In the south of the Iberian Peninsula stands La Alpujarra region, bordered by the Sierra Nevada to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the south and the Sierras of Lújar and Gádor to the west and east respectively. It is made up of 55 towns and villages belonging to the provinces of Granada and Almeria.
Due to its immense size and the numerous towns and villages it contains, it is divided into the higher Alpujarra Alta to the north ant the lower Alpujarra Baja nearer the coast. A further distinction can be made on provincial grounds between the Granada Alpujarra and the Almería Alpujarra.
The Alpujarra is an area of breathtaking countryside cloaked in almond trees, vineyards and vegetable garden. The region´s geography is particularly mountainous, so its towns and villages have had to adapt to the undulating terrain, their houses generally being built on different levels and facing south to make the most of the benevolent Mediterranean climate. The winding streets with their stone surfaces are an invitation to take a stroll and breathe in the peace and tranquility. Time here really does appear to stand still.
The Alpujarra offers a wide range of opportunities to enjoy hiking and other mountain pursuits, as well as a catering for horse riding, bicycle tours, mountaineering, etc. Lovers of free flight and paragliding will be captivated by the Sierra de la Contraviesa. The less bold amongst us can enjoy excursions to in 4×4 vehicles to the foothills of Mulhacén. In winter, the mountains are covered in snow, which provides an opportunity not to be missed by cross country ski enthusiasts. And those who are simply in search of peace, quite and relaxation will also find what they are looking for in the Alpujarra, where they will be welcomed with open arms by the hospitable local people.
The Alpujarra is renowned for its cuisine thanks to the excellent quality of the agricultural produce and livestock on which the region´s typical dishes are base. Broths, hotpots and stews abound throughout the area, while meat and sausages are also well representd, the highlight being the famous Trevélez cured ham; there are salads and soups, pea omelettes, a garlic sauce known as ajo cabañil, Alpujarra migas (a fried breadcrumb dish) and trout with ham, all washed down with a fine local wine, to satisfy even the most demanding palates. And for dessert, choose from a selection of pastries made using traditional Moorish recipes.
The Alpujarra is famous for its jarapas, rustic carpets which are generally very colorful and can be seen being made in a number of workshops. Curiously, in days gone by, they were made using tattered old clothes, hence the variety of colors used. Also made here are speckled carpets whose designs can be traced back to Arabic times. Pottery made in log kilns is a Nazarí tradition. Products include tiles, pitchers, plates, bowls and jugs. The more traditional examples combine blue and green and usually bear a pomegranate motif, though they sometimes feature birds or flowers. Other crafts to be found thriving here include carpentry, esparto, wicker and iron work and saddler.
The Granada Alpujarra
Lanjarón, with its houses built on different levels, its vantage points and its narrow streets that rise and fall along the slopes of Bordaila hill, is the gateway to the Alpujarra. Its famous health spa offers a variety of treatments for a number of different conditions, the curative properties of its medicinal mineral waters being widely renowned. Its main places of interest are the Arabic castle, the Mudéjar-style La Encarnación Church, San Sebastián Hermitage and the many vantage points scattered throughout the town.
Órgiva stands at the beginning of the road that leads up to the Alpujarra Alta. Nestling in a valley created by the Sierra de Lújar and Sierra Nevada, between the River Chico and the River Guadalfeo, it sold quarters still retain their Moorish flavor. The highlights of this distinguished town crammed with monuments are the Castle-Palace of the Count and Countess of Vástago, the Benizalte windmill, San Sebastián Hermitage and the parish church.
Balcón de la Alpujarra
Heading upwards from Órgiva towards the Alpujarra Alta, we come across the first of the withe towns. Emerging out of the cliffs and bends, the crops and terraces, are the towns of Cañar, Soportujar, where the doorways are shrouded in cornices, and Carataunas, with its stately home that once belonged to a member of the royal guard of Queen Isabel II; this is the Balcón de la Alpujarra and a hint of what is to come.
Barranco de Poqueira
Without our realizing, almost as if by magic, three towns suddenly appear before us that, tucked away as they are between the rocks, seem to stretch as far as the peaks of Mulhacén and Veleta themselves. This is Barranco del Poqueira, home to the three villages with most personality to be found in the whole of the Alpujarra: Pampaneira, Bubión and Capileira, with their narrow, Moorish streets which are a joy to stroll along. A must in Pampaneira is a visit the Museum of Alpujarra Art, not forgetting the church and a number of vantage points and fountains. The highlight of Bubión is its Tourist Village, which blends in beautifully with its surroundings. The visitor to Capileira is advised to hike up to Veleta peak, a breathtaking setting.
Continuing along a road that zigzags between the mountains, we come to Pitres, Pórtugos and Busquístar before reaching the highest town in Spain, Trevélez. In addition to strolling through its whitewashed streets, we can sample the delicious Trevélez ham, cured and dried in the cold mountain environment. The impressive views from the many vantage points, particularly in winter, when the landscape is covered in snow, are a privilege that should not be missed. Trevélez is also famous for having the best trout in the region.
Continuing across the mountains, we pass through a wealth of charming villages, including Cástaras, Juviles, Bérchules, Cádiar, Mecina Bombarón, Válor and Ugijar, to name but a few of the delightful villages that line our route.
The route to the coast
From Cádiar, the road forks into two directions. If we take the direct route to the coast, we will pass through Los Morones, Los Vargas, Albondón and Albuñol, white towns smattered across the green backdrop of the landscape. This area in home to a wine knows “Costa”, a claret of the “Tierra Contraviesa-Alpujarra” denomination. If we have more time on our hands, however, we can enjory a visit to Murtas with its neoclassical church, the largest in the whole of the Alpujarra, and Turón. To the west, we encounter towns such as Almegijar, Torvizcón, Alcázar, Fregenite, Olías, Bargis and Rubite, locations which combine magnificent scenery with the essence of the Alpujarra at the heart of the Sierra de la Contraviesa.
The Almeria Alpujarra
The first towns we encounter as we enter the Almeria section of La Alpujarra are Bayárcal and Paterna del Río, followed by Laujar de Andarax, where places of interest include the Town Hall, San Pascual Bailón Convent and a number of public fountains, such as El Pilar de la Plaza, which dates back to 1648.
Next comes Fondón, where the houses are decorated by noble coats of arms and the Town Hall stands on the site of a former granary. La Fuente de Fondón, which dates back to the time of Carlos III. The town is also home to a farmhouse known as Cortijo de las Paces or the former Cortijo de Hadid, where Juan de Austria signed the treaty that ended the war against the Moors.
After visiting Alcolea and Darrícal, with its castle-fortress, we come to Berja, home to the Hermitage Chapel of Nuestra Señora de Gádor and remains of an amphitheatre, an Arabic fortress, Arabic baths and the Tower-Fort of Los Enciso.
The route ends in Dalias, known as the balcony of the Alpujarra and a vantage point over the sea. The town still retains traces of its mediaeval Muslim origins, with its houses with allotments and narrow cul-de-sacs that create small squares of irregular design.