Sierra Nevada to the Costa Tropical

Sierra Nevada (meaning “snowy range” in Spanish), or “Sulayr” in Arab “Mountain of the Sun”, spreads between the provinces of Granada and Almería. The mountain range is marked in the north by the city of Granada and rolls down south to the Costa Tropical, Granada’s Mediterranean coast. The Mulhacen (3.479 m.) is the highest mountain in the Iberian Peninsula and, together with La Veleta (3.398 m.), dominates Sierra Nevada and its National and Natural Parks. Its high peaks make skiing possible in one of Europe’s most southerly ski resorts. A popular, winter tourist destination near to the Mediterranean Sea, especially known for its warm temperatures and abundant sunshine.

The Sierra Nevada National Park and Natural Park

The Sierra Nevada National Park  encloses the mountain range with its fifteen peaks of over 3.000 metres. Parts of the range have also been declared a Unesco Biosphere Reserve, home to over 2,100 plant species. On the northern slopes  The Sierra Nevada Observatory and the IRAM radiotelescope are situated at an elevation of 2,800 metres (9,200 ft).

The Sierra Nevada Nature Park is below the National Park, reaching down to the “tahas” in the Alpujarra and the peat bogs in Padul in the Lecrín Valley. Keen, expert hikers, are familiar with the name Sulayr (Mountain of the Sun), it now refers to the long distance walking route through the Nature Park. The longest circular itinerary in Andalucía and in fact, all of Spain. A loop of 300 kms. passing through the unique scenery of the Penibético and the mountain villages steeped in history and tradtion. A truly enriching personal experience for all those lucky enough to do the trek.

 

Walking in the Alpujarra, above Capileira with the Veleta in the distance

Capileira, in the Alpujarra, with its unique roofs and chimney pots

The view of the Costa Tropical from the Torre de la Cebada in the Lecrín Valley

La Alpujarra

The region known as the Alpujarra lies on the southern side of Sierra Nevada extending over two provinces, Granada and Almeria. Benefitting from a more benign climate than the northern face of the range,  small villages cling to steep mountainsides, amidst green pastures and chestnut woods.

Thought to have been originally populated by the Berbers after the Moorish invasion in 711 AD, the unique Alpujarran, cubic architecture probably reflects the style of the Berber homes in North Africa. The most convincing interpretation of the Arabic name, Alpujarra, is that it derives from al-bugsharra, meaning something like “sierra of pastures”. This Arab influence is also evident in Alpujarran cooking, the colourful rugs or “jarapas” and in the name of some of the villages.

Re-populated after the reconquest by settlers from all over Spain, the Galician cow herds gave Galician sounding names to many of the villages. The village of Trevelez 1.486 m claims to be the highest in Spain but there are other contestants to the title! Due to the annual snow melt and numerous springs, it’s possible to grow oranges, olives, almonds and grapes on the lower slopes. The developing wine industry produces wine from grapes grown at altitudes over 1.000 m.

The Costa Tropical

The slopes of the Alpujarra reach almost to the Mediterranean coast. Visit the towns of Motril, with its important fishing port and Salobreña, with its higgledy-piggledy aspect on a rocky outcrop. You’ll find the better known resort towns of Almuñecar and La Herradura situated further to the west.

True to its name, the Costa Tropical boasts many tropical fruit orchards, thanks to the influence of Sierra Nevada on the climate. Kiwis, mangoes, papayas, avocados and custard apples all thrive in the sub tropical climate enjoyed by this stretch of coast. Less developed than the neighbouring Costa del Sol, due to the mountainous coastline, there are many points of interest beside the beaches. Worth visiting are Roman and Arab remains with the Alcazaba of Salobreña being particularly attractive. There are also some interesting coastal wetlands and the possibility of seeing aquatic birds.