TRIP REPORT - ANDALUCIA, SPAIN----------------------for the gallery click here

In an impulsive decision we rented a vehicle to explore more of Spain and left Alicante in the late afternoon. We headed north into the mountains of the Sierra de Salinas and enjoyed an amazing sunset at over 3000 feet (1000 m). A series of thunderstorms moved in late at night which is quite unusual for summers here; once the rain had cleared, we were rewarded with incredible vistas in the morning (pic 01).

After a hike to the top of the mountain with a 360 degree view we pushed on west along lonely country roads through sweeping hills and drove through the Parque Natural Sierra de Cazorla y Segura with breathtaking canyons and gorges.

From here we ventured along the country road that connects a series of attractive little towns. We visited Úbeda, Baeza and Jaén with their amazing old towns full of historic buildings and medieval walls (pic 02).
One of the highlights was Córdoba, once the Moorish capital of the region. The city offers a dazzling array of historic sights and different building styles. The blend of Moorish and Christian architecture shows all through the old town but is most apparent in the amazing column hall of the Mezquita (pic 03) where a catholic church was built right into the center of what was once one of the largest mosques in the Islamic world. We also marveled at the medieval quarter, the Judería, and the Christian fortress, Alcázar.
The people of Córdoba are very fond of their many courtyards which are not only for the looks but are also used frequently (pic 04).

We wrapped up our stay with a visit to the Medina Azahara, a city built in the 10th century by a caliph to create a new administrative and residential center. Unfortunately, only ruins are left of this impressive and extremely luxurious palace.

Then our journey took us south-east towards the Sierra Nevada. Our plan was to find a remote and scenic track through the mountains and see the white villages of Las Alpujarras (pic 05), an area that is not yet spoiled by heavy tourism. We began our trek at the first village of Lanjarón where we climbed up the steep dirt road past active farms and several ruins of abandoned farmhouses to almost 10.000 feet (2500m). The views from up here were awe-inspiring. The track skirts the border of the Parque Nacional de Sierra de Nevada and sees very little traffic. At night, we spotted a wild pig, quite a popular animal in this region famous for its mountain-cured ham (jamón serrano). Even the paved road wasn't very easy on our vehicle as it winds up and down the mountain in impressive hairpin turns and is certainly not for the faint-of-heart. Some of the quaint villages still preserve their originality although others are already ramping up for tourism.

It took us several more hours to leave the Sierra Nevada as the main drag is under construction for expansion, which not only made our progress slow and painful but will certainly take away some of the romantic flair of the region. When we reached the highway, we made straight for Alicante.

pic 01

pic 02

pic 03

pic 04

pic 05

for more pics click here