Trevélez, Andalusia

Walking the Alpujarras

Andalusia has been on the list to visit for some time. It’s one of the most beautiful parts of Spain with its epic mountains, white washed villages and incredible tapas. With 10 nights away, we wanted to make the most of our time and opted for a varied itinerary that would take in a festival, four days walking in the Alpujarras, finished off with a weekend in Granada.

We stayed in Frigiliana for three nights for the annual Festival of Three Cultures. It takes place every August bank holiday and is well worth checking out for the folk music, carnival vibes and Ruta de la Tapa, which takes in nearly every bar and restaurant in the town. For each drink you order you receive a free tapa and a stamp on the map. Do all 19 stands and you get a free t-shirt, cap and scarf… harder than it sounds!

La Ruta de la Tapa, Frigiliana
La Ruta de la Tapa, 19 tapas done!

After the festival we took a bus from nearby Nerja up into the mountains to a spa town called Lanjarón, famous for it’s mountain water. It’s a charming mountain town, with a main boulevard lined with cafes, restaurants and retirement homes. There is a real sense of community spirit there, with locals on chairs on the pavement exchanging stories late into the warm summer evenings.

We stayed at Hotel Alcadima in the centre of town, a fairly large place with around 100 rooms and its own swimming pool, which cost €50 euros for a double room. For dinner we opted for tapas at a local bar Arca de Noe, with a plate of jamon, queso and bread enough to fuel up for the walking ahead. We planned a 86km route that would take us along some of the best bits of the GR7, a long distance path that totals 1900 km.

Tapa 1: Lanjarón to Bubión

We awoke early to get underway, knowing we had a long day ahead of us. Heading east out of town the GR7 route picks up just off the main road. We initially missed the path as it’s signed GR142 to Órgiva, but after realising we had gone too far we backtracked and picked up the route. In general the GR7 is fairly well sign posted, but there are a few sections where you need to look out for wooden marker posts with a red and yellow hoop.

Sunrise over the Sierra Nevada
Starting early in the morning sun

It’s a fairly steep climb out of Lanjarón, so best to start before the sun is fully up. The path then takes you along the top of the ridge, before curving to the left up around the valley towards Cáñar. This is a pretty little village and good place to stop to refill on water and have a quick snack. The path then heads on up above the valley and Rio Chico, where the path is fairly rough in places with a steep drop down to the right. At the top of the valley is a dam with an impressive view where we stopped for lunch.

The next stop was Soportújar, a town famous for its witchcraft and meeting place for covens. In the main square the fountain comprises two witches with a cauldron, with steam rising from the water. On the way out of town you also pass by the Cueva del Ojo de la Bruja (Cave of the Eye of the Witch) before picking up the GR7 again.

From Soportújar it was 10km to the final stop of the day, Bubión, one of three villages in the Poqueira gorge nestled between Pampaneira to the south and Capileira to the north. It’s a gentle climb out of the village before the path levels out, running alongside the irrigation channels that thread throughout the Alpujarras.

Arriving into Pampaneira, we were confronted by a large hydroelectric plant, with the path climbing up around the side. It was a relief to top up on water as it was sweltering in the midday sun, before making our final ascent up through the winding streets, passing bars and restaurants serving delicious-looking pizza.

We arrived into Bubión with tired feet after a long day of walking with plenty of climbing. We stayed at the excellent Hostal Rural Las Terrazas de la Alpujarra, which was just €36 for a double room, with a friendly host. After a shower and a Cruz Campo beer on the terrace with magnificent views over the gorge, we headed out for some food at Restaurant Teide, the local’s favourite.

Evening sun in Bubión, Andalusia
Evening sun in Bubión

Lanjarón to Bubión on the GR7 path (27.7km, 1815m climbing)

Tapa 2: Bubión to Ferreirola

The next day was a much more relaxed distance, with a gentle 10km into La Taha, which comprises of six beautiful little villages. Climbing out of Bubión was magnificent in the morning light, with the path taking us up above the treeline to the cloud line. From there we dropped down onto a wide and well marked path that took is down to the Taha villages.

View from the GR7 overlooking Bubión
King of the mountain

The GR7 runs down through Capilerilla where we stopped for coffee and pan con tomate, before heading steeply down to Pitres, through Mecinilla, then Fondales where you can pick up the GR142 to Ferreirola. Here we stayed at a beautiful b&b called Sierra y Mar, which had a very cool owner Italian called Sepp, a seasoned walker with a nice woolly white beard.

Bubión to Ferreirola (10.8km, 452m climbing)

Tapa 3: Sierra Mecina

Just across the River Trevélez lies the Sierra Mecina, which tops out at 1259 metres. Since we had a few hours to kill before evening, we set off back on the GR142 out of the village before heading down to the crossing point at the river, where the path winds steeply up the Mecina and onto a farm track. At this point in the day it was pretty hot, so we were going easy on the water, but the thought of a swim in the river when we got back down kept us spurred on.

Path down from the Sierra Mecina
Path down from the Sierra Mecina

It’s a long walk across the top of the Mecina until the path cuts back down towards the Roman Bridge, with some beautiful views of the Taha villages. The bathing spot in the rock pools was filled with algae, so we carried on without a swim opting to get back to Sierra y Mar for a cold beer instead.

For dinner we walked to nearby Mecina Fondales, which has a couple of restaurants including a nice-looking vegetarian place called L’Atelier and the local bar and restaurant Cuevas de la Mora Luna, where we enjoyed some great local meat and wine.

Sierra Mecina (10.7km 693m climbing)

Tapa 4: Ferreirola to Trevélez

After Sepp’s epic breakfast (coffee, juice, bread, ham, cheese, yogurt, melon, jams) we set off for our final stop at Trevélez. On the way out of town was a natural sparkling spring, where we filled up our bottles. All the rocks around the area are stained rusty brown due to the high iron content of the water, hence the ‘fe’ in the name of the village.

Sierra y Mar, Ferreirola
Sierra y Mar, Ferreirola

Having been assured this final leg to Trevélez would be fairly easy, in reality it turned out to be one of the toughest routes of the trip. The profile is constantly up with over 700 metres of climbing, before dropping down into a gorge, then up again, before a final descent into Trevélez. Aside from an early stop in Busquístar, there are no water stops on the route so it was important to carry plenty of water.

After around five hours of walking, Trevélez appeared in the valley below like some kind of mirage, the white painted houses glimmering in the midday sun. It’s a large town and serves as the gateway to the Sierra Nevada providing a basecamp for the climb up to Mulhacen. On arrival into town we found our hotel La Fragua II, a really great place with a pool and a restaurant in the same name which is said to be one of the best in the town. The rumours were true, the food and wine was stunning.

Trevélez, Andalusia
Trevélez, Spain’s highest village

Ferreirola to Trevelez (17.5km, 1225m climbing)

Tapa 5: Siete Lagunas

After a chilled evening in Trevélez we got up early to embark on the climb up to Siete Lagunas, a 20km round trip that promised stunning views at the top. I knew something up was that morning, when I could barely touch breakfast and as soon as we started out on the climb I was pretty sick. I was determined to finish the climb, so we ploughed on for another 3km but after being sick again I had to call it a day and turn back. It was gutting not to make it up to the top, but we’ll definitely be back one day for another crack.

Wild horse, Trevélez
Wild horses couldn’t drag me away

Day walk to visit Siete Lagunas (20km, 1600m climbing)

Summary

On leaving Trevélez we took a bus to Granada, which took 4-5 hours. If you have limited time this is a great section of the GR7 to explore, taking in some of the most beautiful villages. We used Walk! The Alpujarras by Charles Davis for several of these routes. We did this walk in late August and temperatures are well into the 30s so recommend starting walks early and carrying plenty of water.

Swimming pool at La Fragua II
Stormy skies over La Fragua II
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