My Guide to the Rural Mountain Villages of Spain – Wild Junket Adventure Travel Blog
Last Updated on August 17, 2022 by Nellie Huang
Looking to explore off the beaten path in Spain? I lived in Spain for 8 years, and have explored many of the lesser-known parts of Spain, including the mountainous region of las Alpujarras.
Tucked within the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Las Alpujarras is just an hour’s drive from the city of Granada (where we used to live), but it’s often overlooked by sun seekers who flock to the nearby beaches of Costa del Sol.
Backdropped by snow-covered peaks, this little-known region is dotted with olive groves, deep valleys, and whitewashed villages. Not many travelers venture out here, but those who do are rewarded with empty hiking trails, spectacular panorama, and authentic interactions with local people and cultures.
Las Alpujarras is undoubtedly my favorite part of Spain: it’s naturally stunning, gloriously tourist-free, and surprisingly accessible. My in-laws own a mountain cottage here, which we often used for weekend retreats and family gatherings. I’ve come to know las Alpujarras pretty well over the years, and have compiled a travel guide to las Alpujarras to help you explore the region on a deeper level.
Las Alpujarras Travel Guide
Where is Las Alpujarras?
Las Alpujarras is located in the provinces of Granada and Almería of Southern Spain. It’s 1 hour from Granada and 2 hours from Malaga by car. The area lies on the southern flank of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and stretches across a vast area between the mountains and the Mediterranean.
The Sierra Nevada runs west-to-east for about 80 km. The valley below extends from Órgiva to Cadiar, through which the Guadalfeo river flows. The snow on the mountaintop melts every spring and summer, allowing the slopes of Las Alpujarras to remain green and fertile throughout the year despite summer heat. The eastern end of the Alpujarra, towards Ugijar in the province of Almería, is much more arid.
Map of Las Alpujarras
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What to Know about Las Alpujarras
The name las Alpujarras originally came from the Arabic word, Al-basharat, which means sierra of pasture. Locals here mainly live on agriculture, cultivating olives and fruit in the foothills and valley.
Tracing its roots back to 1492, Las Alpujarras was a place for refuge for the Moors, or Spanish Muslims, when the Catholic monarchs reconquered Spain. Those who refused to convert were forced to flee Granada and seek refuge in this isolated, inaccessible region (back then). Today’s Berber influence is apparent in the whitewashed villages, protruding chimneys, and twisted cobblestoned streets.
How to Get to Las Alpujarras
The main gateway to las Alpujarras is Granada, a mid-sized bohemian city in southern Spain. Granada is about an hour’s flight from Madrid, Spain’s capital city, or a 1.5-hour drive from Malaga. If you’re planning to visit Malaga, you can easily rent a car and drive to las Alpujarras as part of your Spain road trip itinerary.
Flights from Madrid to Granada cost around US$50 return. Check for flights here.
The easiest and most convenient way to travel las Alpujarras is by car. Beware though, the mountain roads here can be steep and the streets in the villages can be narrow and hard to navigate.
Car rental in Spain is extremely affordable and you can find rentals as cheap as 30 euros a day. We always use Discover Cars as they’ve consistently given the best prices and customer service.
Search for car rentals in Spain
If you don’t drive, it’s absolutely possible to reach las Alpujarras by public transport. Traveling by bus is easy and affordable. The ALSA bus goes from Granada to Lanjaron and also between the major villages like Pampaneira and Trevelez. To check bus routes and fares in Spain, plan your bus route using BusBud.
Best Time to Visit Las Alpujarras
The best time to visit Alpujarras region would be in spring (April to June) and fall (September to October). The weather is mild and pleasant during these months and are ideal for hiking through the slopes. It’s also a good place to escape from the summer heat, as temperatures may be high from July to August, but they dip in the evenings.
Las Alpujarras is located in a mountainous region, so be prepared for some harsh weather situations in winter. The average high during this season is between 62.6°F (17°C) and 55.1°F (12.8°C). On average, it rains or snows a fair amount: 4 to 6 times per month.
How Much Time to Explore las Alpujarras?
For first-time visitors, I recommend spending at least 5 days in the area to explore the villages, do some hiking, and experience the slow pace of life in the countryside. It’s the type of place you go to decompress and get away from it all, so definitely give yourself some time.
I suggest booking a cozy country cottage, do short hikes from there or visit different pueblos (villages) in the day, and sip sangria in the village center at night. Below you’ll find my recommendations for the best hotels to stay in.
Best Hotels in las Alpujarras
Las Alpujarras is a big area, so where’s the best town to base yourself at? Lanjaron is the biggest town in las Alpujarras; almost everyone visiting will pass through here. While Lanjaron has the most choices for accommodation, it’s more of a town than rural area, so don’t expect to be surrounded by meadows.
Pampaneira is another popular town to stay and it enjoys a central location in the valley. Here you’ll find more rural accommodations with quieter surroundings. Here are some hotel recommendations:
Luxury: Hotel Balneario de Lanjarón
A landmark hotel in the town of Lanjarón, Hotel Balneario is a modern, contemporary hotel with a famous spa that draws travelers with its amenities, including thermal baths and stone footbaths. Check rates here.
Luxury: Alpujarra Secret
Located in Orgiva, this new, stylish hotel has spacious apartments and modern facilities. The gym and pool are gorgeous, and so are the communal terrace and hot tub. This is suitable for digital nomads. Check rates here.
Mid Range: Estrella de las Nieves
For those seeking a quiet, affordable option in Pampaneira, I recommend the Estrella de las Nieves guesthouse. You’ll be staying in a quintessentially Alpujarran white-washed houses, with balconies that offer sweeping views of the Poqueira Gorge. Check rates here.
Budget: Hotel Rural Alfajía de Antonio
Located in the center of Capileira, this simple guest house has traditional yet newly renovated rooms that are warm and comfortable. There’s also a shared rooftop balcony and kitchen. Check rates here.
My Recommended Las Alpujarras Itinerary
Lanjarón is the main gateway to las Alpujarras and the first town you’ll chance upon when driving from Granada. It’s the biggest town in the area, although the population is a mere 4,500 people. Famed for its therapeutic waters, Lanjarón has a collection of fresh water fountains dotted throughout the town, many of which are accompanied by a poem written by Granadina writer Federico García Lorca.
Off the main road of Lanjarón, you’ll find the ancient Moorish quarter, el Barrio Hondillo, with its tunneled walkways and overhead wooden beams (tinaos), flower-filled alleys, and overflowing fountains. On the outskirts of town, an ancient Moorish castle stands, perched upon a spectacular rock pinnacle. According to legend, during an epic battle between Christians and Moors, the Moorish ruler of Lanjarón hurled himself off the tower of this castle rather than surrendering to the Catholic King.
Continue driving up the mountains and you’ll reach Soportújar, a whimsical village of witches! This is my daughter’s favorite pueblo (village) for good reason: here you’ll find sculptures of witches flying on broomsticks, black cats wandering the streets, and even a Hansel and Gretel house. According to legend, when the northern Spaniards settled here, they brought their customs and pagan beliefs about witches, covens, and dark nights with them.
At the entrance of the village, you’ll see the ‘Cueva del Ojo de la Bruja,’ or the witch’s cave. This marks the start of a walk that’ll take you to caves, passageways, fairytales homes, and fountains with magical properties and witches. There’s a surprise around every corner, and kids will definitely enjoy it.
After exploring the witch town, be sure to take a look at la Iglesia Parroquial Santa Maríá la Mayo, built over a mosque. The Oseling Buddhist temple, ideal for those in search of spiritual enlightenment, was inaugurated by the Dalai Lama himself.
As you weave your way up the mountains from Soportújar, you’ll reach the Poqueira Valley, and the picturesque trio: Pampaneira, Capileira, and Bubión. The three hamlets are said to be the most beautiful enclaves in las Alpujarras. They’re located one next to the other, making it easy to visit all three in one day.
Pampaneira, the liveliest and most visited village of the three, is the first you’ll chance upon. The town was established before the Moorish invasion during the Roman period, when it was known as ‘Pampinaria’. It was named after a Latin term that roughly translates to mean “vineyard.” Today, it is packed with handicraft stores, artisan shops, water fountains, and restaurants.
Slightly higher up in the mountains is the sleepy village of Bubión, which like its neighbors is surrounded by magnificent views of the often snow-capped Sierra Nevada peaks and the Alpujarras. Bubión is a good base for walking and is on the GR7 long-distance footpath. A great place to just wander around the narrow streets and admire the local crafts and flower laden balconies.
Apart from a few craft shops, there is a small folk museum, Museo Casa Alpujarreña. The village church at Bubión is one of the village’s most distinctive structures; it was constructed during the 16th century in the Mudéjar style utilizing Moorish mudéjar masonry.
The highest of the three hamlets, Capileira lies at 1,436 meters above sea level. Capileira was far from the cultural and political center of Spain, which made Moorish control arrive late here and Christian conquest take place later. In the early 16th century, under orders from the Catholic Monarchs, a church was built on top of a former mosque. The original structure was razed in favor of a Mudéjar-style building in the 18th century.
The village museum, the Museo Etnológico Pedro Antonio Alarcón, is located on Calle Mentidero. It features local crafts and clothing as well as a display about 19th-century writer Pedro Antonio Alarcón who wrote an account of his journey to las Alpujarras. It’s open Tuesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.
If you walk along the riverbank, you’ll come to the Eras de Aldeire, a series of ancient threshing floors that were utilized for wheat and barley. A viewpoint (mirador) offers a spectacular view of the Poqueira valley as well as the Veleta peak in the distance.
Pórtugos is home to iron-rich springs with a distinct crimson hue that fall in a waterfall called La Fuente Agria. These waters originate at El Chorreón, where the water has eroded its through the rock and flows through seven outlets. The waters are particularly beneficial to people suffering from anemia if consumed straight from the fountain.
Don’t miss the Iglesia Parroquial de Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación, a contemporary church built over the ruins of a 16th-century chapel, in the centre.
Trevélez is the highest village in the Alpujarras, at 1,476 meters tall above sea level.The village is well-known for its air-cured ham produced at high altitude. The cold environment due to its high elevation provides ideal conditions for jamón curing and storage. Try it for yourself at any of Trevelez’s numerous taverns, where hams hang from the ceiling.
A must-try is the plato alpujareño, a combination of Spanish ham, blood/pork sausages, fried eggs and patatas a lo pobre (pan-fried potato).
What to Pack for las Alpujarras
As you’ll be hiking in las Alpujarras, having a good pair of hiking boots is important. The walking paths are made of stone and can be very slippery when wet.
Bring a small daypack for your camera, water bottle and snacks. Regardless of when you visit, the daytime and evening temperatures differ a lot in las Alpujarras. The sun can be strong in the afternoon, so a hat and sunscreen are essential.
Packing List for las Alpujarras
Further Reading on Spain
In all those years of living in Spain, I’ve had the privilege of traveling all around the country — and las Alpujarras remains my favorite region. I hope you like the area as much as I do.
Here are more of my articles on Spain to help you with your trip planning:
Let us know in the comments field below if you have any questions and we’ll be happy to help you out!
Disclaimer: This content was created in partnership with the Spanish Tourism Board. You can find out more information about Slow Travel in Spain at Spain.info/en/. Follow the campaign on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #SlowTravelSpain.
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