Alájar is a typical picturesque village of the Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche with the impressive rocky outcrop towering above it, La Peña de Arias Montano which gives name to the place (Alájar means “the stone” in arabic). From the Peña there is a stunning view of Alájar, its fields of cork and holm oaks and the gently undulating plain south of the Sierra. The village resembles the shape of a lizard from above but down below the life revolves around its squares and its narrow cobbled streets radiate outwards from there. Many houses in Alájar have their own unique cobbled thresholds and there are many well-preserved houses here with architectural elements typical of the Sierra. The village has plenty of places of interest to visit: the large 16th-century church of San Marcos, its size a reflection of the large population that lived here in the 18th century when the church was enlarged, the church of Santísima Trinidad (15th century), the hermitage of San Bartolomé (15th century) and the Peña de Arias Montano. Although it can be crowded at weekends and holidays, the Peña de Arias Montano is a tranquil place during the week with superb views, abundant springs and good picnic spots under its cork oaks. The Ermita de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles was built on the site of a Medieval temple and has had several additions, most notably in the 16th , 18th and 20th centuries. Its interior was nearly destroyed in the Civil War and the 13th-century figure of the virgin has been restored. In the 16th century Philip II’s confessor and theologian, Benito Arias Montano, came here on retreat. In 1576 Philip II himself paid a visit to the Peña and meditated here in a cave subsequently called the ‘Sillita del Rey’ (the King’s Seat). It has a wonderful whitewashed belfry set on the edge of the cliff away from the church. There is also a small visitor’s centre with information about the life of Arias Montano. (open Monday to Friday mornings only).
Alájar is a vibrant community that enjoys the peace and tranquillity of the area, however comes to life in the festivities during the months of August and September. The fiestas culminate in an exuberant and colourful pilgrimage of Our Lady of the Angels, celebrated on the 7th and 8th September. when the people of Alájar and the surrounding villagers come on foot and horseback, behind their highly decorated carriage drawn by oxen in honour of the image, for a day of gathering: dancing, singing, drinking and eating. The pilgrimage, dating back to the XIV Century when there was a vision of Our Lady at this spot, is an important regional event as the Virgin is the Patron Saint of the Sierra.
Despite the size of the village with less than 800 inhabitants, Alájar has plenty to offer: six excellent restaurants, bars with a range of typical tapas from the area, a bank with cash machines, a pharmacy, doctor’s surgery and all types of shops where you can find most things you need not to mention the local products such as the cured ham and other cuts from the Iberian pork, honey, goat’s cheese and ceramics.