The region of mountain villages known as Las Alpujarras clings to the southern flanks of the Sierra Nevada, cloven by deep, sheltered valleys and gorges which run down towards the Mediterranean.
The Alpujarra, as it is popularly known, in the singular, is famous throughout Spain because of its unique mini-ecology. Its terraced farmlands are constantly watered by the melting snow from above, constituting a high-altitude oasis of greenery which stands in dramatic contrast to the arid foothills below.
This is ideal hiking terrain for adventurous travellers, provided you take along a tent and well-padded sleeping bags - the average altitude is 4,000 feet above sea level.
The cultural interest of the region lies in its fifty-odd villages, which were the last stronghold of the moorish. Soon after the Castillians took Granada in 1492, all the city´s Moors were forced to convert to Christianity. Those who refused took to the hills, settling in this remote, inaccessible area.
Constant pressure from the Christians led to a bloody uprising, the Morisco Rebellion of 1568, which was ruthlessly crushed out, with the public execution of the leader, Ben Humeya, in the main square of Granada. Soon followed a royal decree expelling from the Kingdom of Granada all people of moorish descent, since the "new Christians", as the converts were called, were all suspected of being ¨crypto-Muslims¨ in secret...
The villages of the Alpujarra were resettled with some 12,000 Christian families brought by king Felipe II from Galicia and Asturias in north-western Spain.
However, these unique hamlets have retained their traditional Berber architecture - terraced clusters of grey-white box-shaped houses with flat clay roofs - which is still common in the Rif and Atlas mountains of Morocco.
|An street in Órgiva (Las Alpujarras, Granada)|
|Acequia de Las Ventanas|
If you stray from the beaten path, you will be sure to catch sight of the region´s abundant wild life, such as the Cabra Hispanica, a mountain goat which roams the mountains in herds and is often seen standing on pinnacles, silhouetted against the sky. But as soon as it flairs the scent of man it will bound up the steepest slopes with amazing speed... The Alpujarra is also famous for its excellent birdwatching - the colourful Hoopoe with its stark, haunting cry, is a common sight.