The region of mountain villages known as Las Alpujarras clings to the southern flanks of the Sierra Nevada. The terraced farmlands of this region are watered by the melting snow from above. Here you will find fruit orchards and cereal crops that form an ever-changing patchwork of colour and texture on the gentler hillsides while clumps of chestnut, oak and pine cloak the steeper slopes. Much of the region’s fertility is still due to complicated water systems that, like many of the cultivated crops, have hardly changed since the Middle Ages. The area produces especially delicious figs, apricots, dried fruits, nuts and honey.
A visit to the Alpujarras is like stepping back in time. It is a refreshing change from our overly busy daily lives. Three must-see villages include Pampaneira, Bubin and Capileira. Everywhere the views are stunning but they’re especially panoramic from Capileira, which is the highest village of the three villages. Be sure to walk down the road into the maze of backstreets, which are pretty much in their original form.
You can’t help but notice the Berber architecture here. This is a result of the fact that the Moors, who didn’t want to convert to Christianity, were exiled to the Alpujarras after the conquest of Granada in 1492. Despite the fact that these villages were later resettled with Christian families, the unique hamlets have retained their traditional Berber architecture with terraced clusters of grey-white box-shaped houses with flat clay roofs. This style of architecture has been in use since the Bronze Age and can only be found here and in the Rif and Atlas Mountains of Morocco.
Local restaurants offer mainly meat-based dishes with local ham, as the area has long been known for its famous dried hams (jamón serrano). Traditionally the best hams come from Trevélez, which is located at the top of the Alpujarras and is considered to be the highest village in Europe.
Visitors approaching from the coast will encounter the town of Órgiva, which is at crossroads of the broad Guadalfeo valley. This area has been a haven for hippies for years now. About 10 kilometres to the west of Órgiva is the small, town of Lanjarón. Lanjarón is famous for its hot springs and its mineral water, which you’ll find served almost everywhere throughout Andalucía. The town has magnificent views of the valley and a small Moorish castle that’s worth a visit.