Include a couple of days in Almunècar on the Costa Tropical
SIERRA NEVADA, SPAIN: The mighty mountains east of Malaga offer walks of solitude and the most magnificent views from anywhere and visits to some white villages full of charm and history. As the sun hides behind the cloud, the lumbering hills darken with dramatic effect. But when the sun does appear, no matter what the season, they are an inviting prospect for a hill walker.
We walk between olive and almond trees, determined for the next idyllic white village where time has stood still, passing vineyards and through lush forests, and we have fantastic view beyond the mighty Sierra Nevada, Andalusia’s largest mountain area in southern Spain.
Click for large pictures Sierra Nevada
Sierra Nevada means “snowy mountain” and on the peaks at 2-3000 metres altitude there is snow parts of the year and above the city of Granada is Europe’s southernmost ski resort. Mostly the hikes take place at 1500 meters above sea level, where the sun shines every single day and the speed is no bigger than everyone is able to enjoy the walk, the experience and reach the evening meal at the hotel.
Guided walks. The walk of Sierra Nevada mountains has it all; the scenery with an occasional hint of danger is as dramatic as in the mountains itself and here are some brilliant places to stop for a lunch. Look for route descriptions and information for visitors, such as where to stay and how to get around. If you just want to go for a two-hour stroll, or some really challenging hiking, you can download files with detailed maps. From self-guided walks to follow groups.
Places to visit. Sierra Nevada is spread across two provinces – Granada and Almería. The white villages of the Alpurarras are a destination in their own right, and even if you decide to stay elsewhere they make a good day trip from Granada. Dotted amongst the southern foothills of the Sierra Nevada, many of these villages were until recently very isolated from modern life. As a result, they developed highly distinctive styles of architecture, pottery and weaving, all of which are deeply indebted to the strong Moorish heritage. Modern-day villagers have successfully built on these traditions and products of authenticity.
Three villages. Some of the most popular places to stay are the three villages of the Poquiera: Pampaneira, Bubión and Capileira. Many of the apartments here have spectacular views up towards the high mountains, as well as down into the gorge below. Capileira makes the perfect base if you want to climb Mulhacén, as it is the departure point for the small bus that takes hikers up to an altitude of 2,700 metres. Both Pampaneira and Capileira also have information centers.
The other main hiking base in the Alpujarras is Trevélez, famous for its cured hams. At 1,476 metres above sea level it is the highest village in Andalucía and ideal for drying the ham. Try Jamòn Serrano at any of the many bars, which have hams handing from the ceiling.
The Tropical Coast. After days of hiking, culture and history in Sierra Nevada, it is back to civilization – for a couple of days in Almunècar on the Costa Tropical, an hour’s drive east of Malaga. Here Bahia Tropical is an excellent reminder that hotel life by the sea after all has its pros.
Almunècar is a rather small coastal town with charming and narrow streets, also historic with reminders from both Roman and Moorish times. Just take a look at “El Salazon” – a market that a few thousand years ago provided the empire with salted fish.
Eat with locals. Both in Sierra Nevada and on the coast, the local population is incredibly hospitable. The mountain people are a rare reminder that the area is both a bit mysterious and not destroyed by mass tourism, a reminder that gets right in your face when returning to the developed coastal strip. Beef, lamb and chicken are the usual ingredients in an Andalusian meal, but add fish and seafood on the coast. Locals know where the best food is served. You always get space, although it may take some time. Whoever is waiting for something good does not wait in vain – and in the meanwhile you can enjoy a drink and tapas.
Tradition. The province of Grenada has a sympathetic tradition, which means that for every drink you order, the guest will receive a free tapa, a mini dish. And if you order more drinks, a new tapa will come on the table. In this way, a bar visit leads you to a small and unique meal. In the past, free tapas were a tradition throughout Andalucia, but now it exists only in three of eight provinces. If you are looking for a distinct local specialty, try the “Tortilla de Sakremonde” – a local omelet made from eggs, potatoes and sheep brains.
Make it Happen!
Touch Down: Spring is the ideal time to visit the Sierra Nevada and to go up to around 2000 metres. The countryside bursts into life and meadows soon become carpeted in red, purple, yellow and white flowers. Summer is the best time of year to climb the two highest peaks, Mulhacén and Veleta.
Stay: In the highest part of Trevèlez you will find the one-star Hotel La Fragua with superb views and an excellent restaurant.
Eat: In most parts of this area eating out is reasonably priced, especially if you know where to go. In Granada you can still get free tapas with drinks.
Play: For glitz and glamour visit destinations like Malaga and Marbella
Mini Guide: Don’t light fires or throw away cigarette butts! Unfortunately, the combination of dry conditions, heat and wind means that wild fires are common in the south of Spain, and the national park is not immune. A popular walking route up to the summit of Mt. Mulhacen starts in Trevelez and the round trip is a two-day hike. This route is one of four main routes up the mountain. Capileira Information Point, Location: Casa de la Cultura, on the main road through Capileira Pampaneira Information Point, Location: Plaza de la Libertad, Pampaneira Tel: +34 958 763127