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  • Writer's pictureGreen Traveller

Local Attractions in Las Alpujarras

As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to Las Alpujarras, here is a selection of events, and cultural and historic sites in this fascinating region of Spain.

Castillo de La Calahorra. Photo: Diana Jarvis/Green Traveller.

The ancient heritage of Las Alpujarras looms large across the region. Its villages are clusters of whitewashed houses topped by cone-hatted chimneys, lining winding alleys in a jumbled warren that resembles a Moroccan medina – and no wonder. Settled by Islamic invaders in the 8th century, these hills were for hundreds of years worked by Moorish farmers who created the network of acequias (irrigation channels) that still provide water for most villages, and which define the landscape.

The cultural and historic attractions of the region echo both that Moorish heritage and a way of life that’s only really changed in the past few decades. Visit the eras (threshing floors) and weaving workshops and you’ll catch a glimpse of times past; more concrete reminders can be found at the castle of La Calahorra and the grand palaces and gardens of the Alhambra in Granada.

Google map: shows the location and details of all the places to stay, local food and drink, nearby visitor attractions and activities in our Green Traveller's Guide to Las Alpujarras:

Green = Places to stay Blue = Local food & drink Yellow = Attractions Purple = Activities

Places of interest in Las Alpujarras

Casa de los Telares, Las Alpujarras, Spain

Among the fruit trees and chestnuts of Las Alpujarras, you’ll spot mulberries – not grown for fruit, but as food for the silkworms that were for centuries an important source of income. Find out more about the region’s silk and weaving heritage at the House of the Looms, where Lola García Moreno gives a fascinating introduction to the traditional methods of carding, spinning and weaving silk and wool. You’ll see antique looms in use in a room decorated with other period artefacts – carding combs, spinning wheels and so on – as well as skeins of wool coloured using natural dyes such as beetroot leaves, nettles, poppies and onion skins.

Un Teatro Entre Todos, Las Alpujarras, Spain

On the hillside above most of the villages in Las Alpujarras you’ll find curious paved circular areas some 4m across – the length of a poplar beam. These are eras, communal threshing floors, for centuries a centre of activity in the village where people came at harvest time to thresh grains but also to chat, gossip, sing and perform trovos – improvised poetic ‘duels’. Since mechanised threshing became the norm, most eras are abandoned, but a collaborative project in the village of Laroles has seen an era transformed into a performing space, Un Teatro Entre Todos – literally, ‘A Theatre Between All’. Regular music, theatre and other cultural events are held here – check the website for details of upcoming performances.

O-Sel-Ling Buddhist Retreat, Las Alpujarras, Spain

Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise to find a Buddhist meditation retreat tucked away in a remote corner of Las Alpujarras – the peace and clean mountain air contribute to a palpable sense of serenity. Founded in 1980, O-Sel-Ling nestles into the hillside above Capileira at 1,600m, with magnificent views. Meditation and intensive Buddhist philosophy courses are organised, and ten small houses are available for retreats.

Alhambra, Granada, Spain

The ‘red castle’ that dominates the Granada skyline from its hilltop eyrie is among the most dramatic attractions in all of Spain. Though the first palace here was built in the 11th century, most of what you see today was constructed by the Nasrid emirs during the 13th and 14th centuries, with later additions by the Catholic monarchs after the Reconquista of Andalucia. There are four main areas of interest: the Alcazaba, the fortified garrison at the western end; the Generalife, the fabulous, serene gardens to the east of the main walls; the Palacio de Carlos V, an out-of-place Renaissance palace with a curious round interior; and the piece de resistance – the ornately decorated Palacio Nazaríes, the Nasrid Palace complex with its jaw-droppingly beautiful carved walls and ceilings. The Alhambra can get very busy; it’s essential to book in advance, especially for the timed entry tickets to the Palacio Nazaríes. Granada is about two hours’ drive from most parts of Las Alpujarras, either via the A44 at the western end, or across the Puerto de la Ragua pass over the Sierra Nevada north from Laroles.

Castillo de La Calahorra, Granada, Spain

Looking for all the world like a giant sandcastle looming over the plains east of Granada, the mighty fortress at La Calahorra is arguably the most unusual and dramatic castle in Spain. Its four bulbous corner towers and high, massive outer walls enclose an elegant Italian Renaissance interior, built between 1509 and 1512 for nobleman Rodrigo de Vivar y Mendoza on the site of a much older Moorish bastion. Today it’s privately owned and only available to visit on Wednesdays (usually 10am-1pm and 5-7pm or by appointment with caretaker Antonio Trivaldo, +34 958 67 70 98). It’s been used as a film set more than once – you might have spotted it during a surreal scene in the Spice Girls’ movie! La Calahorra is at the bottom (northern) end of the road leading down from the Puerto de la Ragua, the main pass over the Sierra Nevada.

Guadix, Granada, Spain

Now famous for its (still inhabited) troglodyte dwellings, Guadix was already old when the Romans settled here at the town they called Acci – indeed, Hadrian reputedly marvelled at the antiquity of Guadix – before the Moors established their own town of Wadi-Ash (‘River of Life’). About 1000 people still live in caves, and a visit to one of the cave museums provides fascinating insights into subterranean life. The 11th-century Islamic Alcazaba (castle, accessed from Calle Barradas) affords views over the cave quarter of the city, and the 16th-century sandstone baroque-Renaissance cathedral is also worth exploring.

Fiestas de Moros y Cristianos, Las Alpujarras, Spain

Many towns and villages across Las Alpujarras stage a large-scale piece of street theatre each year, a kind of re-enactment of the battles between Moors and Christians after the reconquista when the Islamic emirs were driven from Andalucia. Troupes dress as either Moors or conquistadors, and the story is divided into two acts; in the morning (or first day), the Moors vanquish their Christian oppressors, while in the afternoon (or second day) the Christians defeat the rebel Moors and either kill them or force their conversion. As well as a dramatic (if not entirely accurate) reminder of the events of the 15th and 16th centuries, it depicts a clash of cultures that resonates today. Oh, and it’s a whopping spectacle, with fireworks and plenty of action.

Fiestas patronales, Las Alpujarras, Spain

For centuries, village life was an almost unbroken succession of working days, weeks and months in the fields – so it’s not surprising that the hard-toiling men and women let rip with a vengeance once or twice a year in celebrating the patron saint of their village. Today you might enjoy feasting, processions, fireworks, plenty of music, special dishes and perhaps even trovos – improvised poetry ‘duels’ accompanied by lively music. Don’t expect much sleep: in many villages the noisy celebrations continue into the small hours and start again by mid-morning.


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