You might have heard and read about the Alpujarra of Granada. It is classed by many people one of the most spectacular places in southern Spain. And while this is true, you really need to go there and see it with your own eyes to be truly aware of the scenic and cultural gem that lies on this mountain. Are you planning on doing a route by car or motorbike through the Alpujarra of Granada? Below I’ll tell you all about my experience, including where to go, where to stay and where to eat!
About the region
This Alpujarra region is situated on the south side of the Sierra Nevada. Although not particularly large, both the landscape it offers and the small white villages that are situated in somewhat remote locations, the area is a real wonder that is for sure worth the visit. Historically, it has witnessed the coming and going of several civilizations, with the particular importance of the Muslims of the Kingdom of Granada, who left after the Rebellion of the Alpujarras in the 16th century.
The easiest way to visit is by car as it will give you the freedom to roam around, stop and take your time where and whenever you feel like it. Do be aware that if you are going in winter the roads can be snowy, as some of the parts are over 1000m above sea level. We went early January and had no problem at all, but were also very lucky, so I would recommend avoiding the winter months for this trip!
The part of the Alpujarra where most of the sights and villages are concentrated is between Lanjaron and Trévelez. On this route, you will pass through beautiful villages such as Pampaneira, Bubión and Capileira. We started from the east side, coming from Almería, so we drove directly up to Trévelez and started our route here.
Villages that you should visit
Trévelez is located in the natural park of the Sierra Nevada, they mostly live off tourism and the famous ham they are well known for. The village has conserved the typical architecture of the Alpujarra well; it has steep, small, labyrinthine streets, its houses have flat roofs, tinaos (an architectural structure, typical of the region, that connects two homes that are on opposite sides of the street) and chimneys with hats.
The village is divided into three neighbourhoods: upper, middle and bottom. Let the signs of the “route of three quarters” guide you around the village to explore each one of them.
Trévelez is also well-known for its water. As you walk through the town you will be able to hear the trickling sound of water from basically anywhere and there are fountains located throughout the entire village. The water is extremely pure as it comes directly from the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada, so make sure to try some! Also make sure you don’t miss out on the Era del Fuerte viewpoint, located in the upper quarter, offering incredible panoramic views of the village and its surroundings.
The next village that we visited, Pampaneira lies 21 km further along the road, and it takes approximately 30 minutes to get here. It has similar architecture to Trévelez, but it is supposedly the most beautiful village in the entire area. A visit to the little village only confirms this.
By the time we got here, it was time for lunch, so we spent a couple of hours here; one to explore the town and one for a delicious lunch at Belezmin. They have a very extensive menu with lots of options, many traditional Spanish dishes, great service and amazing desserts. The location is also perfect, right on the main square La Plaza de la Libertad, and the price-quality was also excellent. If you happen to be near Pampaneira around lunchtime I would really recommend eating here.
After that, we went to explore the town. We saw the church of Santa Cruz, the famous San Antonio Fountain, the carpet shops that the town is well-known for and just wandered through the little steep streets. From the square can go up in a northern direction through Calle Antonio Álvarez and continue through the little alleys on the right-hand side. Make sure you also see the fork at Calle Águila, at the height of the laundry house. Then go all the way up to the highest street, Calle Castillo, for the best views of the village.
Before you go, make sure to get some chocolate from Chocolate Abuela Ili, some of the best I’ve had with delicious flavour combinations.
After Pampaneira we visited Lanjarón, famous in Spain for its water. It’s approximately 23 km from Pampaneira and takes another half hour to get to by car. Lanjarón is also famous for being the home of some of the oldest people in Spain. Apparently, they have some sort of secret they should share with the rest of the world on how they live so long (it’s probably in the water)!
After Pampaneira we weren’t too excited by the little village, despite its beauty, and spent about an hour here seeing some of the highlights. It can also be quite difficult to find somewhere to park your car. It’s best to park it somewhere outside the centre on one of the designated parking lots.
Some of the landmarks you should see are: the Nazarí bridge and the castle of Lanjarón (both outside the village’s centre), the Pilar de Agua, the baths of Lanjarón, the main street, the gardens, the Hondillo neighbourhood and the tinao of Tio Pedro. We didn’t visit the baths, however, it is highly recommended and very healthy with the many minerals and properties present in the water.
Other villages on the route that we didn’t visit but are also worth it
- Órgiva – this village apparently has one of the most beautiful churches in the area; the Parroquia De Nuestra Señora De La Expectación. There are also several olive oil mills in the surrounding area and it is a good opportunity to get your hands on a small bottle of the liquid gold, which competes with the best in Spain. The Almazara La Flor De La Alpujarra is one that is widely recommended.
- Soportujar – this village is the mix of legends and reality. It is the village of the witches and the story goes that this is where the witches’ sabbath took place, as they flew in with their broomsticks across the Alpujarra skies. Viewpoints with statues of witches, black cats, skulls, caves and symbols of black magic were scattered throughout the village. This is not the only curiosity in this small village there is a small road that leads to O Sel Ling, a Buddhist centre located in the Alpujarra Alta.
- Bubión – it is located halfway between Pampaneira and Capileira, and perhaps that is why it has less prominence than the other two. Bubión is also influenced by the Arabs, which can be seen. Walk through the little steep cobbled alleys to see some of the typical Alpujarran portals and fountains until you reach the main square, with the Town Hall, the Casa Alpujarreña Museum in an old house and the Mudejar-style Church of the Virgen del Rosario, which are worth visiting.
- Capileira – if you continue travelling your way up you will arrive at Capileira. The views of the entire valley from here are spectacular. And, if you look up, you can see the summits of Pico Veleta and Mulhacén, the two highest peaks in the Iberian Peninsula, at approximately 3,500 metres. As well as getting lost in its narrow streets and enjoying its viewpoints, it is a perfect spot for a trekking route if you have the time. There are routes for all levels and tastes, you can find some guides here.
General Tips for when you go
- The best periods to visit are spring and autumn. In winter the roads can be blocked by snow, and this can be especially challenging by car on the mountainside. I would also avoid summer as it can get very touristy and temperatures, despite it being quite high up, can reach quite high figures.
- If you want to visit all the villages, it is advisable to take 2-3 days for it and stay the night in the Alpujarra.
- If you have more than a few days time, like 4-5 days, you can combine it with another closeby destination, like Granada, for which you can find my guide here.
- If you like hiking, you can find very beautiful routes in the entire area. There is even one to trek up to the Mulhacén, the highest peak in the peninsula, or to the Seven Lagoons. Here is a great source with lots of hiking ideas in the area.
- Whilst the villages are small, you can find free parking spaces in all of them. Most of the time you will be able to find a spot here, unless maybe you go in the summer months.
- Be sure to take home some delicious souvenirs from the area. You can find great virgin extra olive oil, lovely ham from Trévelez, artisanal chocolate, locally made honey, goats cheese…
I hope you liked the guide and that it has given you some inspiration for your next trip! The route along the Alpujarra is definitely one of the most beautiful southern Spain has to offer.