Home Features History Letters from Spain New Arrivals Profiles Recipes Sightseeing Vocabulary Weather

La Alpujarra - the land of the hundred year old chestnut trees

In the Alpujarra the chestnut has played an important role since Roman times, providing both wood and fruit which form part an ancestral and gastronomic heritage in the district.

In the Alpujarra, on the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada, many chestnut trees still exist after more than 400 years of life.


Originally from Asia, the chestnut was introduced to Europe by the Greeks. Then the Romans continued to cultivate them during their entire empire. The Arabs also appreciated the fruit; its culinary use in upper reaches of the Alpujarra has always had its important place in gastronomy.

In Lanjarón, Cáñar, Soportújar, Barranco de Poqerira, Pórtugos, Pitres, Busquistar, Trevélez, Bérchules, Mecina Bombarón, Nechite, Nevada… here excellent chestnuts grow. This line of villages in the Alpujarra celebrates fiestas in honour of the chestnut during the month of November, coinciding All Saints Day. One of the most important fiestas dedicated to the chestnut fruit is celebrated every year in one of the prettiest and beautiful villages found in Mecina Bombarón.

In Mecina Bombarón many locals and visitors which arrive in November, realise walks and routes through these ancient chestnuts. They also eat chestnuts raw, boiled or toasted, and more than a few dancing troupes continue into the night. In the Alpujarra there are many fiestas of this type, all original and splendid when people enjoy collecting chestnuts a perfect way to spend an autumn day. This work requires patience, good footwear, and some good gloves to not pinch the fruit when prisoner of the hedgehog. To stop chestnuts from exploding when boiling, before cooking make a small cut in the shape of the cross.

The chestnut is prepared in some of the restaurants in the Alpujarra in many different ways. The prestigious chef in the celebrated restaurant ‘El Asador’ in Capileira, José Luis, uses tricks and recipes, as done by his forefathers. It is well worth visiting his house to discover all the delights inside. French cuisine has its place immortalised by the excellent ‘Marron glacé’, a sweet chestnut covered with sugar and glazed with syrup. Those in the know assure this delight once upon a time competed with potatoes in the European diet.

They say Federico García Lorca was charmed simply by watching the chestnuts in Lanjarón, while his family would visit the famous spa with its curative mineral waters. Federico would go into the countryside to watch them grow. Later he would love to chat with the countrymen in this Moorish area at the entrance to the village. Now disappeared, but remembered by the painter José Ortuño who was fascinated painting chestnuts on his canvases, sometimes decorated with green and coppery leaves, and others naked. Some of his most famous works can be found in the lounges of the hotel Nuevo Malagueño in Pórtugos.