehesas is human-controlled and the population gets also economic benefits from it, but it is an ecologically sustainable system.
The combination of nature and small urban areas is also something that made me go to Sierra Norte. For example, I love to start a path in the mountains and finish the walk with a visit to a historical church in the old part of a small town. These towns are very close to Seville (one-hour drive), so if you come to the city I would recommend that you dedicate one day to visit some of the towns in the north of the province.
San Nicolás del Puerto
In Sierra Norte we can also find karst topography in Cerro del Hierro and some various rivers with their gallery forest like river Hueznar, the most important one in the area. Cerro del Hierro and Hueznar waterfalls are in the municipality of San Nicolás del Puerto,. In this town people can see also visit the birth of the river, which is in the urban area so it is a public park. Next to it there is also a small bar called “Bicicleta Roja” that offers drinks and some tapas, a beautiful place to have lunch.
Here we started the walk in Avenue Andalucia from to the tourist office to Pilar St. In this cross I saw a building in Andalusian Regionalism style, decorated with colorful tiles, red bricks and mudejar arches in the balconies. This building was like the entrance to the old Moorish quarter (moreria), probably one of the biggest Moorish quarters conserved in Andalusia. The road network is almost the original one and the kind of houses and construction date back from the 14-15th centuries.
While walking through the moreria I took some pictures of the bell tower of Saint Mary Church in my way to the castle, whose origins are from Al-Andalus period. Next to the castle there was an enormous monument to Jesus Christ.
Liquors and wine from Sierra Norte are well know, so we visited the winery Fuente Reina in Constantina. It is a winery of low production, they only have 8 hectares and I would say we are talking about craft wine in comparison with enormous wineries from famous certificate of origin. We tasted red Fundus, white Fundus and Pagos de Fuente Reina. Pagos was the best wine with big difference. Pascual was our guide and he is also the manager of the winery. He talks a lot and he knew everything we asked him about, extremely knowledgeable.
In this town we made a very easy walk from Manzanares Sq. to the castle. It is impossible to get lost in the way. The castle was rebuilt in the 16th century but its origin is also from Al-Andalus period like the one in Constantina. Next to it there is a small hermitage, probably from the 14th century and the first Christian religious building in Alanis. From the towers of the castle it is possible to see all the urban area and also all the dehesa that surrounds Alanis.
We can start the walking from the old church of Saint Benito, nowadays a rural hotel. It conserves the bell tower where we can see a curious cartel that warns us about the stork excrement that can fall from the nest. Continuing along San Benito St. we will see the fountain of the lion and the trough of El Concejo. From here we were to Castillo St. until the church of La Consolacion. There is no castle in Cazalla. The few ruins still exist from it are now part of a wall of the church.
Cazalla is easier to walk as it is flatter than Constantina and Alanis, and there are distilleries all around. The most famous brand of anisette is El Clavel (carnation), suitable only for strong palates.
Cazalla is also where we accommodated during this trip. The hotel is Posada del Moro, not expensive and not a luxury, but the food of its restaurant was one of the best I have ever eaten. It has been mentioned in the Michelin Guide and famous people go there to try their dishes. I think that they also deserve the star. Posada del Moro is managed by two sisters who cook different recipes depending on the season. I tasted mushrooms, stuffed beef, Iberian pork foie and white truffles. All ingredients were local and I swear that I will go there again at least once every season. Hope they will always have their crème caramel, I ate two of them in the same meal!