The Area & Activities
Andalucía is an area of both outstanding and extremely varied scenery dotted with gleaming white villages, and also of magnificent, thriving cities which breathe history as much as contemporary life. From the house both rural and urban pursuits lie within easy reach.
Alhama de Granada, the local market town is approximately 15 minutes drive away. It has a fine, old core of narrow streets and surprising squares, crumbling, sandy walls and blindingly white ones, geraniums in windows and orange trees in gardens and streets. Strategically occupying an elevated position on the edge of a gorge (a popular place for walks), Alhama has open views across the surrounding countryside to the mountain ranges to the south (Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama) which separate the provinces of Granada and Málaga. The town is well known for its spa and more recently massage and turkish baths have become available to non-residents at a local hotel. In addition to the numerous bars (which provide good food), there are a number of popular restaurants in and around Alhama.
In the vicinity of Alhama, footpaths and tracks crisscross the gentle hills, making it ideal for hiking and cycling (specialist and basic bicycles can be hired locally). Walking, swimming and canoeing are possible at Lake Bermejales (25 minutes by car) with spectacular views of fields, groves and mountains – and probably a vaulting blue sky above. Horseriding and trailrunning are also on offer locally. The region is rich in wildlife but you don’t need to be knowledgeable on the subject to appreciate the sight of great birds of prey gliding through the clear air. To the south, the landscape of the sierras is a rocky contrast with equally good opportunities for hiking or climbing. Further to the west the nature reserve around Iznájar and its lake is also popular with walkers.
Archaeologically and architecturally, too, Andalucía is fascinating. The influences that have shaped the region over the centuries have left a hugely diverse material legacy ranging from the meticulously preserved and intact palace to crumbling remains of fortifications, reminders of a past age in the landscape.
50 kilometres to the east lies Granada, a beautiful city with architectural highlights such as the Alhambra and atmospheric quarters of cobbled lanes winding past old houses and the sweet scent of flowering plants spilling over gardenwalls, evoke its Arab past in a lively contemporary urban setting. Granada is a joy on many fronts. In fine galleries, museums, theatres, dance and concert venues and cinemas cutting edge art rubs shoulders with tradition or folklore. There are opportunities for chic shopping at the expensive end of the range or rummaging for bargains in street markets and dark, cavernous shops. Numerous bars, cafés and restaurants offer international cuisine as well as sustenance in the regional style.
Other cities, further away but still within driving distance, also merit a visit: Málaga, next to the sea with its beautiful historic city centre and fine museums: the Picasso Museum, the Centre for Contemporary Art; Sevilla, with its mixture of Arab and Baroque architecture; Córdoba with its labyrinthine mezquita – a prime example of a Muslim and Christian heritage. And smaller, pleasant surrounding towns – Antequera, Montefrío, Priego de Córdoba – glinting white in the undulating landscape.
The coast is about an hour’s drive away, a dramatic vista unfolds as you drop over the mountain pass of Zafarraya to look down into the province of Málaga, across a very different landscape and out to the sea. Predictably, this part of Andalusia is busier than the inland area around Alhama but it makes an easy daytrip to the coast and the caves at Nerja.
South of Granada lies the Sierra Nevada, easily accessible and famous for its skislopes, at the Western end of the Alpujarras. The Alpujarras themselves are an exceptional, long mountain range, its villages architecturally quite distinct, with green valleys of orange groves and small fields, sharp, rocky outcrops on which ruined castles perch precariously, and dense wooded slopes. Stretching eastwards as far as the province of Almería, this is widely considered to be prime hiking country.