Hiking the Alpujarras in Spain: the GR7 trail
This post is about hiking the GR7 trail in the Alpujarras. The Alpujarras is a beautiful region in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The GR7 hiking trail that runs through the Alpujarras is among the most scenic hikes in the Andalucia province of Spain.
The Alpujarras are close to the historic city of Granada. Muslim kings ruled this area from the Alhambra palace till the Reconquista in 1492. Throughout time the fertile slopes and natural beauty of the Alpujarras attracted people that wanted to escape the mayhem of the city.
Why go hiking the Alpujarras GR7 trail
Hiking the Alpujarras trail on the Sierra Nevada is the perfect combination of culture, nature and even history. The Alpujarras are famous for their ‘pueblos blancos’. These picturesque white washed villages were the last stronghold of the Spanish Moors, even after the Reconquista.
The Islamic influence is still visible in its traditional architecture. The homes have flat clay roofs with cylindrical chimneys, similar to the Berber homes in the Moroccan Atlas mountains.
When the last muslim king Boabdil fled Granada in 1492 to the Alpujarras it was a wealthy area. The Moors built sophisticated irrigation canals called ‘acequias’ as well as terraces to support agriculture on the fertile slopes of the mountains.
When you hike along the GR7 trail in the Alpujarras you pass by many pastures, farm lands and olive tree groves. The trail uses the ancient old donkey and mule tracks that the villagers used for centuries.
There are around fifty pueblos blancos in the Alpujarras. All of them perched on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The villages are frequent enough that there is plenty of choice for accommodation and food on the way. In between you will find peace and quiet and plenty of spectacular mountain views.
Hiking the Alpujarras is therefore a great beginner friendly trek. There is no need to carry a tent or food with you and the GR7 trail is well marked on the most popular stretches.
The GR7 trail in Spain
The Alpujarras are only one part of the much longer GR7 trail. The GR7 trail in Spain runs all the way from Tarifa, the most southern point of Spain to Andorra in the north. In total it is about 1900 kilometers.
Few people have the time to walk all of it. The GR7 trail goes straight through the Alpujarras connecting some of the most scenic white villages with each other. Without doubt this is one of the most scenic parts of the GR7 in Spain.
Hiking the Alpujarras GR7 itinerary
Where to start and end
Because hiking the Alpujarras is actually a small part of the larger GR7 trail, there is no official starting point or end point.
Where you start and end your hiking journey depends on how much time you have. I had more than a week and I walked from Laroles to Lanjaron. Others only walk the most popular part from Capileira to Pampaneira.
I can certainly recommend going beyond the most popular towns. If you are really limited in time I would hike at least from Trevelez to Pampaneira in 3 days.
If you have more time, going from Laroles to Lanjaron offers a more varied hike. The further you get from touristic Pampaneira, the more quiet and authentic the villages feel.
I hiked from east to west. Getting more and more closer to Granada. You can just as well hike from west to east. My choice had to do with my preference to take the long bus journey to Laroles first. So that when I arrived tired in Lanjaron it would be a short bus ride to Granada.
Hiking the Alpujarras GR7 itinerary
Day 1: Laroles to Yegen
18 km, 7 hours
My Alpujarras hike started in Laroles. It was the first pueblo blanco I saw. When I arrived it was cold and misty. The mountain views and sun were still hiding behind the clouds.
Despite the grey weather the appeal of the white villages is immediately clear to me. The misty clouds create a mystical atmosphere. The light drizzle can not dampen the joy of starting my hike in the Alpujarras.
With the mist around me its just me and the trail. Sometimes the sun manages to shine through for a short while. By the time I reach Yegen I am lucky to have a beautiful sunset. I am hiking in November and the days are short.
The friendly owner of El Tinao explains that just a few days ago there were heavy rains. Way more than usual for this time of the year and they damaged the water reservoir in town. She warns me that the water might be muddy.
Tomorrow I will see that the rains caused more damage on the trails as well. The forecast is in my favour though. Today was the last rainy day and from tomorrow onwards it will be sunny and warm.
Accomodation: El Tinao is a great place with a very friendly owner. I felt welcome immediately and both dinner and breakfast were delicious.
Day 2: Yegen to Cadiar
19 km, 8 hours
As the owner of El Tinao promised me, I wake up to a clear blue sky. It’s early and the sun rises on the horizon. It’s still eerily quiet in the small streets of Yegen. The only other soul awake is a rooster somewhere.
Once I leave town I can finally enjoy the beautiful views over the Alpujarras valley that I could not see yesterday. I take a small break at the church of Montenegro. Then the road goes down towards a small river.
Unfortunately the bridge was washed away by the heavy rains a couple of days ago. I am in doubt whether I want to risk climbing over the bridge and wading through the water. I decide not to and have to backtrack till I reach the road.
Walking to Mecina Bombaron on the main road isn’t as nice and once there I take a long break before continuing to Berchulez. This is a really quiet part of the GR7 trail and I did not meet any other hikers.
Berchulez is a great place for a lunch break. From Berchulez I can already see the village of Cadiar in the distance. I am not staying in Cadiar itself, but in a cortijo up the mountains.
The views over the valley below are great, but I have to be honest that it was a tough climb after a long day of hiking. The owners happen to be dutch and offer me to join the communal dinner with the other guests.
Accomodation: Cortijo el mutilado is not really in Cadiar itself. After a long day of hiking the final climb up the mountain to the cortijo is difficult. Once there you know it was worth it. Beautiful views and very friendly owners.
Day 3: Cadiar to Trevelez
20 km, 9 hours
From the cortijo I follow a shortcut back to the GR7 trail in the small village of Timar. After Timar it is a steep climb up a narrow rocky mountain trail. I am afraid of heights and there are some scary parts. Slowly I go step by step.
It feels remote and there is nobody else but me. Or that is what I thought. As I am taking a rest I hear a sound on the steep cliffs under me. It’s a mountain goat. For several seconds we stare at each other and then the mountain goat runs away in the bushes.
Juviles is the only village on the trail today. It is actually a bit early for lunch, but I know there is nothing else till Trevelez. I ordered a menu del dia. Pork knuckle with baked potatoes.
Another climb is waiting for me. The trail keeps going up the mountain through a remote area. The views are excellent.
For the first time I met other hikers, but they went in the opposite direction. Finally I reached the mountain top and not long after that I got my first sight of Trevelez in the distance.
Perched against the mountains it looks beautiful. But it also looked much closer than it actually was. After every corner I expect the trail to go down towards Trevelez to only find another bend in the mountain.
Again I spot two wild mountain goats on the trail in front of me. A mother with a child. Even though I am still far away they did see me. Quickly they climb up away from the trail.
Once they are at a distance that I won’t scare them anymore I continue. Then I hear a noise right beside me. I freeze as I see the father goat with big horns standing right next to me as I turn around the corner.
He freezes too and we stare at each other for a long time. I remain as quiet as I can be. Finally the goat crosses the trail in front of me in the direction where mom and child went.
I am exhausted once I reach the first pastures and homes of Trevelez. Trevelez is famous for its cured ham. The jamones nevadensis hanging to dry are a common sight. I am too tired to enjoy the town and quickly head to my hotel.
Accomodation: Casa Fermina has clean and spacious rooms. Downstairs there is a bar that serves delicious Alpujarran meals.
Day 4: Trevelez to Busquistar/ Ferreirola
16 km, 7 hours
It is only the next day that I can truly see the beauty of Trevelez. I bought a lunch packet in the supermarket, because today is a remote trail through the mountains with no villages in between. Only a couple of farms and cow pastures.
The trail goes up and down with some scary slippery descents. The official GR7 trail runs till Busquistar. However, I booked my hotel in Ferreirola. I have an early dinner at Busquistar and then take the trail to Ferreirola.
Although this was a detour, this was one of the most spectacular parts of my hiking adventure in the Alpujarras. The trail was easygoing, the views wonderful and Ferreirola was a cute and authentic white village.
Accomodation: Sierra Y Mar was one of the more expensive accomodations on my Alpujarras hike. It’s tranquil location in Ferreirola was well worth the detour and price. A lovely place with friendly owners.
Day 5: Ferreirola/ Busquistar to Capileira
13 km, 5 hours
The Ferreirola detour is well worth it. From Ferreirola it is easy to join the official GR7 trail again at Pitres.
It’s still a bit early, but there is a well recommended Tapas restaurant. I decided to sit down and enjoy the variety of small bites on the menu. A small piece of tortilla, a mini hamburger. All delicious.
Satisfied and happy I continue the easygoing, but beautiful trail to Capileira. THen I see a mountain goat running away on the side of the mountain.
So far I have hiked a quiet part of the GR7 trail. I rarely met other hikers and the villages felt very authentic. Capileira, however, is in the popular Poqueira gorge. It’s almost a culture shock as I see my first souvenir shops on the GR7 trail and I see more tourists than all my previous days together.
Truth be told, Capileira is beautiful. And the crowds have their advantages too. There are more than one or two restaurants in town to choose from. I had a delicious wild boar stew with couscous.
Accomodation: Hostal Moraima has a central location in Capileira. The downstairs bar and restaurant serves delicious Spanish breakfasts. I was a bit worried about the noise, but the restaurant closes early and once it is night it is a quiet and peaceful place.
Day 6: Capileira to Pampaneira
7 km, 4 hours
Today is a very short day on the GR7 trail. From Capileira to Bubion to Pampaneira. Three beautiful villages, but also very oriented towards tourists.
Lots of souvenir shops, lots of restaurants and even some museums about life in the Alpujarras. While Capileira and Bubion still have lots of charm, Pampaneira is a bit too much for me.
The crowds feel overwhelming. There are plenty of people and yet none of the restaurants are open to serve dinner before 8. After dinner I went straight to bed
Accomodation: Hostal Pampaneira is right in the center of town. It’s a good place with clean and spacious rooms.
Day 7: Pampaneira to Soportujar
13 km, 7 hours
The closer I get to Granada, the busier the GR7 trail. Personally it feels like Ibhad the best part already.
The views from the trail are nice, but not as spectacular as my first days on the GR7 trail. Can you see too many white villages? Maybe.
But Soportujar still manages to surprise me. This pueblo blanco has a quirky witch theme. There is even a baba yaga hut. A witch in Slavic fairy tales. Not sure how she ended up in Spain.
Accomodation: there was not a lot of choice in Soportujar, and the few options around were on the more upmsarket side. The Ember fuego suite was one of the cheapest places.
Day 8: Soportujar to Lanjaron
13 km, 6 hours
It’s my last day on the GR7 trail in the Alpujarras. Already it feels different. The scenery is more or less the same as yesterday. Nice, but not special.
After Soportujar I say goodbye to the white villages. Lanjaron is a large spa town famous for its mineral waters. Besides the local market there was not that much to see.
I took the first bus available to Granada. The Alpujarras were a highlight of my trip to Andalucia. As much as I liked Granada I kept missing the Alpujarras
Hiking the Alpujarras GR7 travel tips
Accomodation in the Alpujarras
All pueblos blancos have at least one or two accomodation options. Most are small scale hotels with only a few rooms.
There is plenty of choice in the popular Poquiera gorge. However, the further west or east you go, the less hotels to choose from. Therefore I do recommend making reservations beforehand, especially if you go during high season.
I made my reservations about a month in advance in November. Even then it was difficult to find budget rooms in some villages. With little competition, prices can be high in some places. I managed to pay 30 to 40 euros per night on average.
Places to eat in the Alpujarras
When you go hiking in the Alpujarras there is no need to bring any food. Most pueblos blancos have at least one restaurant or a small supermarket where you can buy food.
Do take into account the Spanish restaurant times. Restaurants close after lunch time and will only reopen after 8 pm. Therefore I made sure I always had some snacks at hand. I brought my waterbottle and along the way there are places to refill them.
The Alpujarras has some local dishes you should try. First of all, Trevelez is famous for its jamon serrano. You will see them everywhere once you enter town. Other local dishes include choto al ajilo (goat) and alpujarran potatoes (fried with onions and olive oil) and meatballs.
When to go hiking the Alpujarras
I went hiking in November and had great weather. Only the first day it was rainy and misty. After that it was mostly sunny and temperatures were mild. I could do wiith a tshirt during the day and a fleece sweater in the early mornings and late afternoon.
I would say autumn in general is a beautiful time to go hiking in the Alpujarras. The autumn colours in the trees made it even more beautiful. Spring is probably another good time with mild temperatures and the blossoming flowers.
Winters do get cold in the Alpujarras and bring snow to the higher altitudes. Summers are a popular time to go hiking, but it will be very warm and crowded.
Hiking the Alpujarras books
Cicerone GR7 in Andalucia: The best and only guide book about the GR7 in Andalucia is from Cicerone. With few online information it is very useful to buy or at least to download the gpx files from their site.
If you need to carry your own gear the advice is to bring as little as possible. The Alpujarras GR7 trail is not a difficult trail. There is no need to bring a tent, food or even a sleeping bag. Below a few things to consider
Sun protection: no matter what time of the year you will need to bring protection against the sun. Sunscreen and a hat are a must. Even in November the sun was still strong and there are stretches with little shadow
Rain protection: there is always a risk of rain. I brought a poncho along that protected both me and my backpack from the rain. I only had to use it once, but was very happy to have it with me at that time.
Sturdy shoes: There is no need for proffesional hiking boots. The Alpujarras are not the Himalayas or the Alps. However, there are some rocky trails so do bring sturdy shoes that fit you well. It’s important you don’t bring brand new shoes. Make sure your shoes are tested and comfortable to prevent blisters.
Hiking socks: Besides good shoes, goed hiking socks are key to prevent blisters. Merino wool socks are lightweight and dry quickly. Therefore they do well in keeping your feet dry which is important to not develop blisters. Decathlon has some good merino wool socks that are not too expensive. Wrightsocks are specially designed with double layers to prevent blisters. I have both and never had blisters wearing them.
Layers: in November there was a big difference in temperatures during the day and the early mornings and evenings. The best way to deal with this is to wear layers. I had three sets of clothes and washed my clothes every day. As a base layer I bought merino wool tshirts at Decathlon. They are lightweight and dry quickly. I had a fleece vest as a midlayer that was very useful in the early mornings and evenings. As the upper layer I had a thin windproof jacket that I actually only used in the evenings when the sun was gone.
Backpack: Your shoes and backpack are two things that will have a big influence on the comfort of your multi day trek. I recommend to go to an outdoor store to get some good advice to buy a backpack that fits your torso length and that is comfortable when you wear it. I used the Osprey farpoint 40. This is not a hiking backpack, but my Alpujarras hike was part of a larger backpack trek throughout Spain. Osprey has other backpacks that are more for hiking trips. I also own the Fairview trek 50 that I am very happy with.
Reusable water bottle: to prevent plastic waste I always bring a reusable water bottle with me and a water filter or steri pen. Because the water in the Alpujarras is drinkable you don’t even need to filter it. In the villages along the way you can easily fill up your water bottle.
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