South from Granada lies a vast and fertile valley encompassed within a bowl of mountains. The Moors named it the Valley of Happiness …
Travelling south from Granada in the 7th Century the Moors reached a vast, fertile valley encompassed within a bowl of mountains. The land had everything they prized - good earth, free-flowing rivers and the natural fortification of the sierras. Captivated by its beauty, they named it El Valle de Lecrín - the Valley of Happiness.
This land, which inspired and sustained them, and the seventeen villages they founded, remains for you to discover.
The snow-capped Sierra Nevada rises steeply to the east; the sierras of Albuñelas and Guájaras form its western boundary. To the south, Sierra Lujar guards the pass through to the Mediterranean Sea.
Between these mountains lies a gentle land - of rolling countryside rich with orange and lemon groves, almonds, olives and grape vines - and timeless, sleepy villages where sheep and goats are herded through narrow streets; where the mule is still a prized possession.
A far cry from the Twentieth Century, perhaps, yet it is only twenty-five minutes from the centre of Granada. In the opposite direction the Costa Tropical is equally close at hand. Within 40 minutes you can be skiing on the Sierra Nevada slopes. And the high mountain villages of la Alpujarra are less than an hour away. It is a splendid location.
Yet why leave with so much on offer right here? Excellent walking country, whether its a slow stroll through the orchards, a climb up to one of the Arab castles or a more energetic hike into the mountains. Sit by the river and watch the world pass slowly by. Stop at a dusty roadside inn replete with callous-handed farmers banging down their glasses of local wine, earnestly debating the best way to grow a pumpkin.
As always it is the small, unlooked-for details which bring a holiday to life. El Valle will not disappoint you.
Travelling from Granada, the last view of the city before descending into the Valle de Lecrín is from Suspiro del Moro ("The Pass of the Moor's Sigh").
It is here that Boabdil, the last King of the Nazrids, having signed the Declaration of Surrender after capitulating to the Catholic Monarchs, turned towards Granada for the last time and broke down in tears at the loss of his beloved city. His mother is reputed to have said to him: "Weep then like a woman, over that which you could not defend like a man".
In the years that followed, and particularly during the Morisco Uprising, El Valle was fought over tooth and nail.
It was the only southern access route from the city and the only point of entry into the Western Alpujarras (across the famous and strategically vital Tablate bridge at the southern end of the valley). Many of the villages were devastated and left depopulated following massacres by both sides, as they battled for supremacy.
The ruins of several Arab castles and forts still survive. Perhaps the most famous is Lecrín Castle where the kings and queens of Granada were buried. It is believed that the last burial was of Moraima, the wife of Boabdil, who died in Cádiar as they were preparing to leave for exile in Africa.
Towns & Villages
Set amongst orange and lemon groves with the beautiful lake of Beznar just below, Restábal is a little country village, as peaceful as can be.
Only 500 or so people live here, mainly living from the fertile land which surrounds the village.
A traditional little 'pueblo' redolent with Moorish history and a population of just over 1,000, it enjoys a spectacular position at the head of the Lecrin Valley.
The name means 'abundance' in Arabic - a fitting superlative for the heavily laden orchards all around.
Nigüelas is a lovely little village, big enough to have a bit of life (the population is just over 1,000), but still typically Andaluz - tranquil but thriving.
It's situation between dramatic mountains, the coast and the city of Granada is the envy of many.