In such a great Nature Reserve as this, with so many places whose names have belonged to our collective memory for a long time, the Las Villas mountains seem to guard their secrets with fervent discretion. The truth is, however, that unless you’ve been there you don’t really know the Nature Reserve properly. Rugged, solitary, wild and largely unpopulated, the mountains face east to their twins, the Segura and Cazorla mountains, and west to Jaén’s olive-growing region. Thus, they are a balcony onto two different universes.

A narrow, winding road crosses the Las Villas mountains from one end to the other, affording scenery that is well worth the drive. Stop whenever you feel like it, park the car and walk for a while. The road has so little traffic on it that you’ll feel as safe as if you were on a well-known path. There is much more to discover than just the road, however. This itinerary is like a wonderful corridor with many doors opening onto exciting places.

Make the most of the forest tracks that turn off from the Las Villas road and lead into the mountains, to the recreational areas, viewpoints and signposted paths. You’ll discover unexpected waterfalls, summits with stunning views, spectacular cliffs and rocky outcrops, box groves, juniper forests, old Corsican pines forests clinging to impossibly steep slopes, and vultures… lots of vultures. And mountain goats too, of course. And … Well, it’s up to you to find out all the rest.

Don’t miss Iznatoraf, or Torafe, as the locals call it. It is a charming balcony over the Guadalquivir valley and the imposing wall of mountains that rises along the west side of the Nature Reserve. In Las Villas, the great Andalusian Guadalquivir river leaves the mountains where it has its source and makes an abrupt turn towards the Atlantic. The towns in this region also boast an interesting Renaissance heritage and a traditional culture that revolves around olive-growing and the production of excellent olive oil.


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