Tour leader Ursula Dedek describes the tapestry of cultures that make the whitewashed village of Lanjaron on the edge of the Alpujarras the perfect place base from which to explore the Sierra Nevada and Andalucia.
Long known as the ‘Gateway to the Sierra Nevada’, the town of Lanjaron is the ideal base for a stay on the edge of Andalucia’s National Park south of Granada.
From here a mountain range of great beauty crowned by the highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada opens up, interspersed by deeply-cut gorges, glistening waterways and wide-open green pasture land known as the Alpujarras region. Here the light is special, as the earth seems to be lit by myriads of candles heralding the coming day - only to fade away at sunset in a purple red glow of magic. The name ‘Al Andaluz’ has come into its own...
The history of Lanjaron looks back to many diverse cultures: Iberian, Roman, Arabic and Christian. Each and every one has contributed to the character of this region, particularly the unique architecture which brings to life the Berber past of the eighth century, with its houses made from cut stone looking not unlike Lego cubes, with flat grey roofs and an array of man-sized chimneys which seem to be on the march like little creatures with flat-topped black hats and big hollowed eyes! In contrast to this strange sight are the terraces full of flowers built across the narrow streets to form a labyrinth of connecting bridges.
With an abundance of water from the Sierra there was little necessity for the villagers to change and so they slumbered on, drove their mules, herded their goats and cultivated the land with the help of intricate water channels.
Water - the magical word - was and is the foundation of Lanjaron and again it was the Berbers who rightly called it ‘Place of Springs’. Residents and visitors were singing the praises of the health benefits of the water, and the town became a ‘balneario’ or spa, which led to the subsequent construction of historic buildings and finally the bottling plant of Aguas de Lanjaron.
The golden age of the town had arrived - artists and intellectuals were attracted and took to the walkways offering shade and relaxation along its tree-covered avenues and big shiny pots of plants lining the pavements - a lush green inviting jungle! In addition, intimate little squares were brought to life with window boxes crammed with flowers to add vitality to the lovingly installed shrines. With the arrival of the Christians in 1485, the locals were prepared to show their respect and devotion to the new religion.
Lanjaron also became the favourite place of attraction for the great Andalucian poet, Frederico Garcia Lorca. He was captivated by the gentle murmur of the running waters in those delicate ceramic fountains, and the dazzling moonlight left him without doubt that wild and beautiful gypsy girls would be drawn into the orbit of the springs ... one gypsy girl in particular, Lola, is immortalised in one of his poems, "where she bathes in the glistening moonlight and where the falling petals die of love on her breasts". What could be more exotic and sensuous than to feel the night air of Andalucia – a country one has to love!