Southern Spain is so much more than just sandy Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines. Andalucia is in fact home to mountains – loads of them – many of which make up Sierra Nevada National Park, the largest of its kind in Spain. This nature-filled wonderland, also considered a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve given its flora and fauna, is home to more than 20 peaks that reach over 3,000 meters, and some 50 high-mountain lakes. Not surprisingly, it’s ripe with opportunities for outdoor activities, ranging from hiking to biking, bird watching and skiing (given that it is home to Europe’s southernmost ski resort).
It’s not just about all things outdoorsy here: darling villages speckle the Sierra Nevada, and particularly in the region of La Alpujarra. This is where, amidst slithering mountain roads, you’ll happen upon the famous pueblos blancos, or white villages, a collection of idyllic towns whose architecture and style of flat roofs and tiny terraced streets harken back to Muslim times. Indeed, this area was one of the last occupied by the Moors during the Catholic Reconquista.
Though Sierra Nevada National Park is home to the second-highest mountain range in all of Europe (after the Alps), you can descend down to sea level – quite literally – after just a short drive (roughly one or two hours). That means you can be hiking or evening skiing in the Sierra Nevada in the morning, and lazing out on the beach come afternoon.