The Sierra Nevada
The Sierra Nevada Nature Area, comprising its National Park and Nature Park, is an impressive, compact mountain range which boasts the highest peak on the Iberian Peninsula: Mulhacén (3,482 metres). It forms part of the Penibetic range, which stretches from the south-eastern part of Granada province to the western borders of Almería. Due to the great variety of its landscapes and the uniqueness of its natural features, Sierra Nevada is included in several different categories of protection. Apart from being a Nature Park and National Park, it is also an internationally recognised Biosphere Reserve.
Thanks to its altitude range and climate, it is home to a large number of plants which have adapted very specifically to the harsh conditions found there. On the higher peaks, like Veleta and Tajo de los Machos, unique species such as the Sierra Nevada violet and plantago nivalis (known locally as "estrella de las nieves" - snowstar) can be found growing beneath overhanging rocks and in cracks in the rock faces. At this altitude there are also beautiful glacial valleys such as Siete Lagunas. In the mid-mountain area, the landscape is dominated by deciduous woodland with Pyrenean oaks, maples, wild cherry and chestnut trees. This woodland alters the appearance of the landscape from one season to another: in autumn the trees begin to shed their leaves, producing an overall golden brown colour; but when the new shoots bud in spring the mountainside is flooded by deep tones of green. At lower altitudes there are holm oak groves like those at Montenegro and the watercourses are flanked by riverine forests.
This great variety in plant life and climate has contributed to the area's wealth of animal species. In the higher regions, alpine accentors, blue rock thrushes and red-billed choughs can be seen in flight. If you wait quietly, a dipper, an oropendola or a brightly coloured kingfisher may just appear among the shadows of the riverine woodland. A golden eagle could also make an appearance at any time.
The woodland and thick scrubland supports a large community of mammals, including wild boar, foxes, badgers and genet cats. From the Dílar River Valley and Poqueira Gorge you can see mountain goats, a species very common in these mountains, climbing up the slopes and walking along the rocky peaks. The invertebrate population is also very representative, many species being unique to this environment. There are over twenty species of butterfly and more than thirty types of beetle.
This area was occupied by Tartessians, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans, but it was unquestionably the Moors who left the greatest legacy. Their influence can still be seen today in local architecture and in irrigation systems known as "acequias". The villages of the Alpujarras are of great architectural interest, with their white houses clinging to the mountainside, their small windows, flat roofs and narrow chimneys, not to mention the characteristic porches, "tinaos", which span the streets from one side to another.
A major tourist industry has sprung up in this area. Those interested in skiing, mountaineering, fishing or walking will find this the perfect place to spend their holidays.
The Sierra Nevada ski resort is located at Pradollano in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The Sierra Nevada is a dramatic, rugged and extensive mountain range, the highest in Europe after the Alps and the most significant section of the Cordillera Penibética. The protected area encompasses 86,208ha of torrential rivers, sheer-sided gorges, stony scree slopes, glacial lakes between snowy summits and, in the foothills of the Alpujarras, cultivated terraces of almond trees and vegetables. There are over 20 peaks more than 3,000m, which makes it the second highest mountain range in Europe after the Alps. The two highest peaks in the Iberian Peninsula are in the park, the Mulhacén at 3,482m, closely followed by the Pico del Veleta, at 3,396m. On a clear day these mountains can be seen from as far away as Africa.
Pradollano is Europe's most southerly ski resort and it is small in comparison to other European resorts. However, the facilities are considered top-rate and it has hosted numerous national and international ski and snowboard events.There are more than 75 pistes, some at over 2,500 metres.
The Sierra Nevada ski resort has numerous runs of varying difficulties to satisfy all levels of skiers. Natural snow is supplemented by snow cannons on some runs, and many skiers are pleasantly surprised to find that, because of its southerly position, the air temperature is usually warmer than other resorts. Depending on the snow levels, the season generally runs from the end of November or the beginning of December until sometime in April.
There are two principal areas: Borreguiles has the ski schools, cable car stations and main ski lifts; Pradollano is the ski village, with hotels, restaurants, shops and holiday apartments. As for ‘après ski’, from small intimate tapas bars to larger, international restaurants, the Sierra Nevada caters for all budgets and culinary tastes!