Ten Amazing Things to See Around my Spanish Home
The Altiplano De Granada, Andalucia and Beyond
One of the things that never ceases to amaze me is the sheer number of wonderful sights that are easily accessed from my adopted hometown of Baza on the Altiplano de Granada, Andalucia, Spain. I've mentioned some fascinating places of interest in my other hubs. Here's ten more, all within an easy two hour drive.
I'm starting this pot-pourri of journeys from the stunning mountains of the Sierra Nevada and ending up on a lovely beach on the Costa Calida. Hang on to your hats, here we go!
No.1 - Pradollano, Sierra Nevada Ski Resort, Andalucia - Europe's Most Southerly Ski Resort
The attractive mountain resort of Pradollano is sometimes known as "Sol y Nieve" (Sun and Snow). This accurately describes the conditions enjoyed by most of its winter visitors. It is situated in the Sierra Nevada National Park and is some 33km from the world famous city of Granada. It lies on the slopes of the third highest mountain in mainland Spain, the 3,396 metre high Pico de Veleta. There are about 100km of ski runs and the skiing season can last from November to May. The resort's proximity to the Mediterranean coast (approx.100km) makes skiing and swimming on the same day a possibility!.
No.2 - La Calahorra Castle, Andalucia
La Calahorra Castle
El Castillo de La Calahorra
Spain is famous for its castles and this one is a fine example! The castle stands on a hill 1,250 metres above sea level. It was built between the years 1509 and 1512 on the site of an Arab fortress and is situated in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.
During the Christian Reconquest of Spain the land around where the castle now stands fell under the command of the Marques Rodrigo de Mendoza. He had spent some time in Italy where he met some important Renaissance figures. (He also unsuccessfully tried to win the hand of the infamous Lucretzia Borgia.) He returned to Spain with Italian architects, craftsmen and a cargo of marble in order to construct his fortified palace. The resulting castle is said to be one of the first and most important Italian Renaissance constructions outside Italy.
There were two main architects who worked on the project, one an Italian and the other a Castilian. The castle is a combination of massive, forbidding Castilian defensive architecture on the outside and some exquisite features like its Florentine courtyard on the inside.
No.3 - Dolmen 134 - the Megalithic Park - Gorafe, Andalucia
El Parque Megalitico de Gorafe
The Megalithic Park of Gorafe lies about 92 kilometres from the city of Granada. It has the largest concentration of megalithic funeral tumuli (dolmens) in Spain and much of Europe. There are some 240 sepulchres in 10 cemeteries scattered around the village of Gorafe.
The first prehistoric archaeological finds in the area go back 30,000 years to the Middle Paleolithic Period, but it is believed that megalithic Gorafe can be dated to about 5,000 years ago.
No.4 - the Ancient Irrigation Channel That Grew - Alicun de las Torres - Andalucia
Further on down the road from The Megalithic Park lies the village of Alicun de los Torres. Here can be found the Balneario de Alicun (the Baths of Alicun) where people enjoy therapeutic treatments in mineral rich geothermal water which is about 35 degrees C. Opposite the Baths, however, is a marked country walk, La Ruta Prehistorica (the Prehistoric Route). During the course of this walk you find yet more dolmens, but the thing that fascinates me is the ancient irrigation channel that just grew, and continues to do so.
If you look at the big picture above you will see what appears to be a country wall, but which is, in fact, a functioning Irrigation channel (acequia). It started life at ground level and served a Paleolithic village. Over the centuries, the mineral rich waters have left deposits that have raised the water course some 15 metres high in places. This is said to be the only example of this phenomenon in the world.
No.5 - the Bridge at Baul - Andalucia
The abandoned railway bridge at Baul spans an impressively deep gorge and is a masterpiece of civil engineering. The railway was originally built to link the city of Granada and Andalucia with the eastern part of Spain. The section between the towns of Baza and Guadix, in which we find this bridge, was constructed between 1904 and 1907. It belonged to the British company The Granada Railway Company.
You can walk across the bridge but need a good head for heights. For reasons of safety its possible that you would not be allowed to do so in other countries.
No.6 - Castril de la Pena River Walk - Andalucia
The village of Castril de la Pena is a picturesque village close to the beautiful Sierra de Castril and the Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas Natural Parks.
The village dates back to Carthaginian times and the Romans used it as a military base. It was later occupied by the Moors and finally, in 1489, by the Christian forces of Ferdinando and Isabella, the Catholic Monarchs.
One of the attractions of the village is the wooden walkway over the River Castril where it flows through a narrow gorge called the Cerrada de Castril.
No.7 - El Columbario - Benamaurel - Andalucia
Tomb with a View
The Columbario was constructed by the Romans and is a well preserved collection of 317 niches for the storage of human ashes. These niches are carved into the rock walls of a subterranean chamber situated high up at the top of a cliff face.
It appears in most tourist leaflets and websites as one of the attractions offered by the village of Benamaurel. It is, however, very difficult to find being some distance from the village. It can only be accessed by the agile, through a narrow hole, with the aid of a short ladder or rope! Eat your heart out Indiana Jones. As you can see it appears to have a window in the cliff face which offers a great view.
No.8 - La Cueva del Agua - Quesada - Andalucia
Also known as La Cueva de la Virgen de Tiscar
The Cueva del Agua (Water Cave and also known as the Cave of Wonders) is a World Natural Heritage Site. It is found in the municipality of the little town of Quesada and said to be one of the hidden treasures of the Cazorla National Park.
The Cueva del Agua was formed by water from the Tiscar River eroding limestone to form cascades and pools and is accessed by a short tunnel. It has probably been a place of worship for millennia.
According to tradition, in 1319 the Virgin appeared to a local Moorish Chief, Mohammed Andon, causing him to convert to Christianity and thereby saving many lives during those troubled times of conquest and reconquest.
A replica of the Virgin of Tiscar is placed high on the rock wall of the lower part of the sanctuary. She is the patron of Quesada and receives many visitors who light candles and leave messages asking for good fortune and guidance. Some of the supplicants risk life and limb in order to leave offerings as close to the icon as possible!
No.9 - Castellon Alto - Galera - Andalucia
Ancient Argaric Culture Village
Castellon Alto is well worth a visit. It is located near the village of Galera and dates back to the late Bronze Age (1900 -1600 B.C.). The Argaric people who occupied this settlement lived on the hilltop for defensive purposes. It is thought that there was once a population of between 50 and 80 inhabitants.
Terraces were cut out of the living rock to form platforms upon which dwellings, precariously close to sheer drops, could be built.
One of the customs of the inhabitants of the village was to inter the corpses of relatives within the walls of their houses.
No.10 - Playa De Los Cocederos - Costa Calida - Andalucia / Murcia
My Favourite Beach
Finally, we end up on the coast at my favourite beach not far from the resort of Aguilas. This is the lovely, sheltered, sandy beach of Playa de Los Cocederos, one of many unspoilt beaches along the Costa Calida in the Province of Murcia. It is actually located right on the Costa Almeria/ Costa Calida border (straddling the border between the Spanish autonomous regions of Andalucia and Murcia). Note that this beach sports its very own (abandoned) cave house.
The 10 Amazing Things Map
This map will give you an idea where all the places mentioned in this article are.
Roman funeral niches
Holy shrine in a spectacular cave
Ancient Argaric hilltop village
Wonderful sheltered beach