The Alpujarra of Granada is a cluster of whitewashed towns on the slopes of Sierra Nevada, Spain. They are in a unique, changing and beautiful landscape that attracts travelers and artists looking for inspiration. Due to its isolation, they retain the Arab charm of the past.
The Alpujarra of Granada
What is the Alpujarra?
The Alpujarra or Alpujarras (also found in plural) is a region of mountain towns on the southern slopes of Sierra Nevada National Park, just 30 kms. from Granada and the Alhambra. Among its thirty-odd villages you can find the highest in Spain: Trevelez and Capileria (both over 1.400 masl). With no doubt it is an imposing place due to its impressive nature.
But what really makes this place unique is the way men adapted to the conditions. They created a particular landscape of villages clinging to the slopes of the mountains. They carved ditches that come and go taking advantage of every drop of water yielding an imposing staircase of terraces that turn the slopes into real orchards.
Alpujarra's popular architecture
The main sign of identity is its popular architecture. Generally, white houses of one or two floors adapted to the slopes of the hillsides. They connect through flat terraces with truncated cone chimneys forming an urban network of irregular streets. As a result, many of them are porticoed with passages that literally cross the houses. This allows you to go from one side to the other, connecting real labyrinths.
Around the villages there is a landscape that has been strongly transformed to convert the slopes into agricultural areas. Cultivation terraces, irrigation ditches and threshing floors are recurrent elements in all the villages. These techniques date back to before the 1568 Rebellion of the Alpujarra. At that time the inhabitants of the region confronted the troops of Felipe II after the royal edict that prohibited the Spanish Moors (Muslims converted to Christianity) from continuing with their customs.
This trauma had a special impact on the Alpujarra. As a result it lost a large part of its inhabitants and had to be repopulated with people brought from the northern lands (especially Galicia and León).
The main feature of this region is the particular culture that developed over the centuries. Due to its inaccessibility over the years, it is still alive.
Peace and good energy permeate every ravine of hidden rivers and terraces. From the shores of the Mediterranean to peaks of perpetual snow that look to Africa as in a dream. Thirty two municipalities balancing on the vertical slopes of the mountain. The majority of them over a thousand meters above sea level gleaming white framed in green, ocher and gold in autumn.
The best way to discover this picturesque region is slowly, without fear of kilometers or curves.
Is the western gateway to the Alpujarras of Granada. A large town, but without the architectural charm expected of their villages. Instead it offers the largest number of hotels and restaurants on the route. Lanjarón has grown a lot as a service town around its famous spa. The waters from the thawing of the Sierra Nevada filter through layers of phyllite rock. As a result they emerge in the vicinity of the village. The springs have each different temperatures, tastes, smells and properties. It is for this, that the thermal baths of Lanjarón are known since Mozarabic times and used for medicinal purposes since at least the 16th century.
Lanjarón owes so much to the water of its springs that every night of San Juan (the night of June 23rd to 24th) it celebrates a tribute to it. This festivity has been declared as a Festival of Tourist Interest in Andalusia. For one hour, between 12:00 and 1:00 in the morning, the Town Hall places trucks loaded with water that is thrown over the crowd with hoses. During that hour everyone joins the battle with buckets, bottles and every imaginable gadget. Lanjaron becomes a celebration open to everyone and brings the town to life. In fact, visitors should try to arrive in time as access to parkings becomes quite complicated.
O SEL LING BUDDHIST CENTER
If the Alpujarra gives off a special energy, in the mountains of Soportujar it multiplies. The reason is the Buddhist centre O sel ling. It is a Tibetan paradise at 1.600 masl. on the southern face of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The center was founded in 1980 and visited by the Dalai Lama himself, who named it O Sel Ling, Place of Clear Light. Here you can breathe a special sensation, like the one that emanates from the prayer wheel that welcomes you.
At this point, a small path takes you through the center’s facilities. There you can see various Buddha statues, some tombs, a small stupa, a visitor’s center and a beautiful statue of Tara, the mother of wisdom. The purpose of this place is to encourage meditation and to spread the teachings of Buddha. You can make an approach to Buddhism in traditional and austere huts. The visit is free of charge.
IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF ULYSSES AND BOABDIL
Legend has it that Ulysses built a city whose walls were reinforced by the figureheads of his ships and the shields of his soldiers. The ancient placed it in Ugíjar, in the heart of the Alpujarra. There is no doubt that this town has had its share of prominence throughout history. It was there that Romans found gold and Boabdil resided after the capture of the Albaicin and Granada by the Catholic Monarchs. From then on, he was known as the Lord of the Alpujarra and Ugíjar received the title of city.
Today the municipality has just over 2,500 inhabitants. Hence, it can be a good base camp to discover the deepest Alpujarras of Granada. Just a few steps away are towns such as Válor, Mecina Bombarón, Lucainena, Cherín, Cojáyar, Yegen, Jorairátar and Murtas, where life definitely goes at a different pace. Narrow roads, spectacular landscapes that change color in every season and numerous places of interest to learn about local history are high on the way.
DELIGHT YOURSELF WITH CASA JULIO ALPUJARRAN DISH
Potatoes a lo pobre, fried eggs, fried pepper, sausage, black pudding, pork loin and several slices of Trevélez cured ham. All of this makes the traditional Alpujarra dish which is the authentic gastronomic star of this region of Granada. There are hardly any restaurants in the area that don’t serve it. One of the best choices for tasting it, by far, is Casa Julio . This is a family restaurant in Pampaneira. They are proud to grow the vegetables they serve. Additionally, sausages, cold cuts and meat are homemade.
The cook offers an interesting and varied menu, where the stew stands out. She prepares it in a different way every day: cabbage, chickpeas, fennel… There’s also chicken, rabbit or choto meat seasoned with an incredible almond sauce based on natural tomatoes, peppers, onions and garlic. The migas alpujarreñas (breadcrumbs or semolina) are also a great specialty of the house, not to mention the very tasty salad with fruit. The local wine, whether red or sweet, pairs perfectly with this gastronomic selection.
DISCOVERING UNIQUE SPOTS THROUGH HIKING
La Cebadilla is an old village created in the 1950s to give shelter to the workers of the Poqueira Power Station. It once had 200 inhabitants and even a large chapel. Today it is uninhabited. Nevertheless the buildings are still standing, giving a ghostly appearance to a unique place. You can get there through a beautiful hiking route in just over an hour, which can be converted into a circular route to enjoy incredible ravines and the beautiful Abuchite Bridge. This path is just one of many that exist to walk around La Alpujarra.
In this region all the towns, villages, rivers or most emblematic places are united by paths. And best of all, there are options for all levels. La Cebadilla is a good place to start, as are the many paths that link the seven villages in the municipality of La Taha.
They are suitable for the whole family. Along the way you can discover fountains rich in iron, centenary chestnut trees or small villages such as Ferreirola (with 100 residents), Mecinilla (where 20 people live) or Aylácar, already depopulated.
Other paths require preparation. One of this is the most attractive route in the area, which takes you to the highest peak of the Sierra Nevada Natural Park Spain: El Mulhacén (3.479 m). You can do it from Capileira or Trevélez. In both cases with routes that can last 12 or more hours. And if you come to the top, you can dare to walk the Sulayr trail. This covers the whole of Sierra Nevada Natural Park in 19 amazing sections and a total of 300 kms. You choose!
GETTING LOST IN THE STREETS OF PAMPANEIRA AND CAPILEIRA
Pampaneira, Bubión and Capileira are three of the most visited villages in the Alpujarra of Granada. A trio of municipalities scattered and settled in the Barranco del Poqueira. This environment surprises by its immensity and purity. Capileira and Pampaneira form part of the most beautiful villages in Spain and a walk through them justifies their selection. The first one is the starting point for those visiting Sierra Nevada Spain on foot. Its narrow streets, with various viewpoints over the Poqueira Ravine, make this village an architectural wonder.
Due to its good conservation the town center has been declared a Historic-Artistic Site and a Picturesque Place. Pampaneira is also full of slopes. They radiate from the surroundings of the Santa Cruz church, to the high quarter and the road to Bubión. The streets are confused with each other, and usually have a ditch in the center to allow the water from the thaw to flow down and take you to small corners that make this town a must see. In addition, you will enjoy places like La Moralea winery, where they have an infinite variety of handcrafted and local products.
TASTE THE WINES OF THE BODEGA BARRANCO OSCURO
Torvizcón, Cástaras, Nieles, Lobras or Tímar are some of the villages in the Alpujarra of Granada located south of the Trevélez River, in La Contraviesa. It hosts some of the highest vineyards in Europe. Therefore, wine lovers have a unique opportunity here to taste some of the most personal wines from all over the country. Some of them are the work of the Barranco Oscuro winery, in Cádiar, where they create natural wines with a unique taste.
It is enough to uncork one of the 3,300 bottles of Burgundy Garnet to justify the curvy roads that go up and down hillsides. The twenty or so wines produced by this family are a gift for the palate. Cuatro Vientos, Los Barrancos, García de Verdevique, Dominio Buenavista or Néstares Rincón are other wineries in the area that will help you get to know the local viticulture better.