Hiking Between White-Washed Villages in the Breathtaking Spanish Mountain Area of Alpujarra
Walking From Pampaneira to Bubión
Spain is so much more than beautiful welcoming beaches, everlasting sun, busy shopping streets, noisy bars and mass tourism. Not far away from the noisy tourist areas there are still bits of the real Spain to be found: a Spain that has held on to its ancient customs and rich culture.
One area that invites days of recreation in quiet and scenic surroundings are the three small villages of Pamapaneira, Bubión and Capileira. Like pearls on a string, they cling side by side to the steep hillsides of the Poqueira Valley in Alpujarra.
Most people arrive at the villages by car. A narrow winding road takes you up the hill from the lowlands. As villages and evergreen fields disappear beneath you, a new world with Spain's highest mountains opens up in front of you; La Veleta and Sierra Nevada with Mulhacén.
As you approach, you see the houses like pieces of white sugar, closely intertwined with steep, narrow paved streets.
To experience both the villages and nature, nothing is better than traveling on foot. Park the car at the first village and go hiking. Make sure you have good shoes, either sneakers or hiking shoes. Once inside the village, choose the streets that take you up and out of the village. Eventually, on the outskirts of the village, simple wooden signs that show you the way to Bubión will appear. Or let the tower of the church in Bubión show you the way. You cannot get lost.
The distance between Pampaneira and Bubión is just a bit more than a kilometer along a sometimes lofty path. But since it's steep, take your time with good breaks in between: not just to rest your feet and catch your breath, but just as much to enjoy the amazing views the trip offers. The view of the village we just left behind, rises in the middle of a beautiful green landscape beneath us. And the mountains stand layer by layer in blue-gray shades against a blue, cloudless sky.
For All Senses
The trail winds its way through a beautiful cultural landscape. Parts of it follow paths that were used by donkeys and horses. The villages and cultural landscape, with a complex network of irrigation systems and aqueducts that make agriculture possible on the mountainsides, is a legacy of the Arabs who lived in the areas for hundreds of years.
The green and lush landscape extends on both sides of the valley. Poplars, olive and fig trees, meadows with bright yellow sunflowers, and rows of red, ripe raspberries. Grapes and vegetables. Trees with apples and pears. And tempting cherries. Small wildflowers everywhere. Now and then you may hear the sound of rippling water, and in between sense the fragrance of wild lavender and countless other plant species. And don't forget to listen to the birds´ beautiful song.
As a tourist and guest, it is important to be aware that nature is protected in the area. You are not allowed to pick or take with you plants nor stones from the area. The area is vulnerable to environmental pollution as well, so take your own trash with you when you leave.
Arriving at Bubión
After about forty-five minutes with rests included, you will reach the lowest part of Bubión, a village divided into two separate areas.
When you arrive at the village you will find a water fountain in the middle of the narrow street. Even though it may be tempting to quench your thirst and drink the water, it may be a safer solution to bring some water with you, as well as energy bars or fresh fruit to replenish energy along the way.
Take a look at all the beautiful traditional houses with flat roofs, typical for those villages and also a legacy from the Arabs. From their window sills and balconies, jars hang with beautiful lush begonias. Nowhere have I seen the begonia lusher or its colors brighter than up here in the whitewashed villages of Alpujarra.
Continue walking along the fence towards a meadow where horses sometimes graze. Take a break and enjoy the feeling of being in the real countryside. And don't miss the sight of the top of La Veleta, the third highest mountain peak of the Iberian peninsula and the second highest of Sierra Nevada.
Take a picture and move on to the upper part of the village. Here you may find a nice restaurant overlooking the valley to enjoy a traditional meal, while enjoying the view of the valley. At the left side you'll see Pampaneira where you started. And at the right hand side, further up the mountain, you'll see Campileira, the next village you may visit. You may also visit shops that sell traditional handcrafted work typical of the area, such as handwoven rugs.
Balm for Body and Soul
After you have taken your time in the village, its time to head back and take the same path back down to Pampaneira. It may be hard for the thigh muscles, and going downhill feels even harder than going up. Therefore, a bit more than a kilometer each way may be a good start the first day to get to know your physical strength before embarking on a longer trip.
The possibilities are many for round trips and longer trips further up to the peaks of the high mountains and across the hills. A hike in Alpujarra, small or long, is balm for the body and soul.
© 2019 Gro Kristina Slaatto