From Lanjaron the road winds north easterly, through the quintessentially Andalusian mountain villages of the Taha Valley, Alpujarras, in the foothills of the immense Sierra Nevada mountain range.
Chris Stewart, with his ‘Driving over lemons’ series of books, has gone a long to put this part of the world on the tourist map, yet surprising now in early June it still feels like a rural back water thanks to its steep country roads making access less easy for tour groups or day trippers.
Pampaneira is one of the largest of these mountain villages, chock-full of artisan workshops, gift shops and bars. Although it is clearly a tourist town, it still boasts historical homes and buildings and maintains a degree of simplicity that defines the lifestyle here.
Our next stop took us further into the heart of the Alpujarras, to the tiny village of Capileira, one of the Spain’s most elevated settlements, and to the family-run Hotel Rural Finca Los Llanos.
Seated on an upper terrace, shaded by fruit trees, with views out across the sierra we enjoyed a gourmet tasting menu of market fresh salad served upon a typical Andalusian tomato salmorejo, followed by local fresh trout from the river Poquiera with classic ‘patatas a lo pobre’, (sliced potatoes pan fried in virgin olive oil)
Pudding was a homemade soft cheese torte with marmalade and mango – all washed down with wines from Granada. This is a special place, and Gloria Lopez is a true advocate for the wholesome way life here. Together with her family they have created a relaxing ambiance in which to enjoy the best of the Alpujaraas, with a strong focus on locally based gastronomy.
It’s good to see these communities rediscovering their identities based on cuisine with local provenance and tourism highlighting the surrounding wild spaces.
Bubion is a neighbouring hamlet and good base from which to explore the hiking and mountain bike trails of this part of the Alpujarras. There are also a number of workshops like the artisan carpet workshop, ‘Taller artisanal – Jarapas de Hilacar’ where you can get a glimpse of how these communities created a sustainable lifestyle. You can see firsthand the strength and patience needed to create these woollen rugs and pieces of art.
One of my favourite places in this part of the Alpujarras is the tiny hamlet of Mecina Findales – I have not been here for years, since I was researching the guide I contributed to for Andalucía. That time I had a wonderful meal in the ‘La Cueva de Mora Luna’, a piano and music bar run by Carlos Anibal di Palma Acuñarun, an Argentinean that makes some of the best pizzas!
We enjoyed dinner at the imaginatively named ‘La Oveja Verde’ in nearby Pitres where they also offer some lovely ‘casa rurales’ for holiday rent, with views over the valley. You just can’t imagine how peaceful it is here!
Jose and his team really went the extra mile to show us not only the warm welcome but also the variety and richness of the local, rustic food.
We stayed the night in the rural Hotel de Mecina Fondales, enjoying the genuine hospitality of Victor M. Fernandez. This is a simple hotel, but in a great location, and with lots of personal touches.
It’s a good base to head out and hike the sierra. On our route we passed an original ‘era’, an ancient threshing platform, constructed in an exposed position, so the passing wind would help separate the wheat from the chaff. Nearby is the unique ‘la Fuente Gaseosa’, an animated natural spring of fizzy water that spurts and splashes out its iron rich water.