November 20, 2011

Day trip to Alhama de Granada

<!--:en-->Day trip to Alhama de Granada<!--:--><!--:en-->Day trip to Alhama de Granada<!--:-->

This lovely town is totally trapped in time!  It still has very old fashioned little shops and lovely, crumbling buildings that look more central European than Southern Spanish!  Perched precariously on steep, deep ‘tajo’ (gorge), this is a most ‘visitable’, picturesque town, frequented by walking groups and curious tourists and well worth a day trip.

From the Escuela, head to the Bar El Cruce and then left onto the main A356 road heading inland.  Take the right hand turning signposted Alcaucin, just before Lake Viñuela and keep going on this road, straight past the Periana crossroads and the bars and restaurants, and up the winding mountain road and through the spectacular U shaped Zafarraya mountain pass which marks the boundary between the provinces of Malaga and Granada.

Drive through Ventas de Zafarraya, a border town dedicated entirely to open field vegetable growing, and at the end of the village, turn left, (rather than following the road right which is signposted Alhama) as this is a little bit of a short cut, and head across the flat vegetable growing plains of Zafarraya and into the hills beyond.  Fifteen minutes of driving along this road brings you over the rim of a hill and you will see the town of Alhama de Granada below you, with the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the distance (on clear days).  You are now well into the wonderful area known locally as the Poniente Granadino (Western Granada province).

As you come down the hill to the main road into Alhama, you can turn left at the T junction, or better still, go straight across and down the steep hill all the way into the lower town square.  Park here if you can, or in a nearby street.  Walk up the hill on the East side of the square (petrol station and exit towards Granada on the West side) and you will come to the Plaza de la Constitución, on the left at the top of the hill, where you wll find a number of very nice cafés with outdoor tables and chairs to refresh yourselves and take in the atmosphere.  Across the square from the cafés is the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) with its little tourist office where you can pick up a map and chat to the friendly staff.  Follow the street the town hall is in, and this will take you to the old part of town, known as the Barrio Árabe (Arab quarters).  On the right, by the gorge, there is a wonderful old church well worth exploring both outside and in.  Built in the 16th century. shortly after the Christians had pushed the Moors out, after some 800 years of occupation, this buildling was erected outside the old Arab city walls, within the newly expanding city.  The Iglesia del Carmen was originally built as a convent and following major damage during the massive earthquake of 1884 and other turbulent historical events, it became a church for public worship, supported heavily by local wealthy families.  It is full of barroque classical features and detail with a fascinating and ornate domed ceiling.

Behind the church, lookout points offer you spectacular views of the deep gorge below, chiselled over thousands of years by the river, running snake-like at the bottom, and into the open countryside beyond.  Look out for the decaying old water mills scattered, as if discarded carelessly by time, along the river banks.

From here you can take steps down to the bottom of the gorge and stroll along the ‘tajo’ and inspect the mills at close range.  Continue walking for as long as you like, and enjoy this beautiful, almost arrogantly proud natural phenomenon!

Back in the town, explore at your leisure the many little squares, 100-year-old shop interiors and old buildings and then head back to the car, as we are now going to visit the hot springs.

From the lower square, take the road by the petrol station on the West side, signposted to Granada and wind your way out of town, viewing the gorge from the other side this time, as you look back on the town.  3Kms outside town, take the turning to the left, marked Balneario (Hot Spa) just before the bridge over the river.  Follow this narrow road between solid rock walls on either side, to the Balneario and park.  Here you have three choices:

–          Swimsuit-clad, climb down the rocks on the left just over the bridge and slip into the soothing mineral waters of the spring which maintain a constant temperature all year round of 42 degrees C.  There are several rock pools, the top one being the warmest.  Even in Winter this is a most wonderful experience, although getting changed afterwards in the open can be a little complicated and, in colder months, challenging affair!

–          Cross the bridge and turn left along the footpath and head for the public spa pool to enjoy the same hot spring waters in a slightly more dignified manner!  Here, there are changing rooms, but you do pay a few Euros for the priviledge, and check the Balneario website for opening and closing times.

–          A path along the other side of the river takes you on a rather pleasant walk under the shade of all, leafy trees, very pleasant indeed!

My choice, every time is the first option!  It is lovely even in the rain!


From Alhama there are more places to explore.  So if you want to leave time to do something else after Alhama, or you want to know what else to do in this area, check out one of the following posts:

Day trip to Lake Bermejales returning via Almuñecar
Granada city and the Albaicin
Walk and swim: La Alcaicería, Los Ventorros and El Pato Loco



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