Nestled deep into southern Granada on the south side of the most prominent, and highest mountains on the peninsula, lies a true Spanish gem hidden away from most people passing from Granada to the coast, Alpujarra. Leave the autovia and connect to the A-348 and then the A-4132 from Orgiva and the mountain road takes you to Pampaneira, and you’ll be more than impressed when you get there. you are now in a valley with a clear view of the often snow-capped Sierra Nevada, and presented with an opportunity to visit some of the most beautiful villages in Andalusia.
Despite The valley’s remote location from other major towns, you can actually do this hike in one day if you are staying in Granada, as there are buses to get to Pampaneira and Capileira and the return. Should you decide to do that, you would have a gap of 5 hours between arriving in Pampaneira, and leaving Capileira, which would be easily enough time. Alternatively, you could stay the night there and make a really nice day and a half out of it. I went there by car and it does leave you a slightly awkward position of having to double your hiking distance, or getting a bus back to your starting point.
The climate is something to take into account when doing this. snow can fall at the highest point of this hike at a timeframe of more than 6 months a year. The heat of the summer isn’t so severe compared to Granada city, but it can easily reach 30 degrees. I went there in April and it was around 27 degrees, but a few days later it reportedly snowed in Capileira. In winter, you are almost certainly going to have sub-zero temperatures first thing in the morning. Plan your equipment carefully.
The hike is not long in distance, just 7km or 3km if you are finishing in Capileira, but you are going to be climbing quite a bit in that short space of time, just under 400m, but you are not going to struggle. This hike is more designed to enjoy a culture unique to this region and enjoy the views and villages in a relaxed fashion. I started in Pampaneira, at the bottom of the valley, and the car was parked in one of 2 car parks of the village, near the church. One thing you need to know is that all three of these villages are listed on the ‘pueblos más bonitas de España’, and Pampaneira was one of the first to be included.
You start by the church which includes the main square, and see the numerous handmade rugs and towels on sale draped over the wall and running water down some of the narrow streets. you have to climb these streets towards the top, which is a spectacular maze offering at times the ever-widening views of the valley. the trail leading out of the village is via the lavadero. The road leads you to the last few houses and by this point is signposted to Bubión, and according to guides, this was the way people used to get there. from the top of the village you get a good perspective and will probably have noticed by now of the unique roofs or ‘terraos grises’ of all the buildings. These grey, fragile-looking roofs, covered in material similar to an English garden shed called ‘launa’ are emblematic of the Alpujarra region, and there are no examples of these anywhere else.
Once you leave, you will encounter a lot of the cultivation practiced here that are directly involved with the uniqueness of the region and you get to sample that in pretty much every local shop in all three villages. after about 15 minutes you join the Barranco de Cerezo which leads you uphill until diverting off to the lower part of Bubión, the next village. Here, the route takes you past the ayuntamiento and the church, and you won’t see many places to eat around here, unless you divert towards the main road. The best thing is that Bubión is the easiest of the three villages to get around and you have some of the best views of the valley and the high mountains. You can see Valeta, the 2nd highest peak of the range, but that will partially disappear from view when you reach Capileira.
The next part of the hike runs almost alongside the main road to get to Capiliera. This part is largely uneventful, but you are climbing about 100m or so to get there, and you will divert again towards the bottom of the village. Capileira is the largest of the three villages on the trip, and towards the top, is where there are the majority of the bars and restaurants, as well as many shops which sell plenty of local produce. This was where we ended our journey. and made our way back to Pampaneira by road as we were heading to Malaga from Granada. However there are several ways out of the lower part of town, towards the Puente de Molino or Puente de La Higuerilla.
From these places I know that you are presented with views of the Mulhacén, the highest mountain of the whole peninsula. I know that if you have the time, you should try this stretch of the hike, and guides say it’s one of the easiest hikes of the whole region. But it really isn’t any rush, Capileira is well worth exploring, and it’s where me and my parents had lunch. I highly recommend the ‘plato alpujarreño’ a hearty dish of meat, eggs and potatoes, and after the number of calories you are going to burn for the most part, you won’t feel guilty eating it.
This valley is one of the most impressive and unusual places to visit in the whole of Andalusia, and it boasts a number of hiking routes that can quintessentially take you to the top of the world. My hike is just scratching the surface as to how much exploring you can do there. The best part is how accessible it is and how beautiful the place is all year round. This area is evidence that there is more to Granada province, than just the Alhambra.