Located just an hour’s drive from the enchanting Andalusian city of Granada, the Sierra Nevada is one of Spain’s most spectacular natural parks. Offering beautiful whitewashed villages, epic trekking and some of Europe’s finest skiing, there are plenty of reasons why it should be on every traveller’s bucket list. Read on for eleven of them.
Capileira is one of a cluster of small mountain villages that make up the Alpujarra region of the Sierra Nevada. Dotting the foothills of the park’s highest peaks like giant snowflakes, these beautiful settlements revolve around a close-knit, rural way of life that hasn’t changed for generations.
Less than a mile down the mountain road from its slightly bigger brother, Bubión is one of the smallest and least touristy of the Alpujarra villages. Its lovely whitewashed houses flank each side of the road and are interspersed with cosy little bars and shops, selling the region’s distinctive handwoven rugs.
Pampaneira is the lowest of the three villages that cluster around the Poquiera river. It’s slightly bigger than Bubión, but the population is still only about 350. To soak up its charm, wander around its tiny whitewashed streets – strictly pedestrian only – or sit in the pretty square and admire the snow-capped mountains.
With an altitude of 3,478 metres, Mulhacén is mainland Spain’s highest mountain. It can be climbed in a single day from either Capileira or Trevelez, or from Hoya de la Mora, a parking point at 2,500 metres, reachable from Granada. Read our guide to conquering this gnarly peak here.
For a truly epic 10-hour hike, you can conquer Mulhacén and Veleta – the Sierra Nevada’s second highest highest mountain, at 3,396 metres – in a single day. If you fancy a more chilled expedition, the mountain’s eagle-like peak can be reached by an undemanding two-hour hike from Hoya de la Mora.
The Cumbres Verdes is a lovely area for trekking and biking just outside of Granada, near the small town of La Zubia. Its highest peak is the 2,079-metre Mount Trevenque, the final stretch of which is quite steep. Lower down, there are easier walks and rides dotted with tranquil picnic areas.
Keen mountain bikers will find plenty of amazing tracks in the wild expanses of the Sierra Nevada. From easy-going routes in the Cumbres Verdes to more demanding rides higher up (especially on Veleta), there is biking here to suit every level of ability and stamina. Full suspension recommended.
The Sierra Nevada offers some of the best skiing in Europe, with a season running from November to early May. Its 106 skiiable kilometres are spread over 124 pistes on the beautiful southern slopes of Veleta, offering unbeatable views and virtually uninterrupted sunshine.
On a first visit to the Sierra Nevada, the views will blow you away. Uninhabited expanses of rugged terrain stretch in every direction and lonely peaks reach into a deep blue sky. You could visit a thousand times and never take such humbling perspectives for granted.
Located in the heart of the park, about an hour’s drive from Granada, is the skiing town of Sierra Nevada itself. It’s especially lovely to visit outside of the ski season, when you can sit on one of its spectacular terraces (some stay open) and admire the views in peace and quiet.
Nestling at the foot of Mulhacén at an altitude of 1,476 metres, Trevélez is the highest village of the Alpujarras and one of the highest settlements in Spain. This beautiful little town is known for the quality of its jamon, as the dry climate is perfect for the meat’s curing process. Don’t leave the Sierra Nevada without trying some.