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Located near the fascinating city of Granada, Sierra Nevada is Spain’s largest natural park, covering an area of over 850 square kilometres. Its wild expanse is home to some spectacularly located settlements, including the famous cluster of villages known as the Alpujarra. Read on for our pick of the Sierra Nevada’s most beautiful towns and villages.
Clinging to the dramatic foothills of Mount Mulhacén, Capileira is the highest of a three-strong cluster of villages in the Poquira valley, on the Sierra Nevada’s southern edge. It is one of the most popular and beautiful settlements in the Alpujarra area, packed with rustic whitewashed houses and pretty, flower-filled streets.
Heading downhill from Capileira on the winding mountain road, you soon arrive in Bubión. This is one of the smallest villages in the Alpujarras and charms with its cosy tapas bars and its lovely old houses, whose chimneys scent the air with woody smoke. You can also enjoy some awesome views of the park’s highest mountains from Bubión.
After taking in the delights of Capileira and Bubión, roll downhill for a few minutes to reach Pampaneria. Although the most touristy of the Aplujarra villages, it has lost none of its country charm, with a maze-like network of mysterious lanes weaving between small, flower-covered houses. The gorgeous main square is a great lunch spot.
The resort town of Sierra Nevada itself is found in the centre of the park, an hour’s drive from Granada. It is principally a skiing town and is busiest during the season, from November to May, but is also lovely to visit during the quieter months. Pick a spot on a sunny terrace and soak up the amazing views that unfold in every direction.
The first of the Aplujarra villages that you come to on the road from Granada (a mere half an hour from the city) is Lanjaron, where Spain’s first ever bottled water company was founded (unsurprisingly, it’s called “Lanjaron”). Water is also at the heart of this lovely town’s annual Fiesta del Agua y Jamon, which kicks off on the 23rd June with a giant water fight in the main square.
The highest settlement in the Alpujarras region (at 1,476 metres) is Trevélez, an arrestingly attractive town within trekking distance of Mulhacén’s 3,478-metre summit. As well as being a great start and finish point for conquering mainland Spain’s highest mountain, it’s famous for its superb cured jamons, so order a plate with your post-trek beer.
Located just under 50km east of Trevélez, Mairena is one of the most unspoilt of the Alpujarra settlements, where the 40,000-odd residents live in a close-knit, communal way that hasn’t changed for generations. Surrounded by wonderful hiking tracks, it’s truly a place to come if you want to forget about the rest of the world for a while.