This loop walk is only 15 kilometres but passes through 9 villages and provides a real taste of life in this region. The villages all feel strangely familiar, with their labyrinth of narrow and car-less lanes, the centrally located church, the nearby plaza where the locals congregate, and the whitewashed houses that overflow with plants and flowers – an act of rebellion against nature in this dry landscape.
And yet, each village also has its distinctive characteristics. Mecina is the village to go to if you want a pizza. Life pulses to an even slower rhythm in Capilerilla and Fondales, which are further from the beaten track. Pitres is arty, with stylish decorations and flower arrangements adorning much of the village.
To provide perspective, the middle section of the walk between Busquistar and Portugos, heads away from the village and climbs into the National Park. Here, native woodland and bush replace the fruit trees and terraced fields found in the villages. With every footstep, lizards scamper into rocky crevices and crickets dart away. Best of all, a spectacular panorama of the valley and mountains unfurls before you. You might want to stay and admire the view, but there’s always a quaint village inviting you to come and visit.
For those looking to extend your walk slightly today - when leaving Ferreirola there is an alternative route that heads east following the GR142 path to Fuente de Fanjuila - This trail will take you to an amazing viewpoint and also to one of the iron fountains. You can get back on track by following the trail back up to Altabetiar.
We also recommended filling your bottles from the fountains in each village to enjoy the fresh water that tumbles from the mountains. Some, such as Fuenta Agria, are naturally high in Iron and can benefit anaemics, while others are naturally carbonated and may taste fizzy!
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
There are two waterfalls a short detour away; El Chorreón de Pitres (just after Portugos) and Fuenta Agria (just before Portugos). The Fuenta Agria is particularly interesting as it is high in iron-content and leaves a red scar wherever it flows. Drinking from the waterfall can be beneficial for sufferers of anaemia – feel free to take a sip, though be warned it tastes like putting a handful of pennies in your mouth!
Threshing Floor ‘Era’
Many villages have a communal threshing floor where they would previously have separated their grain. You will normally find these flat, wide areas just outside the village in an area exposed to the wind. Today you will pass Era de la Cruz de Piedra just outside Portugos, and another just outside Mecina.
The exact history remains unknown, but Busquistar is thought to have existed since at least the 13th century. Resultantly, wandering the streets is to travel through history, and you may even discover the remains of an old Arabic mosque or an oil mill.
In Moorish times a Tahá was an administrative district. There were 14 in the Alpjuharras, each demarcated by natural geographical boundaries. The valley through which you walk today was the Tahá de Ferreira and Pitres was the capital.
Food and Drink
Only the larger villages have somewhere to buy food. You will pass Busquistar, Portugos and Pitres after 3, 9 and 12 kilometres respectively. These villages have a mixture of stores, cafes and restaurants.
Each village has a fountain – Fuenta -where you can refill your water bottle. These are safe to drink from unless there is a sign ‘non-potable’.
Book recommendations for this region:
Sturdy hiking boots and a waterproof/wind-break layer are required. Walking poles will be a big advantage on 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.