ALTHOUGH some people mourn the end of summer, the ‘Alpujarreños’ welcome it. Not only is the Alpujarra region, on the southern flanks of the Sierra Nevada, more peaceful once the big groups of holidaymakers have headed home, but the fresh autumnal days are perfect for being active in the great outdoors.
Where to begin? Here are some recommendations from the Olive Press:
Go for a dip
With public swimming pools closed, why not visit the region’s natural pools? There are popular dip pools in Orgiva, Pampaneira, Capileira, Portugos and Trevelez. This region is known for its clear water, although El Chorreon, a waterfall just outside Portugos, is famously colourful. The high ferrous oxide (iron) content in the rocks has reacted with the water to create a vivid orange background for the cascade. It isn’t the place to bathe though!
Do: Take a towel and picnic.
Don’t: Bathe where it’s prohibited, or you’ll risk a fine.
Throughout summer, campsites are packed and can be expensive but, from September onwards, you’ll find space and better rates. That’s partly because the weather’s colder (especially up in the mountains) but, if you don’t fancy sleeping under canvas, you’ll find bungalows, chalets and cabins at several sites. There are scenic campsites in Orgiva, Pitres and Trevelez.
Do: Check that campsite facilities, such as the bar/restaurant, are open in low season.
Don’t: Forget the instructions for mounting your tent.
Hiking the trails
Professional trail guides normally head to higher altitudes with their clients in summer, to avoid them baking in the heat, but autumn is ideal for hiking these lower mountain trails. If you’re going it alone, you’ll find that most towns and villages in the region have signposted walking routes (senderos) of varying lengths and difficulty. Additional information is available from the local tourist offices.
The most famous route is the Alpujarran section of the GR7 walking trail that runs from Greece to Tarifa. The brave at heart (or strong of knee) can start at Lanjaron, in Granada’s Alpujarra, and continue all the way to Laroles, which is at the other end of the Alpujarra region, in the province of Almeria. It’s a major hike that takes several days. For a weekend or day trip, choose a less ambitious stretch, such as the section from Cáñar to Soportujar, or Busquistar to Capileira.
Do: Download the Wikiloc app showing the trail so you don’t get lost if you miss signposts.
Don’t: Wear inappropriate footwear.
Equestrians know that autumn is perfect for longer rides, with the sun less intense and fewer flies. Popular riding centres in the area include Pegasus (Órgiva), Caballo Blanco (Lanjaron), Dallas Love Sierra Trails (Capileira) and Rutas en Caballo (Berchules).
There are some magnificent and challenging trails along the mountain peaks, such as Puente Palo above Cáñar to Refugio Elorrieta, which overlooks the Sierra Nevada ski station. Nothing is more inspiring than those views! Some of the easier signposted walking routes are suitable for riders, but, if you are a horse owner and not part of an organised group, check first.
Do: Wear trousers without prominent seams (ouch) and boots with heels.
Don’t: Book a trek that’s beyond your ability.
Get on a mountain bike
Cycle tourism is extremely popular in La Alpujarra, and some large-scale mountain biking events take place during autumn, such as the Alpujarra Magna in Lanjaron on September 24. With hundreds participating, this is a great event for spectators. But, rather than watching other people ride, why not pedal around the mountains? Choose your route carefully; if you are a novice without well-developed calf muscles you may well end up dismounting and pushing your bike.
Do: Buy shorts with padding if going any distance.
Don’t: Go at it too hard and cause medical issues.
While summer is typified by harsh light, autumn here is a photographer’s dream. Even before the leaves start turning golden, the Alpujarra has its moody clouds and stunning sunsets. Recommended photo locations include the Sierra de Contraviesa, with its fabulous views on both sides of the mountain; the rural tracks above Capileira; and the tracks above Cáñar – the ‘balcony of the Alpujarra’.
Do: Find a unique viewpoint with some foreground features to frame your shot, such as overhanging branches or foliage.
Don’t: Head straight to the signposted ‘mirador’ in the midday sun, as the resulting shots will probably look naff.
Foraging for food
You can forage for almonds, hazels, figs, and various types of delicious berries this time of year in the Alpujarra, as well as wild mushrooms. October is the season for finding chestnuts to take home and roast.
Do: Take an expert if seeking edible mushrooms – the poisonous ones can be deadly.
Don’t: Eat anything you haven’t properly identified, or that grows along the side of a busy road.
Find a fiesta
After all this super-healthy hiking, cycling and foraging, have fun at a fiesta. Many towns and villages across the Alpujarra hold their annual fiestas during autumn (for example, the Órgiva feria which takes place from September 29-31) and several other events are held throughout the region at this time of year to celebrate patron saints. It’s Spain: There’s always a party somewhere.
Do: Join the fun with Spanish friends and neighbours.
Don’t: Count on a quiet or early night.
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