We have been travelling now for about 7 months and during that time we have stayed on some 30 campsites and in 8 apartments or hotels. Whilst our general lifestyle has been nomadic, moving on every few days or so, there have been a few occasions when we have found somewhere so special that we have based ourselves there longer and really got to know the area. Beas de Granada was one of those places, and we stopped here for a total of 8 weeks, going off on side trips to Seville, Córdoba and the south coast of Spain, but always coming back to our peaceful place in the mountains. We all LOVED it here.
It is hard to put my finger on exactly why we all loved it so much. The weather wasn’t perfect during our time here and we had days of snow, rain, hail and high winds. We also had days when the cloud came down and the mountains disappeared, but for some reason this place really got under our skin. On the days when the sun was out, it had that elusive combination of factors that, for us, made it perfect (or pretty close anyway).
1. The Views
The views from our campsite and from everywhere around this small town are absolutely stunning. Its backdrop is the Sierra Nevada mountains which, whilst we were there, were snow-capped and utterly beautiful. We spent so much of our time outside – walking, cooking, playing, eating – and they were a wonderful constant, standing quietly and majestically in the background.
On the hillside above the town is a striking landmark called El Fraile (the Friar). Legend has it that in Moorish times a wealthy merchant hid his fortune in the area before heading off to war. There were once two identical statues, but one was torn down by people searching for the treasure. Fortunately they left the second one standing, and it is a wonderful sight, often silhouetted against the white peaks behind and always watching over the town.
2. The Walks
We did lots of walking whilst we were staying in Beas de Granada. There were so many walks we could do straight from the campsite and we thoroughly explored all of the valleys and ridges around the town. There is a path from the town that takes you all the way to Granada and we walked part of this too, but we didn’t make it all the way there because we got involved in some olive harvesting with a family we met en route. However, the views from this path of the full length of the Sierra Nevada mountains are some of the best you can get anywhere in the area. More often, we didn’t meet another soul on our walks and felt as though we had the hills and the views to ourselves.
From here we also drove to nearby Monachil, from where we did possibly THE best and most fun walk I have ever done – walking the hanging bridges of Los Cahorros gorge.
3. The Sweet Shop
One of the first times we walked down into the town from the campsite, we stopped to allow a car to pull in at the side of the street just in front of us. A little girl got out, went through a doorway into what looked like a house (it was covered with one of those door curtains that you put across doorways to stop flies coming in) and reappeared a few moments later carrying a bag of sweets. We were curious so we pushed on the door and entered what can only be described as an Aladdin’s cave of sugary treats. A huge glass fronted cabinet was piled high with brightly coloured penny sweets plus there were crisps, drinks and sometimes donuts or even mini pizzas.
From then on, whenever we walked down into the town, we would stop at the sweet shop for the girls to get a selection. It was a great way for them to practice their Spanish! The man who ran the shop was always pleased to see us and never hurried the girls as they tried to choose which ones they wanted. One day he was trying to say something to me which I couldn’t understand. I handed him my phone and invited him to type it into Google translate (I don’t know where we would be without this amazing app!) and he just typed one word: paciencia! (patience!)
4. Its Proximity to Granada
Beas de Granada is only about 12 miles (20 Kilometres) from Granada itself, making it a great base from which to explore this wonderful city. There is a bus service from the town into Granada, which operates eight times a day Monday to Friday and four times on Saturday. The bus also stops right outside the campsite, saving you the walk down the hill into town and back.
Granada is a big city with lots of amenities. A huge urban motorway carries a never ending stream of traffic through the city, past giant shopping centres and apartment blocks. It has an impressive cathedral and the wonderful Alhambra Palace. It also has an old Moorish quarter (the Albaicin district) with narrow lanes and cobbled streets where you could almost think you were in Morocco itself. Here you will find restaurants serving North African food, cafés where you can smoke hookah pipes (shisha) and stalls selling all manner of delicious (and stupefyingly sweet) pastries made with things like almonds, dates, pistachios and pine nuts. In this district there is also a lookout point from where you get spectacular views of the Alhambra palace with the Sierra Nevada mountains behind.
5. The Peace and Tranquility
We were in Beas de Granada during the off-season and so for most of our stay, the campsite (Camping Alto de Viñuelas) was really quiet and incredibly peaceful. There was a steady stream of other visitors in caravans or motor homes, but most would only stay for one or two nights before moving on. During the day they would make the trip into Granada to see the Alhambra and often we would be the only people left on the site. Beas isn’t really en route to anywhere and so the road past the campsite was always very quiet as well. This meant that most days all you could hear the soft tinkling of the bells on the goats as they grazed the nearby hillsides or were herded down the road to different pastures. Or you could hear distant buzz of the olive harvesters and see the white smoke rising up from the piles of leaves the farmers were burning after they had pruned the trees. You could hear the birds, and you could hear the bells of the 16th century church in the town ringing out the midday time check.
We all felt very much at peace here. But it wasn’t just the stillness and the tranquility that we loved. It was also the light. And the sense of space. From here we could see for miles all around and I felt such an expansiveness and openness as a result. It was a real antidote to the huge and tightly packed campsites we had experienced along the coast in Spain where all you could see was the back of your neighbour’s caravan or motorhome.
6. Roast Chicken on a Sunday
Fairly early on in our stay at Beas, we discovered that on Sunday mornings there was a small market in the main square (Plaza Alto). Then, in the square in front of the church there was a mobile van that sold rotisserie chickens, chips and alioli. Nothing else, just those three things, but they were delicious! So that became our lunch on a Sunday. We would walk down into town with an insulated bag, collect our chicken, chips and alioli and march quickly back up the hill to the campsite, where we would devour it as though we hadn’t eaten for a week! By the end, we were even placing an order and specifying the time we wanted to pick it up.
7. The Sunrises and Sunsets
I will let the photos speak for themselves here. Just beautiful.
8. The Almond Blossom
We were fortunate enough to be in this area when the almond blossom came out, covering the hillsides in the most beautiful pink and white flowers. But pretty as the almond blossom looks, its real enchantment for me was the sweet scent it gave off. As you walked past groups of trees, the heady aroma would hit you and it was simply heavenly!
9. The Pace of Life
Walking through Beas de Granada feels like you have entered a world where time has stood still, or at least it has slowed right down to walking pace. It has everything a small town needs: two tiny grocery stores, a pharmacy, a post office, a hardware shop and a small gift shop. There are a couple of restaurants and a couple of bars where you get a plate of tapas when you order a drink. A notice board outside the town hall building suggests that there are classes in Zumba and Pilates and the town has its own band and small public library. But nothing here is geared to tourists. There are no souvenir shops and no tourist menus written in four different languages. For the most part, it is incredibly quiet and no-one seems to be in a hurry.
People here farm olives and almonds in the same way that their ancestors have for hundreds of years and you are just as likely to have to move out of the way of a tractor on the road as a car. They seem to have that precious thing that so many of us often feel we have mislaid somewhere: time. Between about 2pm and 5pm everything stops. The shops close and everything goes quiet. They re-open later on and will then stay open until well into the evening. Many restaurants don’t open for dinner until 8 or 9pm. But then this is true of most of Spain, even in the big cities. No-one we passed as we walked around the town ever seemed to be in a hurry, and again this is true of most of the places we have been in Spain. In the cities, people stand and wait for the green man when crossing the road, even if there is no traffic in sight. And on city metro systems, everyone stands on the escalators too, so there is no need for signs instructing you to ‘stand on the right’.
10. The Friendly Locals
Starting with Manuel, Jesus and Abir, the team running the campsite, everyone we came into contact with in this small town was so friendly and helpful. People we passed on the street would say ‘hola’ or ‘buenas dias’ or more usually just ‘buenas’. We started to have simple conversations with the people in the supermarket (again with the help of Google translate) and one day they made a point of letting us know that they would be closed the following day for Andalusia Day so that we didn’t turn up and find them closed. Then one time when we stopped in the bar for a drink on our way back to the campsite after a long walk, the bartender put the kids channel on the TV for the girls to watch. There were lots of little things like this that made us feel so welcome in this little town and we will remember our time here with great fondness.