This month I wanted to revisit the charming town of Alhama de Granada. It´s a short drive inland, North West from Granada. With a population of around 6000, Alhama de Granada played an important part in Andalusia´s past.
My last visit was almost 10 years ago in Mid August. With temperatures over 40ºC at midday, it was hard work walking around in the hot sun. Recalling the historic buildings and its wonderful views I returned this April to see the most important sites in Alhama. The springtime weather was ideal with susnshine and mild temperatures.
History of Alhama de Granada
The first thing that you notice when you get to Alhama de Granada are the impressive views of the Sierra de Tejada. The surrounding landscapes are dotted with Olive trees, old farm buildings and agricultural land. On a hillside, the town is a clutch of whitewashed houses and colourful geraniums. Its unmistakable Andalusian charm seems untouched by time.
The War of Granada
Back in 1482 this location in the Poniente Granadino was the first town that the Catholic Kings gained from the Muslim rule. Many say that this was the beginning of the war of Granada. Which later lead to the complete downfall of the Kingdom of Granada.
Although the conflict between Christians and Muslims had been present for many decades across Spain. The detonating moment came in 1482 when The Emir of Granada, known as Muley Hacen refused to pay the taxes due to Isabella and Ferdinand.
Churches in Alhama
Not only does Alhama have five churches. It also has two Hermitages too. These small chapels are called Ermita de los Remedios and Ermita de los Ángeles, both date from the 17th century. So its clear what a prosperous and important town this was in times gone by.
- Church of Our Lady of Incarnation 1482 Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación
- Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen dated 1589 or the Church of Our Lady of Carmen was built on the site of a convent, later it was adapted for church use in 1634.
- Church of Our Lady of Sorrows or Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de las Angustias is a Baroque style temple which was completed in 1762
- The Iglesia de la Inmaculada or Church of San Diego was built in 17th century on the site of a Franciscan convent.
- Church of the Jewel Iglesia de la Joya located on Plaza Rey Alfonso XII is a 19th century construction.
When you arrive to Alhama de Granada probably the first church you will come to is the one shown below. The Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen which is next to the gorge and by the side of the Town Hall. This was built in the 16th century as a convent and then later altered to become a church.
Iglesia de Santa María de la Encarnación
As with most Andalusia towns and villages the church tower dominates the skyline. Notice as you walk towards the church along Calle Baja Iglesia, the rock used as part of the construction of the street. Along this street is the Inquisitors House. The temple next door was built in 1482 on the ruins of the mosque. Santa Maria Church is a gothic style construction, unique as it´s the only totally gothic style church in the region.
As you walk through the archway past the church tower you come to the main square of the old town. This was the central hub of Alhama centuries ago. With the commerce and administration all being done in this area.
Plaza de los Presos
One of the buildings that caught my eye in this square used to a synagogue. Back in the 13th century yet later became the Granary for the town. You can where the sacks of cereal and grain would go in via the large doorway. It´s now a private home.
Hospital de la Reina
This historical context is important as the monuments in Alhama date to this period. For example this Hospital seen above was built in 1485. It was important as it was the first of its kind in the area, a military hospital to provide support for Isabel´s soldiers.
In the same part of the old town of Alhama is the church and the prison. The square below is called Plaza de los Presos. Prisoners Square
1884 Andalusian earthquake
In 1884 Alhama was severely affected by the Andalusian earthquake. The town is located close to Ventas de Zafarraya faultline. In fact most of the buildings were destroyed by the 6.7 earthquake. So it´s pretty amazing that we can still visit some monuments from the 16th century now. With such devastation a hundred years ago, the main buildings in the old town remained intact.
There is a square in a residential part of Alhama de Granada that is dedicated to Alfonso XII who helped the people rebuild after the earthquake. On the foot of the statue you can see the date 25th December 1884. Sadly it struck on Christmas day.
Where to Eat – Alhama de Granada
Restaurants and Tapas Options
In the centre of town at the busy Plaza Constitution there are quite a few options of where to eat. The most popular is El Tigre. This traditional bar has a good wine selection and bold ceramic tiles lining the walls. Friendly owner Antonio offers delicious montaditos loaded with different options. The one below has salmorejo, red peppers, Serrano ham and chorizo balanced on the top.
From Tuesday to Sunday the kitchen offers roast meat and fish dishes. I was there on Monday. Even though the kitchen was closed, Antonio still rustled up a lovely selection. Wild Mushrooms, prawns, a cheese board, with salmon and mojama.
He also offered us some of the local wine produced from one of the wineries in Alhama de Granada. The whole meal cost around 25 euros for two. Excellent value and a great experience. Bodegas Aranzada in Alhama is worth visiting if you want to purchase local wine when you are in town. (they are located on Camino Torre Solana, 34)
Outskirts for lunch El Ventorro. Just look at the menu (shown above) on the wall outside. Really authentic. Something that struck me was El plato del gañan, roughly translates as the Countrymans dish. (a hearty dish of black pudding and fried egg, not great on hot days)
The food here is rustic country food. Chicken breast comes chargrilled with a generous side of potatoes and green peppers. The place was full and everyone seem quite happy with the service there. My dessert bienmesabe I had to order just based on the name. Bienmesabe means it tastes good. It was a dessert (shown above) based on Cinnamon and Almonds.
Arab Baths in Alhama
Since the 12th century the baths at Alhama de Granada have been in use. This is situated a few kilometres from the town centre. The Balneario de Alhama offers spa treatment and thermal water with medicinal properties. Used since Roman times you can still bathe there today.
Pantano de Bermejales
After leaving Alhama de Granada we headed to the vast reservoir of Bermejales to take a few pictures before winding our way back home. This was built in 1958 but when you are there it feels older. I found it a little strange driving over the reservoir wall in the car. It was worth it for the great photos we took of the turquoise water.