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Sheltered by the Sierra Nevada is the vertiginous village of Capileira, one the highest in Spain
25.07.14 - 12:25 -
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Summer in an Alpujarra Village
The flat-roofed houses in this part of the Alpujarra area have distinctive white chimneys. :: A. F.
The road continues to wind and climb upwards, tight bends take one higher and higher. The sound of falling water often fills the air; even in high summer there is the feeling of spring here. Snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada continually filters through these foothills, filling streams, rivers and ancient irrigation systems that date back over a millennium to when the Moors and Moriscos lived in these mountains.
We continue upwards, passing through the whitewashed villages of Pampaneira and Bubión, decorated by the earthy tones and rich colours of artisan rugs and fabrics that are offered for sale, displayed over walls and hung around doorways.
Ahead, as if tucked into the mountainside, emerge modest, flat-roofed houses with distinctive white chimneys; picturesque homes clustered together, their stone and timber open terraces shaded by twisted vines and bursting with crimson from cascading geraniums.
We’ve arrived in Capileira, in the Alpujarras, in Granada province. It is a postcard-perfect village which, at about 1500 metres, is the highest within the Poqueira gorge. To help put that into perspective, the village sits about 100 metres higher than the summit of Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the UK. Little wonder that this area is known as the ‘roof’ of Iberia.
Finca Los Llanos
We pull up into the steep driveway of Finca Los Llanos, bordered by a fast-running stream and flowering hydrangeas and scented roses. Our home for the next few days, this rural retreat with panoramic views, shaded garden terraces, and inviting swimming pool offers guests the chance to experience life in an authentic Alpujarra village. Gloria López provides a warm welcome at this family hotel that her father Fernando started.
The comfortably furnished guest rooms are found in distinct buildings of traditional Alpujarra architecture, which the family have named after Spanish and international writers, poets and Hispanists, such as Washington Irving, Federico García Lorca and Gerald Brenan, all of whom loved Granada province.
Each room has a welcoming rural Andalusian style, using regional materials such as terracotta, slate, local chestnut and walnut, Arabic-inspired ceramics, crafted lanterns and local Alpujarra fabrics. The spacious ‘Rafael Gómez Montero’ suite is named after the late Spanish journalist and poet, another writer who was seduced by the charms of the Alpujarras. He dedicated a poem, ‘Viajero’ (Traveller) to Los Llanos and its guests, and it is immortalised on decorative ceramic tiles on a small fountain, standing in the shade of a walnut tree, in the hotel gardens.
Gastronomic highs
Foodie breaks are an increasing draw to the region, known for its organic produce. Strolling through Capileira for a place to eat is a pleasure. The main road ends here, and within the village the streets are too narrow for cars. So without traffic one can be immersed in the tranquillity of the mountains, even in high season, and enjoy the terrace restaurant and bars.
The most acclaimed place to eat in the village is ‘Botanic Bar’ run by young chef Guillermo and his partner África.
Guillermo, originally from the Alpujarra, was professionally trained in Bilbao and Barcelona, and is the talent behind creative tapas and a ‘menú degustación’ tasting selection of seven dishes, highlighting the best and latest additions to the menu.
Enjoy classic ingredients such as local serrano ham and goat’s cheese, but imaginatively served for example as sushi rolls. Other dishes include marinated organic aubergine in soya and local honey: or pigs cheeks slow-cooked in beer and then Andalusian orange juice. There is a chill out deck, and a dedicated Gin & Tonic bar.
It’s a magical way to spend an evening, leisurely dining on the terrace as the sun sinks behind the mountain and the stars begin to fill the clear sky.
The restaurant of Hotel Finca Los Llanos is open to guests and non-residents alike, offering a homely menu that reflects the changing seasons of the Alpujarras. The hotel has its own ‘huerta’; an organic vegetable and fruit garden that supplies the restaurant. Try fresh river trout with a glass of local white wine, chilled gazpacho made with garden fresh tomatoes, or a classic Alpujarreño pisto, (a sort of ratatouille), for a perfect summer lunch.
Crafty shopping
Artisan crafts, once the means of making essentials for these isolated villagers, are now very much part of the tourism sector. Bubión, a neighbouring hamlet, has a number of ‘talleres’ like the artisan carpet workshop, ‘Jarapas de Hilacar’ where the owner is happy to demonstrate the strength and patience needed to create the local woollen rugs, each an individual piece of craftsmanship. In addition, esparto grass that grows locally near Órgiva is used to produce all manner of basketware; making interesting and authentic gifts.
Lofty adventures
Capileira and its neighbours have also created a sustainable economy thanks to a strong interest in activity adventures in the surrounding wild spaces of the Sierra Nevada National Park, such as river canyoning and climbing as well as walking and mountain biking.
With an early start, one can board the small bus that departs from Capileira, taking walkers, climbers and adventurers up to the start of National Park, where even now patches of snow are still visible. The road becomes a track, and soon the wild beauty of the park unfolds, taking one to even greater heights.

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