January 20, 2017

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The location of Alhama makes it a special town to visit, around 50km from Granada and 75km from Malaga, Alhama is far enough from the big cities to have retained a feeling of quiet isolation and strong historical traditions.  Alhama also sits on top of a cliff overlooking a stunning gorge and is worth visiting simply for the spectacular views.  I must mention the drive to Alhama, our route took us from the A92 to the A7216, as you climb out of the sleepy town of Salar the views are superb.  The mountain of Moroma sits ahead and the Sierra Nevada Mountain range to your left.  The seemingly omnipresent olive groves make way for ploughed fields with the occasional remote Cortijos exposed to the elements.

The town has a spectacular gorge, an Arabic quarter, thermal baths (from which the town derives its name, al-hammah in Arabic) and the stunning surrounding mountains.  The 15th Century Arabic baths are a few kilometres out of town but they are no longer in use.  A modern Spa has been built on the site which harnesses the power of the 40º+ ‘therapeutic’ waters.  You can still visit the site, escorted by staff.  We visited in winter so there was no problem parking in the town of Alhama right outside the old convent, which now houses the Tourist Information Centre.  Although in the height of summer parking in the must be at a premium in the small streets of the Arabic Quarter.

The tourist information office is a close walk to most of the main monuments of interest in the charming old quarter of crooked narrow streets and terraced housing, with some parts clinging to the edge of the gorge. Attractions here include The Church of Del Carmen, Castle, ‘Los Tajos’ (The Gorge), views of the Flour Mill, Inquisition House,  Church of St.Mary, Jail/Interpretation Centre,  Granary, 15th Century Hospital, Dungeons and an old Meat Market.

The Old Jailhouse houses the surprisingly modern Interpretation Centre, costing €2 per adult.  The centre provides information about Alhama with English and Spanish displays and includes an in-depth history of the town, the importance of water in Alhama and by far the boy’s favourite, a dungeon room which recreates the earthquake that hit the town in 1884.  Watch out for the flickering lights and sound-effects!  The centre houses a   projection room summarising the history of Alhama and an interactive room where you can learn about the town’s fiestas and carnival.  As the Interpretation Centre is in a former 17th Century prison, faces peer through the bars and a screen shows an actor pleading to get out of solitary confinement.  As you are made to believe he is behind the door this is a sure-fire way to scare a toddler!  The building’s lift was now a terrifying place, but all in all the boys really enjoyed the centre and the gift shop, well worth the reasonable entry fee.

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If you continue through the winding alleyways of the Arabic quarter you can find the most stunning part of Alhama de Granada, the Gorge.  Sitting on top of the clifftop, just beyond the Arabic quarter, are two cave-like dungeons cut into the rock.  The boys were desperate to get inside but they were all locked up so we had to settle for having a picnic outside and marvelling at the stunning view.  A short walk further along the clifftop you will find some great steps excavated into the rock face of the gorge known as ‘the devil’s stairway’ which provides access down into the gorge and to the river below. There are several walking routes around the gorge and you can plan a circular route back to the town or further afield into the surrounding area.  On that note there are some great walking routes in this area if you have some time.

We were lucky enough to see a Sheppard herding his flock of sheep and goats down the devil’s  staircase and across the gorge to graze on the other side. 

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