The perfect pitch at a lush mountain oasis in Jaén
Road trip: Day 58 – 62. August 2016. Jaén, Andalucia, Spain
This was everyone’s favourite camp site of the trip.
We had two massive strokes of luck. To begin with, because we arrived midweek, there was hardly anyone there so we got the most amazing pitch.
And even more importantly, the kids made friends right away which meant they were happy out just hanging around the camp site for the next four days,
especially with this little guy.
One of JJ’s new buddies had a box of Lego so he was in heaven. And Mammy and Daddy actually got to turn a few pages of a book!
Sierra Cazorla National Park
Cazorla had been on our radar for a long time. It’s the largest natural protected area on the Iberian peninsula, a mountainous oasis of sheer gorges, dense forests and magnificent waterfalls in the midst of the arid badlands of Spain’s southern interior.
It’s in the Jaén region in the north of Andalucia. But it’s just that bit too far from where we live to get there on a weekend, so we made sure it was on the itinerary for our big road trip.
It is out of the way though, there’s no denying it! We hit the road at the crack of dawn from our previous camp site at Vall de Laguar in Alicante and motored south through Murcia.
This was the hottest, most desolate stretch of the whole trip, a stunning drive through flat empty scrubland and bone dry canyon country that reminded me of the Utah desert. But boy was it hot! We almost lost heart a couple of time and bolted for the coast, but pressed on with images of lush green Cazorla in our heads.
Camping Cortijo San Isicio is situated on the edge of the town of Cazorla which is the southern gateway to the National Park.
It’s laid out in grassy terraces on a very steep site shaded by mature trees overlooking the town.
Cars aren’t allowed at pitches. You park up, climb the steps to reception, check in, pick your spot and then carry over your gear. It seems like a bit of hassle initially, but it’s worth it. You won’t have to see, smell or most importantly hear yours or anyone else’s car for the rest of your stay.
The perfect pitch
So our pitch. Like I said there was hardly anyone there, maybe 5 or 6 tents and a few caravans. We found a whole empty terrace with good shade and a cracking view of the village.
It had a small covered area with a fireplace, tiled floor, table and chairs, even a sink! Presumably this was for the whole terrace to share but as there was no one else around it was all ours.
So we unpacked and spread out.
With a dining table, running water and electricity, it hardly felt like we were “roughing it” at all. I must admit, though I normally hate domestic chores, I came over all house proud in our little shack, sweeping the tiles, scrubbing the table…
We cooked up a few storms here. For supplies, the town is 10 minutes walk or the local Mercadona (supermarket) is 5 minutes in the car. We spent two full days out of four just relaxing, only leaving to stock up on something or other.
There’s no bar or communal area at this site, but there are lots of intimate seating areas scattered around, recliners at the pool, hammocks strung from trees. Here’s one:
The pool is small but deep, with a sectioned-off toddler’s area.
The playground structures are all wooden. There’s also a ping pong table, trampoline, sand pit and a comfy couch by reception where the youngsters tended to hang out.
Just a word on the climate. It was August. Days for sure we knew would be hot but, being up so high, we were expecting cooler nights. Not so. We enjoyed glorious sultry nights with lows of about 20 degrees. This varies obviously with the time of year.
Read more on Cazorla’s average temperatures.
The Río Borosa hike and pools
We managed to tear ourselves away one day to explore the natural park that we had travelled so far to see. The staff at reception were very helpful. They recommended heading for the Río Borosa in the heart of the park. There’s a track along by the river here which is pretty flat (initially at least) so doable with young children.
From Cazorla, you follow the A319, climbing steeply for about half an hour. At the top a mirador (viewing point) offers magnificent views over hills striped with olive trees rolling away endlessly to the west. Cazorla olive oil, incidentally, has been recognized as one of the best and most ecologically produced in the world!
From here you descend into a lush green of pine forests and river gorges.
Two of Spain’s most important rivers, the Guadalquivir, which flows west all the way to the Atlantic Ocean and the Segura, south to the Mediterranean, have their sources here. Vultures circle over the peaks and if you’re lucky you’ll spot a golden eagle or two. We stopped for an ice-cream at Arroyo Frio and one swooped down right over our heads.
The river is pretty flat at the Río Borosa trail head. There’s a visitor centre, shop and picnic area here. We had lunch and set off….but unfortunately didn’t get very far at all.
On this initial section of the river the path is almost completely exposed and with the August midday heat we were getting absolutely blasted. We managed about half a kilometer, ducking into every skinny patch of shade the trees clinging to the river bank offered, dunking our heads in the abundance of natural springs almost constantly. We soon turned back though. This is a hike that needs to be started in the cool morning temperatures.
However all wasn’t lost. Back at the trail head where the river is completely flat it pools out to form some glorious natural bathing areas. How delicious that water was to dive into after that sticky walk in the sun!
The town itself is unique and beautiful, a mountain stronghold full of history. Established since before Roman times, most of its primitive structures are still intact – a crumbling watchtower, the remains of a monastery and battlements connected by a long curtain wall. Because of its height overlooking the valleys of southern Spain, it was a strategic fortress during Moorish times and later, after the Reconquista, a major Christian outpost.
It survives mainly on olive oil production, tourism plus the Cazorla blues festival every July.
Camp site facilities
Open: March 1 to November 1
Credit cards accepted.
Pitches: 54. Roughly marked out with mostly good shade. Grass surface. Terraced. No parking at pitches (separate car park).
Electric hook ups.
Water taps at/near pitches.
No TV, radios, AC units allowed.
Swimming pool. Toddler’s pool.
Play ground, trampoline and table tennis table.
Marked out walking routes near the camp site
Communal bbq area.
Shop inc. fresh bread and cold drinks at reception.
Shops: Supermarket – 5 mins drive. Cazorla town – 10 mins walk.
Read more on Cazorla
Cortijo San Isicio camp site.
Cortijo San Isicio camp site review on Eurocampings.
Cortijo San Isicio camp site review on Great Little Campings.
Flora and fauna of Cazorla natural park.
Sierra Cazorla natural park on Tripadvisor.
A video I found on Cazorla. The latter section shows the upper part of the Rio Borosa river hike.