Walking in the Alpujarras, Spain

Just a whisker away from Andalucia’s beachside resorts and golf courses is a totally different world; and a walking vacation will help you uncover it. Clinging to the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada, the Alpujarras is an atmospheric and traditional region where you can follow trails past ruined castles and meandering rivers, visit traditional white-washed villages such as Capileira, Bubion and Pampaneira and stop to sample regional wines and cheeses at village bodegas, all with the Sierra’s snowcapped peaks looming in the background.
The ancient terraced slopes of the Alpujarras were made by 8th-century Berbers and are the greenest part of the Sierra Nevada, with landscapes ranging from pure Mediterranean around the lower hills to full-on Alpine at nearly 3,000m high. The wildlife is as diverse as the terrain and experienced guides can help you spot eagles and buzzards in the skies or ibex and goats in the valleys below. Whether you’re joining a small group or taking it easy with a tailor made trip, walking vacations in the Alpujarras are full of adventure.

What style are the tours?

You can either go it alone with a trip tailored to the needs of you and your travel companions or go the sociable route with a small group tour. Our small group walking vacations in the Alpujarras have a maximum of 14 people and combine mountain and valley trails with cultural and culinary exploration. Small groups are suited for walkers who like to make friends along the trail and you’ll have the added bonus of local knowledge from expert guides to help bring the landscape and landmarks to life. You could opt for a specialist wildlife tour, for example, where you’ll be introduced to plants, birds and insects as well as mammals and reptiles; or you could spend a week being guided by Chris Stewart, author of Driving Over Lemons, who loves sharing his impressive knowledge of the region.

If small groups aren’t your thing, then tailor made, self-guided walking vacations allow you greater privacy and flexibility. You’ll follow a well-designed itinerary and will be given local support and an information package, so you’ll have the low down on walking routes as well as on cultural, historical and natural sites of interest. Self drive vacation that cover more of Andalucia and include walking in the Alpujarras and other beautiful locations are another option.

On both types of tour, you could either go point-to-point, making your way from pre-booked hotel to pre-booked hotel, sometimes with two nights in each and with your luggage sent on ahead of you, or you could choose to spend a week based at a guesthouse in one of the Alpujarras’ white-washed villages, taking things easy and mixing up your walking with other activities, too.  

How tough are they?

Walking vacations in the Alpujarras are more about gentle discovery than tough trekking, though small group trips tend to be more strenuous, simply because you have to keep up with everyone else. Distances and walks vary, from introductory ambles to full day hikes but, for the most part you’ll walk between four and six hours a day, though you might find the odd eight-hour day complete with steep ascents, such as the high mountain walk around the Siete Lagunas (Seven Lakes), or a 16km circular route in the Sierra Nevada looping from above Capileira down to the Poqueira River.
Our walking trips in this region are typically a week long, although short breaks of three days to walk amongst trees in blossom make a wonderful spring vacation. Self drive tours that take in all of Andalucia last two weeks. On a typical week-long walking vacation, there will often be a rest day built in, when you can either relax back at your guesthouse or do some sightseeing – a tour of Granada for example. In terms of kit, you’ll need sturdy walking shoes as well as layers, for peeling off or putting on, as whatever the time of year, you could still experience daytime heat and evening chills.

What about the food?

Eating is an important part of walking vacations in the Alpujarras. Excellent, home-cooked regional cuisine will be on offer at your hotel or guesthouse and in most cases it has travelled metres rather than miles. During the days you’ll have picnic lunches of fresh, local produce and you’ll also stop off to enjoy al fresco lunches. At a farm, for example, an elegant tapas restaurant on a sightseeing day in Granada, or a village bodega where you’ll sample cheeses, hams and wines. On our Alpujarras walking vacations dinners, breakfasts and picnic lunches on walking days are usually included.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Andalucia or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

What’s the best time to go walking in the Alpujarras?

Although you can go on a tailor-made walking vacation throughout the year, small group tours are usually organised from April to June or September to October. Temperatures at this time are a good deal more comfortable than the crushing July and August heat, when crowds are fewer and natural colours are in abundance. Bird migrations in autumn and spring make this a brilliant time for twitchers.
Written by Nana Luckham
Photo credits: [Page banner: Mark Chinnick] [Top box: Simon Harrod] [How tough: Por los caminos de Málaga] [Best time to go: Mark Chinnick]