Holidays in Las Alpujarras, Andalucia
With spectacular views of the Sierra Nevada mountains (highest mountains in mainland Spain) and the Mediterranean, the Poqueira Gorge is one of the most dramatic features of the Alpujarras, with superb mountain country for walking, horse-trekking, mountain biking, paragliding, canyon and rock climbing, abseiling, canoeing, archery, bird watching or simply relaxing. Spanish language, painting and flamenco classes can also be arranged. Qualified guides can be arranged for all of these pursuits and maps are available in the cortijo. Below is more detail about just some of the thing on offer in rural Andalucia.
The Poqueira Valley (villages of Pampaneira, Bubión and Capileira)
These three beautiful white washed villages stand out as some of Spain’s most picturesque places to visit. Still very Spanish with a selection of fine and local cuisine, shops and excellent bases to explore Las Alpujarras. Pampaneira is probably the most touristy of the three as it is the first to come to when travelling from Granada or the coast. Bubión sits in the middle and is a little quieter and Capileira is the highest with probably the best selection of restaurants and also the ideal base for walking the high sierras. Cortijo Teirra y Nieve sits at 1640 metres just above the village of Capileira.
Walking holidays in Las Alpujarras
The Alpujarras has amongst the best hikes Spain can offer. Whether it be high altitude treks, a guided walk to reach the peak of Mulhacén (3413 metres – the highest peak in Spain) and the high mountain lakes, or a circular walk from the Cortijo walking across mountain streams, passing traditional farms and ending up for a leisurely lunch in the village of Capileira. The GR-7 crosses through the area (a long distance footpath running from Athens to Algeciras). Walking can be practiced all year over in the Sierra NevadaNaturalPark. The area offers a lot of marked routes and tracks starting with 1 – 2 hours for a walk, to visit three of the beautiful white villages of the Poqueira gorge, Pampaneira, Bubión and Capileira. Most routes are well sign posted and Jeremy Rabjohns has written a great walking route book, many of which start around Cortijo Tierra y Nieve. Alternatively, Nevadensis Mountain Guides, Your holiday adventure in the Sierra Nevada National Park Nevadensis, Pampaneira organizes courses, excursions and tours, with experienced, professional mountain guide throughout the country. Starting in the Poqueira Gorge, Capileira, Bubión, Pampaneira the organize various kinds of holiday and vacation activity and excursion throughout Sierra Nevada National Park, the high mountains, Mulhacén and Pico de Veleta, the rural Alpujarras and the province of Granada, Spain. Nevadensis details are as follows: www.nevadensis.com. Tel. +34 958 763 127 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To the Refugio Poqueira/Mulhacen
The walk from the Cortijo to the top of the Mulhacen is a bit too arduous for most; one can walk from the cortijo to the Refugio Poqueira and back to the cortijo which is about a 4-5 hour round trip. It is probably best is to take the tourist bus from Capileira to the Mirador Trevelez, it is then about a 5 hour hike to the top of the Mulhacen and back to the Mirador. A friend of mine, who is fairly athletic, took the bus to the Mirador climbed to the top of the Mulhacen and then walked back to the cortijo in about 8 hours. It is also possible to walk from the cortijo to the Refugio, stay the night at the Refugio and then climb the Mulhacen the next morning and thereafter walk back to the cortijo.
La Taya of Pitres
In the very heart of the Alpujarra Alta (High Alpujarra), between the Trevélez and Poqueira rivers, we discover La Taha de Pitres comprising the villages of Pitres, Capilerilla (not to be confused with Capileira) Mecina, Mecinilla, Fondales, Ferreirola and Atalbéitar, the origin dating back to Roman times. We can still, to this day, come across archaeological finds which indicate just how important this group of villages was during Arab occupation. In this era the quality of silk produced in these villages became famous far and wide. The name La Tahá comes from Arabic Tá meaning obedience. Under the Nasrid kings of Granada, the region was divided into a number of administrative districts called “tahas”, each containing several settlements; for examples the villages of the Poquiera gorge formed “La Tahá de Poqueira”. Modern La Tahá is the only one of these districts to have retained the name. La Taya is an excellent area for hiking all the villages are connected via footpaths. There is a lot of shade and water along the walks. For further details on La Taha refer to the Addendum.
Visit to the City of Granada
The Alhambra (Arabic meaning ‘the red’) is a picturesque palace which commands Granada from its lofty perch at the foot of the Sierra NevadaMountains. With its history stemming back to the eleventh century the foundations of the Alhambra were built by a jewish ‘prime minister’ of the then Nasrid leader. However, the Granada Alhambra as we know it today is credited to Al-Ahmar (1232-1273) who moved his seat and court from the Albayzin fortress.
Building the Granada Alhambra took over one hundred years (1248 – 1354) but the results were nothing short of remarkable. Unfortunately much of the original Moorish architecture was lost for one reason or another during the Renaissance, Napoleons conquests and an earthquake. Restoration has been ongoing since 1821 and for the most part it has been very successful.
Described by Moorish poets as “a pearl set in emeralds” the Granada Alhambra and its surroundings compliment each other. – in fact, it is hard to imagine the two apart. The pearl of course is the majestic Alhambra but one cannot ignore the splendour of the ‘Alameda de la Alhambra’ – Park of the Alhambra – which is covered in wild flowers and most famously English elms courtesy of the Duke of Wellington in 1812. While walking through the gardens you will notice the constant sound of running water which is contributed to the several fountains that are fed via an 8km conduit connected to a monastery above Granada.
For most tourists the highlight of a trip to Granada is the Alhambra, and to be perfectly honest there are few architectural gems that can match its beauty. A tour usually consists of the Nasrid Palaces, the Alcazaba and the Generalife.
The best place to start is possibly El Generalife (The Royal Orchard) if you manage to get up there early morning. This was the country residence of the Sultan, and has a huge orchard which was used as a recreational area by the court and provided the necessary provisions for the palace. The gorgeous Acequia Courtyard has a splendid irrigation system which serves as the main entry point. The palace consisting of two buildings, encloses a large courtyard, in the middle of which is a decorative pool.
By going to the splendid gardens early in the morning it gives you time to really enjoy all the nooks and crannies that would otherwise be discovered by other eager tourists. If gardens are your thing you should take your time and simply enjoy the marvellous views and the excellent work done by the many gardeners employed on the grounds.
Once you have taken in the morning sun make your way towards the Nasrid Palaces. These palaces really are the main feature of the Alhambra. Although the Alcazaba is possibly the oldest part of the complex the real treasures are found in the Nasrid Palaces, namely the ComaresPalace and the Palace of the Lions. These palaces are two of the most exquisite examples of Arabic architecture. A must see for any visitor so don’t forget your camera!
Moving on to the fortress that is the Alcazaba is a good last stop because of the shops and food stalls located in the Plaza de los Aljibes. This fortress town is said to be the oldest part of the Alhambra complex and due to its strategic located it comes at no surprise that it would have been built first. Built in a triangular formation there are three east facing towers – Torre de Adarguero, Torre Quebrada and the HomageTower – and the large WatchTower is an imposing figure over the city far below.
Capilla Real: Undoubtedly the most outstanding example of Christian architecture in Granada, the Capilla Real is located right in the centre of the city of Granada.
The ‘Royal Chapel’ was a purpose built mausoleum for the monarchs Isabel and Fernando who actually commissioned the work themselves. The monarchs are seen as the most responsible figures behind the unification of Spain after the invasion of the moors. The conquest of Granada was a huge victory and along with it the expulsion of the Jews from Spain under the Alhambra decree.
Built in an extravagant Gothic style the chapel was not completed in time for their deaths and work continued for several years after. Luckily the work was not rushed and when the monarchs were finally laid to rest it truly was fit for a king, and queen!
For anyone visiting the chapel and the adjoining Cathedral the amount of gold imagery is startling. As with most Christian places of worship the use of gold is a major feature and the use of it here almost lavishly out of control.
However, as you make your way around the structure you get the feeling that you really are in a special place. Being dwarfed by huge pillars that could be the foundations of heaven and enjoying some of the best religious art in Spain can’t be all that bad can it!
Visiting the Capilla Real and the Cathedral is very easy and the crowds tend to flow at a good pace. Do not worry about booking in advance as it is mostly a walk in trade. The only disappointing aspect is that there is a fair chance of being constantly harassed by the local gypsy’s who try to sell “lucky leaves” to everyone. The best thing to do is to ignore them or say “No Gracias” (No Thank you), also keep an eye on your belongings, they have quick hands!
Albayzin – The old Islamic quarter of the city of Granada is set on the hillside facing the Alhambra across the DarroValley. The area houses the ArchaeologicalMuseum, the Arab Bath Complex and the Church of San Salvador. For a relaxing afternoon snack venture down the hillside to the ‘Carrera del Darro’ which runs alongside the ‘Rio Darro’ (Darro River) and find a seat in one of the many cafes. This area is also well known for its Arabic cuisine.
Monasterio de la Cartuja – Located about 2km outside the city centre this impressive monastery is visited primarily for its ‘Sanctuario’ (sanctuary). This building was erected in 1515 and although the original design was medieval, it is completely baroque. As a result, this monastery has a blend of different styles and artists making it far from austere. The monastery, sacristy and the shrine are lavish affairs with numerous encrustations of precious stones. Make sure you spend plenty of time taking it all in because no pictures are allowed.
Catedral de Granada (Granada Cathedral) – Adjoining la Capilla Real is Granadas cavernous cathedral. This is a Renaissance church conceived by the renowned architect Diego de Siloé. The cupola of the main chapel has three beautiful doorways and the stained glass decorations are worthy of study. The main façade is Baroque and within the old chapel is an exhibition of the Catedral treasure.
Science Park – Just on the other side of the ‘Rio Genil’ (GenilRiver) you will find the SciencePark. A modern complex which provides an alternative day out for the whole family. A recent Titanic exhibition was very successful and the park also focuses on the development of Granada highlighting the advances in technology and education under the moors.
Deep snow and cross country skiing – starting at Cortijo Tierra y Nieve you can have a high mountain cross-country or deep-snow ski holiday. Whether for one day excursions, returning back to the Cortijo or a few days with accommodation arranged at mountain refuges, exploring the high mountain area and the three highest peaks of Mulhacén, Pico de Veleta and Cerro e Caballo, is an exciting experience. A great holiday for those wanting to explore the area in winter but avoid the overcrowded ski resorts. The area offers the highest massif in Western Europe after the Alps, with the highest peaks of the Iberian Peninsula (Mulhacén 3,481m and Veleta 3,398m). The Sierra Nevada mountain ski area is about one and a half hour drive from the Cortijo and usually has good snow conditions from November to April. The season might vary due to extreme climate conditions in a particular year, but you can count on good snow conditions for at least 5 months per year. The ski resort with lifts, telemark, cabins and about 60 km of prepared ski courses, opens usually mid November and closes, depending on snow conditions, April or May Ski instruction with professional tutor for all levels of skiing skills is easily arranged. Ski gear can be hired in any of the ski shops in the resort. It is generally a better idea to go on weekdays rather than weekends as it is often cheaper and you can avoid the crowds. Nevadensis have highly experience guides.
In 70 minutes you can be sitting on the beach of Salobrena ordering sardines that have been cooked on the beach. Along the coast is the resort of Almunecar and La Herradura. La Herradura probably has the best beaches and good restaurants. Just next to La Herrdaura is the nudist beach Playa de Cantarriján.
There are golf courses in Granada and Motril about 1.5 hours by car. The Granada Golf Club information at: www.granadaclubdegolf.com Club de Golf Los Mariscos Information at: www.moriscogolf.com
Malaga airport is a 2.5 hour drive and Granada airport is 1.5 hour drive. Malaga airport is large international airport with regular flights from most European major cities. Granada is mainly a local Spanish airport serving the Spanish cities with a few international flights. Car hire is available from the airport and is highly recommended, although a daily bus connects Capileira with Granada.
From the cortijo: 1.5 km from Capileira (shopping, restaurants, bars); 4 km from Bubión, 20 km Órgiva (most facilities); Trevelez ½hrs (the highest village in Spain), 1½ hrs to Granada and the Alhambra; Costa Tropical 1½ hrs; Málaga airport 2.5 hrs. There is also a Buddhist monastery which is a 30 minutes drive from the cortijo.
Other places worth a visit:
- Lanjaron with its soothing spa waters.
- La Taha villages including Pitres, Mecina, Mecina Fondales and Ferreriola
- Trevelez – famed for its ham and being, supposedly, the highest village in Spain
- Yegen – the home of Gerald Brenan who wrote the brilliant description of life in Las Alpujarras in the 1920’s – South from Granada – some things still have not changed….
- Orgiva – for its markets, organic shops and new age/hippy communities.
Horse riding in the Alpujarra and Sierra Nevada Natural park
Horseback riding in the Las Alpujarras with Dallas Love is worth trying. Her stables are situated less than 1km from the Cortijo above the village of Capileira. A half-day or day trek through the Poqueira Gorge or heading across the valley to the highest village in Spain – Trevelez, can be arranged. Dallas also arranges week holidays travelling the whole area on horseback and staying in local hostels and hotels. Dallas’s telephone is 958763038 or mobile 608453802.
Mountain Biking and Cycling Holidays
A fabulous activity for those looking for an adventure in the high mountains, cycling around the Sierra NevadaNaturalPark can be practiced all year round. The tracks are hard but with a good guide they can be achieved. Cycling from the cortijo you can reach the peak of Mulhacen (3413 metres) and enjoy the descents of good mountain tracks down. The Alpujarras range from almost sea level up to the high mountains Mulhacén and Pico de Veleta and there are road, off road and HighMountain touring routes available. Because the area is considered such good quality for mountain biking, there are also some excellent guides available to show you the routes and help you navigate the single tracks! For those who enjoy cycling but are not so sure about steep single track descents, there are many good quality fire roads through the park that are lovely to cycle on.
Canyon Climbing and Rock Climbing
Climbing a canyon and rafting in Las Alpujarras and the Sierra NevadaNaturalPark is a sport that can be enjoyed all year round. The area offers various level of canyon climbing to take in both the beginner and the advanced climber. Rock climbing, a teamwork activity, is possible for about 9 months of the year. All the gear can be provided by the activity company Nevadensis. Their experts in rock climbing are ready to show you the local walls for all levels of climbing skills.
Painting holidays in Andalucia
Come and learn new skills in painting and drawing techniques in Andalusia, Southern Spain. Not all painting holidays can offer qualified and experienced tuition with a proven professional track record. If you feel you would benefit from a more structured teaching programme tailored to your needs, you may wish to enrol for one of our courses in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, here in the beautiful Alpujarras. Whether you work in oils, watercolours, gouache or pastels, new skills techniques and insights can be learned quickly with effective tuition. Maggy Pishneshin of Arte Andalucía lives in Capileria and runs these successful courses. To find our more visit www.moorishhouse.com Telephone: (Spain) +34 958 76 34 64 – (UK National call rates): 0870 30 60 376.