Vélez Benaudalla

P9220148The first time that I ever ventured up to Vélez Benaudalla was in 1982, when the main road through the canyon had only been open for six years.

Until then, to reach Granada from Motril, you took the old N-323 from the north of Motril up through Vélez Benaudalla. On that occasion, I went up on a borrowed moped.

Since then, the village has grown, but not horrendously. In fact, from the Órgiva junction to the other end of the village, the main thoroughfare takes you past large houses with gardens above the road, where a spot of envy kicks in, and then onto the centre of the village, with its 18th century church, village fountain and long, straight main street.

When you reach the other end, after passing a few old-style café/bars, you either wind down to the canyon road or take the leisurely Gogoracha road to the top end of Motril. I recommend the second, because despite the dizzy junction with the new autovía, the road soon recovers its relaxing composure, gliding you past the cottages before the tunnel, which are a delight. Once you emerge from the tunnel on the Motril side, the views of the coast are great and the road itself is a time warp back to the 70’s.

Vélez Benaudalla’s two most important historical points are the tower, which was rebuilt by the Catholic Monarchs after the Reconqista (early 1500’s) and the Nazari Gardens that go back even further, to the times of Muslim Spain.

It is interesting to note that the name of the village comes from Arabic and literally means “The Valley of the Sons of Allah.”

One of the most cherished assets of Spain for the Muslims was the abundance of water, so fountains and running water was a central theme for any garden or palace. It is no wonder that Benaudalla, with its abundance of water and command over a then-navigable river should attract their eye. Anybody who has travelled through the canyon route will have seen water cascading down from the village, just about any time of year.

El Jardín Nazari is considered by many as the second Generalife. Whereas that might be an exaggeration to compare it with the extensive gardens of Alhambra, it is the only other Jardín Nazari in Andalucía that is open to the public.

The Jardín Nazarí is really divided into four different features: the garden in itself, the old mill, built in 1815, the ancient irrigation channels and the old manor house. If you are intending to visit it in the future, it is best to contact the Town Hall, asking for Conchi, who is in charge of Tourism, on 958 658 011.

The old town has the typically Andalusian, narrow, almost cascading streets, refreshingly decorated by geraniums and plant pots in general. Also worth a visit is the Nacimiento (spring), or the principle source of the village’s ample water supply.

And there is an excellent restaurant there by the same name, which is very popular with locals and foreign visitors alike.

Finally, the Arab tower/keep holds the Centro de Interpretación del Patrimonio de Vélez de Benaudalla, or in other words, a small heritage information office.

(News/Excursion: Velez Benaudalla, Costa Tropical, Granada, Andalucia)

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