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Capileira: Our Favourite Poqueira Gorge Village

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The three pretty villages of the lush, snow-fed Poqueira Gorge (Capileira, Bubión, Pampaneira) have a lot in common – a maze of narrow streets, whitewashed Moorish houses, fantastic views – but lovely Capileira is our pick of the three as a base for your Alpujarras visit on the edge of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Sometimes described as the “highest, largest and prettiest” of the valley villages, two-tiered Capileira offers more facilities and the most impressive valley views. Not to mention, it is the closest village to the two highest mountains in mainland Spain, Mulhacén (3,479m) and Veleta (3,395m).

Capileira from below

Capileira is literally the end of the road, as vehicles aren’t allowed past the entrance to the Sierra Nevada National Park just past the top of the town. Along with its Poqueira neighbours, Capileira is a Conjunto Historico Artistico (History Art Grouping) well-known for its high-quality leather goods.

Sure, with a population of just 600 it is not a large place, but is slightly larger than Bubion or Pampaneira and has a better selection of hotels and restaurants. And at 1,435 metres above sea level it enjoys the highest location in the Barranco de Poqueira. In fact, its name actually means “summit” or “heights” in Latin (or possibly “hair”, a nod to its location at the top of the gorge), a fitting description of the second-highest village in the Alpujarras and the third-highest village in Spain.

Sunset view over Capileira

Split into two distinct sections, the upper part of Capileira has most of the useful tourist shops, restaurants and hotels, while the lower part is the more atmospheric old town. There is a lively Tuesday market but most of the time Capileira is a serene, peaceful sort of place where people come to hike and enjoy the outstanding views down the gorge, which are especially impressive at sunset.

Capileira Map

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Things to do in Capileira

Although it isn’t a very big place, there are still lots of things to keep you busy during a visit to Capileira.

Wander the Old Streets and Buildings

As in most of Spain’s white villages, the steep streets, narrow alleys, white buildings and abundant flowers of Capileira make for terrific wandering.

Plant pots on street in Capileira Spain

The flat roofs, covered chimneys and arched doorways are all fabulously Moorish, and there are lots of red and pink geraniums and coloured tapestries scattered through the Capileira old town. Of particular interest are the “tinaos”, covered tunnels with slate roofs and wooden beams.

Person on narrow street

Find the Fountains

Capileira is known for its bevy of unique fountains all over town providing clean, cold mountain water.

Fountain in Capileira

The water makes its way down from the snow-covered Sierra Nevada mountains and most of the fountains are potable (watch for signs to be sure). Fuente Hondera near the old plaza is one of the nicest.

Try Out Local Tapas

They take their tapas seriously in these parts and every café, restaurant or bar will have a good selection of tasty snacks. Capileira is one of the many Spanish towns where ordering a drink entitles you to some free tapas, even when your free snack seems like it might be worth more than the drink itself.

Tapas in a Capileira restaurant

Bodega La Alacena is a great choice for tapas just down from the church. You can also order a sample plate of many of the local cured meats produced in the area. And you can’t beat the setting with round tables in a narrow street.

Shop for Local Goods

Along with its top leather goods, Capileira also has a reputation for producing excellent traditional woven rugs and traditional tiles. There are a number of shops on or close to the main square where you can shop for these items or browse leather bags, hats and belts (Piel J Brown features popular pieces by artisan Jose Manuel Moreno).

Street with shops

The entire Alpujarras is also known for producing exceptional ham, cheese, honey, jam, grapes and mushrooms.

Shop with traditional goods in Capileira

Climb Mulhacén

The tallest mountain on mainland Spain (and second in all of Spain behind the iconic Mount Teide in Tenerife), Mulhacén is considered a requisite accomplishment for all avid European mountaineers. Named after Muley Hacen, the last Moorish king of Granada in the 15th century, the summit can be reached on foot from either Capileira (south side), Trevélez (southeast of the peak) or Hoya de la Mora (north side).

Most people do it as a 2-day, 1-night trek, spending the night in Refugio Poqueira (2,500m). There are no permits, licenses or guides required to do this trek, although most people still prefer to go with a guided tour that can lead the way and provide all the necessary gear.

Click here for prices and availability

Check out the Casa Museo Pedro Antonio de Alarcón

Also known as the Museo Etnológico Pedro Antonio Alarcón, this intriguing museum focuses on the life and general time period of this famous author who travelled the area, then wrote “Viaje a la Alpujarra” in 1872. There are some interesting 19th  century clothes, handicrafts, farm implements and tools to browse, as well as info about Alarcón himself.

Sign for museum

For even more info on the region, stop in a the Servicio de Interpretacion de Altas Cumbres (High Peaks Interpretation Centre) to read up on the Alpujarras and the Sierra Nevada mountain range in particular.

Peek Inside the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Cabeza

This beautiful baroque Catholic church was built on the site of a former mosque in the 16th century, then rebuilt again in the 17th and 18th centuries. It is located right on the main plaza, features an impressive gilded wooden altarpiece and a famous image of the Virgen de la Cabeza that was donated by the Spanish rulers.

Capileira church

See the Views from the Miradors

As you might expect of a village with such a superb location, Capileira boasts many terrific viewpoints. You’ll notice many of them just wandering the steep streets but you should also make a special effort to hit these two highlight spots:

Mirador Sierra Nevada

Found on the main trail heading north of the village, next to a set of ancient grain threshing floors also known as Eras de Aldeire. From here you can enjoy views of Mulhacen, Veleta and Aneto to the north and, on a clear day, can see all the way to the southern coast (and possibly even the Moroccan Rif Mountains).

View down the gorge

Mirador del Perchel

This is one of the best places to see the entire Poqueira Gorge laid out in all its glory, including the white jumbles of Bubión and Pampaneira. Conveniently located just off the road heading down the valley, you can usually also see Veleta to the north.

View from one of the Capileira miradors

Head out on a Hike

Hiking in the tremendous natural surroundings is one of the main reasons people visit Capileira. There is a beautiful network of great trails in and around the Poqueira Gorge with options to suit all timelines and fitness levels.

A good short option is the hike to Chiscar Bridge. This relatively steep trail leads from Capileira all the way down to the river and this tiny bridge, then circles around and back up into town on the south side. It offers great views and will only take 1-1.5 hours.

Even easier is the short jaunt down to Bubión on the Atalaya Trail. It will only take about 30 minutes but you still get to enjoy expansive views of the valley. You can easily continue on down to Pampaneira as well. Then you can either walk back up (allow about 50% more time than going down), catch a bus or continue on to complete the Poqueira Gorge Loop, the most popular hike in the area.

Trail from Bubion to Capaliera
On the trail between Capileira and Bubion

The Poqueira Gorge Loop is a 3-hour hike that passes through all three villages on the east side before returning down (or up) through the quiet farmland on the west side of the Barranco de Poqueira. The views back across to the villages are magnificent.

Person looking over white villages

Other hiking possibilities around Capileira include the 9km round-trip Sendero la Cebadilla that passes through typically great scenery on the way to an abandoned village and the spectacular 300km Sulayr Trail (GR240) through the Sierra Nevada, divided into 19 short stages, several of which are accessible from Capileira.

Hike the GR7

If those excellent gorge hikes have whetted your appetite to walk more of the Alpujarras, you should consider hiking part of the GR7 long-distance trail. You probably won’t have time to hike the entire GR7 since it stretches for 3,300 kilometres from Tarifa, Spain to northeastern France but the Alpujarran variant passes all the way along the southern foothills of the Sierra Nevada and is considered one of the most scenic sections in Spain.

Person hiking in gorge

With amazing scenery, easy-to-follow trails and welcoming villages, hiking the GR7 between Lanjarón to Válor can be done in a week or less, staying in one great village after another along the way.

Capileira isn’t technically on the route, which passes through Pampaneira and Bubion, but the short detour is well worth it to see this great village and enjoy the views from the top of the gorge.

For an overview of the area and how to hike the Alpujarran section of the GR7, check out Hiking the GR7: The White Villages of Spain’s Sierra Nevada

Tour the Other White Villages of the Alpujarras

Even if you aren’t the long-distance trekking sort of person, the white villages of the Alpujarras are still a great place to visit by car (or even bus, as long as you are a patient person). Here is a brief overview of the best villages in the Alpujarras, going west to east coming from Granada.

Lanjarón is the first place you’ll reach coming out of Granada and is famous for its delicious, clean spring water and spa. Lanjarón is the origin of the famous Spanish bottled water of the same name. It is bigger than most of the other villages but still has plenty of Moorish charm.

Guide to Lanjaron: Spa Town of the Alpujarras

Down in the next valley is Órgiva, the main commercial centre of the Alpujarras region. It is bigger and less attractive than those in the mountains but has good restaurants and accommodation, plus they throw a mean festival.

Orgiva Spain: The Crossroads of the Alpujarras

Main street in Orgiva in the Sierra Nevada mountains spain

Soportújar, on the other hand, is completely bizarre, having fully embraced a complicated set of myths and legends involving witches, warlocks and, apparently, some giant spiders? Memorable, I assure you.

Guide to Soportujar – Where My Witches At?

Person posing with spider on the GR7 in the Sierra Nevada Spain

Pampaneira is the lowest village of the Poqueira Gorge and the first place you’ll reach coming from the west. It is typically lovely, very compact and has some fascinating little alleys split by water channels.

Street with canal in middle

Guide to Pampaneira: Gateway to the Poqueira Gorge

Bubión is the next village up the gorge from Pampaneira and is exceptionally photogenic, manageably small, and has a lot of impressive flowers and some fairly weird cats.

Guide to Bubión: Little Known Gem of the Poqueira Gorge

Narrow Bubion streets
Bubion

The first town over the ridge along the GR7 from Bubión is Pitres, a friendly little place with a wonderful square and some nice bars and cafés.

Not far from there is Pórtugos which, to us, felt like the most natural and authentic of all the white villages of the Alpujarras. Kids playing, guys drinking beer, locals waiting for the grocery store to reopen after siesta.

GR7 trail in the Sierra Nevada mountains spain

Trevélez is the gateway to the Sierra Nevada national park and mountains and boasts a dramatic location at the very top of a scenic valley. Its maze of narrow white streets is somehow even more interesting than most and they are VERY proud of their ham.

Trevelez: A Guide to the Ham Capital of Spain

Hiker looking over a white village in Sierra Nevada spain

Bérchules was the starting point for our 5-day Alpujarras trek – a delightful, quiet place full of fountains, local shops and surprising viewpoints.

Where to Stay: Best Capileira Hotels

Hotel Real de Poqueira

The Hotel Real de Poqueira is a 3-star hotel on the main square across from the church with modern rooms, a swimming pool to cool off in during the summer and heated rooms for winter. There is also a room to store bicycles if you are cycling the area.

Click here for Hotel Rural Real de Poqueira prices

Hotel Rural Alfajía De Antonio

We stayed at the very friendly Hotel Rural Alfajía De Antonio, whose highlight is the large rooftop terrace with stunning views over the village. Our sunset from the terrace was particularly memorable.

Sunset from a Capileira hotel

We also enjoyed the modern clean rooms and shared rooftop kitchen where we made our breakfast. They gave us a helpful map of the town, recommendations for restaurants and what to see and do, including the fountain with the best water. Excellent value for money.

Click here for Hotel Rural Alfajía De Antonio prices

Where to Eat: Great Capileira Restaurants

Taberna Restaurante La Tapa

In a tiny classic house this Spanish/Moroccan restaurant combines local specialties with Moorish roots. It is best to book ahead.

Restaurante La Pizzeria

Relax and enjoy a drink with great views of the church and main square. We really enjoyed the pizza but were less impressed with the lasagna.

Pizza at a Capileira restaurant

El Corral de Castaño

Try this friendly place on a cute plaza with a good mix of local specialties and unique flavours. Highly recommended by our hotel. Try the pork knuckles.

Square with restaurants
Square that the El Corral de Castaño is on

How to Get to Capileira in the Alpujarras

Unless they are hiking the GR7, most people visit the Alpujarras by car, either their own or a rental. With so many great towns and villages in the area we highly recommend renting a car for a few days to cover more ground and set your own schedule. We find Discover Cars usually have the best deals in the area.

Coming from Granada and turning off the main highway near Lanjarón, you basically follow one road through all of the villages listed here.

Man driving
Exploring by rental car is the best way to go

If you don’t have a car, there are three daily Alsa buses from Granada that pass through all the villages, including Pampaneira, Bubión and Capileira. They take about 2 hours to Capileira and continue on to Pórtugos, Trevélez, Bérchules and the villages farther east.

Driving distances and times:

Granada to Capileira: 75 km / 80 min

Lanjarón to Capileira: 25 km / 40 min

Orgíva to Capileira: 20 km / 30 min

Soportújar to Capileira: 12 km / 20 min

Pampaneira to Capileira: 4 km / 5 min

Bubión to Capileira: 2 km / 2 min

Pitres to Capileira: 7 km / 10 min

Pórtugos to Capileira: 10 km / 15 min

Trevélez to Capileira: 20 km / 35 min

Bérchules to Capileira: 40 km / 1 hr

The largest parking lot is the first area on your left upon entering the town, marked on Google Maps with a large blue ‘P’. There is a second parking area further up about halfway through the village on your left as well.

Granada

Famously beautiful Granada is the closest major centre and main base for heading off into the Alpujarras. Filled with amazing historic sights, gritty neighbourhoods and outstanding viewpoints, Granada is, nonetheless, mainly known for one incredible attraction – the Alhambra.

Alhambra reflections

Possibly the most impressive historic complex we’ve ever visited and, I assure you, that is saying something.

Click here for The 17 Best Things to Do in Granada

Festivals and Events in Capileira

In January, locals celebrate the Night of San Antón with copious bonfires.

Easter is typically popular in the Alpujarras, then in the last week of April, Capileira honours its patron saint, the Virgen de la Cabeza.

On August 5th, locals carry the Virgen de las Nieves up to the summit of Mulhacén.

Then, on November 1st, Capileira celebrates the Fiesta de la Mauraca (Chestnut Festival) with plenty of roast chestnuts as well as anise liquor, traditional music and dancing.

Capileira History

All three Poqueira Gorge villages are known for being a bit late to the party, thanks to their remote, defensible location. While habitation in the area dates back to several ancient civilizations including the Phoenicians, Romans and Visigoths, it was the Moors – who ruled the region from the 7th to 15th centuries – who left the most noticeable historic impression.

The architecture, styles, irrigation, language and traditions all show their Arab roots, combined with Christian influences after the Spanish re-conquered most of Andalusia in 1492. Of course, while most of the area fell at that time, many of the villages in the Alpujarras held strong until the late 16th century, when the remaining Moorish population ultimately succumbed as well.

Although most people were expelled from the villages so they could be repopulated with other Spaniards from all around the country, one Moorish family was allowed to remain in each village to teach the new residents the best methods of local farming.

Narrow street in Capileira Spain

When to Visit: Capileira Weather

At 1,435 metres above sea level, Capileira is known for comfortable summer temperatures (although it can still reach 30C+ in July/Aug), clear skies and low humidity.

Of course, the winters (and even shoulder seasons) can be quite cold. There is a fair bit of rain and snow in Capileira in the winter (especially November), although it rarely settles in and the weather tends to change quickly.

Square with tables in Capileira
You will be able to eat outside for most of the year.

Temperatures in Capileira Spain vary from 16/29C (low/high) in July to 1/10C in January.

Capileira Summary

With its spectacular location at the top of the gorge, Capileira offers the most expansive views of the Poqueira Gorge. It is also the best village to base yourself for hikes to the summit of Mulhacén and the steep, scenic streets of Capileira are ideal for aimless wandering.

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