Las Alpujarras is a mountainous region located to the south of the Sierra Nevada, straddling the provinces of Granada and Almería. This region is home to some of the highest altitude villages in all of Spain. The villages often appear to arise from the craggy, rugged landscape and are generally situated on the mountainside, with their houses built onto the slope orientated towards the south.
The architecture of Las Alpujarras is characterized by the flat roof of the houses formed by a roof terrace of "launa" a clay which is formed from the decomposition of slate and which becomes impermeable with the rain. This flat-roofed house, which we also find in the desert and coastal areas of Almería and which, due to its typology - a cube-shaped house - would constitute another route of eastern Andalusian autochthonous architecture, shows signs of African influences and in the case of Las Alpujarras, evokes the Moorish presence in these mountains up until their expulsion in 1568.
The fact that the house is built on a slope means that strange shapes and spaces occur, with the roof of one house serving as a terrace for the one above. Slate is also used for the cornices while the walls are of stone, normally painted with lime, this sometimes being applied directly onto the stonework. Their truncated cone-shaped chimneys and the presence of verandas and continuous balconies with wooden balustrades testify to them being mountain villages.
Another characteristic feature of the houses of Las Alpujarras is the "tinao" or cow shed which occupies the ground floor of these modest dwellings. The urban design of the Alpujarra, inherited from the Moors, has maintained the structure of narrow, winding streets with cube-shaped houses stacked one on top of the other. Sometimes the streets widen out somewhat to create a small square, housing shops, bars, the town hall or the church.
The mountain villages, which are always south-facing, are integrated naturally into the environment as if they were part of the landscape. The construction of the houses also reflects their surroundings, as materials obtained locally are used to build them: stone and adobe for the walls, earthenware and manganese clay for the ceilings, and chestnut for the beams.
The history of Las Alpujarras is very interesting. For hundreds of years after the initial Moorish conquest in 711 AD, this area was inhabited by local Muslim people from Al-Andalus. They created villages on the slopes in the style to which they were accustomed in the mountains of North Africa: narrow, winding streets and small flat-roofed houses. After Granada was taken by Castilians in 1492, all Moors in the city were forced to convert to Christianity. Those who refused took to the hills, settling in this remote, inaccessible area. Constant pressure from Christians led to a series of bloody revolts.
The architecture of Las Alpujarras reflects its history and cultural influences. The cube-shaped houses with flat clay roofs show signs of African influences and evoke memories of Moorish presence in these mountains up until their expulsion in 1568. The terracing and irrigation of the hillsides (the "Alpujarra alta") was the work of local Spanish Muslim people of Al-Andalus. The Catholic "Reconquista" of Spain progressed to the extent that by 1462 only the Emirate of Granada – including the Alpujarras – was left in Muslim hands; and in 1492 the city of Granada fell to the "Catholic Monarchs". Their attempts to force Christianity on the Muslim inhabitants led to successive revolts, the Rebellion of the Alpujarras (1499–1501) and the Rebellion of the Alpujarras (1568–1571). The revolt of 1568 was a civil war, with the Spaniards deploying large forces against this rural population and with much cruelty.
Discover the unique architecture of Las Alpujarras on this tour of the region's picturesque villages. Here is a suggested itinerary:
This tour will give you a deeper understanding of the history and culture of Las Alpujarras and its unique architecture. You can also use this map to help plan your route and explore more villages in the region.