Framed to the north by the mighty peaks of the SIERRA NEVADA MOUNTAINS the fertile valleys and dramatic gorges of LAS ALPUJARRAS are a world apart from the Mediterranean coast only 30 kms to the south. Seemingly untouched by the passage of time, this ancient province was the last stronghold of the Moors, whose intricate irrigation and terracing system still shape the land to this day.
Under the towering MULHACEN and VELETA Mountains, hidden among deep valleys and ravines, are perfectly preserved Moorish villages, whose white-washed stone buildings closely resemble villages in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. The medieval atmosphere of these communities can still be experienced in the narrow passages and streets interlacing and creating labyrinthine honeycombs where time appears to have stood still.
It has remained almost untouched since the Catholics dominated the Arabs and still has the original architecture unique in Spain. For hundreds of years they had the reputation of being invincible, as many people tried unsuccessfully to conquer LAS ALPUJARRAS. The Arabs were the only ones that made them theirs and thus they were until the XVIth Century. Still, their customs and traditions have been preserved to this day.
This unique place has a variety of scenery so astonishing that you never know what lies around the next bend. Ranging from steep-sided gorges to orange groves and from bubbling streams to Mediterranean landscapes dotted with cacti. The views of the Sierra Nevada are inspirational and are particularly startling in spring, when the snow-capped peaks contrast with the colourful wild flowers and tree blossom
To walk in these timeless landscapes is a joy where, as recently as the 19th century, the Sierra Nevada was a notorious place filled with legend and lore. Only the most intrepid and determined travellers accompanied by guards would dare venture through the perilous mountain passes then controlled by bandits. The romantic lure attracted such travellers as the British writer Richard Ford and the American novelist Washington Irving. Gerard Brenan, whose book "South from Granada," made the region famous, lived in the village of YEGEN.
When you are driving from GRANADA, the first stop is the SUSPIRO DEL MORO, located in a mountain with a narrow and curvy road. A legend says that this is the place where last Arab King Boabdil said goodbye to the city and where his mother told him, "Weep like a woman what you could not defend as a man".
ORGIVA is the capital and the largest town in the Alpujarra where the people from surrounding villages come to do their errands. Orgiva is surrounded by olive, lemon and orange groves and a magnet for those seeking an alternative lifestyle. On the outskirts of town is a well-established settlement of teepees and the town’s weekly market has a whole variety of New Age goods on sale. In Orgiva you can buy delicious pastries, chunky rustic bread and traditional cakes from La Tahona De Los Galindos on the main street. From here also leaves one of the most popular hiking trails in the area, the “Route of the old-olive trees”.
SOPORTUJAR is the first village you come to on the main road, slightly less quaint but certainly authentic. Known as the “TOWN OF WITCHES’, at the entrance of the village is the “Cueva de la Bruja” – the Witches Cave. In fact, a route around them that begins in the Cave of the Eye of the Witch has been created. Throughout this route you can find sculptures around these magical characters that forged their legend in the town after the Christian repopulation after the definitive expulsion of the Moorish, mostly with families from Galicia, where the “meigas” (witches) were already well known. From two circular stone platforms above its leaning 18th-century church you can enjoy a panoramic view of a basin scored with valleys, of the Cerrajón de Murtas, and of the snowcaps of the Sierra de Gádor, in the neighbouring province of Almería.
The village of SOPORTUJAR has a legend. In years gone by, any child who wandered outside of the village unaccompanied would be snatched by the local witch's coven and taken to the cave of The Eye of the Witch. There they would meet their grisly end, and the witches would sell their fat to the local dairyman the next morning, to be turned into milk, cream and cheese. It's thought that the legend was started to stop local kids from wandering off too far from the village
PORTUGOS is located in the western part of the La Alpujarra, between the Barrancos del Poqueira and the Barranco de Trevélez. Its town centre is typical of La Alpujarra, with its arcades, balconies and terraces full of flowers, which contrast with the immaculate whiteness of the houses. The town’s steep streets winding between battlements and the characteristic ‘tinaos’ (a kind of porch that connects two houses), together create a beautiful picture. Located on the outskirts of Portugos, set in a beautiful landscape is a place known as EL CHORREON, a small grotto from which a small waterfall flows. This is a lovely place to cool off in the summer and have a picnic.
VALOR played an important role in the rebellion of the Moors, which has given rise to the Fiesta de Moros y Cristianos – one of the most spectacular local festivals in the region celebrated in mid-September. See the Arabic bridge and check out the house of Aben Humeya. Valor is surrounded by impressive natural landscapes with its main attraction being the waters of Fuente Agria in Cuesta Vinas that have special medicinal powers. Nearby MECINA ALAFAR has one of the largest medieval castles in the region.
The area of LA TAHA is reached by the Barranco de Sangre (Blood Ravine), so named because it was the scene of a fierce battle during the War of the Alpujarras. This municipality is comprised of three small villages, including MECINA FONDALES, well-known to followers of the writer Gerald Brenan, it was the inspiration for his book 'South from Granada'. MECINA FONDALES is situated on south-facing slopes overlooking the river Trevélez. Located in the village is a lavadero (public laundry and washroom) which has been well conserved over the years. Mecina Fondales also has the remains of an old Arabic mill, while Fondales has an ancient bridge over the river Trevelez.
YEGEN located in the eastern part of the Alpujarras fused with Mecina Bombaron, El Golco and La Cortijada de Montenegro to form the municipal district of ALPUJARRA DE LA SIERRA. The British writer GERALD BRENAN immortalised YEGEN in his book ‘South from Granada’. There are reminders of his life in the village, such as a road named after him, a small museum and his former house just off the main square.
MECINA BOMBARON is the head of the municipality of ALPUJARRA DE LA SIERRA, and one of the few Alpujarran towns that have not yet been over-exploited for tourism, so their homes, customs and surroundings remain practically the same as 100 years ago and the typical features of all Alpujarra villages. The Captain's Fountain located in the upper neighborhood, function is to give drink to the mules and donkeys that come and go to work. It is in a strategic place, since everyone who comes from working in the Sierra passes through the fountain. In the back there are washing basins for the housewives of the town (some women still prefer to wash their clothes there). With less than 1000 inhabitants it has two small villages; EL GOLCO with the Castillejo de El Golco and the Caserio de Montenegro where caves abound with legends of treasures hidden by the Moors. A farmhouse in Montenegro was owned by Aben Aboo, Aben Humeya’s cousin.
UGIAR consists of five areas: Ugíjar, Cherín, Jorairátar, Los Montoros and Las Canteras. Ugijar has a number of buildings of historical and artistic interest including POZO DE LA VIRGEN which has an interesting legend regarding the origins of its name. During the Morisco uprising, the statue of the Virgen del Martirio was burnt and used as a bridge over an irrigation channel. However, a faithful Christian rescued her and hid the sculpture inside this well. Forty years later, when a resident was cleaning the well, it lit up and said “Maritirio me llamo”. (I am called Martyr.)
In JORAIRATAR, as well as the marvellous views resulting from its location in the Sierra de la Contraviesa visitors can enjoy the Museo de Labranza y Costumbres Populares and the Museo Etnológico, located in a magnificent 19th century house. Here you can see a collection of old cameras, radio apparatus, post-war toys, period costumes and firearms, as well as the first telephone installed in Ugíjar. CHERIN is surrounded by olive groves, whereas Las Canteras and Los Montoros are located in an almost desert-like landscape.
The area of NEVADA is the highest and most eastern-wards in the Alpujarra, and offers amazing natural landscapes where you have the opportunity to see wild goats. In the small village of ALMEGIJAR time appears to have stood still. The village itself has kept the Arabic influence alive, with narrow streets, white-washed houses and flat roofs a cmmon sight.
In the Notáez area of the village, there is a perfectly conserved chapel built over an old mosque where you can enjoy amazing views over the Granada mountain range; vehicles are not permitted here, in order to help preserve the beauty of the gardens found inside. In Almegíjar, there are many local crafts similar to other villages in the Alpujarra area. Ceramic products are often made here, continuing the tradition of pottery making in the village. Visitors can visit the Muslim remains that have been found in the old Molino de Ramblero mill and taste the waters from the Yabajos spring, situated at the exit of the village.
If you’d rather enjoy some time outdoors, CANAR has plenty to offer. The Puentepalo beauty spot is a must, formed by a pine forest at the source of the Río Chico. There are barbecues and tables provided, making it an ideal spot for a picnic. Whilst you’re in the area, take a look at the waterfall nearby; it has a 30m drop. La Cueva de Sortes and the Fuente de Poyo Dios are also interesting sights for visitors. The fountain is said to be where Federico García Lorca wrote some of his poetic compositions/poems.
Visitors looking for tranquillity and the opportunity to spend a few days relaxing will find CARATAUNAS the perfect destination. It is the smallest village in the whole of the Alpujarra region; but its 5km² of land is full of charm. It´s history is based in the Arabic dynasty; there are the remains of a cemetery called Macabé still preserved in the village. There still exists today in Carataunas, a craft which began in the 16th century; these are FAJALAUZA ceramic products, so called after the neighbourhood in which they were first produced: Fajalauza. They can be distinguished by their multicoloured ceramics, with a white bottom, decorated in tones of blue and green.
Visitors to CASTARAS might think that in this village, time has stood still. Its privileged location offers impressive panoramic views over the Alpujarra Granadina. The village is of Arabic origin, and has conserved much of its historical remains. Conserved are the ruins of the thermal baths, El Piojo, which date from the 12th – 14th century. One of the most charming areas of this village are Las Minas del Conjuro, a spectacular archaeological site previously used for the extraction of iron, now open to visitors. Another interesting site, perhaps just for their peculiarity, are the tinaos; gangways that link up the houses at the upper floors. The natural environment of CASTARAS makes it an ideal destination for hikers or rural tourists, with the mountains of the Sierra Nevada national park nearby.
Of the four small villages that make up NEVADA, LAROLES is the capital. It sits in between the rivers Bayárcal and La Ragua and is surrounded by lush chestnut groves. Within its village centre, the two churches are of interest to visitors. La Ermita de San Antón y San Sebastián was constructed in the 18th century and la Iglesia Parroquial de Nuestra Señora del Rosario in the mid-16th, however it was later reconstructed in the 19th century. A fountain crowned with the Virgen de la Inmaculada is also worth seeing, and it attracts thousands of people per year.
MAIRENA is the village known as the "BALCONY TO THE ALPUJARRA". This is because from the viewpoint at the chapel, you can get an amazing panoramic view of the Valle de Ugíjar, el Cerrajón de Murtas and the Sierra de Gádor of neighbouring Almería province. The parish church, la Iglesia Parroquial del Crito de la Luz is the most impressive building in the village centre, built in the 17th century and reconstructed in the 18th. In the outskirts of the village, visitors can find the legendary Piedra de los Tiempos, a rock which is said to have beneficial powers over the harvests each year. In MAIRENA most people over 50 have never learnt to drive. There’s a tucked-away mini-market. A bread van delivers every morning and three times a week there’s fish. If you need anything else, you grow it or make it yourself.
Over the river Laroles is the village of PICENA, which is staggered up the mountainside. Amongst the abundant vegetation there are the remains of what was, in the medieval period, its castle. JUBAR is the smallest village in Nevada. Amongst its traditional buildings is the Iglesia del Cristo de la Columna one of the oldest churches in the Alpujarra. The weather vane on the small tower has symbols of the three religions that have shaped the area: Judaism, Islam and Christian. Next to the church is a small cemetery.
NEVADA is a popular destination for lovers of snow sports: the Estación Recreativa del Puerto de La Ragua is only 16km away. This is the second ski resort in Granada, after Sierra Nevada, and visitors can try out cross-country skiing.
Perhaps the most picturesque villages are the famous trio which cling, one close above the other, to the slopes of the POQUEIRA VALLEY, where red peppers and tomatoes are still set out to dry on the flat clay roofs, among the tall round chimney pots. PAMPANEIRA, at the bottom, bustles with crafts shops and restaurants, as does BUBION, half way up the slope, with its massive square church tower standing on a plaza of rough paving stones. But to savour the authentic Alpujarra, go to CAPILEIRA at the top of the valley - the name is an Arabic derivation of the Latin word for head or top - and walk down from the road into the lower streets of the village, where the rocky streets, overhanging passageways and sagging, stone houses have still not been remodelled and prettified for contemporary living...
BERCHULES is the third highest village in Spain with staggered streets and white houses perfectly adapted to the broken terrain. The Alpujarreno people have adapted to the slopes and the cobbled streets asnd winding route invites you to walk and breathe peace and quiet. It really seems that time has stopped in the Alpujarra. BERCHULES is surrounded by a wide swath of ancient chestnut trees and poplars, following the trails that run through the most authentic and unspoilt part of the region of Alpujarra, enjoy ancient roads, irrigation channels that run between crop care, impressive clefts,
The municipality of BERCHULES includes the villages of ALCUTAR. On the road connecting the two is the source of CARMELAS, one of the most popular in the region, since a legend assures that all unmarried person who drinks of its waters finds a partner soon. A singularity of Bérchules that deserves to be highlighted is that celebrates the New Year in August. This is because the 31 from December to 1994 there was a power outage in the village depriving neighbors following the twelve bells and dismiss the year. The Berchules decided then to take the grapes in summer, the first Saturday in August.
Situated among chestnut forests, in the highest region of the Alpujarra, JUVILES is a small village with links to the past and an air of tranquillity. The most important archaeological remains here are those of an old castle known as El Fuerte. It is a Mozarabic fortress built at the turn of the eighth century. Inside you can still see some old wells, while outside, you can enjoy panoramic views of nature in its purest state: the Taha de Juviles. The village centre is typically alpujarreño, with narrow, steep streets, houses with whitewashed walls, and flat, slate roofs.
BUSQUISTAR is located in a privileged natural environment, next to the ravine formed by the Trévelez River and inside the Sierra Nevada national park. It was previously known as el paraíso escondido de los mozárabes (hidden paradise of the Mozarabic). The exact origins of this village are not known, but evidence shows that it could be as early as the 13th century. As a result, there are many remains and influences of the Arab dynasty in this area for example: an old mosque and an oil mill, although only the ruins are left. In Busquístar, ceramics are the typical produce, made by hand. Workshops exist here with potters who have worked in the trade for years; visitors can attend and create their own ceramic souvenirs.
Pilgrimage VIRGIN OF THE SNOW MULHACEN. Every summer between 4 and 5 August the people from the surrounding villages, mainly TREVELEZ, BUSQUISTAR, and CAPILEIRA go up the Mulhacen to celebrate the pilgrimage of the Virgin of the Snow. A mass is held on the top of the Mulhacen and many people assist with their horses. The story is that a priest in the 19th century was travelling from Valor in the Alpujarras to Granada on the 4th of August. It was a nice summer day, but then all of a sudden the weather turned bad and a snow blizzard made it impossible to continue. The priest was very cold and thought that his last hour had arrived. But then all of a sudden the virgin appeared to the priest, giving him new confidence to resist and then all of a sudden the weather turned bright again. In honour of this miracle on the Veleta Mountain a sign has been erected and on the Mulhacen the people from Trevelez bring the Virgin in procession with mules and horses.
For many local people the mountain lakes of the upper LANJARON VALLEY is the "Shangri-La", a mystical place that provides year round water to the lower levels of the Alpujarras. It is almost a pilgrimage for them.
The road to LANJARON, the door to Las Alpujarras and one of the most charming villages, takes about 50 minutes. Lanjaron means in Arabic “place of springs” and is well-known for its neomudéjar style seaside resort, from which medicinal mineral waters spring and fountains, where water doesn’t stop running, are distributed throughout the town. In addition to the Lanjaron resort, some remains of the Arabian castle built between the XIIth and XIIIth Centuries are preserved. Due to the privileged enclave we can be in 45 minutes at sea or in the Cross Country Ski Resort of Puerto de La Ragua. This municipality is made up of the towns of CADIAR, NARILA and YATOR. It is nestled between the majestic Sierra Nevada and La Contraviesa, on the banks of the Guadalfeo River. It is worth going into the town and discovering the typicality of its Barrio Bajo, an architectural complex of the purest Alpujarra style. In addition to having the only service station for many kilometers around, it also has excellent restaurants to satisfy the appetite and a winery, Barranco Oscuro, where some of the province's quality reds and whites are made.
LOBRAS is a small village with its distinctive own personality. It feels as if time has stood still when you walk along its streets and visit its monuments. The location also means that visitors can enjoy tranquil landscapes and amazing natural beauty. The origins of the village go back to the centuries of Islamic occupation, and remains have been found of various wells and a Mozarabic fortress dating from this time.
TIMAR is a small hamlet belonging to this municipality, which has also conserved some important historical items - in particular, the old mercury mines. There are also various irrigation ditches and paths where you can take a walk. Important monuments include the parish churches of Santo Cristo de la Ascensión and San Agustín. To complete your visit to Lobras, why not try one of the hiking routes: towards Tímar, the irrigation channel path, to Juviles, la Ruta de los Barrancos, the mercury mines, Lobrazán and the Tímar ravine. The local craft is ceramics, and you'll find these traditionally-made products all around the village. The village gastronomy is heavily influenced by its home-grown products: extra-virgin olive oil, almonds and corn. The star dish on Lobras menus is fritadilla, made with lamb or pork, roasted green peppers, aubergines and oil. Another specialty here is flores de calabaza, an old dessert that you won't find anywhere else.
The municipality of MURTAS is situated at more than 1,500m, making it one of the best vantage points for viewing the whole area - from the peaks of Sierra Nevada until the Mediterranean coast. The village sits at the foot of the highest peak in the Sierra de la Contraviesa, known as Cerrajón. Many people visit its two famous caves - La Gotera, in the north face, and La Vieja in the south. Behind the Venta del Chaleco, in the Cerro del Minchal, you can find another cave said to be so big that no one knows where it ends. MURTAS has many other interesting places to visit, including the remains of the Castillo de Juliana which are located on a rocky outcrop on the Rambla de Cojáyar. The Ermita de la Santa Cruz chapel signifies the entrance to the village centre and was built in the 19th century. The Iglesia Parroquial de San Miguel is one of the most important religious monuments in the whole of the Alpujarra. Built in the 18th century, following the neoclassical style.