“Alpujarra” is the name given to the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada, stretching about 80 km from east to west, famous for its dramatic scenery.
Chris Stewart is a writer, sheep farmer, self-confessed foodie and the author of best-selling “Driving over Lemons”, a book about life on his farm in the Alpujarra. He’s lived there for over 30 years and knows the area like the back of his hand. Come for a week’s holiday and he’ll lead you on his favourite walks in the Alpujarra and the Sierra Nevada National Park.
Heading south from the historic city of Granada you’ll skirt the magnificent Sierra Nevada mountain range with its peaks of up to 11,400 feet, before the road meanders into the heart-achingly beautiful hills of the Alpujarra.
“Alpujarra” is the name given to the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada, stretching about 80 km from east to west. It’s famous for its dramatic river gorges, ancient terraced hillsides, historic white villages built centuries ago by the Moors, and unforgettable mountain views.
Chris loves the Alpujarra and reckons the best and only way to see it is on foot. There are miles and miles of routes to explore, on footpaths, mule tracks, medieval silk routes and forest trails. At lower altitudes the walks pass from village to village through goat pastures, orchards of almond and cherry, oak and chestnut groves and rocky scrubland. Higher up there are routes through pine woods to the vast open spaces and snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada National Park. The trans-European GR7 footpath crosses the area (en route from the Straits of Gibraltar to the Peleponnese in Greece), as does the GR142 (from Lanjaron to Almeria).
The Alpujarra is also a nature-lover’s paradise. With over 2000 plant, 60 bird and 270 insect species the diversity of the wildlife is staggering. This is mainly due to large differences in altitude (from 500m in the lower market towns of the Alpujarra to over 3,000m in the high summits), as well as the climate (hot summers in the lower Alpujarra contrast with virtually arctic conditions in the winter peaks).
Out walking, Chris teams up with expert guides to ensure you don’t miss nature’s finery. There are golden eagles soaring in the vast blue sky, trilling flocks of bee-eaters and shy, exotic golden orioles. Grazing Cabra Montesa (mountain goats) are quite common and the area is also home to wild boar, foxes, red squirrels, genets and more.
At certain times the land is carpeted with flowers (look out for gems like royal blue Alpine gentians or a ravishing pink corn cockle peeping out from the side of the footpath). There are butterflies with names as exotic as their colouring: Spanish Festoon, Sierra Nevada Blue and Parnassius Apollo to name but a few.
And after an exhilarating day’s walking there are village bodegas for ham, cheese and wine tasting, local bars, and, even better, an ice-cold beer on the terrace of the lovely Casa Ana guest house, with its wisteria-covered pergola and superb views of the Trevelez river gorge.
Chris knows well that accommodation can make or break a holiday experience so he chose Casa Ana for its comfort, wonderful food and peaceful location. It’s situated in the tiny village of Ferreirola which is, as he says, “about the prettiest village in the western Alpujarra”. Four hundred years old, the house was once a family home with stables and barns, a wine press and an olive oil cellar. It lay empty and abandoned for 35 years until the present owner Anne Hunt stumbled on the sleeping ruins in 2004. She spent nine years re-creating it as a ten-bedroom guest house with a Moorish garden, south-facing terraces, and comfortable accommodation.
When walking groups stay at Casa Ana they have the whole place to themselves, whilst the staff provide great hospitality and wonderful meals. Here’s what Chris says about the cooking: “the food and wine are of the best, with local seasonal based ingredients transformed by the alchemy of a gifted local chef into exquisite dishes to seduce the most jaded palate.”
Tempted? There are walking holidays every year in February, April, May, September and October.
- This year there’s a special offer: €100 per person off advertised prices for holidays starting April 7 2018 and May 13 2018. The organisers at Casa Ana can also arrange an exclusive holiday for your walking group (from 10 to 14 people).
- For more information contact Anne at Casa Ana: firstname.lastname@example.org.