Tucked away in the southwest corner of Spain between Sevilla and Portugal, Huelva is a province nearly forgotten by many. Sevilla dominates the western Andalucía scene, Cádiz has its famous pueblos blancos (villages full of white houses) and proximity to Gibraltar, and Portugal has the Algarve with its beautiful beaches and capes. Of course, like any place in the Greatest Peninsula in the World, forgotten does not mean it’s not worth visiting. Au contraire. Huelva has a lot to offer.
My visit to Huelva only consists of half a day returning to Madrid from the Algarve during the Puente de Mayo 2013, two years ago this week. I caught an all-too early bus from Lagos (6:30 if I remember correctly) so I could spend some time in the capital city before spending the night in Sevilla, the city where I always attract bad weather. I had just learned that I would be moving to the Basque Country and was super excited. I walked around the Casco Viejo (Old Town) with a map, just in case of getting lost, with no plan. I saw the buildings, had a cheap, not-so good lunch, walked down to the water front before catching the bus to Sevilla. I was a bit sad I wouldn’t have time to see more of the province, as the capital city doesn’t have a lot to offer. However, the mountains in the northern part of the province would have offered a lot of hiking. Maybe one day I’ll be able to return to the Algarve and see more of the wonders the province has to offer.
A few factoids about Huelva. The football (soccer) club Recreativo de Huelva is the oldest football club in Spain. There are also various sites in the province related to Christopher Columbus (don’t hold that against the province) and his quest to “discover” the Americas. The capital city of Huelva has a population of 149,410 habitants as of 2010.
La Costa de Luz
The Atlantic Coast from Tarifa in Cádiz to the border with Portugal and Huelva is known as “La Costa de Luz“, the Coast of Light. The beaches are popular with Spanish, French and German tourists. The Parque Nacional de Doñana is an important natural park that protects the coastal ecosystems and is located on coasts here and also in the province of Sevilla.
Catedral de la Merced
The Cathedral of Huelva was built in the 17th century and is a Bien de Interés Cultural of Spain (National Cultural Interest). The outside is Barroque and many other churches in Huelva province are based on this design.
Ay, Lepe, the butt of so many Spanish jokes I just had to include it on here. Any time someone wants to make a joke about someone lacking in the intelligence department, they are said to be from Lepe. However, the city of 25,000 habitants is more than a joke. The wine from Lepe was mentioned in The Canterbury Tales, there is a beach and an old lookout tower (Torre del Catalán) that you can still climb that was originally built to warn of invasions from the Berber pirates.
Ayamonte, population 18,000, is the last town on the Spanish border before crossing into Portugal. While there is a bridge north of the town to drive across today, for centuries there was only a ferry that crossed the Río (River) Guadiana. The town boasts of a medieval neighbourhood in the center that is pedestrian only. It also has a beach. A river, beach and Casco Viejo? I’m there one day. (I wish I had stopped here instead of Huelva capital.)
La Romería del Rocío y Almonte
Almonte is a small town of 23,000 denizens, and it’s more famous for the pilgrimage (Romería) to the ermita de El Rocío on the second day of Pentecost to honour the Virgin Rocío. The pilgrimage began in 1653 and today attracts around 1 million people. People usually wear traditional Andaluz costumes for the event. ¡Olé! (Please remember that people ONLY wear the traditional outfits for festivals.)
Parque Nacional de Aracena y Picos de Aroche
The National Park of Aracena and Picos de Aroche is part of the Sierra Moreno in the north of the province, and some 41,000 people live in the region near the park. It has been a protected area since 1989, and there are 28 villages within the park’s limits. Any place that is nature and mountains piques my interest.
Mezquita de Almonaster La Real
Although the village of Almonaster La Real has less than 2000 habitants (1800 for population geeks like me), it is home of an interesting trapezoid mezquita (mosque) that was built from a visigoth basilica. It was declared a national monument in 1931. While it isn’t as well-preserved as the more famous Mezquita in Córdoba, it is one of the few surviving rural mosques from Spain’s Muslim past.
I apologise for my lack of photos this entry! Being in only one city for a morning while running on fumes puts a damper on the photo taking!