This town is famous for its Arab baths used since the Roman times. The town (Al-hamman) used to be an important Nasrid stronghold and was a symbol of the Christian Reconquista of the Kingdom of Granada. Marked by a strong Muslim presence, the town is set within the natural surroundings of Los Tajos, and just as the poet Teóphile Gautier wrote, “…hanging from an enormous rock or peak, just like an eagle’s nest”.
> By Mónica Jiménez / Granada Hoy
This is an absolute must-see when you are following the routes of Ibn Battuta and of the North American writer Washington Irving. Its location within the Parque Natural de la Sierra de Tejeda, de la Almijara and de la Alhama turn the city into a breath-taking natural balcony; a rocky buttress surrounded by the gorge, through which the river runs. From here you get a wonderful view of the city in perfect harmony with nature.
The houses of Alhama lean out over a crag and you will be able to see the geological phenomenon close up: nature’s masterpiece that has become an official Natural Geological Monument of Andalusia.
With a surface area covering approximately 1,060,000 square metres, this natural space surrounds the hill on which the city is built to the south. It rises up and can be seen from a distance of four kilometres. Through it runs the Río Alhama.
Los Tajos de Alhama came into being after the erosion of the rock by the Río Alhama. It is more than 50 metres deep. The water of the river wore away a crack in the rock and over the ages it reached this impressive depth.
The route to reach this natural monument begins in the centre of the town, the Plaza del Ayuntamiento where the local tourist information office is also located.
After about a hundred metres you will come across the Patio and Iglesia del Carmen that dates back to the first half of the 17th century built in Renaissance style. It is still used as a place of worship to day, although on the 2nd February 1810, after the French invasion, it was temporarily used as a warehouse. During the Civil War it was looted and the altarpiece parts of the building were destroyed.
To the right-hand side of the church you can see the Mirador de Los Tajos, from which you can enjoy one of the city’s most impressive views. These views will inspire you to continue on your journey!
Two hundred metres further on Calle Peñas turn left into the narrow and steep Calle Baja Iglesia. This street, and in fact this whole part of town, dates back to Arab times. This street leads you to the Iglesia de la Encarnación built on the site of a former mosque between 1505 and 1560. It is thought to be the first consecrated church in Alhama and in the entire former Kingdom of Granada. The church reflects the devotion that Queen Isabel felt for the Virgin Mary. It is believed to be only Gothic church of the diocese of Granada and has been officially named a Monument of Cultural Interest. Inside there is a museum housing an important jewellery collection and an embroidered chasuble, which according to tradition, belonged to Queen Isabel herself. It can be visited on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from between 12pm and 2pm.
The church’s façade still retains a commemorative plaque of the earthquake. It reads: “At nine o’ clock at night on Christmas Day the earth began to tremble”, It left 745 people dead and 1253 injured. When King Alfonso XII acceded the throne, he visited the city and appealed for funds from the people to restore or reconstruct 14,000 houses.
Attached to the tower that looks out over the Plaza Real there is a fountain. Last year a commemorative plaque was placed here, commemorating the five hundred years since the death of Queen Isabel, further highlighting her close link with the area.
With the Christian conquest other new buildings were built, such the old Prison, built in Renaissance-Mudejar style. Carlos II ordered it to be rebuilt in 1674 in the centre of Plaza Real (sometimes referred to as the Plaza de los Presos). It was also used as the municipal outbuildings and still retains the traces of its many uses.
Right in front of the square is the Pósito (the old Granary) dating back to the 13th century. Today it is a private house and a locksmith’s workshop. Next to it is Calle Zapateros and by going down here you will reach the point where the new part of the city and the Rafael Alberti quarter meet, with an amazing natural backdrop.
Take Calle Carril Bajo and you will pass the fountain of the Puerta de Granada. Here, the stony slope of the Huerta de Santa María leads you into Los Tajos. At the end of the steep path, at the confluence with the Aserradero ravine, there are three fantastic viewpoints, from which you can get great views of Los Tajos.
Continue on the path, taking the track to the left of the three viewpoints, below the Adarve cliff. It will take you to the Fuente de las Tejas, hidden among the brambles. Nearby is an small opening called Palo de la Hoz.
A few metres away, a practically demolished building reminds us of the presence of settlers here. It is one of the eight mills that populated the countryside of Alhama until the 1970’s that made use of the water current here.
Along this route you will pass by small patches of cultivated land and leafy riverbanks, dominated by poplars and willows. Cattle and sheep are also raised. Their shepherds often take shelter in the natural caves at the foot of the cliffs as temperatures can trip to 4 degrees in the middle of the afternoon.
Next to the Cuava del Enchinar cave you will see the Escaleras del Diablo (the Devil’s steps). It is a steep walk but well worth the views.
The easier option is to take the Escaleras de la Mazmorra to your right. Here one can get memorable views of the city in the background with Los Tajos on the left.
- Distance: 4 kilometres
- Duration: 2.5 hours