healthy pleasures in rural Andalusia

<span>Fondales is one of the seven whitewashed villages that form La Tahá in Las Alpujarras, Andalusia.</span><span>Photo: QCumber/Alamy</span>” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTcxOQ–/ e3153253707fe3″ data-src= “–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTcxOQ–/ 3253707fe3″/></div>
<p><figcaption class=Fondales is one of the seven whitewashed villages that form La Tahá in Las Alpujarras, Andalusia.Photo: QCumber/Alamy

On our first morning in Atalbéitar, I walk into the kitchen to make coffee and wonder if I’m feeling the effects of the previous evening’s festivities. Then I remember it’s not me; it is the kitchen floor, which is on a slight slope. I have to be careful carrying the coffee to bed as the steps are at different heights and the doorways are small enough to hit your head on. As I lie there, under a ceiling made of woven chestnut branches and stone slabs, I survey my surroundings and come to the pleasant conclusion that there is not a single right angle in sight.

We’re staying in a Moorish house in this Andalusian village, and I might as well have traveled back 700 years to when it was first built. I’ve been visiting Spain for years as my husband leads wilderness tours here and we’ve traveled from one end to the other, looking for hidden corners and mountain trails. But when we arrive in Atalbéitar at night, walking through the maze of corridors, ducking under old covered walkways as spring water flows past our feet, we both agree that we have never been anywhere like this. The village gives the impression of having grown out of the land, rather than being imposed on it. The streets are too narrow for cars, the village cats roam freely and the only sound is the occasional bleating of goats over the slopes. As I look out over the valley on this crisp winter morning, the sun shines in a clear blue sky and the early almond blossom adds pastel pink accents to the rocky hills. Everything is quiet and still.

Atalbéitar is part of La Tahá, a group of seven villages in the Alpajurras region of Andalusia. It is a small dot on the map of Spain, on a southern slope of the Sierra Nevada overlooking the deep gorge of the Trevelez River. Settled by Granada’s Nasrid dynasty, the people who built the Alhambra, the whitewashed villages of Pitres, Atalbéitar, Capilerilla, Mecina, Mecinilla, Fondales and Ferreirola have retained their Moorish atmosphere thanks to their unique architecture and remote location. The valley is reached via a winding mountain road that passes through Pitres, the main town. However, all other villages can be reached via spurs from this road, so there is no passing trade.

At Atalbéitar this is not a cause for concern. No trading is possible. It has 31 residents and no shop or restaurant, although there is a makeshift social club/bar run by the village stalwart Jesus, who opens his house in the main square when he feels like it. That’s not to say there isn’t a vibrant social scene. La Tahá has a busy calendar of festivals, many of which are linked to Easter and various holy days, but some are specific to the region, such as the autumn chestnut festival called Mauraca, and the summer Santa Cruz festival, which is a traditional ‘ funeral feast’. of the fox,” with a costume parade that culminates in a bonfire cremation of a fake fox filled with fireworks.

The village gives the impression of having grown out of the land, rather than being imposed on it

Our arrival, in mid-January, coincides with the first festival of the year, Chisco de San Antón, when each of the La Tahá villages celebrates with a bonfire in the main square and a feast of roast pork and local sweet wine. The definitive reason for the festivities seems to have been lost in the mists of time – it’s all about the party. The most striking aspect for us – freshly arrived from cash-strapped England with its bankrupt councils – is that all the meat, bread and drinks are supplied by the local government.

Soon the flames rise high, a jam band of local musicians has set up by the fire and the smell of roasting meat fills the air. The crowd is small and friendly, a mix of ages and nationalities, which our hosts, Scottish-Spanish couple Tom and Carmen, say is typical of La Tahá. The area is a quiet success story that contradicts the usual lamentation of rural Spain about empty villages and dying populations. Over the years, the seven villages have attracted an international audience of artists, musicians and writers. The nearest major town, Orgiva, is known for its long-standing hippie community and bohemian reputation, and La Tahá, a 45-minute drive away, with its extensive old houses and fertile land, is a perfect location to explore la buena vida.

We are invited to the jam session, and a truly outré mix of banjo, harmonica, guitar, drums and whistle quickly creates a 12-bar blues with improvised Romanian lyrics. We use a pot of lentils from our rental property as a percussion instrument. The meat and wine seem endless, but in true British form we peak early and leave the locals to their late evening feast.

La Tahá offers a truly natural detox, with a refreshing waffle without well-being. There are no expensive retreats or burnt-out executives turned wellness gurus

In the morning, as I prop up my sea legs on the kitchen floor, I remind myself of our holiday resolutions: two weeks of healthy living after the excesses of the holidays, starting with a heart-pounding walk every day. The villages of La Tahá are connected by a network of trails, and during our stay we promise to visit each village on foot. Our first trek takes us along the river gorge to Pitres: it’s a dramatic, rugged walk, punctuated by exclamations of both amazement and an embarrassing lack of fitness.

The slopes of the Trevelez Valley are insanely steep and wind through enchanting pine and oak forests, with orchards of orange and lemon trees in the villages, and wild figs and pomegranates on every corner. The geology of the valley is strewn with mica and the landscape glints silver in the sunlight. As we walk through this lush, green country, we find it hard to believe that much of Spain is in a crippling drought. Streams flow down the mountainside and natural springs bubble from the rocks. Deep in the forest we come to the most famous spring, Fuente la Gaseosa, where a high concentration of iron carbonates in the rocks has created a natural supply of water. aqua con gassparkling straight from the ground.

We start our walks with the most challenging climbs, but eventually reach the valley floor, drawn by the roar of the Trevelez long before we can see it. Our efforts are rewarded with a final scramble through the undergrowth to an ice-cold dip in a natural pool under a Roman bridge.

The clean light, abundant water and fresh mountain air do wonders for everything that ails you. It’s hard to believe that our ultra-connected Western European lives can still find such magical, unchanged places. The villages themselves are beautiful in their simplicity, with just a few simple, old-fashioned hotels and cafes serving good coffee and not much else. There is a weekly market in Pitres and vans selling bread and fish pass through the villages.

La Tahá offers a truly natural detox, with a refreshing waffle without well-being. There are no expensive retreats, or burnt-out executives turned wellness gurus urging you to live your best life. Just a horde of territorial cats, an old man in his pajamas growling “Buenas” every morning from his balcony, and all the bounty of mother earth – everything you need for the good life.

Details of the walking routes between the villages, 7 cities, 7 routes, can be found here. The writer stayed at

Leave a Comment