Going through the Alpujarras is definitely one of the best relaxing Andalucia road trip that our slow-go family enjoys. This is day 9 of our fourth family camping road trip in Europe, from Spain to Poland and back again. Yet, a road trip across southern Spain is our family’s favorite.
Why? Well, because there’s a lot of different, family-fun things to do and awesome places to visit made even better by 300 days of sunshine all year round!
You can swim in the warm Atlantic waters of what the sunspoiled locals call one of the most beautiful beaches in Andalucia–Playa del Valdevaqueros (near Tarifa, the windsurfung capital of Europe)–with the view of the Rif mountains of Morocco in the distance, for example. Then, you can head east to to the highest of the white villages (pueblos blancos) of Spain in the Alpujarras all in a day.
That’s if you skip all the hundreds of other cool stops and places to see inbetween, like the land of sherry, flamenco and dancing horses, the cave houses of Setenil de las Bodegas, the rock of Gibraltar and the hundreds of miles/kilometers of warm coastline (my family would skip the hoity toity Malaga altogether).
Or, you can go ski on the most southern slopes of Europe and almost (figuratively) head stright down and swim in the Mediterranean sea in less than an hour. We can go on and on and on, but you get the idea. . . And we haven’t even talked about the eastern half of Andalucia.
They like their flowers here, high up in the small villages of Las Alpujarras. They go very well with the stark whitewashed walls and door screens that keeps the air inside cool and keeps the flies out and flat roofs–reminiscent of Chefchaouen (without the blue) and the Rif mountains of Morocco.
For this part of our road trip with kids, we continue heading east from Trevelez–the highest of the white villages of Spain–to the desert-like cave houses of Guadix. I’m obsessed with flamenco–the song of the outcasts, traditionally the gypsies of Spain. Because of that I’ve always wanted to stay in a cave where this primitive songs might have flourished.
The wife and I have done that in the Sacromonte caves of Granada when we were young. It was cold and the sun could not get through the shut doors and windows. Now. . . “to the batcave” is all our young boys care about.
We ignored the Google map-recommended route and took the smaller, more narrow, winding road (A-4130/A-4127) that hugs the southern outskirts of the Sierra Nevada National Park.
It was hard to resist stopping by every sleepy white village that calls the lonesome travellers from afar, places like Juviles, Alcutar, Mecina Bombaron, Valor, Mairena, Mecina Alfahar, Laroles. “Let’s save them for later,” my governor-wife says. That’s promising, isn’t it?
But at Yegen, we did stop to see this bucolic, adopted village of the British writer Gerald Brenan who lived and wrote about village life in “Al Sur de Granada“ (To the South of Granada) in the 1920s when there was no paved road nor public transportation, but apparently plenty of water.
Each town has a special story, you’d just need to stay a while to appreciate it; longer than a day at least. Hell, Vagn Hansen aka “Juan el Dinamarca” apparently came for a vacation in the late 1950s and never left. Oh, ahhhh, why is he important to the town? He took a lot of photographs that captured the people and life of the village.
So, although decades apart, the British Brenan and Danish Hansen provided perhaps the only anthropological record of the village folks in modern times.
Then from Yegen, we continued east towards Laroles and onwards to Guadix via Jerez del Marquesado.
In Laroles, before the road turned north through the National Park of Sierra Nevada, we had a scheduled stop at Camping Alpujarras. But, the site looked so shady from the road that we decided to just go straight to the caves and save a night.
If you have the time, a great stop while going north on A-337 through the national park would be Puerto de la Ragua for a breathe of fresh air at 2,000 meters high. It has plenty of hiking trails, viewpoints and picnic chilltime areas.
After that you’d be coming down the mountain in a narrow, snaky, even hairy roads and about half-an-hour to La Calahorra. Eventhough it’s small, you cannot miss this town because of the regal-looking castle atop a rock hill.
The Italian Renaissance Castle of La Calahorra–one of the firstof its kind built outside of Italy in the 1500s–welcomes those who come from the mountains of the Sierra Nevada National Park northbound on A-337. Makes us wanna see the 1974 film “Stardust”.
Then, the final detour: Jerez del Marquesado. Why? Simply because we came from the other Jerez. . . de la Frontera and we thought we might discover something magical here. . . Nope. Nada. None. At least none for us.
To the Bat Cave then!
what to do in Western Alpujarras
So, what to see or do in western part of the Alpujarras? Hiking, trekking whateverchamacallit. You’re in the mountains, of course. If you are into mountain hiking, the peaks of Mulhacen and Alcazaba of the Sierra Nevadas are less than a day’s walk according to experienced travelers. Not yet for us . Hey, we’ve got young kids!
Check out this video of FREE things you can do with kids in the Sierra Nevada. . . in the snow!
If you are in Trevelez, the must-see white villages of Capileira, Bubion and Pampaneira are a little more than haf-an-hour away (west). And remember you are only about 1.5 hours to the nearest beach (Playa La Caleta de Salobreña).
Orgiva–described as the “gateway to the Alpujarra” that connects the coast of malaga with Granada and the white vilages of the southern Sierra Nevada (NO, not the one in the United States!!!). Only 35-some-kilometers to the beach (Playa Granada) in Motril and an hour-drive to the center of Granada (63.5 kilometers). Open market Thursdays is a good time to replenish your camping food supply and possibly discover knick-knack keepsakes. 5-minute drive/2 kilometers north of Camping Orgiva.
Further north is Hoya de la Mora in the Sierra Nevada–The southernmost part of Europe, where you can ski or sled or do your snowy things down a mountain and swim in the Mediterranean sea within one hour of each other. With over 300 days of strong Andalusian sunshine here in southern Spain, you would not think that there would be snow. Think again! The Sierra Nevada, about a one-hour drive from the city of Granada, boasts the southernmost point of Europe where you can ski, sled and snowboard as late as early May. You can literally hit the snow slopes all morning and swim in the Mediterranean in the afternoon. 1.5-hour drive/92 kilometers north of Camping Orgiva.
Next Stop: Cave Houses in the Desert of Guadix
Onwards, upwards. . . . to Andorra! Here’s the first half of our family camping road trip. . . number FOUR! 1,617-something kilometers from Jerez de la Frontera, detour to Bolonia, then Setenil de las Bodegas, the white villages of the Alpujarras, the caves of Guadix, Baeza, Ubeda, Ossa de Montiel, the hanging houses of Cuenca, Lake Caspe and finally the little country of Andorra. . . at least for the first half of this trip!
Last Stops: Capileira, Bubion, Pampaneira
You can visit Pampaneira along with the other white villages of Capileira and Bubion in a day. For us, slow-go family travelers (with KIDS!), it would be too much. In this sunny south side of the Sierra Nevada–the artist-trap mountains of Granada–we’d like to especially take it easy. . . you know, like Sunday mornings.
Thanks for checking us out!