Sierra Nevada, with the highest peaks of the Iberian Peninsula, Mulhacén and Veleta, was declared in 1986 by the UNESCO as Biosphere Reserve, due to its natural wealth and in 1999 a large part of the territory was declared a National Park, due to its botanical, landscape and natural values.
It was formed during the Alpina orogeny in the Tertiary era and extends through the central-southeast area of the province of Granada and part of the southwest of the province of Almeria. During the medieval period it was known as the Sierra del Sol. It was baptized as Sierra Nevada from the 18th century.
During the 16th century was the scene of the Rebellion of the Alpujarras. From the 18th century it was the destination of several scientific expeditions that began to discover its great natural legacy. Authors such as Washington Irving or Gerald Brenan settled in their vicinity and dedicated some of their works to this natural beauty.
Sierra Nevada occupies a considerable area of the provinces of Granada and Almeria. With an area of 169,239 protected hectares that includes 60 municipalities of the Marquesado del Cenete natural regions, the Lecrín Valley, the Western Sierra Nevada, the Nacimiento River basin and, finally, the Alpujarra of Granada and the Alpujarra of Almería. It is isolated by the Lecrín valley to the west, the Guadalfeo Valley to the south, by the Baetic depression to the north, by the Nacimiento River to the east and by the Andarax River valley to the southeast.
At your feet you will find small towns that combine the beauty of their nature. The course of the Genil River leads us to Cenes de la Vega and Pinos Genil where the landscape gives us the almond trees in bloom. After the Canales reservoir, Güejar Sierra opens up before us. In it we can combine cultural visits with active tourism. The visitor can not leave this inland region without making an excursion to El Charcón, the Vereda de la Estrella or the Maitena River, to enjoy its natural pools during the summer. Almost a hundred active tourism companies operate throughout the province offering all kinds of activities in contact with the Sierra Nevada.
Sierra Nevada is the poetic mountain range par excellence. Federico García Lorca wrote a sketch of his indescribable chromaticism in the summer of 1918, "The Sierra is violet and strong blue for her skirt, and white diamond pink for the peaks. There are still patches of snow that resist the fire of the sun».
It is the highest mountain massif of all Western Europe, after the Alps, and the roof of the Iberian Peninsula.
From the summits of Sierra Nevada, the Mulhacén, with 3482 meters, is the highest peak of the Iberian Peninsula. Despite its altitude, it can easily be climbed in summer on the southern slope. The Veleta, with 3392 meters, is the second highest peak of the Sierra de Nevada and the third of the Iberian Peninsula, after the Aneto in the Pyrenees; it has a peculiar figure and is visible from the city of Granada. In addition to these, another 21 peaks are located above 3000 meters of altitude, among which glacial valleys and lagoons that form beautiful landscapes such as Laguna Larga, Laguna de Vacares, Laguna de la Caldera or Laguna del Caballo.
The north face of Sierra Nevada is the birthplace of many rivers located almost all in the basin of the Guadalquivir River; such as the Nacimiento River (affluent of the Andarax River), the Fardes River and the Genil River, the most important of all; on the west and south sides rivers are born belonging to the Mediterranean slope, such as the Dúrcal River, the Trevélez River, the Poqueira River, tributaries of the Guadalfeo River, which also rises in the mountains, and the Adra River and the Andarax River, with their respective tributaries. On this same slope are most of the almost 50 high mountain lakes existing in Sierra Nevada, many of which lead to the birth of rivers and streams.
In the summer after the thaw, the summits and the green meadows give rise to a great variety of endemic species and numerous endangered species.
In the Sierra Nevada, a very high number of endemisms occur, some 60 exclusive species represent the greatest biodiversity of the entire Iberian Peninsula. In these lands also grow a large number of species of North African origin, it is also a great place to study species that find their optimal habitat in Central Europe and do not live in areas as southern as Andalusia. Here all the bioclimatic floors are represented, from the warmest, the thermo-mediterranean, which is located in some areas of the Alpujarra and where holm oaks are developed next to orange trees and carob trees, combined with scrub, to the highest altitude; the oromediterranean and crioromediterranean, this is where most of the species that make Sierra Nevada in a botanical paradise appear, with the presence of arboreal and shrubby species such as Scots pine, creeping juniper, juniper, broom, hawthorn , the padded thyme and the pasture. This variety of bioclimatic floors causes a really impressive data.
There are more than 2100 species of higher plants in the Sierra Nevada, a quarter of the species nationwide. This awakens among the scientists a great interest, not only for the number of endemics of the mountain range, but also for the peninsular endemisms that are present and the scarce or rare species in Andalusia and that find here their only known place in the whole south peninsular.
The Cortijuela Botanical Garden, located on the slopes of Cerro del Trevenque at an altitude of 600 meters, has the functions of protecting, conserving, generating and researching the flora of this mountain range, especially those of its nearly 100 vulnerable, threatened species. or in critical danger.
In terms of fauna, the Ministry of Environment of Spain has classified 80 endemic animal species, the main one being the mountain goat. There are also several species of unique invertebrate animals, among which are more than 20 species of butterflies and numerous species of small birds, and an important number of raptors.
The different species can be differentiated according to the main ecosystem, which is why we find some species such as the snowy vole or the alpine accentor among the nival fauna; among the rocks and cliffs, such as the zurita pigeon, the golden eagle, the mountain goat, the snout viper or the midwife toad; among the fauna of scrubland and pasture stand some such as the dormouse, the common linnet, the bastard snake, the corridor toad or the common scorpion; among the animals of forested areas, the real woodpecker, the goshawk, the wild boar, the gray lizard or the salamander stand out; and, finally, among the rivers and fluvial groves there are the common trout, the snails, the gallipato, the terrapin, the water rat or the aquatic blackbird.
There are numerous routes to discover this natural beauty, such as the Seven Lagoons or the Dílar River Valley.
Vereda de la Estrella: It is a path that runs along the banks of the streams that make the head of the Genil River and offers interesting views of the north of the mountain massif.
Integral of the 3000 meters of Sierra Nevada: The Integral of Sierra Nevada, is a route that begins in Jerez del Marquesado, in the north, and ends in Nigüelas, in the east. Its name is due to passing through almost all peaks over 3000 meters high. And although it does not require a great technical capacity, it is not recommended for mountaineers without experience because of the physical demands of the route.
Sulayr Route: This is a 340 km long trail that goes around the Sierra Nevada, designed and promoted by some public institutions, for which several traditional trails and cattle trails have been recovered. It is divided into 19 routes, some of them already open.
For these routes there are three different refuges:
Refuge of Poqueira: At an altitude of 2500 m, located at the confluence of the Mulhacén River and the Seco River, in the Hoya del Peñón Negro on the Poqueira Gorge. It has a capacity of 87 places. The nearest towns are Trevélez and Capileira.
Refuge Postero Alto: At 1880 m altitude, located in the Loma de Enmedio, near the municipality of Jerez del Marquesado. It has a capacity of 68 seats.
Refuge Puerto de la Ragua: At 2000 m altitude, located on the A-337 road that connects the Marquesado del Cenete with the Alpujarra. It has a capacity of 32 places.
There are also some natural refuges or caves: Secret Cave, Seven Lagoons and Tunne of the Veleta.
Within the Sierra Nevada is the Sierra Nevada Observatory, located on the northern slope, at an altitude of 2800 meters.
Within the limits of the National Park is the ski resort of Sierra Nevada, is the southernmost of Europe and highest altitude in Spain. It enjoys a splendid climate and is only 27 km from Granada and 100 km from Motril, so that in one day we can enjoy the snow and the beach. It has very good services for skiing, but is also prepared in winter for those who do not dare to practice it, offering the possibility of sleigh rides pulled by Nordic dogs, there is also a Snow Park in the area called the Hoya de la Mora. In summer it also offers possibilities for mountain sports.
The agricultural and livestock activity that was the sustenance for a long time, has remitted in favor of rural tourism in Granada. The ski resort of Sierra Nevada has gained great popularity and prestige. The high number of hours of sun and good temperatures, even in winter, have attracted a large number of tourists to spend the holidays in its vicinity