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It’s like travelling again 700 years: wholesome pleasures in rural Andalucía | Journey



On our first morning in Atalbéitar, I stroll into the kitchen to make espresso and surprise if I’m feeling the consequences of the earlier evening’s festivities. Then I keep in mind it’s not me; it’s the kitchen ground, which is on a mild slope. I’ve to watch out carrying the espresso again to mattress because the steps are at completely different heights, and the doorways are sufficiently small to bump your head on. As I lie there, beneath a ceiling constructed of woven chestnut branches and stone slabs, I survey my environment, and are available to the pleasing conclusion that there’s not a single proper angle in sight.

We’re staying in a Moorish home on this Andalucían village, and I could as effectively have travelled again the 700 years to when it was first constructed. I’ve been visiting Spain for years, as my husband leads wilderness excursions right here and we’ve travelled from one finish to the opposite, looking for out hidden corners and mountain trails. However arriving in Atalbéitar at evening, negotiating its tangle of passageways, ducking beneath historic coated walkways whereas spring water rushes previous our ft, we each agree, we’ve by no means been anyplace fairly like this. The village gives the look of getting grown out of the land, reasonably than been imposed upon it. Its streets are too slim for vehicles, the village cats roam freely, and the one sound is the occasional bleating of goats throughout the slopes. As I look out over the valley on this crisp winter’s morning, the solar is blazing in a strong blue sky and early almond blossom provides splashes of pastel pink to the rocky hills. Every thing remains to be and silent.

A typical Moorish village home in La Tahá. {Photograph}: Lois Pryce

Atalbéitar is a part of La Tahá, a bunch of seven villages within the Alpajurras area of Andalucía. It’s a tiny speck on the map of Spain, on a southern slope of the Sierra Nevada overlooking the deep gorge of the Trevelez River. Settled by the Nasrid dynasty of Granada, the individuals who constructed its Alhambra, the whitewashed villages of Pitres, Atalbéitar, Capilerilla, Mecina, Mecinilla, Fondales and Ferreirola have retained their Moorish really feel because of their distinctive structure and distant location. Entry into the valley is by a winding mountain street that passes by Pitres, the primary city, however all the opposite villages are reached by spurs off this street, so there isn’t any passing commerce.

In Atalbéitar, that is no trigger for concern. There isn’t any commerce available. It has a inhabitants of 31, and no store or restaurant, though there may be an improvised social membership/bar, run by village stalwart Jesus, who opens up his dwelling on the primary sq. when the temper takes him. That’s to not say there isn’t a vigorous social scene. La Tahá boasts a busy calendar of festivals, a lot of them referring to Easter and numerous Saint’s days, however some are particular to the area, akin to an autumn chestnut pageant referred to as Mauraca, and the summer season Santa Cruz fiesta, which features a conventional “burial of the fox”, with a elaborate costume parade culminating in a bonfire cremation of a mock fox full of fireworks.

Our arrival, in mid-January, coincides with the primary pageant of the 12 months, Chisco de San Antón, when every of the La Tahá villages celebrates with a bonfire within the central plaza and a feast of barbecued pork and native candy wine. The definitive cause for the festivities appears to have been misplaced within the mists of time – it’s all concerning the social gathering. Probably the most hanging facet for us – arriving contemporary from cash-strapped England with its bankrupt councils – is that every one the meat and bread and booze is supplied by the native authority.

Quickly, the flames are rising excessive, a jam-band of native musicians has arrange by the hearth and the scent of roasting meat fills the air. The gang is small and pleasant, a mixture of ages and nationalities, which in accordance with our hosts, Scottish-Spanish couple, Tom and Carmen, is typical of La Tahá. The world is a quiet success story that contradicts rural Spain’s common lament of empty villages and dying populations. Through the years, the seven villages have attracted a world crowd of artists, musicians and writers. The closest main city, Orgiva, is known for its longstanding hippy commune and bohemian repute, and La Tahá, 45 minutes’ drive away, with its rambling outdated homes and fertile land, is an ideal location to hunt out la buena vida.

The pageant of San Antón is well known with a bonfire within the central plaza and a feast of barbecued pork and native candy wine. {Photograph}: Lois Pryce

We’re invited into the jam session, and a really outre mixture of banjo, harmonica, guitar, drums and penny whistle are quickly bashing out a 12-bar blues with improvised Romanian lyrics. We use a jar of lentils from our rental property as a percussion instrument. The meat and wine appear limitless however in true British type, we peak early and depart the locals to their late-night carousing.


Within the morning, steadying my sea legs on the kitchen ground, I remind myself of our vacation intentions: two weeks of wholesome residing after the excesses of the festive season, beginning with a heart-pumping stroll every day. The villages of La Tahá are related by a community of trails, and over the course of our keep we vow to go to every village on foot. Our first trek takes us alongside the river gorge to Pitres: it’s a dramatic, rugged hike punctuated by gasps of each amazement and a shameful lack of health.

The slopes of the Trevelez valley are insanely steep, winding by enchanted forests of pine and oak, with orchards of orange and lemon bushes within the villages, and wild figs and pomegranates at each flip. The valley’s geology is striated with mica and the panorama shimmers silver within the daylight. Strolling this lush, verdant land, we discover it onerous to consider that a lot of Spain is within the midst of a crippling drought. Streams pour down the mountainside and pure springs bubble from the rock. Within the depth of the forest we come to probably the most well-known spring, Fuente la Gaseosa, the place a excessive focus of iron carbonates within the rock has created a pure provide of agua con fuel, fizzing straight out of the bottom.

View from La Mezquita, River Trevelez valley to Ferreirola and Busquistar at sundown.
{Photograph}: Jan Traylen/Alamy

We begin our walks with probably the most difficult uphill climbs however finally make it right down to the underside of the valley, drawn to the roar of the Trevelez lengthy earlier than we will see it. Our efforts are rewarded with a closing scramble by the undergrowth to an icy dip in a pure pool beneath a Roman bridge.

The clear gentle, ample water and contemporary mountain air do wonders for the whole lot that ails you. It’s onerous to consider, in our ultra-connected western European lives, that such magical, unchanged locations can nonetheless be discovered. The villages themselves are stunning of their simplicity, with simply a few humble, old-school motels, and cafes serving good espresso and never a lot else. There’s a weekly market in Pitres, and vans promoting bread and fish do the rounds of the villages.

La Tahá offers a really pure detox, with a refreshing lack of wellbeing waffle. There are not any costly retreats, or burned-out execs turned wellness gurus exhorting you to dwell your finest life. Only a horde of territorial cats, an outdated man in his pyjamas grunting “Buenas” from his balcony each morning, and all of the bounty of mom earth – the whole lot you want for the nice life.


Particulars of the strolling trails between the villages, 7 Cities, 7 Routes, may be discovered right here. The author stayed at

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