Crowned by the dreamlike Alhambra, this vibrant Spanish-Arab culture capital combines fascinating sights and lively nightlife with the Sierra Nevada on the doorstep.
Travel bucket list idea:
Sierra Nevada National Park [Hiking, mountain biking & canyoning]
Sierra Nevada National Park , Andalusia, Spain
The ‘Roof of the Iberian Peninsula’, the 3,479m high Mulhacen mountain is the highest peak in Western Europe outside of the Alps, and the centrepiece of Spain’s biggest national park (and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve).
With over 15 mountains over 3000m, the park has several distinct ecosystems – verdant meadows and streams at the lower altitudes, forests of pines and holm oaks further up, and at the highest altitudes, rock and scrubland. The park’s fauna includes boars, mountain goats, badgers, civets, golden eagles, skylarks and rare insects.
The Park offers world-class outdoor pursuits, notably mountain biking, canyoning and especially trekking – including the not difficult day ascent of Mulhacen, for views as far as Africa. For a bigger challenge, follow the spectacular 10-hour Hoya de la Mora-Veleta-Mulhacen trail over the highest peaks.
In winter, the region transforms into Europe’s southernmost ski resort, with every snow sport catered for.
Getting there & doing it
Granada is 1.5-hours’ drive and is the main staging base for excursions into the Park. So, if you want to do anything other than just a day sightseeing tour, it’s best to stay in the Park and then book on an organised tour that knows the terrain, and provides all equipment.
The Trek Sierra Nevada website has comprehensive listings of recommended, self-guided hikes. You can also book guides through their website.
La Almunia del Valle is ideally located for hiking, and will recommend/advise on the best routes (if you’re prefer to go it alone), or provide guided/organised hikes.
If you prefer to go independently, you can self-drive to the El Dornajo Visitor Centre, base for summer tours of the national park and all hiking and refuge info. If you don’t have a car, Autocares Tocina from Granada’s bus station make at least one trip year-round to the Sierra Nevada ski station in 45 minutes, and passes by way of the El Dornajo Visitor Centre for summer tours; Tocina also supplies local transport on the mountain.
The Tajo Bermejo offers the most spectacular canyoning in the park; local operator Vivak run canyoning tours of 2-3 hours there. Ride Sierra Nevada hires out mountain bikes and provides transport to trails.
A summer park shuttle bus from Capileira (a 90-minute drive from Granada, or 2 hours from Malaga) will take you up the otherwise off-limits road to the 2,700m Mirador de Trevelez. From here it takes 4-6 hours, there and back, so possible to do as a day trip. (Note, you need to book the shuttle bus by phone). If you want to the longer, circular trail, the free car park at Hoya de la Mora is less than an hour’s drive from Granada.
When to do it
For hiking and non-snow pursuits, June through August is best: ski lifts from Pradollano (2,100m) run to 2900m from mid-July to early September. The snow season runs from late November into May.
Destination guides including or relevant to this experience
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