Leaving Granada heading southwards on the Motril road you have two choices, head east to The Alpujarras or west to Valle de Lecrin. Lecrin Vally or the Valley of Happines as the Moors called it is an area of natural beauty, gorges, stunning views, white hillside towns and winding mountain roads. It’s an area of rolling hills sometimes topped with watchtowers, almond groves, lush green orange and lemon plantations, olive groves and red soil.
My favourite finds on the hairpin roads were the Miradors – viewing points, where you’re always guaranteed a good vista, the odd ruin and a gushing fountain. Many things make me stop for a photo shoot, so if I’m driving and alone it’s easier. On this occasion I was both. The photo shot that sticks in my mind is a fairly straight piece of empty road just after a gushing waterfall that was unfenced but had avocado tree after avocado tree lining the road. I had to stop the car to make sure they were avocados and then I spotted that each tree was bough-bending laden with fruit.
In this fertile valley farming is still the main occupation. Narrow terraces contain fruit trees, spindly almond trees line the sides of the road. Red peppers hang up on window bars to dry. My visit at the end of August seemed more like September as it’d been a very hot, dry summer and the previous winter was dry too. Pomegranates start to split as do the green coats of the almonds leaving the nuts in their shell to rain onto the ground below.
Seventeen villages make up the valley and many of those date back to Moorish times, some are fairly new ones dating from after the reconquest of Granada in 1492. As you drive through these villages many seem like ghost towns. Lazy Sunday mornings and siestas keep people off the streets in the heat of summer.
Each village is separated by nature, long winding roads, different views. Happily driving the lanes I enter another cluster of houses and the name of this grouping appears. It’s a few streets, usually as many bars and no more. Just a sign with the village name crossed out and on the road goes on to the next little white cluster of houses. Climbing and dropping, every bend brings thrill and wonder of what’s around the corner. There are very few dwellings, lots of ruins but more unspoilt land than that with man’s intervention.
It’s a charming but harsh landscape if you think back to pre-motorised transport and imagine how long it would have taken to walk or ride a mule between villages or down to the coast which is 30 minutes by car today.
Being so close to the coast is one of the reasons it’s a popular spot for second homes and holiday homes. Good for the economy of the region but not so good environmentally and visually. Bars thrive, menus in not-so-good English abound and these villages stay alive.
Halfway between Granada city and the Costa Tropical, the coast of Granada province Lecrin Valley translates as ‘Happy Valley’ or Valley of Happiness’ it’s well-watered from the melt waters of the Sierra Nevada mountain range producing a lush, green landscape.
Heading south from Granada and north to Granada Lecrin Valley makes a great base for exploring this part of Andalucia. The main north to south road means easy and quick access so you can ski, in season, in the mornings and sunbathe on the costa in the afternoon, Lecrin Valley really does have something nearby for everyone.