March 21st, 2012
Exploring the little whitewashed Berber houses and villages in the Alpujarras should of course be on everyone´s list when they visit this lovely part of Andalucia, Spain. But also, do remember not to bypass the larger market towns, they have their own charm as well a little bit more choice on the shopping front.
Also, they sometimes have an interesting history to them, so let´s explore Ugijar in the province of Granada.
Market days and getting here
Pronounced `Ooh-hee-har´,or something like that (!) the name should be your only struggle. Located 120 kms from the capital of the province, Granada, it sits straddling the edge of that province just before meeting with Almeria. In the municipality of Alcolea it is made up of the villages of Ugijar, Cherín, Jorairátar, Los Montoros and Las Canteras.
With the exception of Ugijar,all are relatively small and traditional places – although Jorairátar is worth a look-see for the quirky museum – Museo Historico de la Alpujarra – which has thousands of items from long ago life in the Alpujarras.
You can pick up the key from a - er, slightly eccentric - old lady in the village. Don´t be too nervous! Entrance is free but she does like a donation! Honestly, I have never seen so many rooms absolutely stuffed and stacked to the rafters with such an eclectic mix of items…
Afterwards,have a refresco in the only bar if you like,but it´s a bit souless – and they do stare! Head straight up the slightly hairy road into Ugijar for more choice instead….
Visit Ugijar on the 5th and 20th of the month to see the vibrant market, which takes up most of the centre, stretching for half a dozen streets full of clothing, fresh fruit and vegetables, kitchenware and other paraphernalia. Haggle and stroll with the locals – you´ll be sure to bag a bargain or three. Stop off at the mobile Chocolate and Churros van to enjoy a breakfast Spanish style.
5 a day
If you´d rather avoid the crowds, then steer clear of those two days and see a different side to the place. If you´re still after fresh produce to take home and cook in your Alpujarras holiday rental – then stroll down to the old convent – Convento de los Frailes- just 2 streets behind the main drag – there are a dozen or more permanent stalls selling local and organic produce at really reasonable prices.
A stroll down the main street
The tree lined avenue of the main street is also lined with restaurants and bars, all with plenty of outside frontage for sitting in the sun or shade and in which to enjoy a coffee or a cool beer in the heat of the day. Remember, you´re still in Granada - just! – so tapas will also always be served free of charge with your drink. Often, you can choose from several different dishes, such as:
- Morcilla – a little like black pudding
- Pulpo – octopus slightly done on the plancha, drizzled with lemon
- Gambas – juicy prawns and alioli
- Conejo – local rabbit cooked in tomato salsa
History, and water, water everywhere…
- Fuente de la Plaza de los Mártires – opposite the church. Drink from the bronze spout,originally this fountain supplied the whole of western Ugijar with it´s drinking water.
- Fuente del Arca – built in the time of the reign of Charles III and supplied by flowing water from the source below Mecina Alfahar.
- Fuente de Jorairátar – Large and circular with 8 spouts and original supply source for the whole of this village.
- Fountain in Plaza de los Caños -built in the 1700´s and made from sandstone.
Threshing it out
Time for lunch?
Choose from one of the many bars, sit in the sunshine and drink in the atmosphere as well as the local wine on offer or a cold beer…satisfy any hunger cravings with the great selection of local tapas or head for something more substantial…
We like Pepe Aguado for a lunchtime splurge – you´ll find it on Calle Trasera Iglesia 8, literally the street behind the church. A lively and friendly bar with a family run restaurant attached, clean and great value.
Expect a drink of your choice, a sharing salad, a basket of bread, 3 courses of local home cooked country food – and also expect to pay less than €10for the lot per head – yes, really! Eat outside on the terrace in Summer, or in the air conditioned interior. There´s also an internet point within the Bar area.
An afternoon walk
Walk off your long Spanish lunch with a choice of routes around town. Sandstone gorges, medieval caves – used as grain stores in the past – and the surrounding stony terrain make for long walks and great views. The surrounding Ramblas – dry riverbeds – offer clay gorges, the banks covered in wild mint, thyme and woodland grasses and gorse. Willow, Carob, Poplar, Olive and Almond trees await your back to rest against and a welcome shady cover!
Head out of town towards Valor and on the right soon after the Ugijar boundary you will see the Acueducto de los Arcos. A Roman Aquaduct that stands tall and fairly well preserved, there are no signs so keep an eye as you drive out. It also offers a pleasant and easy walk.
Of course, the most important dates in every Spanish city, town, village and one mule hamlet! If you want to visit at party time then here are the dates to remember…They´re all from Summer onward, but don´t hesitate to pick up a last minute bargain booking and come now, the mountains of the Alpujarras are particularly stunning in Spring with the almond blossom still clinging to the mountains like cotton wool in pink and white.
- June 8th – Jorairátar celebrates Our Lady of Fatima.
- August 15th – Los Montoros takes it´s turn with the fiesta of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
- August 17th – Jorairátar again with Fiesta de San Gabriel and a chance to dress up and engage in a battle of Moors and Christians.
- August 24th – Cherín and St Bartholemew are the hosts.
- 1st fortnight in October – Ugijar and the Big One. Fiesta of the Virgin of Martirio. Processions, fireworks, competitions, games, loud bangs and bad dancing – great fun!
- Christmas Day – the locals take to the streets playing instruments asking for donations for the festivities of the year. It stems from the custom of asking for donations to bury the poor – morbid beginnings to musical modern times!
So, there is more to Spain than sand and sea – visit the inland area of the Alpujarra and discover tradition, customs, country ways and a life stood still – unchanged in so many ways for centuries…your special place in Spain.