“Spain is a land of differences” was the slogan put out by the Spanish tourist board as it shrugged off the legacy of Franco and opened its doors to the sun-seeking package tourist some 40 years ago. Since then millions have flocked to soak up the sun on the Spanish costas, oblivious to the charms of this enigmatic country and believing that the only things that are different about Spain are the temperature and the lingo.
Thankfully, many more have headed further afield to discover its diversity. From the Gaudiesque architecture of Barcelona to the Moorish castles of Andalucia via a world of mountains, coves and cultivated pasture, there are literally hundreds of Spains to discover.
The Alpujarra is the mountainous area that joins the foothills of the Sierra Nevada – Spain’s highest mountain range, with the Costa Tropical – the stretch of coastline that winds its way northeast from the much-maligned Costa del Sol. Since the building of the new toll road from Malaga, the Alpujarra is equally accessible from Malaga and Granada airports in around an hour and a half and yet just a fraction of the millions of visitors who flock to Spain every year take the time to discover this beautiful, unspoilt region.
The best time to visit the Alpujarra is in the late spring and early autumn, when the searing heat has left the summer sun but the days are still characterised by clear skies of deep blue and a warm wind that blows in gently off the African coast to the south.
A collection of villages and hamlets built in typical Andalucian “white village” style is dotted throughout the region. Orgiva town is the capital of the area and along with nearby Lanjaron, an old spa town with a strong edge of slightly faded grandeur, makes the perfect base from which to explore the region.
If traditional culture, hearty mountain food that packs a strong Spanish punch and a collection of exquisite walking tracks are your cup of tea, this is the perfect holiday location. The Alpujarra valley winds more or less due west to east, with the majority of its villages located on the north slopes, below Mulhacen and the peaks of the Sierra Nevada. There are many options for adventure activities on the mountain, watersports in the reservoir formed by the new dam below, and walks offering stunning views right down to the Mediterranean below on clear days.
A cable car link from Lanjaron straight into the Sol y Nieve ski resort, designed to serve keen skiers and boarders driving up from the coastal towns, has been much discussed over the past two decades. There is no doubt that it would put the entire Alpujarra area firmly on the map but it would also change the face of the area forever so make sure you plan your trip to the Alpujarra soon to appreciate the rare natural beauty of this forgotten corner of rural Spain.