Órgiva: Spain’s version of Shabby Chic


Órgiva is a small town a little south of Granada, nestled in a mountain range known as the Alpuharras. It is around an hour’s drive out of Granada city. There is a public bus from Granada to Orgiva (several a day in fact) and one bus a day to and from Malaga.

It’s not the prettiest of towns, certainly not when you compare it to other white towns of the Alpuharras, but it is a little off-beat and a little alternative.

People who visit the Alpuharras either love or hate Órgiva. Either they adore its new-agey slightly bohemian vibe, or they find it a bit shaby and ‘full of hippies’.

Luckily I really love it. It’s been a good few years since I was last here (maybe 15 years), however Órgiva hasn’t changed that much.



A lot of its fame arrived following the book Driving over lemons by Chris Stewart, which was phenomenally popular in the late nineties/early noughties. Some people say it did more for the region’s tourist industry than any advertising campaign could have done.

IMG_0354The author still lives nearby, and there were a glut of people who read his book and became inspired by his example, bought some land and tried to give self-sufficiency a go. Some succeeded I’m sure, but a lot had no idea what they were doing and soon gave up, returning home poorer and (hopefully) a little wiser.

Spain is full of people who have set up businesses with seemingly no research at all, e.g. people who have bought bars purely on the basis that they like drinking, failing to grasp that there are another ten bars all in the same street vying for business, and the other bar owners have established clientele and usually more idea how to run a business.


Anyway, Órgiva now is a mix of older residents who have lived here all their lives, newcomers (mostly from Northern Europe; around ten percent of the permanent population was born outside of Spain) and some alternative lifestylers “hippies” who live in the tepee village around 3 kilometres out of town. Somehow they all muddle along together.


The liveliest day is Thursday, when there is a market.  It sells the usual array of cheap clothes, fresh fruit and some artisan products.  It’s a great place for a spot of people-watching, where you can truly appreciate the eclectic mix of people who have come together in this little town.(ok, it doesn’t look exactly ‘lively’ in this photo, but trust me it does liven up later in the morning).


Twice a month there is a Sunday flea market (or ‘car boot sale’).  You see this is what British culture has given to Spain; we have introduced them to the joys of getting up on a Sunday morning to rummage through somebody else’s junk.


The notice board reflects the interests of the local foreign population; lots of therapies, yoga and lifts required to rainbow gatherings.


I hired a car for my first week here. Anyone who knows me knows how much I hate driving; I am a nervous driver and I have a habit of hitting things (walls, gate posts and that kind of stuff normally). I find it hard to concentrate on driving, reading road signs and finding parking all at the same time.


It wasn’t my fault; the wall viciously jumped out in front of me.


The first afternoon when I arrived in Órgiva I missed my hotel and got caught in the one-way system, driving past the same cafe 5 times, much to the amusement of some people sat outside enjoying their lunches. In my eagerness to avoid driving past them a sixth time I veered sharply left onto a narrow road, grazing my car on a nearby wall.

I really shouldn’t be allowed near a car. I found the driving all week very stressful; in fact it ruined the week to an extent and I found myself waking up in the middle of the night worrying about it. It’s no coincidence that the one night I slept well was Wednesday, since the next day was market day and I wasn’t planning on doing any driving.

You don’t need a car in Órgiva itself, although for visiting the nearby villages or getting to the more rural walking trails you really do.


My idea had been to find myself a place to live and stay until mid-November. However it is too early and landlords are still renting their places on short summer lets for mega-bucks. I thought things would be back to normal by the second week of September (when the schools go back) but in reality summer prices continue until October.


My room for the past week.  There are few affordable options in August/September

Even then there are few smaller places available for rent and most are larger (meaning more expensive) houses. I did manage to find one small place available in October and agreed to take it, however the owner changed her mind a few days later (probably she found someone willing to pay more money; I bartered the rent down a little, which in hindsight was a mistake). Another 1-bedroom disappeared before I could even get to it.

So all in all I have had to rethink my situation. I still want to try and find a small (affordable) place to live here for a few months, using it as a chance to get some work done without the constant moving on and the constant search for reliable wifi, however it is too expensive to stay in Órgiva whilst I wait for something to come availabe, so I will instead be monitoring the situation from elsewhere.

It all means that my plan to settle down has been delayed once again.

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