Generally considered the Capital of La Alpujarra, charming Orgiva is both larger (pop. 6,000) and lower (450m) than most of the other towns and villages in the area. Which means it has more hotels, restaurants and facilities and is generally warmer. Combine that with it being convenient transportation base for visiting the rest of the region and it is easy to see why Orgiva has become so popular with foreign expats in recent years. The very popular 2007 book, “Driving Over Lemons” by Chris Stewart, documented the life of his family after moving to Orgiva and has had a big impact on its popularity in Britain, in particular.
Some estimates suggest that foreigners make up as much as 10% of Orgiva’s population, although it is very hard to keep an accurate count because of the several hippie communes in the area. With the rather famous Beneficio to the northwest and Los Cigarrones and El Morreón south of town, the Orgiva area has become a magnet for those looking for alternative, communal lifestyles (and those who’ve always regretted missing out on Woodstock).
Meanwhile, with the stunning Sierra Nevada mountains to the north and similarly impressive Sierra de Lujar and Sierra de Contraviesa to the south, Orgiva has an abundance of tremendous scenery close by. It is also located in the Rio Guadalfeo valley right where it joins up with the Rio Chico, offering a nice mix of terrains in one small place.
While the town itself may lack some of the old Moorish atmosphere and architecture of the smaller villages closer to the Sierra Nevada, Orgiva does boast some very eye-catching church spires, a typically mazey old town and plenty of beautifully restored old buildings.
Órgiva Spain Map
Use this Orgiva map to find all the best things to do.
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Things to do in Órgiva Spain
Although it isn’t a very big place, there are still lots of things to keep you busy during a visit to Órgiva Spain.
Wander the Old Town
Every Andalusian village worth its salt has a picturesque old town area worth exploring and Orgiva is no different.
Heading up into the Barrio Alto, you’ll find a fascinating mix of Spanish and Moorish buildings (with more Spanish influence here than in the smaller villages to the north).
Newer buildings rub shoulders with classic Moorish houses with slate roofs and flower-draped balconies, while the Catholic church spires stretch up into sky, creating an iconic Orgiva skyline. Watch for the covered alleys known as “tinaos”.
Head to the La Ermita de San Sebastián
The highlight of the old town is this classic hermitage built on the remains of an ancient Moorish fortress. Located at the very top of Barrio Alto, it boasts spectacular views of the town and surrounding hills. Dedicated to San Sebastián, patron saint of Orgiva, it has been considered a refuge of divine safety ever since the bubonic plague of the 16th century and epidemic of 1724, both of which affected Orgiva less than most.
The legend of San Sebastián then grew even further when the town was spared from a disastrous flood by a huge stone that the people believed was placed there by the saint himself. In fact, it was apparently obvious, because of his statue’s mysteriously muddy feet.
However you feel about this line of logic, La Ermita is worth a visit for the views and the fascinating old town alleys, tinaos and homes scattered among the streets below.
Hit the Thursday Orgiva Market
The famous Thursday market in Orgiva is the biggest one in the Alpujarras and draws crowds from all the surrounding villages (and farms, and communes, and secretly parked vans, etc.) While you can find all the usual stuff – fruit, vegetables, home supplies, handicrafts – there are also entire hippie sections where you can find clothes, art, jewelry and many, many more items you may not even recognize and certainly don’t know what you might do with.
The market is always crowded but can also get uncomfortably hot in summer, when it is a good idea to get there early.
Peek in the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Expectación
The two massive spires of Orgiva’s main church are the first thing you’ll see when approaching the town. This 16th century baroque church also features some intriguing highlights within, including a stunning altarpiece and very famous Christ of Expiration statue by Juan Martínez Montañés.
Representing the patron saint of the Alpujarra, the church is not only impressive to look at but has some fascinating legends attached to it as well. One claims that while many of the locals hid in the church during the Spanish Civil War a pair of bombs were dropped on it, yet neither one exploded. Divine intervention? Shoddy craftsmanship? Who can say? And if you were in the church at the time, would you care about the reason?
The second “legend” is somewhat more mundane, claiming that during renovations they tried to move the statue across the Chico River but found it too heavy, gave up, and took it back to the church where all the work had to be done around it. Now, this seems more like your run-of-the-mill construction issue but, hey, maybe ye old patron saint didn’t like the idea of being hidden away in some crappy barn and took steps. Once again, hard to say.
Take a Break on the Plaza de La Alpujarra
The beautiful main square of Orgiva is elegantly decorated with intricate tiles depicting each town in the Alpujarras. Following the small pathway is like doing a mini-tour of the area, except instead of exploring new towns and fantastic highland scenery you are, you know, looking at tiles.
Check out the Biblioteca Municipal “Hurtado de Mendoza”
This extensive library just across from the plaza has a vast collection of books but is mainly famous for La Sala Cervantina (The Cervantes Room), which houses more than 600 Miguel Cervantes titles (despite the fact there is no clear connection between Cervantes and Orgiva). His most famous work, Don Quixote, is obviously featured and can be found here in over 50 languages.
Find the Statues
Not surprisingly, the most famous statue in Orgiva is also the Don Quixote de la Mancha, found directly in front of the library featuring all of Cervantes’ books.
However, there are also many more intriguing statues scattered around the winding streets of Orgiva, including the bronze statue of poet Federico García Lorca and musician Manuel de Falla just across the street from the main church.
Tour the Casa Palacio de Los Condes de Sástago
This gorgeous 16th century castle is one of the most impressive sites in Orgiva. Built on the foundation of a huge Moorish tower, it is surrounded by newer pavilions and now houses the City Council of Orgiva.
See the Molino de Benizalte
This 16th century olive mill is located along the River Chico and was fully renovated in 2009. Along with the traditional mill and scenic location, it also features an image and altar to the Virgen de las Nieves (Virgin of the Snows).
Check out the El Castillejo de Órgiva
Impressively located high above town, the Orgiva Castle is actually the remains of an ancient Moorish fortress. There isn’t all that much left of it but the views are very impressive.
Historically important as the location of an ancient settlement, this cave is interesting but not necessarily worth a special trip. If you happen to be passing by that way you may want to stop in to enjoy the impressive views. But fair warning: those sensitive to the smell of urine may want to give it a pass…
Go Horse Riding with the Caballo Blanco Trekking Centre
The gentle hills and outstanding scenery around Orgiva are tailor-made for enjoying from horseback. If the idea appeals to you, check out Caballo Blanco’s wide range of choices, from day rides (€35/hr) to multi-day horse treks up to 8 days long.
Or if you just want to visit, they also run a horse rescue organization giving people the opportunity to adopt or foster rescued animals (or simply donate to the cause).
Head Out on a Hike
There are many great trails around Orgiva just begging to be explored.
Ruta de Los Olivos Centenarios
A fantastic loop that covers a good cross-section of the Orgiva landscape, the relatively easy Ruta de Los Olivos Centenarios takes you along the Rio Guadalfeo and through a variety of lemon orchards and olive groves.
Most of the route features excellent views of the Sierra Nevada and Sierra de Lujar mountains.
Sendero de Los Mineros
Heading south of Orgiva, the lovely Sendero de los Mineros Loop climbs high into the Sierra de Lujar mountains among the old iron mines (closed for nearly a century now). The view from El Mirador de Los Mineros is stunning, encompassing Orgiva, the Rio Guadalfeo, the Sierra Nevada mountains and even the Mediterranean.
If you can’t get enough of hiking in the Alpujarras, you may want to tackle some of the famous GR7 long-distance route that runs all the way from Tarifa, Spain to northeastern France (3,300 km in total). The southern Alpujarran section passes all the way along the southern foothills of the Sierra Nevada from Lanjarón to Válor and is considered one of the most scenic sections in Spain.
With amazing scenery, easy-to-follow trails and welcoming villages, this stretch can be done in a week or less, staying in one great village after another along the way.
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
And if you are looking for guided hiking tours in the Sierra Nevada mountains and Alpujarras area, British trekking company Spanish Highs comes highly recommended.
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 also 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.
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.
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.
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.
At the top of the gorge is Capileira, a steep village somewhat inconveniently split into upper and lower sections (and with confusing trail markings). The views down the valley are incredible, though, especially at sunset.
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.
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.
Bérchules was the starting point for our 5-day Alpujarran trek – a delightful, quiet place full of fountains, local shops and surprising viewpoints.
Orgiva is rather famous for its hippie communes, more diplomatically known as “alternative communities”. Over the years, the valleys around Orgiva have become popular spots for a variety of naturist camps and permaculture farms, drawing foreigners from far and wide in search of a bohemian lifestyle.
Probably the most famous one is Beneficio, located in a quiet area northwest of Orgiva, where people live simple lives, usually only venturing into the city to buy and sell items at the Thursday market. Meanwhile, south of town, Los Cigarrones and El Morreón are two more fairly large, well-established communities.
Where to Stay: Best Órgiva Hotels
If the commune life isn’t for you, or you just have strong desire for a bathroom that has been professionally cleaned, here are a couple of good choices:
Hotel Taray en Órgiva
Also called Hotel Taray Botanico, the gardens and pool are the stars of the show and the perfect places to relax after exploring the area. If you have your own car, the free on-site parking will come in handy. The friendly and helpful owners will make you sure that you get the most out of your visit. It’s a bit out of town but that’s why its so peaceful. Try to get one of the rooms with a terrace!
Don’t let the name fool you, as Camping Orgiva offers a good variety of accommodation options (in addition to camping, of course). It is about 1 km out of town to the south and offers 1 and 2 bedroom bungalows with kitchenettes, decks and outdoor barbeques. Enjoy the pool, playground and excellent restaurant that has great tapas and is known for its Sunday lunch.
Where to Eat in Órgiva Spain
Mesón El Viejo Molino
We highly recommend this busy but friendly restaurant serving tasty Spanish food. You can’t go wrong with the pork and the inside courtyard stays deliciously cool even on hot days.
The old mill location is very atmospheric and the tapas (included free with drinks) are always tasty as well.
This local favourite is often full but offers up great variety and comes highly recommended.
Grab one of the tables conveniently located on the main street by the church to enjoy some truly excellent pizza. You can stop in for beer, tapas and people watching or pick up a pizza to go (we tried both).
Pizza N Love
The name says it all at this atmospheric place located on a nice little street in the Old Town.
Festivals and Events in Órgiva
The year kicks off with the Fiesta of San Juan on January 20th in honour of San Sebastian, patron saint. It involves a large procession including images of both the saint and the Virgin of Aurora.
Semana Santa (Holy Week) is the big Easter celebration in Orgiva (and the rest of Spain). In addition to the usual religious ceremonies and processions, you can enjoy the Feria de Turismo, Artesania y Alimentacion (Tourism, Handicrafts and Gastronomy Fair) that celebrates the many specialties of the Alpujarra region. The most impressive Easter procession is actually the Santísimo Cristo de la Expiración, which takes place the Friday two weeks before Good Friday.
The Feria Grande is celebrated over the end of September and beginning of October in honour of Saint Michael. There are games, family activities, music, dancing, workshops and even a competition to see who can make the best “migas” – a traditional Spanish specialty featuring bacon, garlic and bread.
Also, we can’t guarantee it, but there is a very good chance you’ll spot a shirtless drunk ogling women from horseback. I don’t know him personally, but it really didn’t seem like his first rodeo…
How to Get to Órgiva Spain
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.
If you don’t have a car, there are also six daily Alsa buses from Granada to Orgiva that take 1.5-2 hours.
Driving distances and times:
Granada to Orgíva: 65 km / 1 hr
Lanjarón to Orgíva: 10 km / 15 min
Soportújar to Orgíva: 10 km / 20 min
Pampaneira to Orgíva: 15 km / 25 min
Bubión to Orgíva: 20 km / 30 min
Capileira to Orgíva: 20 km / 30 min
Pitres to Orgíva: 20 km / 30 min
Pórtugos to Orgíva: 25 km / 35 min
Trevélez to Orgíva: 35 km / 1 hr
Bérchules to Orgíva: 45 km / 1 hr
The main parking lot in town can be found just above the Plaza Alpujarra next to the location of the Thursday market.
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.
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
When to Visit: Orgiva Weather
While the rest of Andalusia gets very hot in summer, the slightly higher elevation in the Alpujarras foothills keep the area far more temperate. Of course, Orgiva is among the lowest of the Sierra Nevada towns at just 450m so it tends to be a bit warmer than the rest. You can expect average lows/highs of 23/35C in July, dropping to 7/16 in January.
July and August are the only months of the year that are relatively dry. From September through early June rain occurs pretty consistently, although there are a number of microclimates within the region that create slightly different trends. Unlike the higher villages (such as Capileira, Bubion and Pampaneira in the Poqueira Gorge), Orgiva does not usually get any snow.
In general, the best time to visit the Alpujarras, taking into consideration the Orgiva climate, is between May and October, with the shoulder seasons best for serious hiking, climbing and trekking.
Órgiva Spain Summary
Órgiva is the main commercial centre of the Alpujarras region and, while it may be bigger and less architecturally attractive than the tiny Alpujarran mountain villages, it works great as a base for visiting the area. With excellent restaurants and accommodation, good hiking and your pick of alternative hippie communes, Orgiva is well worth a quick stop or longer stay. Plus, they throw a mean festival.
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