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Motorhome Travels – Andalusia

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At the end of January we set off in the motorhome to explore Andalusia, specifically the province of Granada. We had a plan to get up close to the snow at Europe’s most southernly ski resort in the peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The scenery in this part of the world is stunning. Beautiful blue skies, snow-covered mountains in the distance and pretty little towns and villages. Unlike the coastal regions, there are plenty of full-service motorhome park-ups.

Anyway, as it turned out, from the very beginning things did not go exactly to plan! Read on to see where we got to and some highly recommended motorhome park-ups.

Vélez-Rubio

Our first planned stop off was the town of Vélez-Rubio just off the A92N motorway heading west from Murcia. There is a full-service motorhome park-up there on the edge of town which we had seen, but not stayed at. The town looks interesting and is within walking distance of the park-up.

However, we got there and it was full of motorhomes (surprise!). There was no room to park, but we managed to get some fresh water from the service area. Although even that was a hassle as the tap did not have a proper hose connection. We had to fill the tank, 10 litres at a time with a funnel!

The final nail in the coffin for this park-up was the thick, acrid smoke coming from a nearby farm. It was wafting across the entire park-up and seemed to infuse everything with a nasty smell. Now, I should explain, this time of year does have a lot of smoke in the air in rural areas. Farmers are clearing weeds, and then burning them to prevent uncontrolled fires in the hot summer. Many people also have fireplaces on the go for heating. However this smell, was not just wood, it smelt like the farmer was burning rubbish as well.

Whatever, we decided to carry on. There was nothing here for us. The beauty of vanlife is if you are not happy with a place you can just up-sticks and head someplace better, which is exactly what we did!

Cúllar

About thirty minutes further along the A92N is the little town of Cúllar nestled in the hills. Here next to a leisure and recreation area on the edge of town is a nice little park-up with full services.

We did not make it into town as we were both tired, but the area looks nice enough, with plenty of scenery and walks in the hills.

After a chilly night (down to 3C), we were able to fill up our water, and empty the toilet before continuing west. We will definitely come back here in the future as it is a nice location and handy point to stop when driving along the motorway.

Guadix

Guadix is a small, historic city surrounded by mountains. You can see the snow on the Sierra Nevada from the park-up.

We have stayed here before when we were heading to the south coast last Autumn. The park-up is really just a huge open space right in the centre of town. The beautiful cathedral and park is all within walking distance. There is also a Carrefour Express and a Telepizza less than five minutes away.

The car park is busy until about 9pm and then things quieten down, but expect it to get busy again by 8am the next morning. Not a place to stay if you want a quiet morning in bed!

We have never used the waste disposal or water filling facilities as they look a little grotty. However the city itself is well worth an explore, and being able to get a take-away pizza is a nice plus too!

Marchal

This park up is only ten minutes from Guadix in the so-called badlands surrounding the city. This place has a nice motorhome park-up at the entrance to the town.

The town is a UNESCO heritage site, and has the largest concentration of cave-houses in Europe. I was expecting some kind of prehistoric caves, but the trogloditas (or cave dwellers) actually live in really pretty houses with normal fronts. The people over the centuries have burrowed into the soft sandstone cliffs to create the rooms inside the cave-houses.

A really stunning area, the badlands are well named with plenty of cliffs and unusual scenery that could be from another planet. There are plenty of well signed walks around the area.

There are water and waste facilities, although on the day we stayed, the toilet waste was blocked! Another lesson learnt – make sure you empty your toilet and waste every chance you get. Just because there is supposed to be a waste disposal, does not mean on the day you show up there is!

La Peza

From Marchal, the drive to La Peza was quite sketchy. Lots of narrow single-track road, clinging to sheer cliffs with evidence of sections that had collapsed and been rebuilt. A fun, and scenic drive, but no good if you suffer vertigo!

The town itself is stunning, nestled in a valley surrounded by hills and mountains in the distance. The towns claim to fame is how they rebelled against Napoleon’s forces that were occupying Spain in 1810. They reenact the battle, with some of the towns folk dressed as the French, as the rest of the town send them packing! There is even a artillery gun outside the park-up, although this is Spanish civil war era one, not Napoleonic.

The park-up is on a terrace on the side of the valley, with the town laid out in front on the other side of the valley. It is a really pretty place, although very steep walking at times. There is also a ruined castle across the valley with amazing views of the whole town.

The water and waste facilities in the park-up were perfect – some of the best I have seen, with everything easy to use, clean and most importantly, working!

In town are a couple of bars, a couple of small supermarkets and a barkery. The bread, in particular was delicious!

La Guardia de Jaén

Today we planned to make the drive up to the ski resort of the Sierra Nevada. When I punched in the details into Google Maps, the 40 minute drive I was expecting from La Peza was nearer three hours because of lane closures. That coupled with the patchy snow because of the fine weather we had been having since before Christmas made us rethink our plans.

So instead we turned North and headed towards the city of Jaén and specifically the park-up at La Guardia de Jaén (literally the Guardian of Jaén). This is another small town clinging to the side of a steep mountain with a fortress guarding the approach to the city of Jaén. The castle here is not ruined, and can be visited. The walks around the town are quite hard going in places as everything is so steep.

The park-up has water and waste, and amazing views for miles down the valley to the south. There are two terraces for motorhomes on the side of a very steep hill (second gear in places). We stayed for two really relaxing nights.

Baeza

We headed North East for about an hour on the A316 to Baeza. Yet another beautiful town sat atop a steep hill. The town itself was quite flat, which was nice after a week of walking up and down steep hills.

According to Wikipedia, Baeza has the best preserved Italian Renaissance architecture in Spain. We had a wander around the cathedral and university areas and they certainly looked old and well preserved. There were tiny cobbled passageways, a bit like York, but without all the tourists.

We stayed at a park-up near the centre of town, next door to the bus station. This means the town is handy to walk around and explore, but you will have to listen to the sound of buses until late.

There is a Dia supermarket next door to the bus station so we were able to pick up some supplies before setting off again.

Bienservida

Today we set off for a one hour journey to our next park-up, but it took over three hours. We got caught in protests from Spanish farmers who were blockading the road we needed with hundreds of tractors. I do not know anything about the issues, but as someone innocently driving through the area it was very annoying. I think the farmers would get better results blockading the cities where the law makers are based rather than rural roads and inconveniencing regular people.

Anyway, we got to the town of Bienservida eventually, and it was probably my favourite park-up of the whole trip. The facilities were only six months old, next to a new swimming and leisure centre. There was fresh water provided, waste and toilet emptying and even free electric hook ups. The parking spaces were huge, with plenty more space around if the designated pitches were all occupied. If you want electric, you needed to be quick. As soon as a pitch became free, a motorhome would swoop in and grab it. Honestly, free electric is the motorhome equivalent of catnip to a cat!

The itself town was lovely, with very friendly people. There was a supermarket, bars and a bakery, so everything you need. The scenery was great, with plenty of walks around the area. This part of the trip is actually in the region of Castile-La Mancha, and the landscape is noticeably greener than Granada. I think they get much more rain compared to where we live in Murcia. There were streams here with running water – something I never see at home! The scenery and greenery reminded me of the Scottish highlands (but with better weather!)

Elche de la Sierra

Our final stop-off was Elche de la Sierra. The drive here was stunning, lush green forests and hills, amazing views and lots of places to stop along the way to take a break.

The town was in the foothills of the regional park. It had a new leisure centre and motorhome park up. Why do park-ups always seem to be near leisure centres, and so many have only been around for a year or so. There was waste and water facilities, and even picnic tables here. There were some nice scenic walks around the hills here which the dog liked very much. The area was floodlit until late, but it never got annoying, and the sounds from the sports field was never very loud.

Again, there was a Dia supermarket in walking distance for supplies. (Dia seem to be the dominant brand in this area).

The town seemed nice enough, but we did not check much of it out as we had a longer drive next day, back to our home in Murcia.

Coming home

The drive home took about two hours, although we did have a break at the very busy motorhome park-up in Caravaca de la Cruz about half way. This city is one of the five most important sites of Christianity, and the cathedral here has some remnant of the cross of the crucifixion. Unfortunately today was the day it finally started raining, so we did not stick around.

This has been our longest trip yet. We have seen some amazing sites, and cannot wait for the next trip!

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