A gentle loop walk from Mairena which passes Júbar and its historic church dives into the Laroles Valley between oak forest and chestnut trees, and reaches labyrinthine Laroles, before turning around to Mairena.
This walk alternates between land that has been tamed and land that remains wild, enjoying the interesting contrast between them. You’ll pass mountains slopes that have been terraced to allow agriculture, orchards that droop under the weight of their fruit, and acequias (irrigation ditches) that channel precious water from the mountains and distribute it between the fincas (small farms).
On the other hand, the Laroles Valley is untamed, rugged and breathtakingly beautiful. The valley slopes which are sometimes just a vertical rockface are too steep to terrace. The native oak forest appears chaotic and full of life when compared to the carefully manicured orchards. Finally, you’ll enter an area of ancient and gnarled chestnut trees, after which this walk is romantically named Sendero Castañas Milenarios (the Walk of the Thousand-Year Old Chestnut Trees).
You’ll reach the villages of Júbar and Laroles, both typically Alpujarran and poised on the southern flanks of the Sierra Nevada mountains with a spectacular panorama unfurling before them. The church in Júbar is thought to be the oldest in the Alpujarra, and is certainly one of the more interesting having been a mosque, a Roman Temple and a church (occasionally all at the same time!).
I enjoyed the views from the main road above Laroles; the jumble of cubic buildings appear to tumble down the mountain below you.
There are some exposed and unfenced edges throughout the walk; be careful and remain on the path.
There are several stretches where you must walk on the road as there is no pavement. Walk on the left side facing the oncoming traffic unless there is a sharp left bend, in which case you should cross to the outside edge to allow drivers the maximum time to see you.
Sections of the path are along rocky steps; be careful as these may be slippery, especially when wet.
Sturdy hiking boots and a waterproof/wind-break layer are required. Walking poles will be a big advantage on some of the steep ascents and descents.
Ensure your phone is fully charged; if you doubt the battery will last throughout the hike, it might be beneficial to bring a power bank.
Make sure you bring enough water. It is recommended to drink 0.75 litres per 1 hour of hiking in hot weather.
Be sure to bring plenty of sun-cream and a healthy respect for the sun.
Points of Interest
The site of the church in Júbar has previously been a Roman Temple, a mosque and a refuge for Jews. There was even a period where it served all these purposes at the same time. Interestingly the symbol that tops the church tower is a combination of a cross, a star of David, a crescent moon and an arrow, which reflects this religious tolerance. It is thought to be the oldest existing church in the Alpujarra, though there are conflicting opinions on exactly how old it is.
Laroles is positioned at the gateway of the only north-south mountain pass that runs through the Sierra Nevada mountains. Therefore, the village played a key role throughout the 16th century which saw the Moors expelled from their final strongholds in the mountains. Today the village is famed for its fruit and chestnuts.
Food and Drink
Laroles makes a perfect stop for lunch or a halfway drink and snack before you return to Mairena. There are a few options to buy food or drink, and fountains where you can refill your water bottles.