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Sierra Nevada, or Sulayr, Mountain of the Sun as it was called by the Muslims, rises up between the provinces of Granada and Almeria like a giant and compact massif with fifteen peaks of over 3,000 metres, including the Mulhacén (3,482 metres), the highest point on the Iberian Peninsula.
When seen from the north, from the Granadabasin, it creates a spectacular horizon of hilly peaks marked by glacial erosion dating back to the Quaternary period, the southernmost in Europe. They hide a unique, spectacular landscape of deep valleys, cirques, lakes, lateral moraines and ridges, such as Laguna de la Caldera. The mountains have snow almost all year round, which melts in late spring to feed not only the many famous baths and spas, such as Lanjarón, but also an extensive, colossal and historic network of irrigation channels that run through La Alpujarra… region; or the veritable spider's web of rivers and streams that form the backbone of eastern Andalusia, such as the Genil, Andarax, Guadalfeo and Guadiana Menor.
General informationExtension: 86208 hectares Date of declaration: 14/01/1999 Environmental units:Alta Montaña Bética mountain Routes:Motorbike Route in the Alpujarra - GranadaQuality marks:
Fauna and flora
This natural space as rightly been declared a Unesco Biosphere Reserve and is home to over 2,100 plant species, including the endangered Arenaria nevadensis, Laserpitium longiradium and yew. High in the mountains, you'll find plants that are perfectly suited to cope with the harsh conditions, such as junipers, broom and barberry, and many endemic species that shelter in cracks among the rocks, most notably the Sierra Nevada violet and Plantago nivalis (a local species of plantain), both of which can only be found in this region.
The area's rich biodiversity includes some 2,000 species of arthropod, 300 of which are unique to this massif, such as the Sierra Nevada cicada. Particularly noteworthy are the butterflies, including the Mountain apollo, the Sierra Nevada Blue and the Nevada Grayling.
The fauna high up in the mountains is especially unique and includes snow voles, alpine accentors, northern wheatears, Eurasian skylarks and black redstarts. The rocky crags provide a perfect habitat for rock thrushes, red-billed choughs and Spanish wild goats, while soaring high above you can spot golden eagles, griffon vultures and even partridges, who often dare to live at 3000 metres above sea level.
What to do
Sierra Nevada has vast experience in all things related to tourism. Traditional activities associated with snow, hunting and fishing are now complemented by a spectacular array of hiking, mountaineering and mountain biking options, most notably the Sulayr trail (19 sections covering 300 kilometres on foot) and the Transnevada (8 stages covering 450 kilometres by mountain bike).
In this natural space, there is also minibus-based High Peaks Interpretation Service, as well as interesting summertime activities carried out through the Ski resort. The latter encompass a tourist package called “Emotions, sensations, experiences”, which lets you explore astronomy, silence at altitude and the “forgotten” culture of this massif.Sports:Caving, Mountaineering, Orienteering, Hiking, Mountain biking, Off-road vehicles, Hot air ballooning, Free Flying, Skiing and snowboarding
- La Hoya del Mulhacén
- Los Raspones y Crestones de Río Seco
- Tajos del Veleta y de la Virgen
- Picos: Mulhacén (3.482 m), Veleta, Alcazaba y Cartujo
- Lagunas Glaciares de Altera (a 3.146 m)
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Situated on the road that goes up to Sierra Nevada, in El Dornajo Visitor Centre, visitors are guided by illustrious, scientific and romantic travel figures, and they can enjoy a historic journey through these mysterious lands to discover the richness of its natural and cultural heritage.
The exhibition includes an ethnographic tour of traditional activities like agriculture, mining, medicinal uses of mineral and thermal water, and the creation of snowfields. It also covers the tourism boost that took place in the area in the early 19th century when the first tram across the mountains and ending at a large hotel was built.
El Dornajo is also outward-facing and invites guests to go on the longest circular walk in the Peninsula, called Sulayr which crosses these mountains from Granada to Almería. You can also visit the viewpoint and La Cortijuela botanical garden.
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The Laujar de Andarax Visitor Centre is in the heart of the Alpujarra of Almeria, next to the river from which it takes its name.
The importance of the water resources in the Sierra NevadaNature Park is one of the central themes of the exhibition it houses. Here, a large hydrographic network supplied by the thawing summer is born that naturally divides the basin of the Guadalquivir into two slopes: North and South. The abundance of its underground waters which emanate in springs and spas was used for its traditional exploitation using irrigation systems, channels and crops cultivated on terraces. This is one of the important examples of Moorish culture in these surroundings, together with the roots of popular Alpujarra culture.
Furthermore, the exhibition highlights the importance of the mark left by other settlers, such as Castilians and Romans. The geological history of the foothills and a mineral exhibition aim to introduce visitors in the wealth and use of mining throughout history.
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This information point is located in the Plaza de la Libertad square in the village of Pampaneira, which together with Capileira and Bubión are among the most beautiful landscapes in the Alpujarra area of Granada.
During a tour of the exhibition, visitors will discover how naturalists, scientists and famous romantic writers discovered this setting and brought it international fame. It is home to the highest mountains on the Iberian peninsula and its flora and fauna are considered to be among the richest in Europe.