Every August a unique pilgrimage sets out from the village of Trevelez, high in the mountains of Granada. Participants make their way on foot up to the top of the Veleta peak in Sierra Nevada to pay homage to the Virgin of the Snows in a colourful festive outing. It is just another of those things which make this mountain paradise such a special place.
Sierra Nevada is Spains hottest ski resort, and it's the cool place to be in summer, too.
Towering at 11,407 feet, Sierra Nevada is the tallest mountain on the Iberian Peninsula. The high altitude constitutes a unique environment, home to the largest number of indigenous plant species in Europe, and today the Sierra Nevada is protected as a Spanish national park. A new visitors centre midway on the main road from Granada to the summit provides insights into the local wildlife as well as information on leisure activities and suggested hikes.
Then, of course, theres the snow which gave the mountain its name, Snowy Sierra. In the early 20th century the first adventurous spirits from Granada lugged their skis up the mountain by mule to enjoy a run down the slopes. From those modest beginnings evolved one of Europes most modern and best-equipped ski resorts, combining slopes between between 6,900 and 10,750 feet altitude and a sun-blessed, southerly location near some of Andalusias most famous travel destinations.
The Sierra Nevada station has 40 miles of runs, serviced by two cabin lifts, 12 chair lifts and five T-bar lifts. Over the years more attractions have been added, from snowboarding circuits to dog sleigh rides.
With plenty to tempt the non-skiing companion as well, the station is well equipped with accommodations in apartments and in hotels such as the charming 24-room Maribel, located right on the edge of the pistes. Like the other hotels in the resort, it offers all those little things skiers appreciate after a hard days sport - soaking in a jacuzzi, relaxing in a sauna, or enjoying fine food - and it is one of a growing number of establishments that open in summer. With such a complete infrastructure in place, it was only natural that Sierra Nevada should become an increasingly popular destination in the warmer months as well, and not just for the great views, for few places in Europe offer such varied possibilities especially where adventure sports are concerned.
Hiking, horse riding, kayaking, paragliding, mountaineering, mountain biking all figure on the menu, and the Sierra has become the venue of choice for major sporting events such as the Mountain Bike World Championships in 2000 and the paragliding events within the World Aerial Sports Championships of 2001. The choice of summer activities includes packages featuring everything from archery to star-gazing programmes, and the cabin lifts operate in summer to provide visitors with a birds eye view of the spectacular mountain scenery.
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Copyright © 2000 An Andalusian Experience. Text by Mark Little. Photography by J. D. Dallet - A Freelance Spain production
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Copyright © 2000-2006 Mark and David Little & J.D. Dallet