The Alpujarras is a tranquil and mountainous area to the east of Axarquia, and north from Motril in the Granada province. It is the area that the last Moorish king, Boabdil, was exiled to. After the battle of Granada in January 1492, the conquering monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand, spared his life but banished him to the then remote region beneath the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada. After leaving Granada, Boabdil gazed back to catch a last glimpse of his beloved Alhambra when his mother said “Do not weep as a woman for what you could not defend as a man”. Nowadays it is easily accessible as a day trip or, to explore further, stay overnight being only half an hour’s drive from the coast.
The Alpujarras covers an area of 2,500 square kilometres and contains 40 villages, only six of which exceed 2,000 inhabitants. Mountain villages over 1,000 metres above sea level hug the slopes overlooking gorgeous scenery and the sparkling Mediterranean 40 kilometres away. The snows of the Sierra Nevada form a magnificent backdrop feeding the mountain streams with an unending supply of water. The countryside is scoured with stark canyons contrasting with green valleys and fields of wild flowers.
Picturesque building traditions brought here by the Moors are found only in the Alpujarras and the remote Berber villages of the Atlas mountains. The streets are narrow, steep and twisting with wide gutters in the middle designed for melting snow and mules. The houses are made from uncut stone with flat grey roofs of stone laid horizontally across wooden beams and covered with a thick coating of decomposed slate. Long open galleries on the first floor are hung with drying maize and peppers, and terraces full of flowers have been built across the narrow streets to form a labyrinth of connecting bridges and tunnels.
The three most well known villages in western Alpujarras are Pampaneira, which has a tourist office, Bubion and Capileira. Bubion has several workshops and galleries displaying the work of the resident artists and Capileira has a small museum depicting local life and customs. From Capileira an aspalted road continues for 3 kilometres to the snow line at 1,800 metres. A rough track, suitable only for 4-wheel drives, leads over the mountains to the Sierra Nevada ski resort 30 kilometres away.
20 kilometres further east of Pampaneira is Trevelez nestling at 1,500 metres below Spain’s highest mountain, the Mulhacen. Further east again are Valor where mock Moorish/Christian battles are staged, Ugijar with stark, dramatic scenery and Cadiar where at fiesta time the village fountain spouts wine.
Local specialities to choose from are roast kid, partridge, fresh trout with serrano ham, papas a lo pobre (poor man’s potatoes), cheese with honey, almond filled meringues and fig icecream with walnut sauce.
Berchules lies 81 kilometres from Granada and 42 kilometres from the coast at La Rabita. It has an altitude of 1,320 metres and a population of 2,000. The countryside surrounding Berchules is terraced farms, chestnut trees and ferrous springs. Two trout rivers, the Chico and the Grande, run through the area.
Bubion is one of three villages lying in the Poqueira Ravine, 67 kilometres from Granada and 54 kilometres from the coast at Salobrena. It has an altitude of 1,300 metres and a population of 600. The village name is derived from the Latin for Land of Oxen.
The village has hotels, bars, restaurants, workshops producing crafts and precious metalwork and galleries displaying the work of resident artists. There is also a rural hotel complex situated outside of the village, close to the no longer standing village of Alguastar, known as the Poqueira Tourist Complex. Run by a cooperative, the complex is a centre for hiking, horseriding and jeep tours. The village church is 16th century and stands next to the remains of a Nazrid Arab fortified tower.
Busquistar lies 71 kilometres from Granada and 58 kilometres from the coast at Salobrena. It has an altitude of 1,160 metres and a population of 700. This is a small village with slate roofs and walls, that is located close to a large chestnut forest. Just outside, are remains of an Arab mosque from where there is a great panoramic view of nearby villages.
Cadiar, lying close to the source of the river Guadalfeo, is 70 kilometres from Granada and 36 kilometres from the coast at La Rabita. It has an altitude of 700 metres and a population of 2,500. The town is a commercial centre with plenty of shops, bars, restaurants and accommodation. Cadiar’s 16th century Renaissance church stands in the main square surrounded by traditional and modern architecture. At fiesta time, in February and October, the town’s fountains spout wine instead of water.
Capileira lies at the top of the Poqueira Ravine facing the mountain of Veleta. The village is 71 kilometres from Granada by ‘main’ road and 58 kilometres from the coast at Salobrena. It has an altitude of 1,436 metres and a population of 900. Within the village, there are hotels, bars, restaurants and artisan workshops. The narrow streets open into various squares one of which, the Plaza de Calvario, houses a culture centre which is also a museum and residence for artists. The culture centre is named after Pedro Antonio de Alarcon, a reknowned traveller from Guadix. The lower part of the village stands over the Tajo del Diablo (Devil’s Gorge) from where there are wonderful sweeping views.
From Capileira, an asphalt road continues for three kilometres to the snow line at 1,800 metres. A rough track, suitable only for 4-wheel drive vehicles, leads over the mountains to the Sierra Nevada ski resort 30 kilometres away and on to Granada.
Durcal is situated in the northwest of the Alpujarras in the Lecrin Valley, 28 kilometres south of Granada and 42 kilometres from the coast at Salobrena. It has an altitude of 800 metres and a population of 5,000. The town has a combination of traditional and modern architecture. The main square, the Plaza de Espana, with the town hall and parish church alongside, forms the centre and hub of activities.
Juviles lies 75 kilometres from Granada and 48 kilometres from the coast at La Rabita. It has an altitude of 1,260 metres and a population of 500. This is a small whitewashed village with bars, restaurants and accommodation.
Spa at Lanjaron
Lanjaron lies 7 kilometres to the east of the Tablate Bridge, 40 kilometres from Granada and 49 kilometres from the coast at Salobrena. It has a population of 4,500 and an altitude of 725 metres. One of the busiest and most visited spas in Spain is at Lanjaron which is famous for medicinal waters. As a result, the town has more hotels and other accommodation than any other in the Alpujarras. The parish church is 16th century and, outside of the town, there are remains of an Arab castle.
Lecrin is situated in the lush valley of the same name. Also known as Talara, the town lies 34 kilometres to the south of Granada and 36 kilometres from the coast at Salobrena. It has at an altitude of 700 metres and a population of 1,500. The kings of Granada were buried at the cemetery here, and there are also remains of an Arab castle.
Six kilometres to the south of Lecrin, past the small village of Beznar, is the Tablate Bridge which is the official western access point to the Alpujarras. This bridge is of historic interest and was once of great strategic importance. On the 10th January 1569, one of the first battles between Christians and Moors was fought here.
Mecina Bombaron, lies 85 kilometres from Granada and 42 kilometres from the coast at La Rabita. It has an altitude of 1,200 metres and a population of 1,300.
This whitewashed village has some large houses set amongst chestnut woods and terraces. The river Mecina, which runs by the village, is crossed by a well-preserved Arab bridge.
Orgiva, capital and judicial district of the western Alpujarras, lies 49 kilometres from Granada and 36 kilometres from the coast at Salobrena. It has an altitude of 450 metres and a population of 6,500, making it the largest town within the official area of the Alpujarras. Lying on a four-way crossroads, Orgiva has a large commercial and trading centre and many bars, restaurants, clubs and hotels. The parish church here is a 16th century mix of Baroque and Renaissance. There are also remains of a fortified Arab tower and a the Molinos de Benizalte, a 15th century Arab oil mill.
Padul is located at the northern end of the Lecrin Valley, which runs between the Sierra Nevada and the Sierra Almijara. The name of this valley means ‘Happy Valley’, due to the fertility of the land and the mild climate, where crop production is substantial. The village is situated 20 kilometres to the south of Granada and 50 kilometres from the coast at Salobrena. It has an altitude of 750 metres and a population of 7,000.
The parish church here is 16th century Renaissance, and there is also a 14th century Arab fortified tower and an 18th century Palace of Counts.
Pampaneira lies in the Poqueira Ravine, 63 kilometres from Granada, 14 kilometres from Orgiva and 50 kilometres from the coast at Salobrena. This is a lush and abundant area with the River Poqueira running over waterfalls below. The village has an altitude of 1,200 metres and a population of 1,000. Over the years, Pampaneira has won many awards for most attractive and best kept village. The streets are narrow and twisting and decorated with a profusion of flowers and fountains. The village has a tourist office, a 16th century Baroque church, good hotel capacity, restaurants, bars and shops selling local crafts. The child destined to be the next Dalai Lama in Tibet was born in this area.
Pitres, also known as La Taha, lies 69 kilometres from Granada and 56 kilometres from the coast at Salobrena. It has an altitude of 1,295 metres and a population of 800. In the main village square there is a whitewashed parish church, and several bars and restaurants. Just outside of the village is a year round campsite, called El Balcon de Pitres, which has a restaurant and swimming pool.
Portugos lies 71 kilometres from Granada and 58 kilometres from the coast at Salobrena. It has an altitude of 1,300 metres and a population of 500. A pretty village with a few local shops, its main feature is the red water that runs in fountains and over waterfalls at El Chorreon. The colour originates at the nearby ferrous spring of Fuente Agria.
Torvizcon lies on a river of the same name, 49 kilometres from Granada and 57 kilometres from the coast at Salobrena and La Rabita. It has an altitude of 683 metres and a population of 2,500. This is a traditional whitewashed town, with plenty of shops, bars, restaurants and accommodation.
Trevelez lies 75 kilometres from Granada and has a population of 1,150. It is 63 kilometres from the coast at Salobrena and 59 kilometres from the coast at La Rabita. The village has an altitude of 1,476 metres, making it the highest village in Spain nestling below the highest mountain of Mulhacen. A trout river, the Trevelez, runs through the village. The local cured hams are some of the finest found anywhere. They are dried in the open and exported throughout the world. They may also be eaten in the many bars and restaurants in Trevelez. The village also has plenty of accommodation and a campsite.
Ugijar, the commercial centre of the eastern Alpujarras, lies 90 kilometres from Granada and 42 kilometres from the coast at Adra. It has an altitude of 560 metres and a population of 3,000. The town has plenty of shops, bars, restaurants and accommodation. Legend tells that Ugijar once had a temple, dedicated to Athena, which was visited by Ulysses who was attracted to gold found in the local rivers.
Valor lies between two deep ravines, 95 kilometres from Granada and 48 kilometres from the coast at Adra. It has an altitude of 900 metres and a population of 2,000.
In 1520, Valor was the birthplace of Aben Humeya, who led a Morisco revolt against Christians. In mid-September each year, mock Moorish/Christian battles are staged.
The road through Valor leads on to the small villages of Mecina Alfahara and Laroles and eventually to Guadix.
Yegen lies 89 kilometres from Granada and 46 kilometres from the coast at La Rabita. It has an altitude of 1,000 metres and a population of 750. This is a pretty whitewashed village full of flowers and oak, chestnut and walnut trees. Yegan was immortalised by the author Gerald Brenan as his home and main subject of his book, written in the 1920s, entitled South From Granada. A plaque indicates the house where he lived.