In the far west of Andalucia, with its western border sharing that with Portugal, Huelva’s economy revolves around agriculture and mining. The famous Rio Tinto mines have been worked since 1000 BC and at Rio Tinto you can see a replica British village, built by the British when they owned the mines. The capital, Huelva, is an Atlantic port on the Rio Odel and it is from a wharf at Palos de la Frontera just outside Huelva, that Columbus set out on his first voyage. You can tread the decks of replicas of the Santa Maria, Pinta and Nina there.
Between the Rio Odel and the Rio Guadalquivir to the south east lies the Donana National Park, a huge expanse of wetlands and marismas that has a biodiversity unique in Europe. Here you may see through the year over 300 species of migratory or resident bird, nearly 900 species of flora indigenous to the park, 20 species of freshwater fish, 10 amphibians and 37 mammals including the Iberian Lynx.
West of the Rio Odel is a stretch of wide sandy Atlantic beaches that take you to the Rio Guadiana, the border with Portugal. Although not as developed as the Costa del Sol, this stretch of the Costa de la Luz has a number of resorts, El Rompido, El Catalan and Isla Cristina.
Although perhaps the most industrialised province in Andalucia, Huelva still has enormous tracts of unspoiled and largely untouched land on the coast and in the foothills of the Sierra Aracena and Sierra Morena. On the history front too Huelva is not lacking. The Tartessians and Phoenicians exploited the inland mines, transformed the coastal towns into prosperous trading centres, and created a maritime trade route to transport the minerals from Tharsis and Rio Tinto to the cities of the eastern Mediterranean. The Romans, Moors and later Christians all left their mark.
At the confluence of the Rivers Odiel and Tinto, Huelva is first and foremost a port and it has been a port for over 3,000 years. When the Phoenicians arrived, about 1000 BC, they noticed two things. First the copper, rusty colour of the water entering the estuary from what is now the Rio Tinto; a sure sign that metallic minerals were present further upstream, and secondly the presence of a people, the Tartessians, who were already exploiting the metals. The Tartessians were the southernmost point of a network that went via Portugal and Brittany to Cornwall for tin, the metal that, when combined with copper, produces bronze. A hoard of bronze age swords found in the river at Huelva attests to the importance of this trade. More....