The fertile Vega of Granada is an alluvial plain that spreads out on both sides of the river Genil and its affluents. At an altitude of 600 meters (2,150 square feet) above sea level and surrounded by mountains, this plain was formed by the sedimentation of clays and limestone, and it still offers excellent conditions for agricultural production.
Throughout its history, the Vega soil has been used to cultivate one or two crops for industrial purposes, and in rotation with them, a series of products for local consumption. The relationship between the city and the Vega has always been an economically and socially important one. At the end of the 19th century, and particularly between 1915 and 1931, the intensive harvesting of the sugar beet filled the gap left by the former production of linen and hemp. Around the middle of the 20th century the production of tobacco began to dominate.
Forming part of the Vega are the city limits of Granada itself and 37 nearby villages. The Vega of Granada is just part of the regional farmlands of the province. It conforms a pleasant, flat landscape that is softly colored by the array of green, brown and ochre shades of the vegetation.
The Huertas were typical constructions on the Vega: farmhouses situated near the city, framed by the lines of their paths and driveways, with abundant water and beds of flowers alongside all sorts of garden plants. For centuries they vitalized Granada. In 1494, German traveler Hieronymous Münzer wrote:
[The vega] has […] many orchards and luxurious foliage that can be watered by irrigation channels; farmland full of houses and towers, inhabited during the summer, which, when seen all together and from afar, would seem to be a populated city of fantasy. [...] The people [of Granada] take great pride in their orchards, and they are so ingenious in their ways of planting and irrigating, that nothing could be better.
In the 17th century, Henríquez de Jorquera described, in his Annals of Granada, a similar landscape:
In the dilated Jaragüi, with its plentiful and extensive orchards […] the numerous houses are hidden among the ambushed trees, with even the flow of the [river] Genil taking part in the embrace of the city. […] There are many wealthy people of grand manners and their houses are bizarre, new and modern-fashioned, with large gardens for recreation...
Traditionally, many of these country estates with orchards and farmlands were used as summer residences of the well-to-do families of the city.