From a turbulent past to dramatic landscapes and a unique gastronomic tradition, the Andalucian town of Alfacar has much to offer the adventurous investor.
The Andalucian town of Alfacar remains relatively unknown on the traveller’s itinerary, despite its natural and historical significance, and a regionally famous breadmaking tradition.
A little over 7 km from the city of Granada; Alfacar is situated on the south-western frontier of the spectacular Sierra de Huétor Natural Park, the steep flanks of which form a dramatic backdrop to this hillside pueblo. From almost any point in the town, you can look out over a landscape of epic proportions: to the south, the fertile plains of the Granada Vega sweep away to distant mountainous horizons and eastwards the skyline is dominated by the 3,394 m peak of Pico de Veleta.
From Early Times to Industry
In a land where summer temperatures can exceed 40ºC and rainfall is sometimes absent for months on end, Alfacar possesses two natural attributes that have made it an attractive place to settle, dating back to Prehistoric times.
Although it is so close to Granada, the slightly higher elevation (920 m) makes the climate a little cooler. Even more vital is the abundant supply of pure water, filtered by the limestone and dolomite rocks of the Sierra de Huétor and rising to the surface at several points, the most famous of which is the spring known as Fuente Grande.
The discovery of pottery fragments, bone tools, and human remains, suggests that people lived here in Neolithic times. The Romans were the first to direct water from Alfacar for use elsewhere, but it is during the Moslem dynasties (711-1492 AD) that the art of water management reached new levels of expertise. In the 11th century, an acequia or water channel, known as the Aynadamar, was constructed to convey water from Fuente Grande to the Albayzin, the ancient Arab quarter of Granada that occupies a hillside overlooking the world-renowned Nazrid palaces of the Alhambra. One thousand years later, this water course is still performing the task for which it was created.
Water played another important role in Arab times, the legacy of which has made Alfacar regionally famous up to the present day. The settlement was known for the manufacture of pottery, an industry dependant on water, and the name Alfacar is believed by some to be derived from the Arabic “Al-fajjar”, meaning the potter´s homestead.
Little remains from these times, although the old heart of Alfacar retains the narrow streets characteristic of Arab villages. Following the Christian Reconquest at the end of the 15th century, its destiny was similar to that of many other Andalucian towns: The Moslem population was eventually expelled, the town repopulated by Castilian families from the north, and a church built on the site of the original mosque.
However, Alfacar was to become the centre of a thriving new industry, when many of the old pottery kilns were converted into bread ovens. Over the centuries, the bakers of Alfacar have perfected their skills using water from the local springs, special yeast cultures, and wooden containers for proving the dough. Many bakeries still use wood-fired ovens, and today this unbroken tradition is responsible for supplying Granada and much of the surrounding area with fresh daily bread.
Visitors have come from as far afield as Japan, to learn the techniques of the master bakers of Alfacar, and the product has effectively been granted Protected Geographical Status. This accolade means that only bread produced here in the traditional way can be called “Pan de Alfacar”.
Alfacar is situated at the centre of an important olive growing area, and the town´s San Sebastian Olive Oil Cooperative, mills olives from the surrounding area to produce an extra virgin olive oil of the highest quality.
The Lorca Connection
While the town´s significance as the breadbasket of Granada has been over five hundred years in the making, other more recent events have also left their indelible mark. In 1936, during the early months of the Spanish Civil War, the Granadino poet Federico Garcia Lorca was assassinated by Nationalist forces, at a location between Alfacar and the neighbouring village of Viznar.
In 2009, the town hit the international headlines when an official excavation close to Fuente Grande, failed to locate the poet´s remains. Nevertheless, the controversy surrounding Lorca´s death and final resting place, looks set to continue. At least one other possible location of his remains is mentioned in the records, but it remains to be seen whether or not further investigations will be organised. What is certain is that the road between Alfacar and Viznar was the site of mass executions and burials by the Nationalists, during this tragic episode of Spain´s history.
A Mountain Paradise
Among the testaments to those dark days are the restored Civil War trenches that occupy strategic hilltop positions at Cerro del Maullo and other locations near Alfacar. Today, they look out over the 12,000 hectare Sierra de Huétor Natural Park.
This spectacular region of rugged mountains, forests and deep valleys was designated as a protected area in 1989 and is the domain of wild boar, Iberian ibex and eagle owls. Gold has been found in these hills, and the abundant native lavender was once harvested to extract the perfumed essential oil. The park is home to many other species of mammals, birds, and reptiles, and Alfacar is honoured with the distinction of having a butterfly named after it, because the lovely blue Lysandra bellargus ssp. alfacariensis was first identified here.
For lovers of wild flowers; the highways and hinterlands of Alfacar and the Sierra de Huétor, become a riot of colour in springtime. You will find crocus, gladioli, grape hyacinths and tulips, and in some places hundreds of wild narcissi carpet the woodland floor. Perhaps the most striking of all are the many species of orchid; including the breathtakingly beautiful parasitic Violet Limodore (Limodorum abortivum) and other types unique to the Mediterranean basin.
Living in Alfacar
Alfacar makes the perfect base from which to explore this diverse corner of Andalucia. The town has a population of more than 5,000 and is well served by shops, banks and other facilities. There are excellent restaurants that offer traditional local dishes, and the bars provide free tapas; a custom that only survives in Granada and a few other parts of Spain. Accommodation to suit every preference can easily be reserved, and the centre of Granada is only 25 minutes away by bus or car.
Whatever your passion, whether hillwalking, good food or discovering local history; Alfacar and its surroundings have all of these to offer and more. Here is a perfect example of the numerous lesser-known corners of southern Spain, all of them unique, but many of them virtually undiscovered by the traveller. All you need to do is step off the beaten track and indulge your sense of adventure, for this is a wonderful place to purchase your dream home for retirement, or just to get away from the hustle of city life, or as a holiday home.