Juan Valiente : The hub of a great holiday

Twenty eight years ago I decided to ignore the accident of my birth and search out the perfect location to spend time on planet Earth. I visited 36 countries looking for that unique dot of land that had it all. I even wrote a wish list. I still remember some of the entries:

Great climate, beautiful landscape, close to a village and ideally a city, skiing, beaches, an airport, culture – both high and low – and really clean air. No harm in dreaming. Location options rapidly diminished leaving a village on the gulf of Mexico, a farm near Sydney, somewhere in Argentina and Juan Valiente. Mexico? Too crazy. Australia? Well, I couldn’t see myself in long socks and sandals. Argentina? A bit far to nip back to Surrey to see Granny. So that left Juan Valiente and a decision never regretted. As you will see, this place doesn’t just tick all the boxes, it lights them up. Put your sunnies and a hat on and let’s go exploring.

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The National Park and the Lecrin Valley

Juan Valiente is an island set inside the Sierra Nevada Natural Park and is the gateway to the National Park. Open the door and take one step. Welcome to a world nature heritage site. From here you can walk, potentially without seeing another human being, for five days. Go South into the valley and the landscape will soften, Orange and Lemon trees replacing the Olives until you reach a lake and sub tropical vegetation. Go North and you will climb till snow swirls around your feet and the coast of Africa fills the horizon. Don’t forget to ask for a hamper of goodies if you will be away for lunch. Of course, if you would rather, we can arrange for horses or bikes to be delivered with or without guides.

Drive time by car

The Village of Niguelas

As an architect I have worked on houses in forty seven villages throughout the province. Without hesitation I can say that Niguelas is the best of them all. It takes two minutes to drive or a leisurely twelve minutes to walk there along a track cut into the mountain side. Here you will find bars, restaurants, pharmacy and medical centre, exquisite monuments, two markets and a curious mixture of bohemian foreigners and locals so old that they could have been stolen from a museum.

The Alpujarras

The acclaimed hill country of Gerald Brenan’s “South from Granada” , the Alpujarras is a collection of high white villages clinging to the landscape. Traditionally sheep and goat country, the locals maintain their lifestyle through tourism, carpet weaving and gourmet produce. A dramatic contrast to the vibrant cosmopolitan buzz of Granada, the Alpujaras is time-locked and by exploring it we can unravel what rural Spain must have been like a 100 years ago. The Alpujarans are fiercely protective of their culture, living in the houses of their forefathers, eating the ham and drinking the mosto (home brewed wine) for which the region is famous for. We can arrange guides and hampers or you can explore for yourselves.

Granada

Considered along with Venice and Prague to be one of the three most beautiful cities in Europe, Granada never disappoints. Home to the Alhambra, voted eight wonder of the world and the Albaicin, another world heritage site, it is a delight for the senses. But this city, where Moorish and Catholic cultures converge, is more than monuments and postcard architecture. Granada is vibrant. I love to sit in one of the many squares, newspaper open, coffee and churros at my command, watching life revolve. A gypsy plays impossibly complex Flamenco, an impeccably dressed old boy feeds the pigeons, lovers do as lovers do and the flamboyant, hot blooded Mediterraneans go about another day. A city of tapas bars, guitar makers, street markets, basement Jazz clubs, churches, brothels, parks and paseos (promenades), all life is here, watched over by the granite faced towering mountains of the Sierra Nevada. Come and be part of it. If in so doing, time flies and the wine flows a little too much, we have three flats in the heart of the city where you can spend the night.

La Costa Tropical

Not as famous and thus as exploited as the Costa del Sol, Granada’s coastline is a mix of agony and ecstasy. The agony comes from the proliferation of hydroponic plastic greenhouses which produce 30% of all the cucumbers and tomatoes eaten in Europe; the ecstasy from such beautiful communities as Salobreña and Cotobros which are as close as you will get to unspoilt seaside resorts. Of course we will advise you of where to find the best beaches and restaurants, golf, water skiing and diving.

Sol y Nieve Ski Centre

With over 100km of pistes and at between 2100m and 3300m altitude, Sol y Nieve is the highest ski centre in Europe. The season usually runs from late November till early May and skiers typically enjoy 70% of sunny days. The staff at Juan Valiente will be happy to arrange your passes, equipment hire and instructors as required. So why not get up early, fuel up with our substantial breakfast, carve your passing in the powder snow and descend from up high back home here for lunch and a rummage in the bodega.

Doubtless, somewhere in the infinite universe, there is a better location. But until Richard Branson gets his spaceship to work, I and hopefully you, will happily settle for Juan Valiente.