The AlpujarrasAbout the region

This geographical (not political) region stretches from the Sierra Nevada watershed in the north to the Mediterranean in the south and from the Río Guadalfeo in the west to the Río Andarax in the east, and it encompasses parts of Granada and Almería provinces.

Still relatively unknown because of its difficult access and abrupt, steep landscape, Las Alpujarras has been inhabited since the Neolithic age. Searching for minerals and fertile soil, Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, all established themselves and left an important archaeological heritage. But the greatest impact was made by the Moors, from 711 to 1492, when Las Alpujarras enjoyed "golden age". By making a sophisticated irrigation system they achieved intensive agriculture and by planting mulberry trees they made a renowned silk industry. When the Moors were finally expelled at the end of the 16th century, Philip 11 repopulated the area with 2500 families from Galicia and the north.

The geography of Las Alpujarras is spectacular: from sea level to the highest peak in Spain (Mulhacen, 3,482m) in 30 kms. There are 15 summits above 3000 metres and the area contains many exclusive plant and insect species. The bird population is massive and varied, from song birds to owls and it is still possible to see the majestic flight of the golden eagle and other birds of prey. Reptiles and lizards are well represented as well as wild boar, ibex, foxes, badgers and even civet cats.

The climate is Mediterranean with a hot, dry period of at least two months in summer. Most rainfall comes in spring and autumn but there are great contrasts in quantity, from 300 mm a year on the Almeria coast to over 1,500 mm on some high peaks. Because of the great differences in height, Las Alpujarras claims the greatest range of temperature in Europe, with winters which can be almost tropical near the coast or as severe as in north Europe on the highest peaks.

The economy still depends on agriculture; mules can still be seen toiling on fields far too steep for tractors, and goats graze the mountain sides. The main local products are wine, cherry tomatoes, green beans, almonds and olives but almost anything grows, from avocados, dates and mangoes on the tropical coast, to cherries, raspberries and strawberries, walnuts and chestnuts on the higher slopes.

Traditional house Mules working the land View of Sierra Nevada