Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Die hards

The high plains directly north of Andalucia's Sierra Nevada are windswept and arid. The few people living here are mostly dependent on agriculture which  means growing olives.

Touristicly though it is an interesting area: there's much history to be discovered whereas the natural surroundings though desolate are very photogenic. 
However with the summer holidays, temperatures here are very hot, thus dissuading potential tourists. 
So it's not surprising that the hot springs of Alicún are little known.

Finding Balneario de Alicún de las Torres is not straight forward: the GPS router seems to disbelieve the existence of the place. 
Luckily the turn off from the main A-92N motorway (between Baza and Guadix) prominently features Balneario de Alicún. So off we must go.
From the motorway the road goes nearly deadstraight until the edge of this part of the Altiplano de Granada has been found. Here, the road swirls around a corner and you arrive at the balneario. Simple.

The balneario and surroundings are rather non-descript this Monday, not much seems to be going on, though some seniors are milling around the building. The entry to the balneario itself is not clear and the congregation of elders all seem to know what to do. A lady proclaims 
: closed. 
OK, though that does seem to contradict most of the ongoings, hmmm.
We cross the main road to where it looks like there is an overflow from the balneario. Some of the water flows swiftly away in what's best described as an irrigation ditch, which is enveloped in vegetation.

To the left of this is another stream with water seeking to progress through a park-like landscape. More buildings are here. Behind these, there are a few large pools to be seen. But all are empty; closed. 

Later I discover the reason. Apparently old habits die hard here: it's been decreed that after September 1 the outside swim season has come to an end. Today (mid-October) the outside temperature was 25ºC! Pity this.

In the surrounding park there is though a small pool which might afford a soak, but it's not very deep, nor any warmer than 30ºC. 

We returned to the balneario and I then followed the above mentioned irrigation ditch. Who knows, maybe there's a soakable overflow somewhere downstream?
While the adjacent track itself descends swiftly, the ditch continues it's higher trajectory. The difference gets bigger, 5-7 meters. At about 500m from the car park, there's a narrow underpass. The drop on the other side of the irrigation ditch is even bigger. From the underpass there's a good overview of the swimming pools. But empty.

Alas, it's not evident that a wild soak is to be had here ...

Concerning the termas of Alicún, there's not too much additional information available on internet, certainly not in English. 

The balneario's own website adds nothing in English, though I could swear there was more English info on the site during the summer. 
In Spanish there's more info, such as the fact that the balneario was built in 1920.
About the swimming pools, otherwise known as Piscinas Termales los Torreones:
'Enclosure of 20,000 m2 with two outdoor thermal pools, one for adults 1,000,000 liters and a children than 100,000 liters. This complex is complemented by a restaurant, 2 bars, barbecues, changing rooms, first aid, games room and solarium'
The balneario has a site on pininterest with a couple of pictures from the swimming pool area. Some added info such as the swimming pool is the biggest thermal pool in Andalucia.

The bigger of the pools, source.

On the site of conocetusfuentes.com the additional info includes stating the temperature of the water (34ºC) and that the hot spring has been
'... famous since ancient times'.
Then there's an extensive photo visit report (in French) which notes finding a cave in the back of the springs somewhere; looks idyllic, no idea whether it's naturally heated ...

The forum site Furgovw (Spanish) has an extensive posting on this hot spring, with many photo's. In this forum entry, the author adds more info but not with enough detail. Apparently the best place for a soak is behind the main bathing building .... 
If only I were not sick the day before ... 
The info found: the irrigation ditch would date back 3,000 years, rises to 15m above surroundings in some places and in this dry climate encourages a moist micro climate.

In the Spanish language Waste.ideal.es site there's a full article on the irrigation ditch itself. It is 3 km long and is of high natural significance for the province of Granada. Because of the carbonated nature of the carried water, the irrigation canal has grown in height and length naturally.

The balneario hotel itself gets just 3,5 stars from tripadvisor but based on only 3 reviewers. Booking.com gives it a 7,5 based on 6 reviews. Not much word on soaking experiences or even the use of the swimming pools.

The following gives a good overview of the swimming pool itself:

A good youtube of the surroundings of Alicun:

We get in the car and continue our descent into the gorge. We'll return to the motorway, this time via the village of Gorafe. This a picturesque route. Near Gorafe, about 5 km from the balneario, one can find dolmen from Megalithic times.

From here the road winds itself back up the opposite side of the gorge. At the top more dolmen are to be seen and we are also blessed enough to see vultures soaring under and above us.

For more info on Gorafe check this page

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