Walking Holidays in Andalucia
The rocky sun-baked region of Andalucia on Spain’s southern coast often conjures up images of much of what the world thinks of as Spanish: flamenco, tapas
, matadors and bullfights. Our walking holidays in Andalucia however take you further into the heart of this region, to the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada where you will discover traces of Moorish culture and the unspoilt villages and countryside of Las Alpujarras.
Walking along sections of the Camino Real (Royal Way) and GR7
linking the villages of the eastern Alpujarras you can explore the compact villages of flat‑roofed, whitewashed houses perched on terraces or clinging to the steep southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada, commanding extensive views across to the Sierra de Gador and the Mediterranean Costas beyond. Each village is fed by and depends on acequias, long channels constructed long ago by the Moors to bring clean fresh water from springs far away up in the mountains. The acequias are (for the most part) still carefully maintained by the village authorities. Above the acequias the landscape is parched and brown in summer (except where there are patches of oak or pine woodland); below the acequias the irrigated terraces are intensively cultivated and dotted with vast and spreading chestnut trees.
Best time of year For Walking in Andalucia
We recommend spring and autumn in the Northern Hemisphere as the best time of year to visit as weather in the summer and winter can be quite severe. In springtime however the fields and terraces are awash with flowers and blossoms of all kinds framed by the snows on the Sierra Nevada. In autumn on the other hand, you can experience the classic autumnal colours of golds and yellows as the chestnuts and poplars light up the valleys, whilst the hedgerows and paths are lined with figs, mulberries, walnuts and pomegranates.
Our Favourite Villages and Towns of Andalucia
The village of Mairena is a typically Moorish style cluster of flat-roofed houses with oddly shaped chimneys. The gleaming whitewash is a particularly attractive feature, although it is said to be a relatively recent addition to the villages in the Alpujarra Mountains. Particularly worth a visit are the village oil mill and the beautifully restored local church of Jubar. Mairena is also a great base for day walks into the Sierra Nevada Range, including ascents of San Juan (2730m) and Morron (2756m) peaks.
The very attractive village of Yegen (pronounced 'Yeah-hen'), perched on a ledge on the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada and offers an immense view across the Sierra de Gador.
Berchules is another beautiful and unspoilt village with a lot of character and fine views, a perfect place to wind down after a day of walking. Of particular note in the town is the local specialty of partridge in picante sauce and the village spring which has water purported to have medicinal properties and even help you fall in love!
Trevelez claims (as do several other villages) to be the highest in Spain; nobody however disputes the superiority of its Serrano hams, which benefit from long curing in the cool air of the Alpujarra Mountains. It is possible to buy small portions of ham vacuum packed for a picnic in case the idea of carrying a whole ham is not so appealing.
As far as cities go, Almeria is well off the tourist track and has a magnificent Casbah overlooking the port. It's almost as big as the Alhambra, but you'll be sharing it with only dozens of other people, rather than the thousands crowding the streets of Granada or Cordoba. Almeria also has one of the best fish markets you'll see anywhere, lots of great little tapas and easy access to some of Spain's best beaches on the National Park at Cabo de Gata.
Food and Drink in Andalucia
When walking in Andalucía and the Las Alpujarras region you may be able in season to pick nuts, figs or mulberries from wayside trees. As already mentioned the Serrano hams of the region (particularly from Trevelez) are some of the best in Spain due to the longer curing time in the cool mountain air.
The wines here are very much unknown, but over the last 10 years or so there has been an astonishing improvement in quality, to the extent that many of them can keep company with the best of the Riojas and Dueros. The cheese from the region is also exceptional. Little rainfall means little pasture, therefore few cattle, but there are huge numbers of goat and sheep whose milk makes for the most wonderful cheeses.
The amazing olive oil of Spain is well known, but it's always worth trying out the artisanal mills in the smaller villages, which are often sensational. The press in Mairena, for example, is one of the very few remaining which uses traditional techniques and whose oils are as unique as they are fabulous. A couple of well-known London restaurants use it as their special oil; and if you buy it in say, Covent Garden, it will cost you around £40 ($70) a litre - or direct in Mairena, about £3 ($5)!
Getting There and Away
Granada, Almeria and Malaga are all well served by international airlines and domestic/international trains. From there we can organise a free transfer to/from the starting/finishing point of your walking trip. The transfer from Almeria airport takes around one hour and from Granada airport around two hours.
For more information on walking in Andalucía, we suggest reading the blog article 'Walking in Las Alpujarras' on our favourite experiences that you can enjoy while you are in this region of Spain. If you are interested in cooking and walking in Andalucía, read the interview with one of our guesthouse owners, and Alpujarras resident. Visit our blog >>
Our Walking Holidays in Andalucia