Sierra Nevada Traverse - Spain
This week-long trek will take you across the length of one of Europe's most spectacular (yet often overlooked) mountain ranges. We trek along the spine of the Spanish Sierra Nevada from West to East with some time at the end in the beautiful Alpujarra region of Andalucia to enjoy the unique culture of the area from our beautiful hillside boutique hotel called Las Chimineas in the village of Mairena. The food here is second to none, the views are beautiful and the rooms are excellent.
The route we walk is sometimes referred to as Los Tres Miles or the Ruta Integral Sierra Nevada. It climbs up onto the high spine of the Sierra Nevada range and passes along a string of peaks without really dropping down more than a few hundred metres. We provide vital employment for local guides, cooks and mule drivers, and you can also visit the villagers in Mairena to see local Alpujarra artisans at work. The trek is not difficult, the gear is carried by mules, and it is not steep either. Once you get onto the ridge it is very faesible. The wildlife is fantastic, the views are amazing and it is easy to get to the start of the trip (we can provide transport from Malaga airport).
Along the route we can also ascend Mulhacen, at 3478m it is the highest point in mainland Spain and the second highest European peak outside the Caucasus and Alps.
We will all meet up at Malaga airport on the afternoon of the first day. From here we will all travel across to the village of Lanjaron where we will spend the night before setting off on the trek the following day. After the trek and a couple of nights at the village of Mairena at the eastern end of the trek we will again travel as a group back to Malaga airport for evening flights home.
If any clients would like to arrive early or leave later than these times, or travel to a different airport it is no problem. However we will not be able to provide transport to or from the airport in this case. Please let us know, when you are booking, if you want to make other transport arrangements and we will make sure that they tie in with the group timings.
This is a great chance for a week's active get-away. From the UK we can access this exotic location with some fantastic mountain and coastal scenery with little more than a 3-hour flight. Many of the budget airlines fly to Malaga and it can also be accessed from regional UK airports for very reasonable rates.
If you thought that short get-away trips to southern Spain were just for those wanting a bit of sun-burn and binge drinking then this trip will change your mind. We will lead an active, outdoor life for the week, moving as a light-weight and largely self-sufficient team with a flexible walking programme.
After the trek there will also be time to relax and see a bit of how the locals live in the Alpujarra. There is a wealth of local Andalucia custom and culture which is still alive and thriving in the 21st century. We will arrange activities depending on the local calender and your preferences but these are likely to include things like visiting local organic olive farms and historic buildings. Perhaps one of the biggest attractions however, is the hotel itself, which is owned by British couple David and Emma Illsley. The building is beautifully refurbished, the food is excellent, the food locally grown, and the local knowledge is extensive.
Activities and Highlights
Making a full traverse of any mountain range is a fantastic journey. We can also get to climb Mulhacen along the way. As the highest mountain in mainland spain it is great as a focus and tangible goal to have in mind. Having said that the whole trip through the Sierra Nevada National Park provides day after day of breathtaking views and almost unlimited opportunity for hiking, climbing and adventures. Being only a short flight away also means that it may well go on your list as somewhere you will want to return to again for an active get-away in summer or winter.
Las Chimineas hotel is a beautiful boutique hotel in the Alpujarra with a small swimming pool, and lots of opportunity to see and experience the local artisans at work nearby.
Dates and Itinerary
August and September are generally the clearest months for trips to the higher parts of the Sierra Nevada. June and July can also be good in terms of weather though some years there may still be quite a lot of snow left on higher ground which may force changes to the route and peaks achieved.
If you have a small group who wish to do this trek but the dates shown do not suit your availability, please do talk to us about arranging dates to suit when you would like to do it.
Fly into Malaga and travel to Lanjaron to spend the night.
5 days walking the length of the Sierra Nevada on a series of peaks forming a high ridge.
A full day in and around the beautiful hillside village of Mairena.
A final part day in Mairena before transport back to Malaga airport and flight home.
|1||3hrs||Fly from UK to Malaga Arrive by 17:00 for a 17:30 group vehicle transfer to our accommodation at the attractive mountain village of Lanjaron|
|2||Max 2600m||2 + 3hrs||Lanjaron - Lavaderos de la Reina We start by travelling by 4x4 up to the Pena Partida ridge on the north side of the main spine of the Sierra Nevada. From here we start by walking along an easy ridge with great views up and across to the main spine that we will be traversing over the coming days, including the shapely peaks of Alcazaba and Mulhacen. We then pass the Pena Partida Refuge and the path steepens before contouring around to the bowl at the Lavaderos de la Reina where there are some small lagunas, streams and a small waterfall. Here we will set up camp for the night.|
|3||Max 3154m||6-7hrs||Lavaderos de la Reina - Lagunas de las Calderetas Today starts with a long ascent up to the main ridge of the Sierra Nevada. We will probably have an early start to make the main climb before the sun hits the slopes. Emerging at Picon de Jerez we will have achieved our first 3000m peak and will be rewarded by spectacular views. It is an easy walk around to the next, Puntal de Juntillas. From here we have an optional 1hr detour out to the 3182m peak of Horcajon. We then follow the main ridge around over Buitrera and over some rough bouldery ground to Atalaya and a steep descent and climb through a small col before another optional 45 minute detour out to Mojon Alto. Another stiff descent and loose re-ascent through the Vacares col brings us to the shattered, bouldery summit of Puntal Vacares. We can then take a fairly direct line down to the Lagunas de la Calderetas where we will make camp for the night. Depending on the availability of running water, we may camp at the upper lagunas or drop down to the streams below.|
|4||Max 3369m||6.5-8hrs||Lagunas de las Calderetas - Siete Lagunas If anyone is keen, we can start the day with an up-and-back climb to Puntal Goteron, just above the camp. We then set off downhill to skirt around the huge north east face of Alcazaba before climbing up onto it near its foot and following its line on up to the peak of Alcazaba, 3369m. This long but spectacular ascent will probably take most of the morning. We can also make an optional short detour to the peak of Penon Globo on the way up or down. After visiting Alcazaba's summit we cross to a steep and loose descent down to the Sieta Lagunas. There is another optional up-and-back detour from here up to Puntal de Siete Lagunas before we set up camp next to one of the many lagunas to choose from here.|
|5||Max 3479m||7-10hrs||Siete Lagunas - Laguna Lanjaron Today we have a similar start to yesterday as we make our way down to outflank the north east face of Mulhacen before climbing up onto it and following it up to the summit. The climb is shorter and easier than yesterdays and the views from mainland Spain's highest point more than compensate for the effort. The descent down to Mosca col is made considerably easier by the well made path. From the col we have the option of around a 45minute detour out to the spectacular outlying peak of Juego de Bolos. From here you get a great view back to the north face of Mulhacen. Moving on to the Vivac de Caldera refuge we have another optional ascent of the very steep and loose scree to Puntal de la Caldera, the highest point on the spectacular curving caldera rim. We then make a rising traverse up and around the bowl of the caldera to the peaks of Loma Pelada then an easy descent to the former road along the Crestones ridge. We follow this track around and through the notch in the Respones ridge and below the steep and loose face of Cerro de Los Machos. As the track rounds the shoulder we have the option of an hour or so's detour up to the summit of Machos before continuing on the track around to Carihuelo col and refuge. From here we have an optional ascent of Veleta, which takes at least an hour, before we drop steeply down to the Lagunillas de la Virgen and follow the well made trail around and back up to the Elorietta refuge. From here we have the option of yet another out-and-back detour to the peak of Tajos Nevero. We then drop down to camp at the Laguna Lanjaron in the valley just below the refuge.|
|6||Max 3152m||4-6hrs||Laguna Lanjaron - Pena Caballera - Mairena This morning we start by climbing back up to the main ridge near Elorietta before following it over Tozal del Cartujo and a whole series of undulations before our final 3000m peak of Caballo. It is then almost all down hill, either keeping just west of the main ridge or dropping into the valley to the east, to our pick-up on the 4x4 road just below the Pena Caballera. From here we will drive down into Lanjaron before changing vehicles to drive across to the village of Mairena and our hotel.|
|7||Mairena & Around We will stay in a beautiful hotel called Las Chimineas which is perfect to allow us to relax and also have the opportunity to experience some of the local cultural and gastronomic highlights. Potential activities include; A visit with history talk to the local ancient church / mosque at Jubar, visit and talk about local farming techniques at Las Chimineas' own organic farm and a visit to Mairena olive mill.|
|8||Mairena - Malaga - UK After savouring a last slow continental morning and lunch we will drive as a group back to Malaga for evening flights back to the UK. Flights should be booked to have departures after 17:00.|
Sierra Nevada Traverse cost: £925.00
- Group airport transfers (Malaga airport)
- Local trekking guide
- All meals and accommodation on trek
- Mules for gear and food
- Transportation of clothes from Lanjaron to Mairena
- Two nights accommodation and meals in Las Chimineas
- International Airfare
- Travel Insurance
- Extra days food and accommodation
- Airport transfers if not part of group
It is important that all team members have their own travel insurance. This will need to cover all the locations and activities on the trip. Further information can be found in our "Insurance" page under the "More Information" heading to the right.
You should also register for the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which has replaced the previous E111 scheme.
As with all our trips and activities, we strive to support the people and organisations local to the trip destination. This does not just apply to developing countries. It is the local population who should benefit from their local resources and therefore see the incentives for preserving and investing in them. The local people are also usually the ones who are able to provide the deepest insight into the local geography and culture and bring it alive to its visitors.
To support these ideals we have built partnerships with local people, organisations and businesses to help us deliver a high standard of service and contribute to the local economy. In this case the hotel owners David and Emma have worked with local guides, mule drivers and staff to help create this trip, which we are sure will provide economic benefit and income.
You do need to be fairly fit for this trip, the trek and some of the climbs are moderately demanding with some long days of sustained walking with a backpack. You will enjoy the trip all the more if you are in good physical shape having exercised regularly and styed fit and well over at least the 6 months leading up to the trip. You do need to be in good health and any pre-existing medical or dental conditions should be fully appraised by a doctor and their nature fully disclosed to your insurer and to ourselves.
Type of Terrain
The ascents on this trip are not technical climbs and there is no rock climbing or specialist equipment needed. In general we will be traversing a broad, open ridgeline though it regularly rises and falls to local peaks and cols. Some of the peaks require a steeper climb and the ground can vary from a dusty path to stepping over large boulders or among slatey rocks like giant pieces of smashed crockery! Our camps will be down off the exposed ridge and dictated largely by access to running water which is safe to drink straight from the streams.
Our daily distances do vary according to the steepness of the terrain. Most days will be around 10km in length with the last day being slightly longer but it is generally a straight-forward, continuous, gentle descent at the spine of the mountain starts to peter out.
On the trek we will be staying in tents throughout. There are mountain Refuges along the route and we may or may not camp next to them. The programme is fairly flexible so if we have had a hard day and we want to camp early we can. By the same token, if we are going well we can opt to continue on and make more ground. Our local guides know the area very well and have many options in mind for places to stay.
We will of course observe best practice in terms of "Leave No Trace" camping throughout. We ask all our clients to help us with this by checking for any rubbish or general ecological disturbance before, throughout and upon leaving each camp. If we can build up a general group observance of these principles it is actually very easy to maintain.
We will be re-supplied with food and water by packs of mules where required. Our local guide will co-ordinate this at the time and it will mean that we do not have to carry fuel, food and water for the full 5 days throughout.
We will cook our meals as a group. Our head guide and staff will take the lead on this but we hope that all the clients will also pitch in and do their bit. Meals and cooking can be a great social occasion and they will be more welcome than ever after all the fresh air and exercise. The food is likely to be local Spanish fayre but with a mixture of fresh, tinned and dehydrated ingredients due to the fact that they have to make their way up onto the mountain.
- Trekking kit list (to be carried on trek stage)
- Approx 60-70 Litre Ruck Sack (needs to accomodate all personal gear plus some group gear such as tent between 3 and some food)
- Stuff sacks, waterproof, various sizes
- Insulated outer jacket/fleece
- Lightweight Waterproof Jacket, breathable
- Gaiters (optional)
- Trekking trousers x1 (zip off legs)
- Fleece/soft-shell jacket
- Long sleeved trekking shirt x1
- Long sleeved base layer top x1
- Thin liner socks x2 (optional)
- Trekking socks x2
- Underwear x2
- Trekking boots
- Crocs/Sandals/Flip flops
- Warm Hat
- Warm gloves or mitts
- Sunglasses close fitting Cat 3
- Wide brimmed Sun Hat
- 2-3 season sleeping bag
- Compression sack for sleeping bag
- Thermarest, Exped or closed cell sleeping mat
- Thermarest/Exped repair kit
- Walking Poles (optional)
- Head torch & spare batteries
- Watch with light & alarm
- 2 x 1 litre drinks bottles
- Spork or Knife/Fork/Spoon set
- Lightweight bowl
- Toilet roll
- Ear plugs (wax)
- Passport & copies, visa, insurance details, money, credit cards, plane tickets
- Diary & Pencil
- Waterproof pouch for documents
- Personal Wash Kit
- Antibacterial hand gel
- Wet wipes (optional)
- Microfibre trekking towel
- Personal Medical Kit (see below)
- Travelling/Village Kit (to be transported from start point to end point by vehicle)
- Small duffle or ruscksack
- 2-3 changes of clothing for warm Spanish summer weather
- Casual shoes/sandals
- Additional wash kit items; shampoo, shower gel, shaving kit
- Guide books (optional)
Additional Kit Info
We need to pack light for the trek stage. Any extra grams that you can shed from your back will make a huge difference to your enjoyment as you toil up each ascent. The weather will be warm and any rain should be short lived so we will only need fairly light-weight weather gear.
Most people will probably wear the same clothes every day of the trek with a change of socks and underwear on hand for the evenings. We will probably be a bit grubby by the 5th day but at least we'll all be the same.
You do not need to carry the clothes and toiletries that you will use at the village of Mairena at the end of the trek, we will have these transported across to meet us at the end.
Personal Medical Kit
Water Purification Tablets
Personal Medication as required:
eg. Anti-Malarials, Asthma Inhalers, Insulin, Epi-Pen etc
Possible Additional Personal First Aid Items
Note: you must check with your GP for your personal suitability to all medicines and their possible side effects and interactions. Please inform us of the details of all regular medication that you intend to use though the course of your trip and any relevant allergies and medical history related to them. You also need to check the requirements and regulations of the airline and all countries visited in relation to medications. For example; laws governing transport of some pain control medication and the need keep insulin at a suitable temperature, ie not in the cargo hold.
The chances are that the weather will be hot and sunny. If the temperatures are very high we will probably be getting up early to get most of our walking done in the cooler morning hours.
Your clothing needs to be slightly adaptable. You will definately need shorts and light tops but it is an advantage to be able to wear long sleeved and legged clothing when the sun is blazing or if it is more chilly in the evening. Zip-off trousers are great in this respect, as are lightweight shirts and base-layers. A sun hat and sunglasses are also pretty much essential as we will be living out in the full glare of the sun from dawn to dusk every day.
Boots need to be light weight but supportive, some trail shoes may be apropriate but they do leave the ankles more exposed to being twisted or hit on/by rocks. You may also find that a large amount of dust finds its way in over the top of the shoe and your socks get filthy and eroded away.
Links to Retailers
We have a discount arrangement with The Outdoor Shop. Once you have booked your trip you will get a booking confirmation, open an account with them then send a copy of your booking confirmation to receive the discount.
- We offer small scale, authentic holidays, which can be tailormade, and are based on personal relationships and experiences.
- We have built up a strong partnership with David and Emma Illsley at Las Chimineas in Mairena to help develop tourism and employ local people in an area which has suffered a big decline in tourism.
- This trip offers employment for the local guide Anton, and mule drivers, who are forced to sell their mules due to lack of business.
- With enough trekking trips in the Sierra Nevada, this tourism can create direct change in the region as we attract state funding for repair of the ancient waterways and the mountain gites.
- The Sierra Nevada are a magnificent, yet less visited range, than the Pyrenees, but they offer wonderful wildlife, solitude, high peaks and clean air. Our traverse is a chance to experience this, and allow us to work at creating sustainable tourism in the Alpujarra.
- The trips we offer in the Alpujarra are mutually beneficial and exist on a fair and open basis so that the local people may fully benefit from tourism without being exploited.
- Our company ethic supports sustainable development worldwide in a real way.
- We have financial bonding in place and are members of the Association of Independant Tour Operators.
- We are members of Interhealth which gives you access to pre-trip health information and on-site assistance by phone in the event of an emergency.