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International visitors discovered the province of Jaén and its three principal cities -- Jaén (the capital), Baeza, and Ubeda -- in the 1960s. For years, visitors whizzed through Jaén on the way south to Granada or bypassed it altogether on the southwest route to Córdoba and Seville. But the government improved the province's hotel outlook with excellent paradors, which now provide some of the finest accommodations in Andalusia.

Since that time, new and charming boutiques have opened up, and old monuments have been dusted off. For those who have at least a day, a detour through these towns is rewarding. If you have time for only one stop, make it ancient Ubeda, which has the most charm.

If you're visiting Granada after a previous stopover in Córdoba, you can head east along N-IV (E-5) to the turnoff town of Bailén. If you're going on to Granada without stopping over, you can head straight south along N-323, which will take you to the city of Jaén. You can stop off in Jaén for the night or bypass the city and follow the signs to E-902 into Granada.

Back at Bailén, if you want to visit Ubeda and Baeza (or both), get onto N-322 and head east, following the signs to either Ubeda or Baeza. Ubeda is on the main route, N-322. Baeza, however, is a short drive southwest of Ubeda and is reached by taking a secondary route, N-321.

Baeza

45km (28 miles) NE of Jaén

Historic Baeza (known to the Romans as Vilvatia), with its Gothic and Plateresque buildings and cobblestone streets, is one of the best-preserved old towns in Spain. At twilight, when lanterns hanging from walls of plastered stone light the narrow streets, you might feel you've stumbled back into the 15th century. The town's heyday was in the 16th and 17th centuries. Even if you don't go inside many specific monuments -- and, indeed, many of the most charming buildings aren't open to the public -- you can still get a good idea of the architecture by strolling through the barrio monumental and admiring the old buildings.