One of the things we like about attending language schools is the opportunity for extracurricular activities. This weekend, a guide took us and another family from our language school to the Alpujarras, a group of mountain towns near Granada.
I’d never heard of the Alpujarras before I arrived in Granada, but many locals told us that we should visit. They described them as picturesque, quaint towns on the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
The Alpujarras are important in Spanish history because there used to be a population of about 40,000 Muslims living here in the 15th and 16th century. (Most of Spain was Muslim from 711-1492). There were two Rebellions of the Alpujarras, in which the Spanish Muslims tried to oust the Catholic Monarchs. The efforts were unsuccessful and resulted in the expulsion or conversion of Muslims in Spain.
As a result, the population in the Alpujarras at the end of the 16th century dropped to 7,000. The Spanish government tried to incentivize Catholics to repopulate the area afterwards, but it was rather unsuccessful. The Alpujarras were relatively isolated until roads were improved. I learned this on the tour and also on Wikipedia article about the Alpujarra.
It takes about 1.5 hours to get to the Alpujarras by bus. We left Granada at 9 am and didn’t get home until 8:30 pm. It was a full day!
Here are some pictures from our day.
Pampaneira (population 321 in 2018)
The houses in the southern part of Spain are white because the reflective color keeps the buildings cooler. The narrow streets and walkways keep things cooler too, since there are lots of shadows and not a huge area for the sun to heat up between the houses. Living in these 95+` degree days with no air conditioning, I appreciate everything that cools things down.
There are many vertical gardens throughout the villages, which not only make lovely pictures but also keeps the area feeling cooler.
Our guide told us that the tradition of throwing coins into a fountain originated in the Americas. Apparently, money was made of silver, and when silver is added to water it makes the water potable. Is that true? What do you think?
Pampaneira is known for its rugs. The ones here now are often factory made, but we visited one of the last weavers in Pampaneira. It’s becoming a lost art since factories can do the work in a fraction of the time. I would have loved to get some rugs to take back to the States if only they’d fit in our suitcases 🙂
Trevélez (population 721 in 2018)
All the touring made us hungry, and it was 2 pm. Our next stop was Trevélez for lunch. It was a long, windy, and nausea-inducing, mountain road to get there. We were thankful for our seats at the front of the bus.
Trevélez is known throughout Spain for its high quality ham (jamón ibérico and jamón serrano.)
We took a tour of one of local places where the ham is cured. If you have a weak stomach, you might want to scroll quickly through these next pictures.
As we walked through the three story building, we saw the whole drying and preparation process from bottom to top. It takes 1-3 years to properly prepare and cure a Spanish ham.
The smell was very strong. It wasn’t exactly a bad smell (Ali might beg to differ), but it was strong and pervasive.
I was thankful that we had lunch before this visit. And, I was glad it wasn’t the last stop of the day.
Capileira (population 588 in 2018)
We headed back to the van for one more visit to the town of Capileira.
It seems that these days, many of these houses are rentals or Airbnbs. The roads are steep, so the aging residents have a hard time making their way through the steep and narrow streets with no car access.
This is one of the few buildings not painted white. It is actually made of slate, which is a local stone and is the only legal option other than painting your dwelling or business white.
The architecture is interesting. Homes in Capileira are built like a stair-step above the next one below it. Roofs are made of wood, a layer of slate from the area, and a layer of as special kind of thick gravel that makes it impermeable. All you can see from above is the dirt and the chimney. Apparently this same style of construction is also found in Berber dwellings in northern Africa. I learned that on the tour 🙂
We had a wonderful day touring beautiful towns in the Alpujarras with our guide Juan.
The three highest peaks in peninsular Spain are in this area just outside of Trevélez. We hope to come back to do some hiking in the mountains.
PHOTO CREDIT: Map of Las Alpujarras: https://www.theolivepress.es/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/website-2_i000036.jpg