White villages of Sierra Nevada and Alpujarra

The pretty white villages of the Sierra Nevada and Alpujarra are a delightful feature of our walking holidays with their distinctive architecture and Moorish influence.

When Carole first came to the Sierra Nevada in Andalucia, more years ago than she cares to remember, many of the villages had no road to them at all. Access was only by mule track, or camino, many of which we still use on our walks. Neither did most of the houses have any form of sanitation and when staying in a posada, a type of coaching inn, a trip to the loo usually meant a trip to the stable and the hope that you wouldn’t be trodden on by a horse in the process. Happily this is no longer the case, but in many respects the villages have changed very little.

The whitewashed houses still show a wealth of architectural detail peculiar to this region of Spain, and dating back to Moorish times. The flat roofed construction is reminiscent of Berber houses in Morocco, and seems strange in an area that was always prone to heavy snowfall. However, the solution was to scrape all the snow off the roof and into the steep streets and narrow alleys, which became impassable, and then trot about the village using the original little bridges, or tinaos, which are such a distinctive feature of these villages. Another rather amusing architectural sight is the colony of extraordinary chimneys adorning the roofs which look rather like Hamlet’s ghost.!

There are some beautiful old doors and ornate wrought iron balconies. They are usually laden with flowers, often in any old container that can be put to use, but the more house-proud have lovely terracotta or painted pots.

Inside original village houses the construction can often look a little alarming as the floor above is held up by stones balanced on narrow wooden struts. Mostly the living area was on the first floor, with a stable at ground level, and the roof was topped off with large flat stones on the edge and a thick layer of launa, which is a grey earth like pumice which turns greasy and waterproof when wet.

There is a lot more to tell about the white villages of the Sierra Nevada, but with a shortage of room to write it all down the best idea is for you to come and hear it first hand !

"Excellent area for walking, especially with someone who knows the area very well" - Bill Hennessey