A visit to the Sierra Nevada gives you the opportunity to conquer mainland Spain’s highest mountain – the 3,478 metre Mulhacén. It’s doable in a day from Trevélez and Capileira in the Aplujarra or Hoya de la Mora on the peak’s other side – epic 10-hour hikes (to the top and back) that will leave you feeling utterly exhilarated.
For a gentler and shorter trek, head to the top of Mount Veleta: at 3,396 metres, it’s the Sierra Nevada’s second highest peak and mainland Spain’s third. The summit is about a two-hour walk from Hoya de la Mora and is a breathtaking spot from which to survey the park’s rugged wildernesses – so pack a picnic.
Europe’s most southerly ski resort is located on Veleta’s northern slopes. For a truly unforgettable experience, go night skiing on the three kilometres of floodlit piste that are open from 7 to 10pm. Before setting off, enjoy a free cup of soup in front of a giant bonfire that’s lit at Borreguiles, where the route starts.
A cluster of whitewashed villages scattered along the park’s southern edge, the Alpujarras are some of the most beautiful and unspoilt settlements in Europe. Don’t leave without visiting the three located close together in the gorgeous Poquiera valley: Capileira, Bubión and Pampaneira.
From Capileira, it’s about a 40-minute drive to lovely Trevélez, the highest of the Alpujarra villages at 1,476 metres. The dry climate and mountain air here are ideal for curing ham, which is why Trevélez is known for producing some of the best jamon in Spain. Be sure to try some.
Such is the Sierra Nevada’s altitude that the night skies are absolutely amazing. The must-attend event is the Night of Raining Stars, which usually occurs mid-August (this year it’s the 11th): enjoy a picnic and music performed by a string quartet as you watch this incredible natural phenomenon from a height of 2,700 metres.
For a real mountaineering experience, split your journey to the top of Mulhacén over two days and spend the night in a high-altitude refuge, where you’ll dine with fellow trekkers and sleep in a shared dorm. The fully staffed Refugio Poqueira, located at 2,500 metres, is the best. Booking in advance recommended.