The villages of Capileira, Bubión, and Pampaneira teeter on the edge of the Poqueira Gorge, appearing liable to cascade into the giant rift at any moment. But the unusual placement of these villages is part of the story for their success. Firstly, the Poqueira Gorge channels much of the snowmelt from the high Sierra Nevada mountains which ensures, unlike much of Andalucia, water is in abundance. You will step over many acequias (man-made irrigation channels), and pass trees and bushes bulging with juicy fruits (pomegranates, figs, apples, blackberries, etc.). Secondly, due to their isolation and natural defences, these villages remained a final stronghold for Moorish settlements – after Granada was reclaimed by Christians in 1492 it was nearly 100 years before the Moors were expelled from the Sierra Nevada – a period which allowed the Arabic culture to become further intertwined.
Today’s loop of the gorge will have you peering down into the chasm, crossing bridges over the torrent of water that rushes through it, craning your neck to admire the towering peaks, getting lost in the labyrinthine network of streets, and finally kicking back in a plaza allowing the slow pace of Spanish life to unfold around you. Muy Bien!
There are some exposed and unfenced edges throughout the walk; be careful and remain on the path.
There are several stretches where you must walk on the road as there is no pavement. Walk on the left side facing the oncoming traffic unless there is a sharp left bend, in which case you should cross to the outside edge to allow drivers the maximum time to see you.
Some of the paths are around rocky steps; be careful as these may be slippery, especially when wet.
Tips and hints
Points of Interest
Poqueira Gorge has been recognised by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve. This acknowledges the unique combination of the stunning natural landscape and the human relationship to it. There are few places where human development complements the natural environment, but the irrigation canals, terraced agriculture and the wonderful topsy-turvy villages manage to achieve just that.
Casa Museo Pedro Antonio de Alarcón
Pedro Antonio de Alarcón chronicled his travels through this region in his 1872 book, La Alpujarra. The museum provides details of his life and exhibits relics from the Poqueira Gorge region.
You’ll quickly notice that the whitewashed houses, shops and streets of these villages are a riot of colour, overflowing with Jarapa – traditional handwoven rugs. Almost nowhere in Spain experiences winters as cold as these villages, so perhaps it is natural that a fabric industry would blossom here. Admire the rugs, pop into a shop to see them being weaved, or perhaps even take one home with you!
Food and Drink
This walk passes three villages – Capileira, Bubión and Pampaneira – which all offer a variety of options for eating and drinking. These are all on the eastern side of the gorge, and therefore you will pass them on the first half of the walk. After leaving Pampaneira there is no opportunity to buy supplies until you finish in Capileira.
Book recommendations for this region:
Sturdy hiking boots and a waterproof/wind-break layer are required. Walking poles will be a big advantage in some of the steep ascents and descents.
Ensure your phone is fully charged; if you doubt the battery will last throughout the hike, it might be beneficial to bring a power bank.
Make sure you bring enough water. It is recommended to drink 0.75 litres per 1 hour of hiking in hot weather.
Be sure to bring plenty of sun-cream and a healthy respect for the sun.