It’s summer. It’s hot, sticky, sweaty and insufferable. It’s hitting 45ºC almost every day and nearly impossible to sleep. It’s not even August yet. So thank God that I am not in Spain.
I love the heat, but perspire even at the thought of such insane temperatures. No, Spanish summertime is not for me. Instead, I retreat to the cooler shores of the UK, where, in Oxford, I teach English to Chinese and Japanese undergraduates who don’t find Alan Partridge funny.
But if you are in Spain, and looking for a way to escape the heat that doesn’t involve crowded beaches or public swimming pools, then my advice is to grab as much food and beer as possible, jump in a car, drive or be driven out to the sticks and find either a fresh water lake or lagoon, preferably with a waterfall. Then stay there until you’ve finished all your food and beer (and get someone else to drive back).
It’s actually a lot easier than you think to find one of these nirvanas. A few weeks ago I posted about Lake Bermejales– an enormous, emerald-blue fresh water lake near Alhama de Granada. It’s perfect for a summer day trip and a hundred times better than the sandy (or pebbly) and salty beach.
Our original plan that weekend, however, had been to go to another idyllic spot on the radar: Rio Verde. I say ‘spot’, but a river is of course much bigger/longer than a spot. What I actually mean is a secret and isolated lagoon with waterfalls you can jump from, like that scene in The Beach only a little less terrifying.
So we went next weekend instead.
The drive from Granada to Otívar, the nearest village to the river, takes about an hour and 15 minutes, but finding the turn-off to Palacete de Cazulas was another matter entirely. When we eventually did manage to find it (SatNav hasn’t got a clue out here) and started to creep our way down, the road became extremely narrow and quite disconcerting. In fact, were it not for the fact we were in a 4×4 I doubt we’d have made it. If you don’t have a 4×4 you’d be better off parking sooner rather than later, lest you can’t get back up again.
Before we left our vehicle we loaded up on water and sun cream– very important in this heat –and then made our way along the river bank on foot for twenty minutes, picking avocados and fresh figs as we went, until we came upon a large, stone dam. On the other side was pure bliss: a turquoise blue lagoon, fed by two waterfalls that had formed through the dam wall.
There was nothing else; just us, the lagoon and nature. However, it quickly dawned on us that we hadn’t actually found the lagoon we’d been looking for– La Junta de los Rios –but we couldn’t have cared less; this was perfect and there was no-one else around to share it with. Just as well, since there is only space for about six people to sit on the facing rocks.
We strayed a little further down the river later on, where we found more avocado and fig trees, but couldn’t bare the thought of leaving our find behind. We stayed all afternoon, some of us posing elegantly beneath the waterfalls (see below), and we never saw another soul.
Later research revealed that we should have continued past the exit we took and taken the next one just beyond it, where there is apparently a ticket booth and a safe place to park. From here it’s a 6km walk to La Junta de los Rios, but you need to be in good shape and have your wits about you since the ground is not even and previous flash floods have caused severe erosion. There are some tour companies based in Granada who offer adventure-style excursions– rafting, canyoning, climbing and so on –and will take care of all the navigation for you, not to mention provide you with a surely unforgettable experience!
Rio Verde is an exceptionally beautiful area and perfect for a day trip and escaping the crowds. Just go prepared and be extra careful with those rocky roads…
From Granada, there are two possible routes to Otívar. The easiest is probably taking the E-902/A44 towards Motril, then, exiting from the A7, follow the SO-22, SO-14 and SO-02 to Otívar. This last leg of the journey takes you right through the heart of rugged, rural Andalucían countryside. It’s incredible.
Have you been anywhere like this in Spain? What other alternatives to the beach are out there? Let’s hear your suggestions!