Natural Park of Despeñaperros and Nature Area of Cascada de la Cimbarra

This natural corridor, of staggering orography and breathtaking beauty, is the traditional point of access into Andalusia from the Castillian plateau.

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  • Natural Area of the Cimbarra Waterfall
  • Natural Area of the Cimbarra Waterfall

    Aldeaquemada is mainly known for the proximity of the Cimbarra Waterfall. This spectacular 40-m./131-ft.-high waterfall...

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Enclaves naturales

Cascada de La Cimbarra_p

Natural Area of the Cimbarra Waterfall

Aldeaquemada is mainly known for the proximity of the Cimbarra Waterfall. This spectacular 40m./131ft.-high waterfall is located some 2 km. (1.5 m.) south of the town and has been catalogued as 'Paraje Natural' or 'Nature Reserve'.

- The trail to get there is in good condition. The area is well signposted and the waterfall is easy to reach. Visitors are recommended not to use low-chassis vehicles, since the trail may become very muddy or uneven during the rainy seasons. Once we have reached the top of the 'Collado de La Cimbarra' ('Cimbarra Pass'), we will have to continue on foot.

- We now have two options. We can either take the path on the right, which will lead us to the 'Calderetas' ('Small cauldrons'), a beautiful spot of natural wells created by water erosion on the stone, from which we can look up at the falling water right from underneath it. The path on the left will take us to the 'Plaza de Armas' ('Parade Plaza'), from which we can admire the waterfall opposite us. Visitors should wear confortable antislip shoes.

- Surrounded by gum rockroses (Cistus ladanifer) and holm oaks (Quercus ilex), our eyes will suddenly behold a ravine adorned with steep rock formations and our ears will be deafened by the violence of the falling water. The amount of water falling will vary substantially depending on the season of the year. If you want to see the water falling in all its power, it is advisable to come after a period of one or two weeks of intense rain.

- The landscape looks magnificently impressive. If we have chosen the path to the 'Plaza de Armas' ('Parade Plaza'), we will see the Cimbarra waterfall just opposite us. We will now take a path off to the right leading to the small lake.

- We will walk past an abandoned mill, whose enormous sandstone wheels lie scattered near the path further down. From this area we will be able to enjoy different views of the water jumping down, before we reach the foot of the waterfall.

- Even though one may be tempted to take a dip in the water, the place IS NOT DESIGNATED OR MAINTAINED AS A BATHING AREA. Bathing is dangerous.

- We now have two options to continue the excursion. To get to the next waterfall, called 'Charca del Negrillo' ('Elm Pond'), we can either walk along the water course or we can walk round up the hill. The first option, following the river, is recommended only for those who know the area well.

- We do recommend, however, paying a visit to the cave paitings of the 'Tabla del Pochico', located in the most easily accessible rock shelter. To get there we must start from the place where we left our cars, at the start of the path up to the 'Collado'. From the last straight stretch on the path we can turn our eyes to the right and see, on the other side of the river, a stone block with an orange-coloured side. The stone can easily be spotted today.
There is a signpost and a security fence.

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Recreational area 'La Aliseda'

The 'Aliseda', an area covered by 'alisos' or 'black alders' (Alnus glutinosa), is a recreational zone of great landscape value located in the municipal district of Santa Elena (Jaén), 5 km. (just over 3 m.) from the the main town. To get there we can take the local road JA-7100 branching off from the A4 motorway (exits 258 or 266).

The area spreads over a beautiful valley in the southern foothills of Sierra Morena, next to the Natural Park of Despañaperros. We will find a great variety of aromatic plants and many different species of splendid trees, such as pine trees, holm oaks (Quercus ilex), cork trees (Quercus suber), chestnut trees (Castanea sativa), willows (Salix,) and, of course, black alders (Alnus glutinosa) or 'alisos', whence the name given to the area, 'Aliseda'. A stream of crystal-clear waters flows down over a bouldery bed called 'La Campana' ('The Bell').

Geologically, the area is rich in iron pyrite, and many of the springs are ferruginous. In fact, in olden days the Aliseda was a important mining area, rich in galena veins (lead ore) containing a great amount of silver.



Today this recreational area is visited by hundreds of people at weekends eager to enjoy nature and spend a wonderful day in the country.

In the first part of the 20th century there existed a reputed minero-medicinal bath resort, but a few derelict buildings is all that remains now. This spa or 'balneario' was patronized by important figures from all over Spain, who arrived by train at the Santa Elena railway station, a mere 10 km (about 6 m. or so) away, and were taken to the spa hotel by stagecoach.

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cueva de los muñecos

Cueva de los Muñecos ('Dolls' Cave')

The Cueva de los Muñecos ('Dolls' Cave'), a very well-known place among the local population, is so called because of the great number of votive bronze statuettes ('ex-votos') found in the area. It is in fact an Iberian sanctuary located located in the 'Collado de los Jardines' ('Gardens' Pass') on the A-6200 road, which branches off the A4 motorway in Despeñaperros in the direction of Aldeaquemada.

This major Iberian sanctuary, together with the one in Castellar, in the province of Jaén too, have provided the greatest number of bronze ex-votos. These votive figures are important to learn not only about metal craftsmanship in Iberian times, but also about religiosity, cults and beliefs, as well as about the type of clothes, jewels, weapons, hair-style, etc. of that distant era.

Over 2.500 ex-votos have been found in the 'Collado de los Jardines', and more than 2.000 in Castellar. The vast majority are preserved at the Archeological Museum of Madrid.

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The votive figures from the Sanctuary of the 'Collado de los Jardines' represent a great variety of believers: women, men, warriors, etc.

The most recent searches were conducted at the site of an old settlement in the 'Cerro del Castillo' ('Castle Hill') above the Sanctuary. The excavations have uncovered a Roman road, a wall and all the area adjacent to the Iberian necropolis.

The 'Cueva de los Muñecos' ('Dolls' Cave') is located inside in the Natural Park of Despeñaperros, in the municipal district of Santa Elena. The site is inside a gully, squeezed between two colossal stone blocks, in which there exist several caves. The largest one, about 50 meters (164 ft.) deep, was probably the limit of the sacred precinct. Within the cave today we can see a water spring, which is likely to have existed already in ancient times. The area is home to the Cultural and Historical Heritage Interpretive Centre of the Natural Park of Despeñaperros. There is a public path leading to the Sanctuary and to a viewpoint in the Cerro del Castillo ('Castle Hill').


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Parque Natural Despeñaperros 3

Natural Monument
The Organs

Designated 'Natural Monument of Andalucía' This Natural Monument is one of the most outstanding sights of the 'Desfiladero de Despeñaperros' ('Gorge of the Falling Dogs'), a narrow pass flanked by(or 'Great Gorge' enormous rock columns resembling the tubes of a cathedral organ. The stunning beauty of the place, which can be admired from a nearby viewpoint, is enhanced by the colourful contrast between the grey rocks and the intense yellow and orange hue of lichens living on the rocks.

The natural monument has a remarkable origin. 500 million years ago the whole region was underneath the sea, though not at a great depth. Little by little, the sea bottom was covered by sand and clay washed out by the rivers flowing from the Iberian plateau into the sea at that place. Some 300 hundred million years ago these underwater soils emerged from the sea and since then the river, the rains and the wind have eroded the relief and sculpted these magnificent organ-like shapes. On top of these rocks has grown a Mediterranean system of holm and Portuguese oak forest (Quercus ilex and Quercus suber) and scrubland, the habitat of genets (Genetta genetta), martens ((Martes foina) and many species of prey birds.

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Cave paintings

Prehistoric cave art in Aldeaquemada


• 'Cave Art, or "art on rock", is a general term for the pictorial manisfestations left by our prehistoric ancestors on the walls and ceilings of many caves and rock shelters, particularly abundant in these sierras. In our region this art lasted from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age. These artistic manifestations are more or less realistic, though they generally tend to be schematic representations of human beings, animals and symbols, in isolated scenes. The paintings evoke and depict parts of the daily life of our ancestors and are a witness to their complex mysterious spirituality.

• The district of Aldeaquemada, can boast a rich cultural heritage. It is the location of many different groups of cave paintings, executed in a schematic and levantinestyle, and found scattered in many shelters and rock formations. Their importance was recognized by the UNESCO at a meeting in Kioto, Japan) in 1998, where the Rock Art of the Iberian Mediterranean Basin was declared a a World Heritage Site. The UNESCO included all 19 Levantine and Schematic Rock Art sites discovered in the district. The award is a recognition of the great importance of these artistic manifestations created by the ancient inhabitants of the region.


Photo: Ángel Alcaide

• These sites, the most important in Andalucía, are unique on account of their subject matter and are considered to be authentic open-air museums of inestimable worth. Their preservation is everybody's responsibility. The visitor cannot but stand in respectul awe when beholding these figures painted over 4000 years ago by primitive, albeit intelligent, men. All the sites have been declared 'Bienes de Interés Cultural' or 'Heritage of Cultural Interest', a special category of the Spanish heritage register.

• These groups of rock paintings, most of which are located in rock shelters, were first studied at the beginning of the 20th century by Abate Brehuil and by M. Cabré, who catalogued the vast majority of paintings found in the area.

• Subsequently, thanks to new and relevant findings by the local historian Carlos Sánchez-Batalla, a new updated record of paintings was compiled resulting in a much greater awareness of the heritage and tourist value of the paintings for Aldeaquemada.


Photo: Ángel Alcaide

• It is often quite difficult and dangerous to reach the sites, and visitors often have a feeling of frustration when they do: many of the paintings are poorly preserved and can only be made out by the specialist. For this reason, before attempting to visit them, visitors should take advice from somebody who knows the area well or to hire an authorized local guide to accompany them.

The routes to the most representative shelters have already been signposted, but will not be opened to the public until all their paintings have been definitely protected. However, the Town Council will provide guides to visitors upon request. The main rock shelters with paintings are: 'Tabla de Pochico', 'Poyos de La Cimbarra', 'Cimbarrillo del Prado de Reches', 'Cueva de la Mina', 'Garganta de la Hoz', 'Prado del Azogue' and 'Cueva de Los Arcos'. Of course, there are many other rock shelters with paintings scattered all over the area.

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