Andalusian Heights

Sunset in Alhama de GranadaIn an attempt to escape the miserable effects of a wayward jet stream, we found ourselves on a flight bound for Andalusia. It doesn’t seem very far, the flight south was a mere two-and-a-half hours and faster than you can say Ryan Air we stepped out into a balmy night in Malaga. Five teenagers and us!

Taking the high road…

A minibus, courtesy of Terry at the Alhambra Rambler, took us to our first destination, the hilltop town of Alhama de Granada. At nearly 1000 meters altitude it is higher than any place in England. It was dark when we arrived at Casa del Horno, but the next morning the town revealed itself: slightly sleepy, full of history, and – fortunately for us – far enough from the coast to ensure that only the serious culture vultures make the journey up. Which is just as well, since it’s not a big place and it would not have coped at all well with coach loads of tourists.

That said, it has a long and illustrious history. Although it was first inhabited by the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, it was put on the map properly by the Romans. They, predictably, discovered the hot springs that bubble up at a modest 47 degrees and named the spa town Artigi. Evidence of the Roman inhabitants is plentiful and include the thermal baths, an old Roman bridge and some dead-strait roads leading out of the town – as is to be expected of any self-respecting Roman Road.

Cultures clash…

Alhama de Granada Thermal BathsStill, the Romans should have realised that world domination doesn’t last forever. It wasn’t long before the Moors arrived from the South and it was they who gave the town it’s current name. The word Alhama means Thermal Baths, and since they were the nearest thermal baths to Granada, that is how the town gained its name. The thermal waters allegedly cure a wide range of ailments, including arthritis and rheumatism.

Alhama was also famous for being strategically placed between Malaga and Granada. It had a seemingly invincible position, high up on the mountain top, completely protected on three sides by sheer cliffs of the gorge and on the other side by a castle. Seemingly is the key word, since when the Moorish ruler was away at a family wedding in 1482 he left the town in the trusted hands of all of three soldiers. They were never going to be a match for the Christians who saw this as their opportunity to drive out the Moors. Three times the Moors tried to recapture Alhama de Granada, but their own defenses proved to be too good.

Approaching Alhama de GranadaThe new rulers were keen to bring Christian families to Alhama, and promised them large properties, land and a coat of arms. Today, many of the old houses in Alhama still bear the family coat of arms over their doors. To commemorate their victory over the Moors, the Christian rulers built a large church at the highest spot in town which can still be seen from miles away. A walk up the gorge shows just how prominent the church  is, and how impressive this must have been to anyone approaching Alhama from any direction. A sure sign for any wannabe ruler to back off!

Gorgeous

Alhama de Granada GorgeThese days Alhama de Granada sits quietly at the top of the gorge and offers its visitors beautiful vistas over the rolling wheat fields and olive groves that surround the town, while the gorge is home to the river Alhama, beautiful wildflowers and walking routes for those made of strong stuff. A three-hour ramble will take you up, down and over the gorge, which despite all the effort is very well worth it.

After all that, as temperatures soar to scorching, all you can do is fall in line with the locals, sip a glass of wine, take a siesta and follow that up by obligatory tapas. It’s a hard life really!

Annemieke Waite is a freelance travel writer who specialises in writing for families and young people about EU travel destinations.

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6 Comments

  1. Snjezana
    Posted July 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Annemieke,
    Wonderful description!
    I hope one day we cam make a joint trip somewhere.

  2. Annemieke Waite
    Posted July 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    That would be so lovely Snjezana! Hope you are well? Big hug from sunny Spain, xx

  3. Aleida Brinkman
    Posted July 20, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting write-up about Alhama. Just a bit worried that all of you take on the easy life as the villagers do.. or is that a blessing ?

    XXXXXX Mum

  4. Annemieke Waite
    Posted July 20, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    Definitely a blessing…. 🙂

  5. An
    Posted July 20, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Great travellog, Annemieke. So, you seem to have found a European spot without rain. Good on you. Enjoy the holidays.

  6. Alison
    Posted July 24, 2012 at 12:22 am | Permalink

    Good move! great write-up …hope your’e all having fun and keeping cool… some of the time! As you may know weather has at last changed here in England (summer!) but minus the Tapas and Vino Tinto …and now everyone is too hot! Have a fantastic trip and really look forward to hearing all about it. Ali xx

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