One Hour From: Granada
In an ancient town on a Spanish cliff, you can get into hot water Cave-dwellings, secluded beaches and the town where Julius Caesar mined precious metal lie beyond the city of Alhambra.
Sunday 18 May 2003
This beautiful area stretches across the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada for more than 40miles, punctuated by deep valleys, high ravines, and fertile meadows. The villages, which have changed little since the 17th century, are famed for their dry-cured hams. Some of Spain's finest walking trails can be found here, affording fabulous views of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada.
By car: take the N323 south then take the A348 and follow signs to Orgiva; journey time approximately 50 mins.
The tropical coast
Popular with weekenders from Granada, the Costa Tropical has suffered little from development thanks to its distance from the main charter-flight airports. The coastline, which extends for more than 30 miles, features cliffs, coves and fine sandy beaches. Motril, the main town, is dominated by its surrounding sugar-cane crop and is known as Little Cuba. But if you have only got time to visit one town, then you should head for Solobrena, which has ancient whitewashed houses tumbling down a hillside and a modern but tasteful beach development.
By car: take the N323 south then the N340 and follow signs; journey time approximately one hour.
This town dates from Roman times: Julius Caesar is said to have founded it, in 45BC, when he set up copper, iron and silver mines. Today, Guadix is mainly an agricultural centre but has industries based around cutlery production and esparto grass. The town is famous for its 10,000-strong troglodyte community who live in complex caves in the soft tufa rock hillside. Why not join them and book yourself into one of the many cave hotels?
By car: N342 east and follow signs: journey time approximately 45 mins.
Alhama de Granada
Perched precariously on a cliff top, overlooking a deep gorge created by the river, this ancient spa town takes its name from the Moorish Al Hamman, which means thermal waters or baths. Both the Moors and the Romans before them valued the thermal waters and the baths are still in use today. To find the baths, head for the Hotel Balnaerio, just north of town on the C340. Highlights in the town include the ruined Moorish castle, some fine churches and a maze of medieval alleys.
By car: A338 west and follow signs; journey time approximately 50 mins.
During Moorish times this was a silk-producing centre until it was taken by the Christians after a lengthy siege in 1489. Today the town relies on agriculture and, like Guadix, is home to cave dwellings, which can be seen to the east of town on the main road. Baza is the gateway to the Parque Naturel de la Sierra de Baza, where flora and fauna lovers have a field day among the dense and varied woodland, which has colonies of golden eagles, Egyptian vultures, beech martens and badgers.
By car: take the N342 east and follow signs; journey time approximately one hour-plus.
Alacala la Real
Stop here at the hilltop castle, the Castillo de la Mota, for some of the finest views over the surrounding countryside back towards Granada. Rocky cliffs form part of the fortress walls and 15 of the original watchtowers, dating from Arab and early Christian times, still exist. Visit the small archaeological museum, which houses pottery, weapons, skeletons and coins found on the site.
By car: take the N432 north and follow signs; journey time approximately 45 mins.
Magic of Spain (0870-888 0222; www.magictravelgroup.co.uk) offers seven-nights' b&b at the three-star Hotel Los Angeles from £445 per person, including return flights and private transfers. Holiday Autos (0870-400 0010; www.holidayautos.co.uk) offers one week's car hire in Granada from £98.
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