The capital of Las Alpujarras, Órgiva has a cosmopolitan population and an eccletic mix of peoples and lifestyles …
San Sebastián 20th January
Féria Grande at the end of September / beginning of October
Festividad del Santísimo Cristo de la Expiración, two Fridays before Good Friday
Órgiva is located on the southern slopes of the Natural Park of Sierra Nevada. Situated in the valley of the Rio Guadalfeo where it joins with the Rio Chico, it is effectively "the capital" of the Western Alpujarras.
With a population in excess of 5,000, it is the largest town in the area and is primarily a commercial centre supplying the entire region. It is an interesting mix of modern Spanish architecture and lifestyles combined with more traditional Alpujarran characteristics. Many would call it unique.
Órgiva is a natural communication centre: four roads depart from here, one linking Las Alpujarras with Salobreña and the Costa Tropical to the south; another heads west, through Lanjarón, leading on to Granada.
A third one, through Torviscón, takes one through the foothills of the Contraviesa into the remoter villages of the Eastern Alpujarras; the fourth winds up into the Sierra Nevada, ascending to Pampaneira, Bubión, Capileira, Trevélez and the other high mountain villages.
Like most settlements in the area, it's early origins are surrounded in mystery. It was given to the dethroned Moorish King, Boabdil, after he lost Granada to the Catholic Monarchs in 1492. Later it played a very important role in the war between the Moriscos (the expelled Moors) and the Catholics, when Abén Humeya organised an uprising against Phillip ll. The Moriscos were eventually and finally expelled in 1609.
Thereafter, Órgiva, in common with the rest of the Alpujarras, was quickly forgotten and left to languish in economic decline. Some monuments of earlier days remain, with the 16th Century Palace (Palacio del Duque del Arco) and 16th Century Parish Church the most obvious.
The much more recent discovery of the Alpujarras as an unspoiled and very beautiful holiday destination has dramatically reinvigorated the town's economy. Taking full advantage of its geographical position and communications network, it has developed service industries to cater for the needs of a very wide catchment area.
Something else happened too: it has become a home-from-home for all manner of travellers and seekers of an alternative lifestyle. By some miracle, all seem to live harmoniously here, local dumper-truck drivers alongside tai-chi practitioners; traditional Spanish Catholics alongside Zen Buddhists. It's an eclectic mix and all the more interesting for it. At a rough guess, the first language of, maybe, a quarter of the population, is … English.
And, in amongst all of this, was Chris Stewart, who settled here many years ago, bought a little finca and raised his sheep. He was writing, too, and his books, "Driving Over Lemons" and "A Parrot in the Pepper Tree" have brought these times to life.
A bustling, busy place - by Andalusian standards - Órgiva now offers everything from small supermarkets and pizzerias, banks and building suppliers to camp sites and petrol stations.
The pizzaria is an excellent spot for lunch or dinner, inexpensive and with a big garden where you can eat al-fresco. We hear good reports of the restaurants 'Limonero' and 'El Molino' too.
But our personal favourite is simply to take a seat outside any one of the cafe / bars which spill onto the pavements of the main street (which doubles up as the main plaza) for coffee and tostadas and simply watch the world go by.
With such a cosmopolitan population it is hardly surprising that the traditional weekly market in Órgiva (held each Thursday morning) is now a thriving affair and an excuse for many to go into town to meet up with friends. Definitely worth a visit, if only to discover what Órgiva is all about.
And whatever one makes of Órgiva - no one would ever describe it as 'beautiful' but it has plenty of admirers - it's a perfect base for discovering the essence of Las Alpujarras.
The countryside all around, in the fertile Vale de Órgiva, is wonderful. Swathes of orange and lemon trees, olives and pomegranates, bougainvillea, morning glory and jasmine bring joy to a sunny land.
Surrounded by mountains (the Sierra Nevada to the north, Sierras Lújar and La Contraviesa to the south), it's a rural paradise.
Órgiva itself is not high up (only some 450 metres above sea level) and with excellent communications it's easy to travel from here - into the mountains, down to the coast, or across country to Granada.
Unlike most of the towns and villages of Las Alpujarras, Órgiva doesn't have a summer fiesta. Instead they content themselves with San Sebastián Day, celebrated on the 20th of January and the Grand Fair (Féria Grande), celebrated at the end of September / beginning of October.
Santísimo Cristo de la Expiación Day is another excuse to let off the fireworks - and they certainly do - celebrated two Fridays before Good Friday.