Alpujarras, Spain. April 2018
Helen Rose. Outdoor Diary
It’s seventeen years since I was last walking and touring in Andalucia. This year I went to Las Alpujarras in southern Spain – a new walking territory for me. Las Alpujarras is a natural and historical region, on the south slopes of the Sierra Nevada and the adjacent valley. The average elevation is 1,200 metres (4,000 ft) above sea level. It extends over two provinces, Granada and Almeria. The Sierra Nevada runs west-to-east for about 80 km. and includes the highest mountain in mainland Spain, the Mulhacén at 3479 m. The mountain is covered with snow in winter. The snow-melt in the spring and summer allows the southern slopes of the Sierra to remain green and fertile throughout the year, despite the heat of the summer sun. Water emerges from innumerable springs and human intervention has channeled it to terraced plots and to the villages. We stayed in two villages and had five walking days in total with up to 400 metres of ascent and descent daily. The trip was arranged through Scot-Trek using a local guide Dan at Ibex Trex .
The highest of the three villages in the Barranco de Poqueira is Capileira at 1,436m; a good base for walking in the gorge itself or up to the Sierra Nevada. Its twisting, steep streets are dotted with many springs gushing with fresh mountain water. It offers superb views of the Poqueira Gorge and the Sierra Nevada everywhere you look. With a population of 600, it′s also the largest of the three villages in the Poqueira gorge, the others being Bubión and Pampaneira. We used the spring at our hotel for water to take on the walks.
Capileira′s remote location meant that Moorish rule arrived relatively late as did that of the Christians, who conquered the village centuries later. In the early 16th century the Catholic Monarchs ordered the construction of the village church, the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Cabeza, on the site of a former mosque. The original church was replaced with the current Mudéjar style building in the 18th century.
The first walk was from the hotel up to Cebadilla with lovely views down the Gorge. In the houses dotted around we could see the chimneys of a Moorish design. Unfortunately we had to cut the walk short due to heavy rain but ended up in a bar in Capileria for lunch. The hotel was warm and comfortable and there was heating to dry out our wet clothes. At dinner, we had some local dishes including a lentil stew.
The following day we travelled to Taha for a circuit of the Taha Redolent with its thousand years of Arabic History. From Las Alpuharras we had splendid views up to the snow clad peaks of the higher mountains. The walk started from Fondales and down to a Roman bridge and a chestnut mill. We walked up a ridge in sunshine although there was a cold wind. Dan provided a picnic lunch of fresh bread, cheese, pate, aioli, tomato and cucumber. We enjoyed this on a sheltered spot with good views. It was an interesting descent on a very steep winding path but we lived to tell the tale! On the way back to the village, we stopped at the famous spring that produces fizzy mineral water.
Next day we left Capileria where we had awakened to find snow in the village! We had planned to move to a lower village of Cadiar where the weather was a little warmer. We walked in the Rio Trevelez Valley up to a ridge where we met the snow line but only small patches. The descent to the river was more gradual where we had our picnic. Trevelez is the highest village in Andalucia. The following day we were in the Contraviesa Mountain Range where we descended though almond orchards and vineyards. We sampled the local wine in the hotel while sitting by a log fire in the bar. The hotel outside Cadiar was built as a village with buildings constructed in the style of the old Andalusian farmhouses. There was even a church within the compound! We were fortunate with the weather which was dry although unseasonably cold
The last walk was into the Campo from the hotel following paths and waterways to the villages of Lobras and Timaras where we stopped for the picnic lunch in warm sunshine looking over the valley and the little canals used for irrigation. Part of this walk had been on the GR7 . This runs from Tarifa near Gibraltar, across Spain, through France into Andorra and back into France to Mont Aigoual and Aire-de-Côte in the Cevennes and north to the final 250 km ending in Alsace, northern France. We finished the walk in Cadiar with the customary beer and tapas. My favourite tapasis Boquerones, fried anchovies.
No visit to Andalusia is complete without a visit to the Alhambra. I had been on a previous visit to Granada but I did go up to it and walked around the public area. The Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex and was originally constructed as a small fortress on the remains of Roman fortificationsin AD 889. It was largely ignored until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-13th century by the Emirate of Granada who built the current palace and walls. It was converted into a royal palace by the Sultan of Granadain 1333 . After the conclusion of the Christian Reconquista in 1492, the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella. Andalusia is steeped in Moorish History and the designs on the wall tiles at the Alhambra are reflected in this culture. In the evening we dined at a restaurant in the Albaicin and saw the sunset lighting up the walls of the Alhambra. It was then on to a Flamenco show but not one for the tourists. There was an amazing amount of energy from the dancers. A good cultural end to the trip.
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