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Life in an Alpujarran Village

Las Alpujarras – a land steeped in tradition
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.
Life in an Alpujarran Village. 7 nights
Life in an Alpujarran Village. 7 nights

Holiday information


Culture & walking in Las Alpujarras

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. This is an area of outstanding natural beauty, where 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. Follow David on a guided tour through the fruit trees of their nearby organic farm (finca); join in the olive harvest (December to January); meet Adolfo, the local olive-oil producer who sends his renowned produce to a top London restaurant; and marvel as the hotel cook, Soledad, lovingly recreates authentic Alpujarran dishes. Combine these unique 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.

Autumn/winter 2020/2021

Travel restrictions mean that we cannot accept any new bookings from UK residents for the 2020/2021 season at the moment. We remain hopeful that restrictions will be eased and that we will be able to resume the holiday before the end of the season. If you have a holiday booking with us, we will contact you nearer the time.

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 unique 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, and to introduce you to some of their neighbours. To get your bearings, David 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 as you make your way to the local olive mill. Here, Adolfo, who has supplied a renowned restaurant kitchen in London, will explain the processes involved in extracting the oil from this prized fruit. In December and January, you can join in with the harvest if you so wish, enjoying the buzz that animates the immaculate groves as you knock the branches with a sturdy stick to dislodge the stubborn fruit. Another insight into village customs comes in the form of local cook Sole. 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 can arrange a tour of the award-winning Buena Vista bodega in Ugijar, complete with a wine-tasting

    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.

    Traditional cooking

    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.

    Gathering the olives
  • Choice of routes: 3km to 15km

    A stroll in the Mairena Valley (grade 1): 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 (grade 1): 6km, 1.5hrs; ascent 60m/descent 545m
    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 short circuit above Mairena via Júbar (grade 1): 6km, 2.5hrs; ascent/descent 355m
    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.

    Longer circuit above Mairena (grade 2): 9.5km, 4hrs; ascent/descent 530m
    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 (grade 2): 12.5km, 4hrs; ascent/descent 655m
    This is a delightful 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.

    A circuit from Mairena via Laroles: 9km, 3.5hrs (grade 1-2) or 15km, 5.5hrs (grade 2); ascent/descent 820m
    This lovely circuit joins the two villages of Júbar and Laroles, taking you up the Laroles river valley on the western side and down on the eastern. On the way, you use a lovely path alongside a water channel, pass a thousand-year-old chestnut tree and drop down to the stream on an old mule path.
    The old silk village of Válor
  • Choice of routes: 4km to 15.5km

    The walk of the Fountain of Health (grade 1): 4.5km, 2hrs; ascent/descent 240m
    A very pleasant short walk into the hills to the northern side of Yegen, following an ancient cobbled track past springs in the hills, hence its name.

    The Gerald Brenan circuit (grade 1-2): 4km, 2hrs; ascent/descent 350m
    This walk on the southern slopes of Yegen 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.

    Río Grande – higher route (grade 2): 15.5km, 6hrs; ascent/descent 800m
    This is a scenic and rewarding walk, initially rising steeply up the east side of the valley, then following pretty paths contouring the valley in and out of woodland. You pass over the Río Grande at the head of the valley before returning on paths to pass an ancient silk-mill.

    Río Grande – lower route (grade 1-2): 11km, 4hrs; ascent/descent 400m
    An easier way to explore the valley of the Río Grande and reach the ancient silk-mill.
    Walk to the west of Mairena
  • Choice of routes: 3km or 9km

    Laroles – Picena circuit (grade 1-2): 9km, 3.5hrs
    An interesting circuit through various fincas of almond and olive terraces into a deep valley and then to the village of Picena, famed for its Mudéjar-style church and the ruins of the nearby Castillejo de Picena.

    The Picena gorge (grade 1): 3km, 1.5hrs
    More an experience than a walk, you combine this exploration of a pretty, verdant gorge with a trip to the village. The rock has been carved into gullies and cauldrons; while the unique fauna includes the rare nettle-tree butterfly.
  • 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


Prices & travel options
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  • 7 nights: 01 September 2020 - 11 November 2020 & 01 February 2021 - 30 June 2021

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

    Starting Price Single room
    1 Sep - 14 Oct 2020 £795 £295
    15 - 31 Oct 2020 £775 £290
    1 - 4 Nov 2020 £755 £285
    1 - 28 Feb 2021 £675 £270
    1 - 31 Mar 2021 £720 £275
    1 Apr - 23 Jun 2021 £745 £280
    3rd & 4th person discount -£50 to -£60
    Single traveller supplement £50 to £60

    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 Sep - 11 Nov 2020 £108 £148
    01 Feb - 28 Feb 2021 £95 £130
    01 Mar - 30 Jun 2021 £100 £135
What is included
  • 7 nights
  • 7 dinners
    3 picnics
    7 breakfasts
  • route notes, maps
    & detailed cultural notes
  • tour of finca
    visit to olive mill
  • 7 days' category B car hire
Last fetch time is : 8/4/2020 6:31:37 AM