Las Alpujarras are a range of beautiful whitewashed high mountain villages perched and dotted around the Southern side of the steep slopes of the domineering Sierra Nevada. Precariously clinging to the side of the mountain, sheltered in deep gorges, the villages enjoy extreme weather conditions (for Spain), high altitude typically 4,000 feet above sea level, glorious elevated views, ideal walking terrain and their very own mini eco system of fertile farmlands watered by the melting snow, directed through an ancient range of acqueous, or aqueducts. The Alpujarras are a hub for foreginers seeking an alternative lifestyle, tourists, ecologists and hikers and can be easily accesed from Granada or the Costa Tropical by following the A44.
The first village of the Alpujarras we reached was Lanjaron, famed for the purity and healing qualities of its mineral water. Lanjaron is easy to drive through on route to the more popular mountain villages nestled in the Poqueira Valley, Pampaneira, Bubion and Capileira, but we decided to stop for coffee and enjoyed the relaxed vibe along the main street, flowers, basket weaving, cafes, hams and fruit shops.
The next town, the largest village in the Alpujarras, is the capital Orgiva, a hippie magnet, which is an easy town to either love or hate. Whereas Orgiva has a very established alternative crowd with promises of yoga, spa retreats and healing centres, and a nearby new age traveller site, we had a problem with the large number of people begging, it was off-putting. We were frequently asked to spare some money or buy food and it was very sad to see people rooting through the bins to drink leftover dregs from the cartons.
We stayed just outside Orgiva in the less touristic and more traditional village of Carataunas, during their festival of St.Marcos and experienced lots of community spirit, fireworks, a brass band and the typical eurotrash and pasa doblé music late into the night.
Just above Carataunas is the picturesque village of Soportujar. Very bizarrely the village’s history is intertwined with tales of witches and warlocks. Folklore has it that stories were told of witches capturing children who happened to stray from the village, boiling them up in their cauldrons and selling their fat to the Dairy Man, Yuck! The fountain in the centre of the village is a bubbling cauldron flanked by witches, there is also a witches cave and a witches meeting circle. The O Sel Ling buddist monastery is accessible from here…
Continue onwards and upwards and you will come to the beautiful Poqueira Gorge, where the three most popular villages of the Alpujarras are situated. Whilst this is probably where all visitors to the Alpujarras stop, the small villages have managed to retain their Alpujarran charm and remnants of traditional Berber architecture. The white boxed houses with flat roofs are topped off with the famous white chimney, which even tops the rather decadent wheelie bin sheds, scale models of which are available in all local tourist shops.
The lowest and first village of the Poqueira Gorge is Pampineira, brimming with locally made souvenirs, most famously, the Alpujarran rugs. Woven in the village on traditional wooden looms, there are three looms still in use in the village and if you are lucky enough, as we were, you will be given a demonstration of the artists at work. We were keen to choose one, but it took a while with so many beautiful, colourful rugs to choose from and with so many shops to explore.
The next village up the mountain is Bubion, equally as beautiful and as bustling as Pampaneira, which you peer over the steep drop and look down upon. We marvelled at the view whilst eating at restaurant Teide. Good hearty typical Alpujarran dishes are available here and the three course menu del dia, was very reasonable at €8 per person.
The third and highest village in the gorge is Capileira. With the least number of shops and more traditional feel, Capileira has some amazing views and serves as a gateway to the higher Sierra Navada walking routes. There is also a working loom in this village too, so if you want to escape some of the crowds, you can also admire and purchase an Alpujarran rug here.
The next valley feels less touristy, La Taha includes seven villages. We stopped off at the gorgeous Mecina Fondales, which felt like a step back in time, narrow streets, rickety buildings and the sounds of the running water from the acqueous. Surprisingly, for a seemingly traditional village, there was a vegetarian restaurant here in one of the traditional village houses (L’Atelier), a really interesting menu and a change from the typical Andalucian meaty fayre.
The second highest village in Spain (1486m) can be found in the Alpujarras, Trevelez, a mountain top village world famous for Serrano Ham. If you are a fan of the melt in the mouth finely sliced air dried jamon, Trevelez is a must visit. There are so many Jamons here! Huge warehouses with mesh over the window frames house thousands of legs of ham drying in the mountain air. There are numerous outlets in the village where you can purchase everything Jamon related, slices, whole legs, chunks and tapas. Whatever amount your budget and stomach can handle. Trevelez has higher and lower parts to the village, again another great base for more superb Alpujarran mountain walks.
We didn’t travel any further East into the Alpujarras from Trevelez. A more remote area of the Alpujarras lies to the east with many more villages to explore, another truly amazing area of Andalucia, Spain.