At this stage of my Granadino expathood (2 years, 3 months), I really ought to have visited Las Alpujarras more than twice. Any discerning expat in Spain will attest to that. The first time was when I attended and (rather tamely) participated in the mother of all water fights in Lanjarón, to help celebrate el día de San Juan – the longest day of the year. The second outing came recently, perhaps at the best time of year to go considering the late autumn we had last year.
La Alpujarra’s unspoiled and natural beauty is as unparalleled as its unique microclimate, provoked by the constantly melting snow from above. In sharp contrast, the landscape below is much more arid and sparse.
A few facts and a little history…
- The etymology of ‘alpujarra’ is unclear, though the most credible suggestion is that it derived from the Arabic word al-bugsharra, meaning ‘sierra of pastures’.
- The average altitude is 4,000ft above sea level.
- Many inhabitants of La Alpujarra descend from Galicians, after thousands were relocated from Galicia following the reconquest of Granada in 1568.
- Mulhacen, the highest peak in Spain at 3,482m, is contained within the mountain range.
- It contains Trevelez, the highest village in Spain, at 4,843ft above sea level.
- The Alpujarras covers roughly 2,500km.
- The Mediterranean, seen easily on a clear day, is just 40km away.
The enchanting, sky-scraping region spans two Spanish provinces – Granada and Almería – and comprises around forty small mountain villages. Its history is fascinating. The Moors were the first to settle there in the late 15th century, after being driven away by Spanish Christians who had recaptured Granada. This was where they remained until a hundred or so years later, when the Christians expelled anyone of Arab descent from the Kingdom of Granada. Following that, the Christians – many of them from Galicia in the north-west of Spain – resettled in the area, though much of the traditional Moorish architecture was preserved, and still is today.
It is, of course, impossible to explore each area of Las Alpujarras – unless you intend to stay for a longer period – so most day-trippers tend to stick with the main three tourist attractions: Capileira, Bubión and Pampaneira. They are all formed on el rio poqueira – a deep, yawning valley that drops towards the neighbouring villages of Órgiva and Lanjarón. Each village is characterised by its narrow, winding streets, old-fashioned crafts shops, flat clay roofs and tall, rounded chimney pots.
We began our day with a tour of Capileira – the second highest village in Las Alpujarras – and a coffee at local bar and restaurant Casa Pilar y Paco Lopez, where we were treated to spectacular views. The village brims with colourful, wooden-beam arts & crafts stores, all filled with local goods from handwoven rugs to homemade jams.
(click for slideshow)
The next village heading downward is Bubión, where there are yet more arts & crafts stores, art galleries and several cafés and restaurants to cater for hungry hikers. There is also a small folk museum called Casa Alpujarreña, which was free to enter when we passed by, though the real draw – as with the neighbouring villages – is the frankly ridiculous view of the Alpujarra all around you.
If you plan on completing the circuit I’d recommend you take the steep, tumbling backstreets that lead into the woods before arriving in Pampaneira. During autumn the trees’ colours turn glorious shades of yellow, red, orange and green. And if you’re wearing orange-tinted sunglasses like I was you’ll wish you could take pictures simply by blinking your eyes.
There is supposedly an abundance of wildlife in the alpujarra – mountain goats, birds of prey and even the rare lynx are sighted often – but we were not to see any other living creature except the odd, fellow rambler and a penned herd of fat, soon-to-be-slaughtered pigs. Can’t complain though, with views like this:
(click for slideshow)
Our hilly walk finished in Pampaneira, where things are a bit livlier. Each bar buzzed with the sound of chatter and glasses being clinked by families and groups of friends, laughing and joking. The sun was up, the scenes were classic Spain and the beers were – at least for their brief life span – blissful. There was even a chocolate factory. Yes, that’s right – a genuine chocolate factory – which, save for an edible theme park and a few oompa-loompas, was everything I’d expect a chocolate factory to be. Namely, there was lots of free chocolate. It’s curious how at first you act all coy and indifferent in the interest of being polite, but the minute hands start swooping in for the flavour you’ve got your hawk eyes on all such nonchalance suddenly melts away. ‘There’s only one chunk of caramel biscuit left and you can think again if you think you’re getting to it first girl of eight‘. Seriously, I actually took candy from a baby. Tasted great too.
Next came the food (chocolate didn’t count). A steakhouse by the name of El Castaño had been strongly recommended by a friend and since none of us had EVER enjoyed a good steak in Spain before we simply had to indulge. It was perhaps the best meal I’ve had in Spain yet, and if it weren’t for the impending and inevitable traipse back up to the car in Capileira, I might never have moved again.
I’ll be back to Las Alpujarras soon, especially now since there is snow on the mountains. It’s a walkers paradise and absolutely unmissable if you are planning on visiting the Granada province of Spain.
Given the distance between Granada and La Alpujarra (70km) I’d recommend taking a car. There are only three buses that leave from Granada per day and the first is at 10am, meaning you’ll have missed the entire morning by the time you get there. The cost, however, is probably cheaper in comparison at €11 return, though if there are four or five of you it may work out only marginally more expensive to hire a car from either Granada city centre or Granada Airport. The bus timetable is as follows:
Granada – Capileira
10.00 12.00 16.30
Capileira – Granada
07.00 16.45 18.15
All services stop at Pampaneira and Bubión too, 5-10 minutes before and after respectively. The journey takes roughly two and a half hours. Go to alsa.es to book tickets.
Have you been to Las Alpujarras? Which other villages would you recommend? Was this article useful?