It’s like travelling back 700 years: healthy pleasures in rural Andalucía

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A group of seven Moorish villages in southern Spain are the perfect place to recharge – offering mountain air, sparkling springs and any excuse for a party

On our first morning in Atalbéitar, I walk into the kitchen to make coffee and wonder if I’m feeling the effects of the previous night’s festivities. Then I remember it’s not me; it’s the kitchen floor, which is on a gentle slope. I have to be careful carrying the coffee back to bed as the steps are at different heights, and the doorways are small enough to bump your head on. As I lie there, beneath a ceiling constructed of woven chestnut branches and stone slabs, I survey my surroundings, and come to the pleasing conclusion that there’s not a single right angle in sight.

We are staying in a Moorish house in this Andalucían village, and I may as well have travelled back the 700 years to when it was first built. I’ve been visiting Spain for years, as my husband leads wilderness tours here and we’ve travelled from one end to the other, seeking out hidden corners and mountain trails. But arriving in Atalbéitar at night, negotiating its tangle of passageways, ducking under ancient covered walkways while spring water rushes past our feet, we both agree, we’ve never been anywhere quite like this. The village gives the impression of having grown out of the land, rather than been imposed upon it. Its streets are too narrow for cars, the village cats roam freely, and the only sound is the occasional bleating of goats across the slopes. As I look out over the valley on this crisp winter’s morning, the sun is blazing in a solid blue sky and early almond blossom adds splashes of pastel pink to the rocky hills. Everything is still and silent.

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