Granada Province – Andalusia
Situated to the southeast of Andalusia, the Granada Province has been a meeting point between the east and the west since the earliest of times. Its stark climatic contrasts are the result of a uniquely dramatic topography which has two types of microclimates: that of the Costa Tropical, with average temperatures of 18.5ºC and 3.000 hours of sunshine per year; and that of the Sierra Nevada, where temperatures can drop to as low as 35ºC below zero in the winter.
This land, which has captivated numerous celebrated romantic travelers and writers, is an extraordinarily diverse tourist destination which combines wonderful beaches with snow capped mountains, dream-like landscapes, natural areas of great beauty, historic towns and villages, and traditional barrios with cave dwellings.
Art and Culture
The Alhambra and the Generalife, which together with the Moorish quarter of El Albaicín have been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, are just a part of Granada´s impressive wealth of monuments. This is shown by the fact that as many as 15 towns and villages in the province have been designated Sites of Historic Interest. As is demonstrated by the 198 dolmens found in Gorafe, Granada has been inhabited since prehistoric times, and ancient peoples such as the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians found its coast the ideal place to develop their commercial activities. A good example of this is the Punic-Roman fish salting factory in Almuñécar.
Throughout their seven centuries of occupation, the Moors constructed fortresses, baths, and watchtowers, and during their period of rule, Granada, which was then the capital of the Nasrid Kingdom, was the most advanced cultural centre in the western world. In 1492 the city finally fell to the Catholic Monarchs, after the capitulation of King Boabdil. The Christians brought new artistic trends which were used in constructions like the Castle of La Calahorra, which contains a renaissance palace inside its walls. Numerous artistic treasures dating from this period can be seen in the 55 provincial museums or by following the cultural routes which feature Granada´s Andalusí legacy.
Granada´s crafts are the result of the assimilation of the skills and traditions of the ancient cultures which have settled in the area throughout the centuries, giving them a uniquely distinctive style and personality. This can be seen in the production of pottery and ceramics, which is based on diverse techniques and materials such as those used by the Phoenicians to make their earthenware pots or the spectacular ceramic pieces created by the Muslims during the Nasrid period.
The taracea, which combines the art of fine carpentry with the incrustation of metals and other elements, and the manufacturing of hand-crafted guitars by luthiers are two of the traditional crafts for which Granada´s artisans are widely renowned. Granada´s metal craftsmen produce a variety of wrought iron objects including the typical lantern and there is a thriving textile industry, particularly in the Alpujarras, where the traditional colourful jarapas are woven on looms, using a range of off-cuts from other materials.
Other types of crafts which continue to be important throughout the province include leatherwork and saddlery, esparto work, jewellery, and glass making.
Granada Province Festivals and Traditions
Used as the setting for films such as Al sur de Granada or Tirante el Blanco, Granada boasts a rich and varied festive calendar which offers a whole range of interesting cultural events. As well as the Easter Week celebrations, the May Crosses and the festivity dedicated to the Virgen del Carmen (which is celebrated in coastal areas with a picturesque maritime procession), there are two other kinds of festivals which are particularly popular in the province: the Moors and Christians festivals, which in places like Válor are especially colourful and deeply rooted, and the “Cascamorras” festival held in Guadix, in which a scruffy looking figures tries to steal the image of the Virgen de la Piedad which is kept in Baza.
Granada´s wide-ranging programme of cultural and artistic events includes the highly prestigious International Festival of Music and Dance, whose origins date back to 1883, featuring prestigious orchestras and dance companies and attracting more than 3.000 spectators every year. Other events of interest include the Hocus Pocus Festival of Magic and the International Jazz Festival (both in Granada itself), the Jazz on the Costa Festival in Almuñécar, the Andrés Segovia Classical Guitar Competition in La Herradura, and the Parapanda Folk Festival in Íllora, amongst many others.
Granada Province Gastronomy
Granada´s varied gastronomy, with its uniquely distinctive range of tapas, is equally influenced by its rich cultural legacy, its unique topography, and its climate. Thus, whilst the Vega provides the vegetables and pulses which are used to prepare salads and a variety of cold soups, inland the cold temperatures make hearty stews, potages and broths more popular and these are cooked with various types of meat including the exquisite segureño lamb. The cuisine of the Alpujarras area, with its rich variety of cured meats (particularly the renowned Jamón produced in Trevélez) is in stark contrast to that of the Costa Tropical, which is based on tropical fruits and fresh seafood.
The Granada province most emblematic products are protected by five Denominations of Origin (“Montes de Granada” and “Poniente de Granada” olive oils, “Miel de Granada” honey, “Chirimoya de la Costa Tropical de Granada-Málaga” cherimoyas, and “Espárrago de Huétor Tájar” asparagus). There is also the prestigious caviar from Riofrío, the only one produced from Spanish beluga sturgeon. Also typical of Granada are the wines from the four zones recognized under the Vino de la Tierra designation, and the traditional cakes and pastries produced in the province´s convents.
Granada Province Nature and Active Tourism
The province´s huge variety of landscapes range from the snow topped peaks of the Sierra Nevada and the sea of clouds you can often see beneath you in the Alpujarras, to the idyllic coves and inlets on the Costa Tropical or the clay hillsides of the Altiplano or high plateau.
Granada´s 73 km of coastline is dotted with numerous beaches which have been awarded the EU Blue Flag, as well as a number of marinas (in Motril and Almuñecar) and splendid seabed locations (La Herradura, Acantilados de Maro-Cerro Gordo and Calahonda) which are a true paradise for divers has an impressive natural heritage, the most important area being the Sierra Nevada, which was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1866, and then acquired the status of Nature Park in 1989, and National Park in 1999. This mountain range is home to the highest summits in the Iberian Peninsula (Mulhacén and Veleta) and provides a habitat for more than 60 indigenous plant species as well as the Spanish ibex. The Granada province has four other nature parks (Sierra de Castril, Sierra de Baza, Sierra de Huétor and Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama) and numerous areas of outstanding natural beauty (La Sagra, Sierra de Orce, Sierra de Lújar), all of which are ideal for walking, horse riding, or mountain biking.
For lovers of alpine sports the Sierra Nevada Ski Station offers 84 km of slopes, whilst the La Ragua pass, which is situated at more than 2.000 metres in altitude, is ideal for cross country skiing. Other places for outdoor activities include: the Riofrio Intensive Fishing Reserve; the peaks and grottoes of the Sierra de Castril, with good potholing locations; the Del Negratín and De los Bermejales reservoirs; golf courses (De Las Gabias and Motril); the River Verde, which is ideal for abseiling; and areas with good landing and take off sites for free flying such as the Sierra de Loja, the area surrounding Almuñécar, and the Pico Jabalcón peak.
GRANADA PROVINCE ROUTES
Granada and its surroundings
This route covers a series of towns historically linked to the capital and birthplace of poet Federico García Lorca. It starts in the floodplains and passes through: Santa Fe, once the military headquarters of the Catholic Monarchs; Vegas del Genil; Las Gabias; La Malahá, with its medicinal waters; and Otura, which is close to the famous spot Suspiro del Moro. Along the banks of the River Genil, are the towns of Atarfe and Pinos Puente, which both have important archaeological sites. Near to the Cubillas Reservoir are the villages of Peligros, Calicasas, Pulianas, and Jun, and the area makes up part of the Sierra de Huétor nature park.
Las Alpujarras and Lecrín Valley Route
Picturesque White villages nestling into the hillsides tell us that we are in the Las Alpujarras, a mountainous area with a uniquely distinctive popular architecture. The breathtaking landscapes include sites such as the Barranco del Poqueira gorge, where the villages of Pampaneira, Bubión, and Capileira are situated. Passing through Lanjarón, famous for its healthy spa waters, we climb to Trevélez, the highest village in Spain, and a place which is widely renowned for its exquisite hams. The colourful Moors and Christians festival, which is held in Válor, and the traditional jarapas are also amongst the numerous attractive features of the area.
Route of Granada´s high plateau
Formed by huge high plateaus which several million years ago were the site of a huge lake, this is an area of great archaeological significance as is shown by important findings such as the Lady of Baza, the Lady of Galera, the Iberian Roman city of Basti (Baza), and the Venta Micena Palaeontological Complex (Orce). Palatial mansions and churches reflect the area´s noble past and the great prosperity that the Christian conquest brought to towns such as Baza and Huéscar. Visitors can explore the Sierra de Baza and Sierra de Castril nature parks on the well marked network of paths, or perhaps try paragliding from the Pico Jabalcón peak, or fishing in the Negratín reservoir.
The Costa Tropical Route
This was the initial landing point of powerful civilizations such as the Phoenicians, who founded Sexi (Almuñécar) and Salambina (Salobreña), and its rich historic legacy includes Moorish castles and towers, Roman aqueducts, and the Cave of Los Murciélagos in Albuñol, as well as the Puente de Noy Phoenician Necropolis and the Punic-Roman Fish Salting Factory, both of which are in Almuñécar. The subtropical climate, which permits the cultivation of delicious tropical fruits, makes the beaches of Castell de Ferro, Calahonda, Castillo de Baños, La Mamola, La Rábita, Motril or Polopos the perfect destination for lovers of water sports and diving.
The Guadix and El Marquesado Route
A crossroads of civilizations and cultures since the earliest of times, the municipalities of Guadix and El Marquesado contain the remains of what was Roman Acci (Guadix) as well as the largest concentration of dolmens in the whole of Andalusia, in Gorafe, now a Megalithic Theme Park. The impressive Cathedral in Guadix, the La Calahorra Palace Castle, and the Baths of Alicún are all well worth a visit. In an area of contrasting landscapes, a feature of great interest are the cave dwellings, hewn out of the rock.
The El Poniente Route
Situated right on the west of the province, El Poniente is notable for its rich and varied landscapes and the Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama nature park. Forming the frontier between the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada and the territories controlled by the Christians, it is notable for the Arabic fortresses of Íllora, Moclín, Zagra and Montefrío, as well as the Alcazaba in Loja, and the Thermal Baths of Alhama de Granada. Also of interest are the megalithic burial area in the Peña de los Gitanos and the dolmens of Sierra Martilla.
The Sierra Nevada Route
With the highest peaks in the Iberian Peninsula, those of Mulhacén and Veleta, the Sierra Nevada is characterized by small villages with a Morisco flavor, surrounded by spectacular countryside. Apart from its outstanding gastronomy, the area offers a range of options for active tourism which would be difficult to match. There are a number of walking routes beginning in Güejar Sierra including that of Vereda de la Estrella which takes in the Quéntar and Canales reservoirs, near to Cenes de la Vega and Pinos Genil, whilst in Huétor Vega it is still possible to follow the picturesque Camino de los Neveros. The Sierra Nevada National Park and the Mountain Ski Station in Monachil, are places that should definitely not be missed.