This is not about the glorious city of Granada, but its glorious province. Of all the provinces that I know in Spain; of all the regional units in Europe and beyond, Granada must have the most varied scenery in such a small area. And what scenery!
We could start at the historic coastal town of Almuñecar and take the slow mountain route (A4050) to Suspiro del Moro. The well-surfaced road passes through the fruit-packing suburbs and then past vast orchards of avocado, mango and peaches and through the villages of Jete and Otivar.
As it twists its way upwards towards the heavens, thick pine forests give way to barren white indestructible mountains and massive valleys, hundreds of metres down from the side of the road. Then, far in the distance behind us, the sea comes into view. Higher and higher, we feel we are getting closer to the sky.
Eventually the road reaches its peak. Then, immediately, round the corner the landscape changes dramatically. Here is a long, straight flat road through forests of Aleppo pine until suddenly hilly pastures, wheat fields and abandoned farmhouses appear. Then it becomes flatter and drier again until we reach the Suspiro del Moro with its view of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada.
But this is just one of many stunning drives in Granada – all completely different. There are fabulous views from the fine mountain road from Lanjaron via Orgiva and Pampaneira (A348) to the sublime village of Capileira – second highest in Spain and almost touching the blue sky. The lower mountains are clothed in green, although a little parched right now, but never white. The autumn colours in this area are marvellous.
East of the city, towards Guadix (A92), we pass through the Sierra de Huetor with meadows, waterfalls, with snow in the winter and almond blossom in spring. Pine forests dominate the olive orchards. Beyond Guadix (A92N) with its great cathedral, cold in the winter, the terrain soon becomes lonely, arid and featureless as we approach the province of Almeria.
The steep, winding road to Venta de Zafarraya (A402) also offers spectacular views of towering mountains and deep valleys, remote villages and scattered houses. Once you reach the top, and pass through this village, turning right for Alhama de Granada, the change is unexpected.
The road passes through flat landscape, ideal, at this altitude for the huge plantations of tomatoes, lettuce and various other vegetables. Here they are grown, packed and transported, mainly towards the coast. Then we pass roadside clusters of palm trees past “Lake” Bermejales to meet the A4050.
Starting from Granada City we are heading for the Sierra Nevada (A395), once again a different topography. Beyond Pinos Genil, we ascend towards the ski resort of Pradollano. This is Alpine Granada, culminating in Spain’s highest peak, Mulhacen, at almost 3’500 metres.