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Curious about the best things to do in Sierra Nevada National Park? You’re in the right place!
Sierra Nevada National Park and Natural Park are located across the Granada and Almeria provinces in southern Spain. Home to lush rivers, breathtaking waterfalls, and some of Spain’s highest mountain peaks, there are a lot of fun things to do in Sierra Nevada.
In the winter, it even hosts the southernmost ski resort in Europe which basically means you can go swimming on Granada’s coast in the morning and go skiing in the evening. Not many places let you do that.
If you are curious about what to do in Sierra Nevada, make sure you read on, as this post will cover an array of fun activities – most of them eclectic outdoor experiences.
Things to do in Sierra Nevada National Park
Hike the highest peak in mainland Spain
Sierra Nevada is home to the highest peak in mainland Spain, Mulhacen (3479 masl.) Hiking there can involve two days of demanding trekking, sleeping in a refuge or in a tent, or it can be an easy one-day hike.
Climbing the peak is only possible in summer due to the snow in the winter. In the summer months, there is a shuttle bus taking you from the village of Capileira to Mirador de Trevelez, which is the highest point it can drive you and way higher than private vehicles are allowed.
It gives you 6 hours to do the hike before picking up at the same spot. This route to the top is easy, with a clear trail. However, you might want to take it easy due to the altitude, especially if you travel from the coast on the same day.
If you choose any of the other trails to the top, a two-day hike is recommended as it gets very long and strenuous to finish before nightfall. From Trevelez, you can climb it up past Siete Lagunas, and from Capileira, you can stay the night at Refugio de Poqueira and continue to the top the morning after.
It is also possible to tackle it from Hoya de La Mora, stop by La Veleta Peak, and sleep in any of the three refuges between the peaks before reaching the top the next morning. Note that these refuges are only stone shelters without any facilities as opposed to the one in Poqueira.
No matter how you decide to tackle Mulhacen, I am sure you will enjoy the experience! It is one of the absolute bucket list hikes in Spain. But the hike should not be taken lightly, and you must prepare for both what to wear hiking in hot weather and in cold weather as temperatures can change dramatically at that altitude.
Before hiking, make sure you have these essentials:
🎒 Hiking backpack: Here’s the one we use & love!
💧 Water bladder: This is the water bladder we recommend!
💦 Water bottle: We love and use the Hydroflask 32 oz!
🥾 Hiking boots: These are the hiking boots we use!
🩹 First aid kit: This is a great first aid kit for your backpack!
🥨 Snacks: Clif Bars are our go-to on the trail!
🌲 Hiking poles: These hiking poles are a great option!
❄️ Microspikes: These are the ones we use when the trails are icy!
☀️ Sunscreen: This is a great hiking sunscreen!
Visit the Alhambra
The Alhambra in Granada sits at the foothills of Sierra Nevada and is a must-visit when in the area. The majestic Moorish complex is one of the most visited landmarks in the country, and not without a reason.
The palaces and fortresses tell the tale of the different cultures that inhabited Andalucia, from the Romans to the Moorish and eventually the Christian kings who added to the complex. The Generalife Gardens boast a color feast in spring, and glittering fountains decorate beautiful Moorish patios.
To tour the complex, you must book tickets in advance as they sell out quickly. It is also recommended to take a guided tour so that you can learn everything about the history of this place. If you are looking for where to stay in Granada, you can stay within the Alhambra’s walls in the Alhambra Palace, located in a former convent.
Go on a road trip through the whitewashed villages
Sierra Nevada is dotted with whitewashed Andalusian villages, and what better way than going on a road trip? Whether you choose to visit them as day trips from Granada using the city as a base or to take a few nights on the road, there are so many wonderful towns to visit.
Among the most picturesque, you find Capileira, Trevelez, Dúrcal, and Monachil. You will find incredible local olive oil, olives, and honey from these villages that make for the perfect souvenir from Andalucia. They are wonderful destinations to get a feel of the true village life where they mainly sell fresh produce from small niche shops far from the major supermarkets.
Hike Ruta de Los Bolos
Hiking in rivers is fun and wondrous at the same time. The hot summer months can be pretty unforgiving in Sierra Nevada’s lower region, and one of the most beautiful river hikes you can take is the 8-kilometer-long Ruta de Los Bolos.
Passing multiple waterfalls and waterholes, you will walk most of the route in the water, so make sure you wear a sturdy pair of water hiking shoes. Parts of the trail also take you high above the river along the irrigation ditch, offering spectacular views and a fun deviation.
But if you suffer from vertigo, you are better off following the river the entire hike because it is narrow and steep up there. One section is also built in by walls on each side and overweight people will have a hard time fit through there.
The hike includes some scrambling up rocks in the river the closer you get the final waterfall, but it is totally worth it as the most spectacular waterfall you will swim in on this hike.
Sierra Nevada is mainly renowned as a ski resort, and it is a spectacular place to go skiing. The slopes run down Pico Veleta, which is the second-highest peak in the Sierra Nevada at 3398 meters of altitude, offering incredible views of the snowcapped mountains and the valley below.
If you are new to skiing, there are plenty of opportunities for group lessons and private lessons in both skiing and snowboarding. You can also rent all the necessary gear at the skiing station.
If you prefer staying close to the ski resort or are on a budget, why not grab a plastic bag and slide down the small children’s slopes that do not require a ski pass, as you can walk up to the top and slide down?
There are plenty of places to stay in the Sierra Nevada ski resort, from hotels to apartments with all necessary self-catering facilities. Note that getting to the Sierra Nevada ski resort in winter might require chains if there is heavy snowfall. There is also ample indoor parking for day-trippers.
FREE TRAVEL QUIZ
Cycling from village to village
Cycling is one of the most popular sports in Andalucia, and the steep, windy roads of Sierra Nevada are a hit among adrenaline junkies. May I also mention that you need to be in good physical shape as these hills are steep.
Yet the rewards are immense. The breathtaking views, and being so close to nature, everything slows down, making this such a unique experience compared to driving the same roads. Cycling from village to village gives you the opportunity to explore the area well, and you can stock up on water and snacks to keep your energy levels up.
Note that in the hotter months, you should go early in the day or in the evening unless you are already used to cycling in hot conditions. The best months to go cycling in the Sierra Nevada is May and September to October/November, as there might be snow in the winter, and the summer gets extremely hot, with temperatures easily exceeding 40 degrees Celsius.
Visit the witch village
Sierra Nevada is home to one of the most unique villages in Spain. Known as the Witch Village, Soportújar is completely witch themed with a dedicated witch trail. There are statues of all sorts of creepy beings like spiders, witches, and dragons. A large Hansel and Gretel house balancing in the air on long, skinny legs as well as several smaller details around.
This is not only a fun town to visit with kids but also for adults with an inner child. It is one of the lesser famous towns in the region, making it even more of a special experience. Close to Soportújar, there is a tiny village, Pampineira, that is worth visiting on the way. It is tiny, mainly one small street, but so charming. It is a small artisan community where you can shop for handmade goods like rugs, textiles, and ceramics.
Organize your hiking with our
Notion Hiking Planner!
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Rock climbing in Cahorros de Monachil
Cahorros de Monachil is one of the most popular hikes in the Sierra Nevada, with its hanging bridges, waterfalls, swimming holes, and complicated sections where climbing around and under the canyon wall is the only solution. But this area is also extremely popular for rock climbing. There are excellent walls for climbing, so there is no excuse – grab your climbing gear and buddies for a greater adventure than the hike itself.
The climbing area is mainly from the big hanging bridge and beyond. Some local companies or climbing groups might also organize excursions going inside the caves that hide in the canyon, but this would only be possible for experienced people.
Go canyoning in Palancón
One of the most fun activities to do in the Sierra Nevada is canyoning. There are several rivers to explore, but among the best ones is Palancón near Puerto de La Ragua, which separates the Granada side from the Almeria side of the national Park.
There are also opportunities in Rio Verde in Otívar which is technically not in Sierra Nevada, but a short drive south and one of the most lush and beautiful rivers in the area. It is possible to hike up the river and swim in the swimming holes, but a canyoning adventure is so much more exciting!
Canyoning is a fun activity for the whole family, jumping into water holes, rappelling down waterfalls, and sliding down natural slides. This is basically a natural water park explored in a safe environment with security gear and a professional guide.
Explore the wildlife
Sierra Nevada is one of the best places to see wildlife in Spain, with a wide array of species. One of the most common animals you might see is the mountain goat, the beautiful Spanish Ibex. In some places, you might get a very close encounter as they are used to having humans around.
However, you must remember that they are wild animals and never try to touch them, chase them, or feed them. Instead, enjoy the magical moment you are so lucky to share with these majestic creatures. There is nothing like seeing mountain goats in their natural environment doing their goaty things.
But mountain goats are not the only creatures in the Sierra Nevada. Rabbits, foxes, and badgers might be seen around, and there are also wild cats in the mountains. However, these are very rare to spot, and you should consider yourself blessed if you do.
Circling above the Sierra Nevada you can see different species of eagles like Bonelli’s Eagle, Golden Eagle, Eurasian Eagle-owl, Common Kestrel, and Little Owl. It is truly worth bringing your binoculars and a camera with a zoom lens if you fancy unforgettable pictures!
Besides, there are also different reptiles like lizards and snakes, as well as different types of frogs. If you like bird watching, there are over 60 species of birds living in the national park area. Among them, you find Goldfinch, Dartford Warbler, Serin, and Ortolan.
Cross country skiing
If you have been curious about cross-country skiing in the Sierra Nevada, you should head to Puerto de La Ragua on the border between Granada and Almeria. At the visitor center, you can rent skis, and there are slopes around the foothills of El Chullo Peak, which is Almeria’s highest peak but has a steady not-so-steep slope making it perfect for cross-country skiing.
It is an absolutely incredible place to strap on your skis and walk around the white-covered mountain as you have Granada’s 3000-meter peaks right in front of you, making this one of the best winter views you will have in the Sierra Nevada.
There is plenty of parking at Puerto de La Ragua, but note that the road is often closed for heavy snowfall, so make sure you check the weather conditions, and local Facebook groups might help indicate if the road is open or not.
Final Thoughts: Sierra Nevada National Park Activities
This post was all about the best things to do in Sierra Nevada National Park. Enjoy your trip and happy trails!
There are so many great things to do in Spain! Check out more of our Spain posts below.