Sierra Nevada Attractions
Sierra Nevada in SummerThe Sierra Nevada is a massive mountain chain extending for a distance of almost 110km/70mi between the Río Almería and the Valle de Lecrín, with the highest peaks in the Iberian peninsula, the Cerro de Mulhacén (3,481m/11,421ft) and the Pico de Veleta (3,428m/11,247ft).
From November to June the Sierra Nevada offers magnificent facilities for winter sports, and as the most southerly winter sports region in Europe usually has a blue sky and brilliant sunshine as well as snow. Throughout the area much effort has been devoted to improving the available facilities, with ski-lifts and ski schools: the existing pistes are constantly supervised and are being extended. In addition to hotels there are numerous mountain huts provided by various skiing and climbing organizations.The most southernmost ski resort in Europe, Sierra Nevada was the site of the World Alpine Ski Championships in 1996. Because it is so far south there are some years when there is a lack of snow but when it does fall, Sierra Nevada is great because you never get the bone-chilling temperatures you may encounter in more northerly areas. With a top elevation of 3,330 meters and a vertical drop of 1,198 meters, Sierra Nevada has 19 lifts and 30 miles of marked runs and 22 hotels. On a clear day you can see the coast of northern Africa but usually there is lots of snow even though you can water ski two hours away or be touring Granada and its Alhambra, just 30 minutes from the wide-open slopes.
Road to the Pico de Veleta
The road to the Pico de Veleta is an enchanting trip (which can be made by bus as well as by car) into the glorious mountain world of the Sierra Nevada on a good asphalt road which climbs from 640m/2,100ft to 3,392m/11,129ft, making it one of the highest mountain roads in Europe. This continuous ascent of almost 35km/22mi, without any shelter from the sun, calls for an early start, and warm clothing should be taken for protection from the cold and the wind on the top. A striking feature of the run is the contrast between the lush southern landscape of the Vega de Granada and the snow capped peaks of the mountains.
Bank of the Río Genil
From Granada the road runs east along the slopes above the right bank of the Río Genil and reaches in 6km/4mi Cenes de la Vega (alt. 737m/2,418ft). Farther up the valley the road crosses the river, passes a side road on the left to Pinos Genil and winds its way uphill, with gradients of 8-12%, between slopes which are still covered with olive-groves; there are magnificent views to the rear down the valley, extending in clear weather as far as Granada. After 20km/12.5mi or so the road passes the 1,500m/4,920ft mark, and soon afterwards the trees disappear.
The winter sports region of Solynieve (Sol y Nieve = "Sun and Snow"), is at altitudes of between 2,000m/6,560ft and 2,600m/8,530ft, well provided with hotels, chalet colonies and blocks of flats, mountain huts, ski lifts and cableways.This ski resort prides itself on the amount of sunshine it recieves each year and on being the most southerly ski resort in Europe. The ski season traditionally runs from late November or December to April or May.
From Solynieve there is a road (4km/2.5mi) to the regularly if unimaginatively planned resort of Pradollano (alt. 2,100m/6,890ft), from which a chair lift goes east to the Parador Nacional (alt. 2,500m/8,200ft) and a cabin cableway south to the hotel village of Borreguiles (alt. 2,600m/8,530ft). From Borreguiles there are chair lifts and ski tows to pistes at higher levels, including one to the Pico de Veleta.
Pico de Veleta
It is possible to drive round the Solynieve region, remaining on the main road and bearing left to reach the Parador Nacional Sierra Nevada, beyond which, off the road to the left, is the Residencia Universitaria (alt. 2,550m/8,365ft). The road to the Pico de Veleta continues through the bare mountain landscape and comes to a side road on the right which leads in 2km/1.25mi to a beautiful mountain lake, the Laguna de las Yeguas (alt. 2,970m/9,745ft; mountain hut). After another 5km/3mi the road ends at an altitude of 3,392m/11,129ft on a rocky platform just below the Pico de Veleta (3428m/11,247ft), the second highest peak in the Sierra Nevada. On its slopes, at a height of 2,850m/9,350ft, is a 30-meter radio telescope for space research established by the Franco-German Institute of Radio astronomy.
From the Pico de Veleta a narrow unasphalted road winds up first round the summit and then descends in hairpin bends on the south side of Mulhacén to the picturesque village of Capileira (alt. 1,436m/4,712ft), 37km/23mi from the Pico de Veleta, in the wild mountain region of the Alpujarras. From here there is a good road (20km/12.5mi) to the beautifully situated little town of Orgiva (alt. 417m/1,368ft), with the Palacio de los Condes de Sástago. The road then continues west by way of Lanzarón (alt. 687m/2,254ft) to join N 323, which runs north to Granada.