Our Most Adventurous Housesit in the Spanish Alpujarras

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I don’t think we’ve ever been anywhere as remote; not just the two of us, alone for miles.

Well, except for the five dogs, four chickens, three cats, and two horses we’re looking after.

We are housesitting a farm in the Spanish Alpujarras, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in Andalucia. To get anywhere we first have to navigate the windy dirt track, with its treacherous hairpin turns, for about 15 minutes until we reach the smooth tarmac. The nearest shop is a 30 minute drive; for more choice it’s 40 minutes to Orgiva. Going anywhere is a hot, dusty, bumpy mission, and we only leave the farm once a week to stock up on supplies.

The farm we are housesitting
The farm we are housesitting
Castaras, Alpujarras
The nearest village Cástaras only has a population of 60 and no shops

We don’t see anyone all week, except occasionally a shepherd slowly leading his herd up the steep mountain opposite us; the bells of the sheep jangling like dissonant panpipes.

The farm is on a hill and to get anywhere involves an up or downhill climb. The house is a simple Alpujarran dwelling, whitewashed and boxy. Upstairs the living area and kitchen lead on to the terrace where we eat our meals with views of the valley.

Celebrating our 15th anniversary on the terrace
Celebrating our 15th anniversary on the terrace

Below the house there’s a vegetable patch where we pluck sweet cherry tomatoes, giant courgettes, beans, and peppers. Next door are the chickens; we appreciate their eggs even if they only manage one a day.

Throughout the farm are fruit trees, tantalisingly out of season: olives, almonds, figs, prickly pears, grapes. The orange trees have enough fruit from last season to provide my breakfast juice. The yellow plums are in season though, and best of all, the mulberries.

Mulberry picking is quite a challenge. The trees are on the edge of a terrace, so I cling precariously to branches while trying to reach the fruit. It’s a messy business: I end up splattered purple, looking like I’ve been in a massacre. They are so sweet, and the hunt is addictive: I can’t stop pushing branches aside looking for another jewel. I have some competition though: the horses love the mulberries too.

Further down the hill is the stables where the two good-natured horses Sombra and Toro hang out. They are free to wander around the farm, but on these long summer days they prefer the shade of the stable, munching hay and swatting flies.

Erin with the horses and dogs going on an evening walk
Erin with the horses and dogs on an evening walk

At the bottom of the valley is the river, and the track alongside it is the only vaguely flat place around here. This is where I run in the mornings (I’ve just started training for a half-marathon I hope to do in California in October), along with four bounding dogs. We run through streams, past bushes of pink oleander, with the sweet scent of wild mint.

Does it sound idyllic?

Well, it is, some of the time. But it also has its challenges, and is by far the most difficult housesit we’ve ever done.

The house is off the grid, so we’re responsible for our own water and electricity supply. Most of the time the solar panels cover our needs, but if the power goes out we have to sort it out. Our water comes from a mountain spring and is stored in tanks high above the house. If there’s a problem then Simon goes traipsing up the hill to investigate.

We get our drinking water direct from a spring down by the river. The house owners have stuck a pipe into a rock and out comes cool, pure spring water. Delicious, but an extra task to do, filling up bottles every day.

We’ve discovered it’s a lot of work to run a farm. Our routine begins at sunrise when we feed and water the cats, dogs, chickens, and horses: with 14 animals this takes a while. I also prepare the stable and clean up the horse droppings.

Three times a week we go horse riding up into the mountains; heading out just after sunrise before it gets too hot and the flies become ravenous. It’s a luxury to be able to ride such beautiful horses as often as we like. They are fast (they were banned from a local race as each year one of them would always win), and galloping on the mountain trails is an exhilarating experience.

Horseriding in the Alpujarras
Horseriding in the Alpujarras
Simon with Toro and Sombra

At lunchtime I head down to the stables to give the horses more hay and clean up after them. Dealing with what goes in and out of animals is what farm life is all about.

The hot, languid afternoons are quiet; the house full of sleeping dogs and cats. The only sounds the rumbling of the river and the buzzing of flies, until the cicadas start their chainsaw roar. We attempt to get some work done before succumbing to an afternoon siesta, or a dip in the plunge pool. Amazingly, we have pretty good WiFi here.

Around 6 or 7pm when the sun begins to relent we’ll begin the evening routine—feeding the animals, watering the many terraces, mucking out the stables, and taking the dogs for a walk. Four of them are full of energy again by the evening, running off to chase wild boar and foxes, play fighting with each other. The fifth, Sierra, is an elderly husky with lung cancer. This walk is really for her, to get her out of the house. We walk at her slow pace, taking frequent stops to let her enjoy the cool river water and chase after frogs.

Sierra, the elderly husky, in her favourite stream
Sierra, the elderly husky, in her favourite stream
Max the dog
Max loves lots of affection and (almost) always comes when called
All five dogs on the evening walk
All five dogs on the evening walk

Lastly we put the chickens to bed, and finally sit down to dinner on the terrace.

But this is a normal day, if everything goes according to plan. Things go wrong here—a lot.

Electricity stops working; pipes burst; sprinklers explode; fridge gas runs out; dogs poop on rugs; cats vomit on doormats; horses break into hay barns; dogs need eye drops; dogs do everything possible to avoid eye drops.

And I’m not even going to go into how the jeep ended up stuck here…

Jeep in the river

The worst thing is that we can’t take a day off. When we’re tired, when we’re sick, we still have to get up in the morning, still have to carry on. It’s a big responsibility. It’s exhausting.

It’s also the most memorable housesit we’ve ever done. It’s a privilege to have such a stunning, peaceful place all to ourselves. It’s rewarding to see the animals start to trust us, to come to us for affection. It’s liberating to ride alone up into the mountains. It’s a treat to have access to a well-equipped kitchen and I’ve taken advantage, baking cakes and homemade bread, and cooking up a decadent 15 dish meal for our 15th anniversary.

It took us a while to adjust to life here, to accept when things went wrong, let the frustration go, and focus on problem solving; to appreciate the beauty and tranquility, and ignore the heat and dust and flies. Ultimately, the most challenging experiences are the ones we remember the most, and I know we’ll miss it when we leave.

Farmer Simon
Farmer Simon

Housesitting Tips

We’ve housesat multiple times in our 4+ years on the road, in Japan, Argentina, Florida, and San Francisco. We love it as a way to experience a place like a local, visit places we’d never otherwise visit, be temporary pet owners, and, of course, save on accommodation costs.

Here are our tips to get started housesitting:

  • Join a Housesitting Website – We find our housesits on two sites: MindMyHouse and Trusted Housesitters. Both are good options, although Trusted Housesitters is growing fast and has more listings. 
  • Sign Up For Emails – Housesitting is competitive these days and you need to apply quickly when housesits are listed. The best way is to sign up for email alerts from the above sites and apply as soon as new housesitting assignments come in.
  • Keep Trying – Don’t expect a response from every application—you’ll likely need to apply to multiple housesits before you’re successful.
  • Get References – If you haven’t done any housesitting before, try asking friends and family if they know anyone who needs a sitter. Without experience you might still be able to get a housesit if you are flexible on location and dates—winter in Wisconsin is going to be easier to get than summer in Tuscany.
  • Create a Detailed Profile – Make sure you have a detailed profile that lists your relevant experience, and that you send a personal application. The Globetrotter Girls’ ebook Break Free: The Ultimate Guide to Housesitting has a really helpful section on writing a winning profile and application, as well as personal anecdotes and a huge amount of information on all aspects of housesitting for both sitters and home owners. We highly recommend it if you’d like to get started housesitting. 
  • Know What You Are Getting Into – Housesitting isn’t just free accommodation; it’s a responsibility. As you can see from our housesit it can be a lot of work, so make sure you know what you are getting into and ask lots of questions before you commit.
Illustration of Frankie the Cat
The animals often like to remind us who really owns this house.

The link to TrustedHousesitters is an affiliate link, so we receive a small commission if you sign up with them. We’ve been members ourselves for years and highly recommend them if you want to try housesitting. Thanks for supporting this site by using the link.


  1. What a menagerie of animals you are caring for! I had my hands full with my first housesit via Trustedhousesitters via the most neurotic dog I’ve ever seen (Emma was a sweetheart though!), so I can personally vouch for this site as well. Also, if the zombie apocalypse breaks out, you’ll be sitting pretty at the end of the world!

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  2. This is not related to House Sitting.
    I am following your site for about 4/5 years now. Just curious about one thing that keeps coming back to me whenever i read your blogs, especially the ones like this where you actually enjoy stuff like cooking/pets/etc,
    Have you wondered ever to have kids? (sorry if this getting personal, pls do note that i held this question with me for more than 3 years before asking forth) Just that i am one of those guys yearning get to travel and cant do this for obvious reasons, i tend to get deeper in to your life stories, may be parallel traveling with you folks.

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    • Hi VK, we don’t mind you asking at all. We’ve never wanted children so it’s not an issue for us. We do know plenty of nomads who travel with kids, and who have even had babies in different countries, so having children doesn’t have to be a barrier to a travelling lifestyle.

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  3. Wow, what an experience! It looks beautiful but also like a hell of a lot of work. But like you said, I’m sure you will never forget it. Love those doggies too :)

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  4. Wow what an experience. We housesat for 2.5 weeks in the hills near Granada but only had one dog to look after and were on grid. :) You will remember this house-sit forever – a wonderful memory – especially in retrospect. The horses look amazing.

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  5. Wow, this was an awesome post, beautifully written. I feel like I am there with you, minus the flies and the vomit and the poo! So cool that you guys ride the horses, and that beautiful dog… swoon.

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  6. You guys are going to think our little village is a mecca of entertainment and excitement after this! :) Loved reading about your adventures off the grid and can’t wait to see you again in person.

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    • I know, I don’t know if we’ll be able to take all the excitement! Can’t wait to catch up with you guys and get to know the village we’ve read so much about.

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  7. Wow it definitely sounds challenging but also rewarding. I love Las Alpujarras – we stayed there over Christmas one year and there was hardly anyone around. Absolutely stunning

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    • It is a beautiful area. We wanted to explore more but haven’t had the energy. Still, we’re lucky to be staying in a part that few tourists make it to.

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  8. wow…. gorgeous but, having grown upon a farm, I can fully appreciate the challenges you’re facing as well! How long are you sitting for?

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  9. I enjoy your posts and give you props for your lifestyle. You’re making the most of your life. I’m envious! House sitting in another country seems to be a good way to experience another way of life. Hard work but isn’t anything worthwhile?

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  10. You are making me very grateful for our housesit…although we now have no cooking facilities…good thing it is summer lost of salads :-) Enjoy the rest of your time there.

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  11. Wow, what a challenge! When we house sat a mansion in the Caribbean (sounds amazing, right?) it was our most challenging gig because the house and garden were both MASSIVE and it took so much effort to clean and take care of. It made me realise I don’t ever want to live in a mansion :-) (And maids aren’t really my thing.) Good on you for accepting this housesit! Riding the horses would be amazing, but totally understand it’s a tough gig. Btw, are you guys coming to TBEX Cancun? I’m guessing no because it’s far from where you are right now, but would’ve loved to have caught up! x

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    • Wow, that does sound amazing! But I totally get what you mean. When we became nomadic we realised that having more than 2, max 3, rooms is just unnecessary for us.

      No, we won’t be going to TBEX. Sorry we missed you guys.

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  12. Wow, what an amazing experience! It’s how I’d love to live day to day, but am under no illusion that it looks really hard work! So rewarding though :-) Sounds like you’re doing a great job!

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    • It is a wonderful opportunity. I think if you lived like this permanently you’d adapt and get used to it, although I can see why the home owners need a break!

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    • That’s a good way to put it! It’s pretty cool being able to dip into someone else’s lifestyle for a month.

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  13. that looks so peaceful, although I’m not sure I’d like that much work! I hope you are getting paid well :)

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    • It is wonderfully peaceful. It’s not a paid gig but we are saving loads of money being all the way out here.

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