Walk the walk
The walks range from the undemanding to the steepish. Walking poles or a stout stick are recommended. You are never far from a refreshing drink of water: every village features a battery of public taps where you can fill a bottle (or a bucket) of the stuff that comes gushing out of the higher mountains.
Most villages don’t have shops: the groceries arrive by van on different days. The nearest supermarket and bank are in Pitres.
The Tajá valley is just one of several walking centres in the Alpujarras. One of the most popular is Bubión. The bus from Granada stops here before going on to its terminus at Trevélez. Waymarked trails from Bubión will bring you to Pampaneira or up even higher to Capileira.
At the end of the bus route lies Trevélez, the highest village in mainland Spain. Most shops and bars here are festooned with hams: the town is famous for its air-cured jamón serrano. It’s a perfect base for ambitious walkers heading for the Sierra Nevada.
Meanwhile, back in the pastoral Tahá valley, you can always hear the Trevélez river cascading through the gorge far below. Along these walks you still find traces of the ancient Moorish presence. The acequias, or irrigation channels, harness the mountain springs and still bring the water to farms and smallholdings – and there are also wide stone platforms called eras which were used for threshing.
The length of a walk is up to yourself: you could just go “there and back” to another village in less than an hour, or try a circular five-hour walk that involves a bit of panting up zig-zag paths up a mountain called Corona, which is a bit taller than Carrauntoohil.
We were more than midway up this mountain, but becoming nervous of continuing when we looked up and saw, silhouetted against the sky, a startling vision. Marching briskly down towards us was a woman – and she was carrying a bike slung nonchalantly over her shoulder as she leapt goat-like from crag to crag. This was Jackie – another Englishwoman “gone native” here with her husband. They run mountain-bike holidays from the village of Fondales. We asked if she was in the habit of carrying her bike down mountains. “Of course not,” she said. “I ride it on the less rocky bits.” Shamefaced at our timidity, we resumed our climb. Our reward was a panoramic view of what seemed to be the whole of Andalucía – and peeping up in the distance were the Sierra Nevada, snowcapped just as the song says.