The Alpujarras is a natural and historical region in Andalusia, Spain, on the south slopes of the Sierra Nevada and the adjacent valley. The average elevation is 1,200 metres (4,000 ft) above sea level. It extends over two provinces, Granada and Almería.
There are several interpretations of this Arabic name: the most convincing is that it derives from al-basharāt meaning something like "sierra of pastures". The administrative centre is Órgiva.
The Sierra Nevada runs west-to-east for about 80 km. It includes the highest mountain in mainland Spain: the Mulhacén at 3,479 metres (11,414 ft) As the name implies, it is covered with snow in winter. The snow-melt in the spring and summer allows the southern slopes of the Sierra to remain green and fertile throughout the year, despite the heat of the summer sun. Water emerges from innumerable springs; human intervention has channeled it to terraced plots and to the villages.
Olives are grown on the lower slopes, and in the valley below which extends from Órgiva to Cadiar, through which flows the Guadalfeo river. The plentiful water, milder climate, and fertile land favour the cultivation of grapes, citrus, and other fruit. There is also a developing production of wine on the hills between this valley and the sea, and almond trees thrive on its southern slopes. The eastern end of the Alpujarra, towards Ugijar in the province of Almería, is much more arid.
The Alpujarras today
The high villages have lost population as younger people seek work in the cities, in Spain and elsewhere in the European Union. Tourism has developed as the natural environment of this area has become better known. Visitors include day-time or weekend visitors from Granada and longer-term tourists from northern Europe.
There are bus connections with Granada and Motril; as the motorway extends along the coast, the airports of Malaga and Almeria are brought closer in time. There are also numerous foreign residents, who have also brought income and employment to the area. The villages have good-quality accommodation and shops for tourists. "Serrano ham", cured in Trevélez and other high-altitude villages, is a major local product. Mountain biking and walking is provided for, and the GR 7 / E4 European long-distance footpath passes through the region.
The Sierra Nevada and most of the Alta Alpujarra is protected under various national and international schemes, ensuring that the rural and the urbanistic features are preserved. The priority now is to promote "sustainable tourism" and as far as possible to extend the tourist period.
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