Driving through Las Alpujarras is truly spectacular with stunning views across the rocky mountains, narrow passes through deep gorges, and stone bridges spanning rushing rivers. But drive carefully, you could suddenly come across a herd of goats around the next bend, or even an ibex. Every now and then you will come across a traditional white-washed village, seemingly isolated from the outside world. Occasionally you will pass an abandoned village or ruined farmhouse, quiet and eerie amongst once cultivated fields and looking out over snow-capped mountains.
Standing 450 metres above sea level, the town of Orgiva is the capital of the western Alpujarras and one of the more populated centres in this region. Here you will find a selection of restaurants, a campsite, bars and shops (some of which are housed in a sixteenth century Moorish palace). Some of the town's historic buildings are currently being restored but it still retains much Spanish charm. It has a pretty 16th century church with twin towers and a popular Thursday market. The surrounding area is proving popular with tourists and second-home owners and many “cortijos” and farmhouses have been recently renovated for holiday homes. This is often a starting point to exploring Las Alpujarras and it is worth refueling here before carrying on up the valley.
Lanjaron is another of the region’s larger towns, famous for its spa waters. The spa baths are open between March and December, when the town attracts a more elderly market. There is a good selection of hotels, restaurants and shops to be found here. On the terraces just outside town you'll find the ruins of a Moorish castle, marking the history of the district.
Further into the mountains, you will come across the Poqueira Gorge - a dramatic cleft in the Sierra Nevada where small farms nestle precariously on the surrounding terraced slopes.
Bubion is one of the most picturesque villages in the "High Alpujarras" with a large church tower and bustling craft shops. Cut off by the snow for much of the year, when the road is finally passable it attracts tourists and coach parties.
Another pretty town, nestling on the edge of the gorge is Pampaneira. Horse-riding and guided walks are available from the information centre in the main square whilst above the town is a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery, which welcomes visitors in the afternoon from 3 to 6pm.
If you want a taste of the real Alpujarras, it is worth making the trek to the white-washed village of Capileira, perching right at the top of the Poqueira Gorge. The second highest village in Spain, Capileira offers dramatic views both down the valley to Pampaneira and up to the peaks of the Sierra Nevada. The old streets are too narrow for cars and it attracts walkers and tourists seeking a more remote retreat.
Trevélez is the highest village in Mainland Spain, well-known for offering some of the best cured ham (jamón serrano) in the country.