Spain Beyond Granada

Pampaneira

While there’s plenty to do and see within Granada, Spain, you must venture out into some of the gorgeous surrounding towns within the province.

Pampaneira is a charming and compact village about 44 miles from Granada. Known for its locally produced, colorfully woven textiles, it’s a popular jumping-off point for hikers visiting Sierra Nevada National Park. In the heart of the park is the nearby village of Trevélez, the highest village in Spain renowned not just for its altitude, but for its traditional and natural curing of ham, or jamón de Trevélez. Finally, the spacious Tienda Maruja offers guided tours of the process, and generous samples of Alpujarra hams, sausages, cheeses and local wines in its Tasting Room.

The town of Lanjarón is considered the history gateway to Las Alpujarras, the last stronghold of the Moors after they were driven out of Granada. It’s known for its medicinal and mineral springs…and locals and visitors alike partake of them at the Balneario de Lanjarón, a spa of sorts where guests complete a circuit of treatments. From immersion baths to cold hydrotherapy to a “jet pressure shower” aimed at you by a spa attendant, these treatments are designed to tackle rheumatic, pulmonary, circulation and digestive issues, among others. Relax even more with an overnight stay at the ultra-friendly Hotel Alcadima, complete with an outdoor pool featuring awesome views of the surrounding Sierra Nevada and charming restaurant terraces.

Mix up the scenery and head south to the Costa Tropical and the port town of Motril. Take in gorgeous coastline and Mediterranean cove views from a sailboat or other water-borne vessel, courtesy of SailandSea. You can book scuba diving and sailing lessons, or even long-range charters and excursions as far away as North Africa, through its two friendly Spanish sailor owners.

Keep that nautical theme going with a visit to the lovely white-washed town of Salobreña. Start out at beachfront restaurant La Bahía and dine on fish grilled just steps away before trekking up through Salobreña’s stair-connected narrow streets to its mountaintop Arabic fortress for breathtaking panoramic sea views.

Ancient history comes to life in 3,000-year-old Almuñécar, home to 26 Mediterranean beaches and archaeological ruins dating back to Roman and Phoenician times. Like others on the Costa Tropical, its castle fortress, Castillo de San Miguel, is a lasting legacy from its Moorish past. Stay overnight at the massive Hotel Suites Albayzín del Mar, whose design reflects the town’s Arabic-Andalusían roots. Each July for the past 27 years, the seaside town has played host to Jazz en la Costa Almuñécar, an eight-day fest where stars like Panamanian pianist Danilo Pérez and American saxophonists Branford Marsalis and Joshua Redman take the stage. This year’s showcase runs July 19-26.

For a totally different historical twist, check out the northern province town of Guadix (the partial backdrop for Clint Eastwood’s The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly). It’s most famous for its 2,000-plus cave homes – the largest concentration in Europe – housing 45 percent of its 20,000 residents. The town’s landscape is dotted with chimneys of these ‘troglodyte habitats.’ But today, these mountain-hewn structures are hardly prehistoric, with hotels and restaurants housed within them. Learn their history at the interactive Guadix Cave Dwellings Interpretation Center.

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About Maureen Jenkins

Maureen Jenkins is a food/travel writer and communications professional who's visited nearly 35 countries and territories, lived in Florence, Italy, and recently spent a year living in a charming village near Paris, France. The self-proclaimed 'urban travel girl' talks travel, food and wine – abroad and in Chicago – in "TCW Travel Connection.” Read more of her thoughts on living globally at UrbanTravelGirl.com.