By Wendy Williams
THE Alpujarras is ideal walking country.
High up on the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada, within easy reach of Granada and the Mediterranean, the landlocked mountainous region offers something for everyone.
It is made up of a cluster of pretty white villages surrounded by forest and open moorland, with some of the best walking in Andalucia.
So it is little wonder it has become a regular stopping off point for tourists and hikers from around the world.
Lots of the local shops now have guided walk leaflets available, graded by length of time and difficulty.
For those who prefer not to go it alone and to benefit from someone with experience and knowledge of the area, there are several companies that offer guided walks and walking holidays.
Why not try something with a twist, enjoying a painting or herbal walk.
British expat Sue Rodgers, 57, who lives in Lanjaron, has been running herb walks for three years. And English walking guide Martin Riley, – one of Spain’s only official British guides – lives just around the corner.
And with its rich and varied flora – over 2,000 plant species – Andalucia is the ideal place to enjoy a stroll and take a look at the plant life.
The Alpujarras is situated on the GR7, one of the top long distance paths running right across Europe, through Spain and on to Greece.
According to legend, Mulhacen is the final resting place of a Muslim king
The walk offers an unrivalled landscape of wild flowers, ibex, golden orioles and bee-eaters from a height of between 700 and 1400 metres, while the lesser known GR142 navigates the Alpujarras at a lower level.
Meanwhile for the more ambitious among you, the Sierra Nevada also boasts the highest peak of mainland Spain, Mulhacen, which stands at a towering 3,482m.
According to legend it is the final resting place of a Muslim king and while it is a steep climb, when you reach the top the view makes it all worthwhile.
It offers a spectacular 360 degree vista taking in half of Andalucia and on a clear day, right across to Morocco.
These days, of course, as more and more people flock to find the setting of Driving Over Lemons, the western end of the Alpujarras has become increasingly touristy.
So for those who really want to get away from it all it is worth driving further east towards Trevelez where you can enjoy secluded walks over the high sierra to Berchules.
A superb base for a walking holiday is the stunning Hotel Alcazaba de Buquistar, the only four-star hotel in the region.
It lies four kilometres outside of Trevelez, incidentally the highest town in Spain, at a height of 1,700m with stunning views of the surrounding countryside, particular from the vantage point of the summer veranda.
It boasts traditional Andalucia decor and a wide range of luxury amenities and facilities including a spa and fitness centre with two swimming pools to unwind after a day’s hiking.
Former pilot Tomas Cano, who took over the running of the hotel a year ago, explains: “We get all types of people coming to the hotel, the majority of who have been recommended by word of mouth, but by far the main activity around here is hiking.
“There are several different paths to choose from right from the door and whether you go on horse back, on bike or walking it is a lot of fun.
“I have fallen in love with the area,” added Cano, who founded Air Europa.
“We are right in the mountains; the nearest town is four kilometres away so you are completely alone.
“It is an amazing spot, I am really happy here.”