Granada city in Autumn and the light glows golden, from the majestic towers of the Alhambra Palace down to the trees that line the river Darro and the wide shopping streets. The heavy hot air of summer abates, and there’s a noticeable change in the season, albeit a gentle one. There are cooler evenings with fewer crowds, as the summer haze clears in this postcard-pretty city to make way for an even better view of the Sierra Nevada.
Autumn is the perfect time of year to get up into the mountains to explore.
The view from Capileira, Alpujarras | Marion Carniel
Getting to the Alpujarra area from Granada
On the southern flanks of this mountain range is the area known as La Alpujarra. The foothills of the Sierra Nevada open up to this area of natural beauty which is unlike any other area of Spain, with deep valleys, clear and clean air, and little white villages of flat-roofed Berber style houses.
Step back in time and tie up those walking boots, explore the Alpujarras mountains with a walking trip for Autumn.
To get there, take the N-323 through the Lecrin Valley to Lanjaron, then follow the C-332. You can take a bus from Granada Train Station, but be aware that although they are inexpensive, the trips tend to wind into all the little villages on convoluted routes (and the driver knows and chats with EVERYONE!) so unless you have oodles of time to spare just getting there, hire a car and go at your own speed. Drive on roads where you are unlikely to meet another vehicle, snaking around precarious bends as you climb higher and higher.
Pack for the weather… all weathers!
The Sierra Nevada mountains change clothes themselves pretty quickly as the seasons change. Its spring and summer jacket of green fields and wildflowers fed by snowmelt becomes a thick white coat as soon as the first rains fall, the highest peaks a haven for winter sports and experienced climbers, and guided trips.
Autumn in the Alpujarra sees the first flush of the wine harvest as swathes of mountain turn golden and russet, and look, alarmingly, as though they are on fire from a distance.
Pack your most comfortable footwear and some sensible layers, it can be quite warm in the daytime and fairly cool later on – and as with any mountain location, the weather can turn quickly. Hiking poles are useful, as is sunblock and a hat. The cooler air in some of the highest villages make for healthy and bracing walks, and it’s possible to follow the marked routes for as little or as long as your fitness level dictates.
Poqueira Gorge in Autumn | GranadaSpain
A visual and sensory pleasure
With the sparkling blue Mediterranean sea at your feet way below and the Sierra Nevada mountains as the snowy frame, walking in the Alpujarras is a visual pleasure as well as being instantly relaxing. Your senses will be instantly rejuvenated with the scent of fresh mountain herbs of wild thyme, fennel and rosemary trampled underfoot, and the clear, clean air. First-time visitors often remark they feel their stresses and strains of everyday life fall away with every step.
Bubión | Carol Byrne
Plan a route
The Gran Recorrido or GR7 is one of Europe’s top long-distance paths. It runs all the way from Tarifa in southern Spain, through Andorra and France.
The GR142 is like a little sister, running at a lower altitude than the GR7, and with a length of just 144 km. The route is well marked and starts in the Spa town of Lanjarón – with wooden signs, the markings painted on red and white.
Choose long hikes across the stunning terrain – or shorter ones between the picturesque villages that dot the mountainsides. There’s nothing better than the sight of a curl of blue smoke rising from one of those iconic Alpujarran chimneys to greet you after a long walk, a promise of a hearty Alpujarran plate of good food washed down with a cold beer or a glass of red.
Here is a small selection of easy routes to take a look at:
GR142 - Lobras to Cadiar
Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Altitude: 760 – 950m
Length: 8 km
Difficulty: easy to medium
On this linear route you’ll see and ancient aqueduct dating from the Moorish period – signposted as Cortijo de Los Arcos – with a healthy trek through ancient olive groves, an ideal spot for a picnic lunch.
There’s fresh drinking water available at both Cádiar and Lobras, and you can find refreshments and food available in the bars in Cádiar.
|18449 Lobras, Granada, Spain|
|18440 Cádiar, Granada, Spain|
GR7 - Soportujar to Lanjarón
Time: 5 hours
Altitude: 650 – 1,000m
Length: 15 km
A varied linear walk along a stretch of the GR7. Crossing hillsides, streams and gorges, walking alongside the acequias (irrigation channels) and passing through the sleepy white-washed villages of Soportujar and Cañar, where you can find a couple of bars and a little shop for food and refreshments.
Finishing as you drop down into the spa town of Lanjaron.
|18410 Soportújar, Granada, Spain|
|18420 Lanjarón, Granada, Spain|
The villages of the Poqueira Gorge
Time: 5 hours
Altitude: 1,060 – 1,400m
Length: 9.5 km
This circular walk links the popular villages of Capileira, Bubión and Pampaneira that cling to the hillsides above the stunning Poqueira gorge.
Starting high in Capileira the route takes you down to the bridge crossing the Rio Poqueira. The trail drops down to recross the river and then climbs to Pampaneira. From there it’s a steep climb to Bubion before returning to the start.
|18413 Capileira, Granada, Spain|
|18412 Bubión, Granada, Spain|
|18411 Pampaneira, Granada, Spain|
GR142 - The villages of La Taha Valley
Time: 5 hours
Altitude: 1,050 – 1,300m
Length: 8.5 km
A circular walk that starts in charming Mecina Fondales and drops down through the pretty village of Fondales. Then the trail heads east to Ferrierola looking down on the Trevelez gorge.
From there it’s uphill walking to Atalbeitar where the road leads to the town of Pórtugos. The final stop is Pitres before dropping steeply back down to where the route started in Mecina.
|18414 Mecina-Fondales, Granada, Spain|
|18414 Atalbéitar, Granada, Spain|
|18415 Pórtugos, Granada, Spain|
|18414 Pitres, Granada, Spain|
Expect big portions, lots of rich tomatoey stews with pork, rabbit and boar. Order plato alpujarreño and you’ll get a huge plate of blood sausage, chorizo, a fried egg and some potatoes that have been cooked gently in stock with green pepper and onion.
Vegetarians and Vegans might have an issue finding food, unlike the cities and coastal towns this area is very traditional and simple when it comes to good local food. You might find some tortilla or patatas a lo pobre.
Mountain bread comes with everything, cooked in an oven fired with sweet almond wood, the scent of the Alpujarra in cooler weather. If you would like to taste some of the local wine, then ask for Vino de la Tierra – light in colour, almost tawny, it goes down easily – but be warned – it has a kick like a village mule!
So, the next time you are visiting Granada, take a trip to the Alpujarra area for some walking or hiking, and you’ll go home with memories that last long after your suntan!