The Sierra Nevada National Park is a paradise for hikers, with an incredible range of scenery on offer. As you climb up from Granada, lush river valleys and pine forests give way to seemingly barren mountains with spectacular views over the surrounding countryside and Granada. On a clear day, you can even see right across the Mediterranean to Morocco.
One of the most appealing aspects of walking in the Sierra Nevada is the incredible peace and quiet. Due to the huge size of the national park and the fact that few people outside Spain are aware of the excellent hiking available, you can spend the whole day in the mountains and hardly meet anyone. In fact, the Sierra Nevada National Park covers 85,883 hectares, making it the biggest national park in Spain. A further 89,966 hectares are designated natural park, giving a total protected area of 174,849 hectares. Virtually the whole of that area has also been recognised as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO.
The highest peaks in the park are Mulhacén (3479 metres above sea level, making it the highest mountain in mainland Spain), Veleta (3396 m) and Alcazaba (3336 m). At these high altitudes there can be significant snow cover from November to May, and the north side of Veleta is home to the Sierra Nevada ski station, which hosted the Alpine World Ski Championships in 1996.
The park is incredibly rich in plant and animal life, much of it unique to the area. You are likely to see lots of rare flowers, birds and lizards, as well as the occasional ibex (mountain goat). See our guide to the fauna and flora of the Sierra Nevada for more information.
As in any mountain environment, safety is paramount. Particularly in winter the mountains can be dangerous, but even in summer the weather can change abruptly and dramatically at high altitudes. The vast majority of visitors to the park encounter no problems, but each year a few people do get into serious trouble, and very occasionally lives are lost. See our guide to staying safe in the mountains for advice on sensible precautions to take.