Regions & Cities
Inland Gems of the Costa Tropical
By Martin Bright
Jun 7, 2007, 08:01

Steeped in charm and marked in history and fable, the valleys of Los Guajares and Lecrin still retain much of their Moorish ancestry. These villages provide some of the most romantic rural settings in southern Spain, and many are still sleepy hidden gems from times past. While close to the coast the climates of these valleys are such that the winters are less severe than mountain areas further inland like the Sierra Nevada. The days are warm but winter nights, especially from November to February can be cold. Spring and autumn are warm and sunny; and the summers are very hot however with less humidity than in the coast towns the heat here is less oppressive.

Los Guajares

Behind the coast of Granada’s Costa Tropical is the beautiful valley of Los Guajares where the Rio de la Toba rolls gently through the mountains to join the Guadalfeo river as it heads on down to the coast. Just 50 minutes drive due south of the historic city of Granada and its airport, about 1 hour and 20 from Malaga airport and only 30 minutes to the coast. It is an ideal retreat for those looking for countryside but near to the beach.

When the Moors first arrived to conquer Iberia more than 700 years ago, they named Los Guajares an "oasis between the mountains" and the village of Guajar Alto "paradise on earth". This in part was due to the abundance of natural streams and springs, and also because the land was so fertile it could sustain their crops of citrus, olives, almonds and vines.

Guajar Alto, Guajar Faraguit and Guajar Fondon make up the municipality of Los Guajares, lying in a narrow valley that today winds among orange and chirimoya (custard apple) trees, old water deposits and stunning ravines. Guajar Alto sits at the highest spot on the mountain, the last point on the road that links these three hidden pueblos each with their steep Moorish style narrow streets allowing the cool breezes to meander through these lazy avenues. In Guajar Alto there are 4 bars, 3 of which have restaurants and a small, well stocked supermarket. There are daily deliveries of bread, fruit and fish. In the summer the locals dam the Rio de la Toba to create a small lake surrounded by a picnic area for the locals to enjoy – so creating a cool and idyllic spot within walking distance of the village.

Guajar Faragüit is the largest village and from here, just over the valley you can clearly see the remains of the Moorish castle settlement that stood here many years ago. The village has a small supermarket, bakers, health centre and 2 bars. It is the administrative centre of Los Guajares with the town hall for the area and also has a school.

Guajar Fondon, the lower of the three villages, has a small shop and a bar/restaurant on the outskirts however it is within walking distance of its neighbour, Guajar Faragüit.

While there is a local bus service, owning a vehicle would be more appropriate. A daily bus service to Granada leaves Guajar Alto early in the morning, stopping at at Guajar Fondon and Guajar Faragüit before continuing to Granada city via Pinos del Valle in Lecrin valley. This same bus service returns in the evening. A similar service operates for Motril.

Lecrin Valley

Lecrin Area
El Valle de Lecrin (or the Valley of Happiness), remains one of Granada provinces hidden prized treasures. It is located on the south-western slopes of the Sierra Nevada among deep ravines, rolling plains and wild mountain scenery. The physical layout of the valley stretches from the peaks of the Cerro del Caballo (3,050 metres) to gentle rolling hills and the man-made dammed lake just west of Beznar. There are a variety of villages large and small scattered among the hillsides rich with vines, cherry, almonds, orange, lemon and olive groves. In early spring the scent of orange blossoms filling the evening air is simply wonderful.

Following the expulsion of the ruling Moors, after the reconquest of Granada by the Catholic Kings in 1492, the valley was left virtually uninhabited, although, the Moors did leave behind them a wealth of monuments, flourmills, ancient castles and simple farmhouses that remain scattered throughout the area. Today, some of these buildings have been restored by private owners while others, thanks to the more recent wave of Historical revisionism, have been financed by public funds.

Beznar Lake
The municipality of Lecrin, combined with other villages immediately around forms a part of the Natural Park of the Sierra Nevada. This municipality of Lecrin was formed in 1967 with the voluntary union of Acequias, Chite, Talara, Murchas and Mondujar and then in 1973 of Beznar. Other villages in the area include Pinos del Valle, Albunuelas, Niguelas and Restabal.

In all there are more than a dozen or so villages that combine within the valley of happiness; it is still a fertile area where farming is the principal occupation, much of it on ancient narrow terraces inaccessible to motorised transport. The local campesinos increasingly have their small white vans and trailers, and yet mules are still widely used and it is not unusual to find local village houses that still have, and use, cavernous storage rooms with stable space for mule and dog.

In the last few years the area has attracted a loyal following of travelers, re-locaters, artists and holiday makers alike. The seasons here are clearly defined with the valley and its landscape changing colour and scent throughout the year to strike the senses. In January, the first pinks and whites of the almond blossom, later on the orange blossom fills the valley with its heavy and heady perfume. Spring flowers are abundant, with wild blues and purples set against the shocking red of poppies. Later still in the summer the yellow broom shouts from the hillsides and the passing goats in the evening tread the wild lavender, thyme and rosemary plants forcing them to release their heavenly scent. Then finally, and before the winter arrives, the bulbous pomegranate fruits, the traditional symbol of Granada, make their exotic entrance in late August to September, although their fiery red blossoms have provided colour since the spring.

To satisfy the traveler’s interests the local councils have begun to take increasing notice of their cultural background and history; and so around the valley, you will see newly erected signs informing of Roman or Arab baths, ruined castles, old olive mills and interesting churches. However while the documentation is extremely sparse about many of these sights, and still yet postcards are a rarity, most visitors make their own discoveries. Many more take new found inspiration, to paint and draw their experiences… and give back to Lecrin; its culture and its inhabitants, the “happiness” they too have felt while present in this magical area of Southern Spain. It is therefore not difficult to understand why this particular area of the Costa Tropical attracts so many artists, writers, media and teaching professionals who find their muse or simply a space for quiet inspired contemplation.

For information in properties in the Costa Tropical area, please contact Tropicana Properties

© Copyright 2007 by & Martin Bright