When you go to a country with as much history as Spain, wouldn’t it be interesting to actually spend your vacation in one of the old houses themselves? Well, it might be and should be, but you have to be careful with your choice. A 400-year old house, yes, but not one with 400 year-old plumbing or equally ancient bedsprings…
So where are these venerable holiday homes? Where is the history? The answer is the high mountain world of La Alpujarra in the Granada province of Andalucia, southern Spain.
It can come as some surprise to those who know Spain and its neat, modern cityscapes to drive up the (good) mountain road that takes you up the sunny southern flanks of Granada’s Sierra Nevada and end up in little whitewashed villages that look as if time passed them by. The fact is that La Alpujarra has always been a traditionally poor area. Had wealth being floating around decades ago, a lot of the houses here would have been torn down and rebuilt anew.
Indeed, there is an element of this going today, although there are strict rules about maintaining architectonic styles, with flat roofs and idiosyncratic chimneys. These go back to the times of the Moors, who took refuge in La Alpujarra after the fall of Granada in 1492. It is no accident that dwellings bear a striking resemblance to their Berber counterparts in the Rif Mountains in Morocco: a sierra occasionally visible from La Alpujarra across the Mediterranean Sea.
The properties that interest us are the old houses which have been carefully saved from ruin and restored, but without jettisoning everything that gives them character and charm. Solid chestnuts beams and rafter-and-slate ceilings are typical, as are thick stone walls that keep the living spaces cool in summer, warm in winter. Open fireplaces or woodburning stoves are the norm in cold months, when snow coats the mountain backdrop, but Andalusian sun beats down strong especially in July and August and a cool interior is a blessing.
In La Alpujarra, there are quite a number of these in the holiday let market. But let the buyer beware!
Some of these rental houses can be a disappointment. They’re simply too “original”: austere, uncomfortable and poorly equipped and furnished. The best guarantee is to use a recognized holiday rental company that has done all the legwork for you, sorting the wheat from the chaff and ending up only with the quality properties.
La Alpujarra is a wonderful holiday destination, with fabulous hiking, economic meals out, a quiet, traditional atmosphere and delightful accommodation: just be careful. Book direct with owners if you want to save a few bucks and take a chance, or to take a property with a good agency and have that assurance of quality that can safeguard your holiday satisfaction.