Life in an Alpujarran Village

Las Alpujarras – a land steeped in tradition

Holiday Highlights

Exceptional food | Rooted in village culinary traditions that stretch back to the Moors.
The Berber legacy | Embedded in your walks. From medlars and pomegranates to intricate threshing floors.
Rural Spanish life | Tour a local winery, perhaps, or witness the fruit harvests.
Your hotel | A unique mountain retreat. Character, cosy spaces, and friendly, knowledgeable hosts.
Life in an Alpujarran Village. 7 nights
Life in an Alpujarran Village. 7 nights

Holiday information


Culture & walking in Las Alpujarras

Gain unique insights into local ways of life on this self-guided, single-centre walking holiday, with car hire included. Savour delicious regional gastronomy and enjoy rewarding, varied walks in this timeless area of outstanding natural beauty.
To the south-east of the Moorish city of Granada, the almond-coated hills of Las Alpujarras flank the southern slopes of the dramatic Sierra Nevada, the highest mountains in mainland Spain. Here, characteristic whitewashed villages tumble down terraced valleys, and the ancient Moorish irrigation systems are a testament to the area’s long and colourful past. Here, you will find a traditional way of life that seems untouched by the passage of time. Mairena, the base for your holiday, is one such timeless Alpujarran village whose hard-working inhabitants adhere to a simple way of life, based upon a sound knowledge of the terrain and climate.

Autumn heralds the fig, medlar and pomegranate harvest, after which the traditional farming cycle continues with preparations for the December olive harvest. By January, this is in full swing and the hillsides are dotted with families, armed with sticks to dislodge this stubborn, yet highly prized, fruit. February sees an explosion of colour as the almond trees burst into flower beneath impossibly blue skies; and so, into March, when the intoxicating scent of sweet, young oranges wafts down the valleys and the grapes in local vineyards begin to ripen under the warming sun.

Here, with the help of your knowledgeable hosts, Emma and David Illsley, you have the opportunity to become much more than just a spectator, immersing yourself in the gentle rhythms of the south. David and Emma will take you on a guided tour through the fruit trees of their nearby organic farm (finca); from December to January, you can witness the olive harvest; and maybe even join the hotel cook, Conchi, in the kitchen as she lovingly recreates authentic Alpujarran dishes. Combine these village experiences with scenic, varied walks along ancient paths linking other traditional villages, and you will gain a real insight into this alluring corner of southern Spain.


Walking & more

The key to Inntravel holidays is flexibility. You can start on the day of your choice, and are free to add extra nights. There’s no fixed itinerary, so take your pick of our suggested walking routes as the mood takes you.
  • The average maximum daytime temperatures and monthly rainfall relate to the nearest weather station and are intended as a guide only.
    Average temperatures and rainfall
      Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
    °C 11 12 15 17 22 27 32 32 28 21 15 11
    mm 53 55 47 52 37 26 10 7 20 51 64 61
  • Learn about life in Las Alpujarras
    This holiday combines insights into local ways of life with some superb walks so as to give you a real feel for Las Alpujarras. Your enthusiastic hosts, Emma and David Illsley, will be only too happy to share their knowledge of their adopted village and its traditional practices with you. To get your bearings, David or Emma will take you on an introductory tour of their small finca and the village, explaining the intricacies of the complex Moorish irrigation system which still waters the terraces and feeds into the local olive mill. In December and January, you will witness the olive harvest, enjoying the buzz that animates the immaculate groves as the local villagers knock the branches with a sturdy stick to dislodge the stubborn fruit. On occasion, you can also join local cook Conchi in the kitchen. Her family has lived in Las Alpujarras for generations, and she lovingly recreates age-old local recipes with a delicious modern twist. For anyone with an interest in wine, David and Emma may also be able to arrange a tour of the award-winning Buena Vista bodega in Ugijar, complete with a wine-tasting. Arrange and pay locally. 

    Sustainable tourism at the finca

    David and Emma care deeply about the long-term sustainability of the Alpujarras region and a week with them will give you a real insight into some of their ongoing projects on their organic finca. From its inception, the finca was always going to be a place where traditional farming methods would be used to enhance and improve the land, creating a restful haven where the fruits of the fields could be harvested for the hotel and restaurant. Central to this idea – and still as important today – has been learning from the locals and working in tune with nature and the seasons. With this uppermost in their minds, David and Emma have always been quick to seek – and accept – help and advice from local farmers who showed them how to irrigate, plough, prune and tend the land in the age-old traditions of the village.

    Organic farming

    The finca has been granted official ‘organic’ status by the Soil Association, based on farming methods and a complete absence of herbicides and pesticides, thus recognising that all their produce is as fresh, good and natural as nature intended. A welcome by-product of these methods has been the deliberate setting aside of areas of uncultivated land – as all weeds, hedgerows and grasses now have to be controlled the old fashioned way, by hand – leading to an extraordinary variety of flowers and an abundance of insects and bird-life which flourishes in this magical place.

    Traditional cooking
    Gathering the olives
  • Choice of routes: 3km to 6km
    We provide notes for four easy walks. The first three start in Mairena, while the last one is a little further afield.

    A stroll in the Mairena Valley: 3km, 1hr; ascent/descent 150m
    Taking in David and Emma’s finca, this is a great introductory circuit around the terraced slopes south of the village. It’s a walk that David and Emma often accompany you on, showing you the tended gardens of the villagers and passing the rocky outcrop known as the Peñón de Alfaguara, from where there are spectacular views of the landscape and of the village.

    Down to Ugíjar: 6km, 1.5hrs; ascent 25m/descent 515m
    A great way to visit the market town of Ugíjar, perhaps in time to visit the local market and linger over a leisurely lunch. The way weaves down along the river valley, through some of the oldest olive groves in the area, passing alongside the steeply eroded, coloured marls and clays and into the well-watered almond terraces that fill the pretty valley just before Ugíjar. Return by taxi (pay locally).

    A circuit via Júbar: 6km, 2.5hrs; ascent/descent 360m
    This walk starts with a steepish climb but soon descends to the small village of Júbar, following one of the many water channels built to irrigate the lower slopes of the Alpujarras. It then follows a pretty path back to Mairena.

    The walk of the Fountain of Health: 4.5km, 2hrs; ascent/descent 240m
    A very pleasant short walk into the hills on the northern side of Yegen, to the west of Mairena, following an ancient cobbled track past some springs, hence its name.
    The area west of Mairena
    A stroll in the Mairena Valley: 3km
    Down to Ugíjar: 6km
    A circuit via Júbar: 6km
    The walk of the Fountain of Health: 4.5km
  • Choice of routes: 4.5km to 11.5km
    These easy-to-moderate walks all start a short distance away from Mairena.

    A circuit from Laroles: 8km, 3.5hrs; ascent/descent 480m
    Starting and ending in Laroles, you head upstream across the western side of the valley, passing a thousand-year-old chestnut tree before returning to Laroles on a high path across the eastern flank of the valley.

    The Gerald Brenan circuit: 4.5km, 2hrs; ascent/descent 350m
    This walk on the southern slopes of Yegen, to the west of Mairena, heads down into the bad-lands, a multi-coloured lunar landscape of strangely shaped, eroded rocks. At the base of the valley sits the isolated cubic rock known as Peñon el Fuerte, the site of a now vanished Moorish castle. It is said that Gerald Brenan walked this route every afternoon.

    The silk mill: 11.5km, 4hrs; ascent/descent 400m
    A gentle exploration of the valley of the Río Grande (‘big river’) which passes an ancient silk mill.
    A circuit from Laroles: 8km
    The Gerald Brenan circuit: 4.5km
    Silk mill: 11.5km
  • Choice of routes: 10km or 12km
    The first of these moderate walks starts from Mairena itself.

    'Top of the World' circuit above Mairena: 10km, 4hrs; ascent/descent 520m
    David and Emma refer to this as the ‘On Top of the World Walk’ as it climbs up high on the northern slopes above the village, passing ancient, abandoned water cisterns and threshing floors. With views of Laroles on the other side of a valley, you wind down through chestnut groves to the hamlet of Júbar before a stroll back to Mairena.

    The old silk village of Válor: 12km, 4hrs; ascent/descent 595m
    This is a delightful out-and-back walk which leads to the old silk weaving town of Válor, passing through terraced slopes, and then descending to the Rio Nechite, crossing the river by stepping stones, before finally reaching Válor where there are several restaurants for lunch.
    The old silk village of Válor
    'Top of the World' circuit above Mairena: 10km
    The old silk village of Válor: 12km
  • Visit the Alhambra
    Given the area’s rich Moorish heritage, you will probably wish to visit Granada's world-famous Alhambra*, a two-hour drive away. This is the epitome of Moorish architecture and design, showcasing the astonishingly intricate décor of the royal palace and its colourful gardens. Across the river, the atmospheric Albaicín district is Spain's most characteristic Moorish quarter and is wonderfully intriguing, its steep, cobbled streets leading past whitewashed houses. We include notes for a superb self-guided walking tour taking in the city's main attractions.

    *You must pre-book tickets online (or by phone) as far as possible in advance. It is open every day except 25 December and 1 January.
    The Alhambra, Granada


Your base is Mairena, a typical Alpujarran village where mules still outnumber cars by two to one at harvest time!
Casa las Chimeneas
  • rural hotel



Options to extend or shorten your stay

Prices & travel options
All prices are in £ sterling (GBP). If you'd like to see what they equate to in your currency, use the converter. For general information on pricing, see the 'your holiday price explained' page.
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  • 7 nights: 01 February 2024 - 30 June 2024, 01 September 2024 - 10 November 2024, 01 February 2025 - 30 June 2025 & 01 September 2025 - 09 November 2025

    Start any day | End by latest date(s) shown above

    Starting Price Single room
    1 - 28 Feb 2024 £880 £345
    1 - 31 Mar 2024 £915 £345
    1 Apr - 23 Jun 2024 £960 £350
    1 Sep - 14 Oct 2024 £1025 £380
    15 - 31 Oct 2024 £995 £375
    1 - 3 Nov 2024 £975 £365
    1 - 28 Feb 2025 £920 £360
    1 - 31 Mar 2025 £955 £360
    1 Apr - 23 Jun 2025 £1000 £365
    1 Sep - 14 Oct 2025 £1070 £400
    15 - 31 Oct 2025 £1035 £390
    1 - 2 Nov 2025 £1015 £380
    3rd & 4th person discount -£70 to -£74
    Single traveller supplement £70 to £74

    Includes accommodation, meals and services integral to the holiday as described, plus walking notes and maps, but no travel from the UK, nor any connecting travel from the airport unless stated below.

    Price includes: 7 days' category B car hire (eg VW Polo or similar with manual transmission)

    Driving time to/from the hotel: Almeria 1h45, Granada 2h, Málaga 3h

    Book your flights through us and we'll find the best route and times to suit you. Please contact us to find out more about our flight booking service. We can also book connecting travel - see below.

  • Extra nights (£ per person per night) in a double or single room

    Prices include an additional day's car hire
    Casa las Chimeneas, Mairena (with dinner) Double room Single room
    01 Feb - 30 Jun 2024 £121 £169
    01 Sep - 10 Nov 2024 £139 £192
    01 Feb - 30 Jun 2025 £130 £180
    01 Sep - 09 Nov 2025 £145 £200
    Almería, Granada or Málaga
    As an alternative to flying, we can arrange rail travel from London

    Travelling from the UK

    Travelling from outside the UK

    If you are flying from outside Europe,  we recommend Málaga. To discuss onward connecting travel to the start of your holiday, please contact us.

    Outward route Airline
    Aberdeen - Malaga Ryanair 
    Outward route Airline
    Belfast Intl. - Malaga Aer Lingus,  easyJet,  jet2,  Ryanair,  TUI 
    Outward route Airline
    Birmingham - Almeria jet2 
    Birmingham - Malaga jet2,  Ryanair,  TUI,  Vueling 
    Outward route Airline
    Bournemouth - Malaga Ryanair 
    Outward route Airline
    Bristol - Almeria jet2,  TUI 
    Bristol - Malaga easyJet,  Ryanair,  TUI 
    Outward route Airline
    Cardiff - Malaga TUI,  Vueling 
    Outward route Airline
    Nottingham East Midlands - Malaga jet2,  Ryanair,  TUI 
    Outward route Airline
    Edinburgh - Malaga jet2,  Ryanair 
    Outward route Airline
    Glasgow - Almeria jet2 
    Glasgow - Malaga easyJet,  jet2,  TUI 
    Outward route Airline
    Glasgow Prestwick - Malaga Ryanair 
    Outward route Airline
    Leeds Bradford - Almeria jet2 
    Leeds Bradford - Malaga jet2,  Ryanair,  TUI 
    Outward route Airline
    Liverpool - Malaga easyJet 
    Outward route Airline
    London City - Granada British Airways 
    London City - Malaga British Airways 
    Outward route Airline
    Gatwick - Almeria British Airways,  easyJet,  TUI,  Vueling 
    Gatwick - Almeria (via Madrid) Iberia 
    Gatwick - Granada British Airways,  Vueling 
    Gatwick - Granada (via Barcelona) Vueling 
    Gatwick - Malaga British Airways,  easyJet,  TUI,  Vueling 
    Outward route Airline
    Heathrow - Almeria British Airways 
    Heathrow - Almeria (via Madrid) Iberia 
    Heathrow - Granada (via Madrid) Iberia 
    Heathrow - Malaga British Airways 
    Outward route Airline
    Luton - Malaga easyJet,  Ryanair,  TUI 
    Outward route Airline
    London Southend - Malaga easyJet 
    Outward route Airline
    Stansted - Almeria Ryanair 
    Stansted - Malaga British Airways,  easyJet,  jet2,  Ryanair 
    Outward route Airline
    Manchester - Almeria jet2,  Ryanair,  TUI 
    Manchester - Almeria (via Madrid) Iberia 
    Manchester - Malaga easyJet,  jet2,  Ryanair,  TUI 
    Outward route Airline
    Newcastle - Almeria jet2 
    Newcastle - Malaga easyJet,  jet2,  Ryanair,  TUI 
    Travelling from outside the UK

    If you are flying from outside Europe,  we recommend Málaga. To discuss onward connecting travel to the start of your holiday, please contact us.

    This list of flight options should be used as a guide only, and you should check each airline’s website for current routes, frequency and schedules. Not all flights operate daily, and may not run for the entire season. You should also heed the latest flight arrival time and earliest flight departure time stated in the connecting travel section, as it may not be possible to arrange connecting travel outside these times. Please do not book your flights until we have confirmed your accommodation to you. Alternatively, our expert reservations team will be happy to offer advice and to make flight bookings for you for any of the options listed above. We charge £35 per person for our flight booking service. Your flights are then covered by our package-booking conditions, which give you greater protection in the event of delay or cancellation, as well as providing ATOL cover.

What is included
  • 7 nights
  • 7 dinners
    3 picnics
    7 breakfasts
  • route notes, maps
    & detailed cultural notes
  • GPS navigation
  • tour of finca
    visit to olive mill
  • 7 days' category B car hire

If you've experienced this holiday first hand, why not write a review?

We are keen for as many customers as possible to review their holiday. To make it easier to do so, we include a specific review section on our post-holiday questionnaire, and this is what we publish here, unedited. Read our full review policy >



If you have any questions relating to this or any other Inntravel holiday, our friendly travel experts will be happy to help. You might also find our General FAQs section helpful.
  • We’ll send you route notes and maps 2-3 weeks before your holiday. The route notes not only contain directions to get from A to B, but also include practical information about places of interest and eateries along each route, plus cultural information about the area. If/when you are moving between hotels, you leave your luggage in reception as you leave, and it will be transferred ahead to your next accommodation, meaning that all you need to take with you are a camera, sun cream, drinks, food and waterproofs.

    For more detailed information, see our walking holidays in Europe page.
  • Yes, prior to going on holiday you will be able to download GPX tracks so that you can follow your route on your smartphone or dedicated GPS device if you wish. It’s entirely up to you whether or not you use them – our detailed, step-by-step route notes remain the principal means of guiding you from A to B – but we provide them as a secondary means of navigation for additional reassurance when walking.
  • We can book a wide range of routes from the UK with a variety of airlines. As well as being more convenient for you to book all elements of your holiday together, it also means that we’ll accept liability for your travel arrangements, so if things go wrong, such as the airline going bust, we’ll make suitable alternative arrangements for you. The fee for this service is £35 per person (£15 for children aged 2-11). More information on flights >
  • Absolutely! We are experts in tailored rail travel. Making use of sleeper trains or stopovers in cities along the route, we can get you from London to virtually anywhere in mainland Europe. We can even make arrangements to Mallorca, Sicily and Norway with a combination of ferries and rail. Please contact us to discuss your plans.
  • We can’t book flights that originate outside the UK, but if you wanted to book your own flights to London (or elsewhere in the UK), we can make all onward travel arrangements (including flights) from there. Alternatively, if you are booking your own flights to an airport in continental Europe that’s appropriate for your holiday, we can book onward rail travel and/or taxis. More information about how we can tailor holidays for customers outside the UK >
  • Since our holidays are self-guided, we recommend calling us for a chat about your plans before making a booking, especially if it’s the first time you’ve booked with us.
    The price panel shows the supplement for a single room and also the single traveller charge (this covers (luggage) transfers and other costs which are usually shared between two people).
  • Once you’ve decided on your exact itinerary (our travel experts will be happy to offer advice), you need to provide us with your party’s details, either by phone or via our booking form. At this point we also ask you to pay a deposit so that we can secure a room for you immediately on confirming availability with the hotel(s). If it turns out that we can’t secure the accommodation for the holiday you’ve requested, or offer an acceptable alternative, we’ll refund your deposit promptly and in full. After booking your accommodation and other key elements, we'll then book your travel (or you can do so if you’re making your own arrangements) and send you a Booking Confirmation and Invoice.

    More information about the booking process >
    Information about accommodation, general practicalities and more >
    Booking conditions >
  • Yes, it’s something we insist on, even for holidays in the UK. The vast majority of holidays go smoothly, but when things go wrong, it can be expensive to put them right. Buying a new pair of walking boots after your suitcase is stolen mightn’t seem so bad, but the bill for being airlifted down from a mountain with a broken leg or flown home while still recovering from an illness or accident can incur a five or six-figure bill.

    Many insurers offer travel insurance (you can find details on our insurance page of a policy that you may like to consider if you are a UK resident), but you do need to make sure that you’re covered for medical emergencies – including falling ill with Covid-19 while on holiday – and repatriation. We also recommend that you are covered for other eventualities, such as cancellation and loss of luggage and passports.

    When you purchase a policy, be sure to check that it covers the activities you'll be doing on holiday and that it is adequate for your own individual needs.
  • It is your responsibility to ensure you are in possession of the correct travel documents, with the correct validity. If you’re a UK citizen, you need a full British passport to travel to Spain, but not a visa (please note, however, that a new travel authorisation system is being introduced). If you are a citizen of another country, you’ll need to check requirements with the national embassy or your own consulate.

    Current information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice for UK citizens can be found through the Travel Health Pro website. You must make sure you have adequate insurance cover for illness, accidents and repatriation (see the insurance question). You should also apply for a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) if your EHIC has expired (if you have a still-valid EHIC, you can use this until it expires).
  • (Castilian) Spanish is one of several official languages; Catalan, Basque and Gallego have equal status in Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia, respectively. The currency is the Euro. Spanish time is GMT/UTC + 1. It uses Daylight Saving Time, so in summer is on BST + 1.
  • For information on the practicalities of travel now that the UK is no longer part of the European Union, visit
  • The UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides up-to-date, country-by-country travel advice, as well as information on security, local laws, passports and visas for UK citizens.

    If you live outside the UK, see our essential travel information page for a list of relevant websites.
  • You are the best judge of your child’s/children’s capabilities. We are happy to take bookings for families of older children/teenagers if they walk regularly, love the outdoors and are comfortable with the distances and ascent/descent involved. Please note that the bedrooms at most of the accommodation we use will normally only sleep a maximum of 3 people, and sometimes only 2.
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