Nestled up in the foothills of Cazorla, Segura y las Villas Natural Park in Jaen, you find one of the most lovely whitewashed villages in Andalucia. Cazorla Spain is the perfect destination for nature lovers to base themselves in during an active holiday being wrapped in lush nature with a vast network of hiking trails of all levels.
There are endless things to do in Cazorla from discovering the intriguing history of the area through its castles to hitting the hiking trails or chasing waterfalls.
Cazorla has been one of my favorite nature getaways for years and there’s always something new to explore no matter how many times I go. On top of that, the natural park is one of the best ones in Andalucia to see wildlife!
In this guide, I’ll go through everything you need to know to enjoy this charming pueblo blanco whether you plan to stay for a couple of days or weeks including the top things to do.
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Table of Contents
How to get to Cazorla Andalucia
The easiest way to get to Cazorla Andalucia is by car. This is also the best way to get around the natural park if you want to explore the hikes that can’t be reached directly from the town itself (though they are many!)
Driving time from nearby major cities:
- Jaen 1 hour
- Granada 2 hours
- Almeria 2 hours 45 minutes
- Murcia 3 hours
- Malaga 3 hours
Parking in Cazorla can be done on the street for free, there are also a few free outdoor parking lots where you can leave your car. Note that the streets are narrow, so I recommend a small car if you are not comfortable driving on narrow streets.
If you travel by van, you can go without a problem, because I assume you are used to navigating it in small spaces.
Note that in the winter, roads can get icy, especially early and late in the day and in places with constant shade. You might also need something to scrape ice off the windscreen on cold mornings (I’m talking of experience!)
Make sure you reserve your rental car as early as possible so that you don’t miss out on the best deals, especially around the holiday season.
Where to stay in Cazorla Jaen
There are many great places to stay in Cazorla as it’s a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Here are some of my top pics for accommodation in Cazorla.
Top pic for those traveling on a budget with dogs
Apartamentos Castillo Cazorla – This apartment hotel is perfect for those who travel with dogs. You get a small apartment room with a kitchen to cook food and a table. It really does the job if you plan to stay in Cazorla Jaen Spain for a week or two since you can do your own shopping and don’t have to eat out every day. You can also leave your fur baby inside if you want to get some sightseeing time by yourself.
Top pic for couples
Coto del Valle de Cazorla – This is the perfect place for a romantic getaway with an adorable Andalusian inner patio and cave-like spa where you can loosen up your muscles after days of hiking in Cazorla Natural Park Spain. Surrounded by nature, this is truly a place to disconnect.
Top pic for families
Parador de Cazorla– It doesn’t get much better than staying at the Parador of Cazorla. Situated in natural surroundings outside the village, this is the perfect place to stay for the whole family. You can swim in the outside pool in the summer months and enjoy food from the inhouse restaurant of this traditional house with elegant rooms.
Best time for Cazorla travel
Cazorla travel can be done all year round as one of the places in Andalucia where you can enjoy four seasons.
In fall, you get the luxury of discovering the golden forests as leaves turn yellow and orange, especially on hikes like Rio Cerezuelo which goes directly from town.
In the winter you can experience icy roads and temperatures below zero in the nighttime and early mornings making it one of the cooler places in Andalucia in winter. Yet, the daytime is pleasant for hiking as long as you dress properly – especially if it’s a sunny day.
Spring on the other hand lightens up with colorful flowers and green buds on the once naked trees. This might be the most beautiful time of the year in Cazorla as you also get full waterfalls and rivers from melted snow and winter rainfall.
In the summer, Cazorla has pleasant temperatures with an average of 25 degrees Celsius. It’s perfect for swimming in the waterholes along the rivers in Cazorla Natural Park and with all the spectacular waterfalls, it’s an amazing experience to travel there in the summer months.
Things to do in Cazorla Spain
Hike Rio Cerezuelo
One of the best things to do in Cazorla is to hike the lush river walk of Rio Cerezuelo. The hike takes you straight from the village (the trailhead is below the castle) along the trickling river, through lush green forest, past eager waterfalls, and across wooden bridges.
Once the trail moves away from the river, steepening to incredible village views, you’ll soon find yourself in front of the mesmerizing Malena Waterfall. From this spot, the trail winds back again on the other side of the ravine and you’ll walk the rest of the hike along the hillside accompanied by epic village views.
This is an easy 2-3 hours circular route that can easily be joined with the Castillo de Cinco Esquinas hike, which is a wee bit harder, yet only a short detour.
Visit the Castillo de la Yedra
Cazorla’s medieval 13th/century castle looms above the village and hides an intriguing history from the Moors to the Christians, who eventually finalized the construction.
To visit the castle, you must book a free guided tour in English or Spanish. You can ask at the tourist office what times they run if you don’t want to walk the hill before your tour.
The tour takes you through the courtyard and the different rooms of the castle and explains the traditions and history of Cazorla. The kitchen is especially interesting, as they show a lot of traditions.
Castillo de la Yedra also boasts some amazing views of a whitewashed Cazorla Jaen.
Grab a coffee at Plaza de la Corredera
Corredera Square is a quaint little square in the heart of Cazorla that is perfect for enjoying a coffee in the sun and enjoying views of exquisite architecture with a romantic backdrop of the mountains behind.
On the square, you find the Town Hall which used to be the convent of Nuestra Señora de la Merced. Besides this, you can enter the modest Church of San José where you can take in some of the paintings of the famous El Greco.
The square usually gets busy in the evenings and going there is one of the best things to do in Cazorla Spain.
Hike to Castillo Cinco Esquinas
Among the best things to do in Cazorla is the short but steep hike to Castillo Cinco Esquinas. Walk up the steep path from Castillo de la Yedra and follow the signs.
The castle ruins sit on top of a hilltop overlooking Cazorla. Jaen is the province that produces the most olive oil in Spain and from the top of this hill, you can easily see why. Sweeping views of never-ending olive groves cover the landscape beyond the whitewashed village.
You can walk inside the castle ruins, but the only thing you’ll encounter is loads and loads of mountain goat poop. If you’re lucky, you might see some animals there too, so make sure you don’t do anything to scare them, or even worse, try to feed them.
Get lost in the whitewashed streets
One of the best things to do in Cazorla is to wander the whitewashed streets, enter churches, and stop at quaint squares to join the locals for a beer.
When it comes to Andalusian villages, Cazorla Spain is one of the traditional ones that really make you feel like you’re somewhere lost in Spain and people are usually super friendly.
While most of the things to do are outside the village, this will make your Cazorla travel experience even better.
Take a picture at Balcon de Zabaleta
Even if you don’t want to go for a hike, there is still one epic viewpoint you can enjoy straight from the village. Balcon de Zabaleta is a short walk from the ruins of Iglesia de Santa Maria and boasts the most ravishing views in the actual town.
Enjoy the views of Castillo de la Yedra, the ruins of the Santa Maria Church with the dramatic backdrop of the mountains behind.
See the ruins of Iglesia de Santa Maria
Among the best things to see in Cazorla are the ruins of the Santa Maria church situated right below Castillo de la Yedra, so you’re likely to walk past it if you head to the castle.
The Santa Maria church is said to be the world’s only church built on top of a river and in 1694, the villagers might have regretted it. A flood that washed away parts of the village left the church in ruins together with destruction during the civil war and has never been rebuilt.
Today, only the walls stand, and one tower where you can walk up to enjoy the views of the village.
On the base of the tower, you find Cazorla’s tourist office which is a great resource if you plan on hiking while you’re there.
Get underground at Bovedas del Rio
As mentioned, the Santa Maria church was built on top of the river and for a couple of Euros, you can go on a guided tour underground.
You get tickets for a couple of Euros in the tourist information and the guide will take you down telling you more about the history of the church and this underground tunnel covering the river.
Hike to the highest peak in Sierra de Cazorla
If you’re a little bit like me, you’ll want to conquer the highest peak while in Cazorla Jaen. Make sure you’re prepared with enough water and food for your hike up Pico Gilillo (1947 masl.)
There are several routes to choose from, but you can easily start from Cazorla, walking the first leg of the Rio Cerezuelo hike. This is a medium to challenging hike, mainly due to its length, but the constant views are undeniably sublime.
Once you reach the top, you can either walk back the same way or take a loop of a total of 20 kilometers. Either way, make sure you start at the crack of dawn to ensure you get back down before sunset as you can expect to walk 7-9 hours depending on your fitness level.
Head to Castillo de la Iruela
Less than 3 kilometers from Cazorla, you find the tiny village of La Iruela. Its biggest draw is the castle which sits dramatically on top of a steep cliff overlooking the never-ending olive groves of Jaen.
A visit to Castillo de la Iruela is one of the must-do things when in Cazorla. You can either drive to Iruela in less than 10 minutes or go on an hour’s hike across the mountain.
It was originally a Moorish fort which the Christians later built over. The remains have been renovated and you can walk to the top of the tower for boundless views of olive trees and mountains.
There is also an open-air theater scene below the castle and the most unique thing about La Iruela Castle is that there are a few houses on the castle grounds that are inhabited.
Once, I was walking through the village with a local of Cazorla, and he accidentally met a friend that has a house in the castle grounds. He threw up the keys to the gates and we explored the castle grounds at night. Spooky and exceptional!
Opening hours: Wednesday-Monday 10:00-14:00 and 17:00-21:00.
See the sunset from Ermita de la Virgen de la Cabeza
One of the best things to do in Cazorla is to hike through the forest from the Santa Maria church to Ermita de la Virgen de la Cabeza for sunset. It takes around 20 minutes zig-zagging through thick pine forest.
Once you reach the hermitage, you’ll be met by remarkable views of Cazorla, Jaen’s abundance of olive trees, and the imposing mountains protecting the village.
From there, you’ll see how the street lights slowly warm up the town and the castle sits right above it with the Castillo Cinco Esquinas looming even further up the mountain.
To avoid walking through the forest in the dark, you can take the road down to La Iruela and walk back to Cazorla that way, maybe including a stop at a local bar for a beer on the way back.
Hike Rio Borosa
Finally, one of the most epic hikes in the entire natural park is the terrific Rio Borosa. To get there from Cazorla you need a car as opposed to the other things I’ve mentioned in this post.
It’s also one of the most incredible things you’ll do during your whole stay.
The hike takes about 8 hours return covering 25 kilometers. The first part follows the path along the turquoise river with no way to get lost. Once you leave the river, walk past a hydroelectric station where you find an “end of the trail” sign.
Winding up rocky ground you’ll soon reach the first of several waterfalls before the trail takes you up the mountainside and into a tunnel built in the side of the vertical mountainside.
This is probably the coolest section of the hike, but you’ll need a headlamp there as the next 1500 meters consisting of two tunnels are only lit up by a couple of windows dug into the mountain wall.
Getting through the tunnels, you have a short walk left before you reach the end of the trail, Embalse de Los Organos reservoir where you can have a short lunch break before turning back the same way.
Reflections on a Cazorla holiday
As you can see, there are a lot of exhilarating things to do in Cazorla Jaen Spain. There is no doubt that your Cazorla holiday will be filled with adventures and castles.
With these Cazorla travel tips, you should be set to go on a phenomenal vacation surrounded by nature.
Cazorla has for many years been one of my top hiking destinations in Andalucia and one of the absolute best things is the abundance of wildlife you’ll see on any of these nature experiences.