A day trip to the white villages of the Alpujarras

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. La 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.

The valley and escarpments are sprinkled with the whitewashed villages that make up Las Alpujarras, which utilise a flat roofed architecture that is seen only in this region and in the Atlas Mountains of North Africa – Berber in origin. On a clear day, you can actually see the Atlas Mountains from the higher villages.

The hillside villages with square little houses clinging precariously to the slopes make fascinating places to explore. Its narrow streets, twisting and steep as they pass terraces cascading with flowers. Most famous are Pampaneira, Bubion and Capileira in the Poqueira gorge. Trevelez at 1476 m (4,900 ft), allegedly the highest village in Europe and noted for its mountain-cured hams, lies under Mulhacen, the highest peak in Iberia at 3481 m (11,500 ft).