Sierra Nevada trek

This week-long trek will take you across the length of one of Mediterranean Europe's most beautiful (yet often overlooked) mountain ranges, the Sierra Nevada. The trek follows 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 a beautiful hillside boutique hotel called Las Chimineas in the village of Mairena. 

The route is referred to as Los Tres Miles or the Ruta Integral Sierra Nevada. It climbs up onto the spine of the Sierra Nevada range and passes along a string of peaks without really dropping down more than a few hundred metres. You also ascend Mulhacen which is 3478m high and the highest point in mainland Spain and the second highest European peak outside the Caucasus and Alps. The trek is not difficult, the gear is carried by mules where necessary, and it is not steep either.  There is a lot of birdlife and local wildlife, the views across to Grenada to the north and the Mediterranean to the south are inspiring and it is easy to get to the start of the trip. At the end you can visit the villagers in Mairena to see local Alpujarra artisans at work.

After the trek there will 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. You can visit local organic olive farms and historic buildings. Perhaps one of the biggest attractions however, is the hotel Las Chimineas 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 they have established a reputation for high quality cuisine.

When to go - weather and camping

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.

Generally the weather conditions in the Sierra Nevada in summer are very stable with clear blue skies and very little rain. The lower sections near the start and end of the walk can be quite hot and dry but as we gain altitude it gets fresher and a cooling breeze can be very welcome. If there is some cloud cover and a wind is blowing then it can feel quite cold on the tops and you will need a few warm layers, hat and gloves, especially after the sun has gone down in the evening and when we are getting up in the morning.

On the trek we will be camping out in tents or staying in some of the mountain refuges. It is quite common for people to bivouac on this trek and therefore to either sleep out under the stars. The programme is fairly flexible but camping locations are largely dictated by access to running water. The local guides know the area very well and will have options in mind for places to stay the night.

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 and packing it out.

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.

Summary of itinerary

  • Fly into Malaga and travel by road to Lanjaron to spend the night.
  • 5 days walking the length of the Sierra Nevada on a series of peaks forming a high ridge, wild camping at high lagunas. 
  • A full day in and around the beautiful hillside village of Mairena staying in Las Chimineas.
  • A final part day in Mairena before transport back to Malaga airport and flight home.

We recommend for a map of the area, Parque National de Sierra Nevada La Alpujarra (Editorial Penibetica) 1:40000 available through Stanfords in London.

We can easily arrange for you to spend longer in the hotel, subject to availability, or to transfer to other places such as Grenada or Ameria or Malaga.

Map of Southern Spain showing national parks.JPG
From Malaga airport the road up to the National Park only takes an hour or so.

Integral SN mg.JPG
The full Sierra Nevada range from a distance with a dusting of snow on the tops

Fitness, packing and terrain

You do need to be fairly fit for this trip, the trek involves sustained walking with a backpack. You will enjoy the trip all the more if you are in good physical shape. The ascents on this trip are walks and there is no rock climbing or scrambling. In general you will be traversing a broad open ridge line which 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. 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.

You will need a 45 litre daypack with waterproofs, spare warm layers, some snacks and water and a few other items. The mules will carry other equipment and meet us at the camps. Or in a small group travelling light we can carry all our belongings in our own rucksack and have the travel clothes transferred to the hotel in Mairena.

Your clothing needs to be adaptable, shorts and tops plus trousers and light fleeces with a jacket and waterproofs.The days can be hot and the evenings chilly. Sun hat and sun protection is important, plus a warm hat and gloves for the nights and early mornings. Boots need to be light weight but supportive, preferably with ankle support. A 3 season sleeping bag should be adequate for camping out, and a good quality sleeping mat like Thermarest or the Exped range. 


Clothing should keep you warm, dry, protected from the sun, and able to move easily on the mountains and be comfortable in the evenings and night.

  • Medium duffle carried by mules, medium daypack carried by you and a bag to put extra clothes in for transferring to the hotel. Or, one larger rucksack to carry everything.
  • Top and bottom shell layer or waterproofs
  • Fleece jacket or soft shell, plus a medium fleece or warm top, walking trousers and shorts, shirts and walking tops
  • Base layer like Tshirts and leggings and underwear, plus trekking socks
  • Trekking boots and sandals
  • Sleeping bag and camping mat
  • Water bottles or equivalent
  • Small first aid kit and wash kit

Local benefits and attractions

We offer small scale, authentic holidays, which can be tailormade, and are based on personal relationships and experiences. Our friendship with David and Emma Illsley at Las Chimineas in Mairena was the incentive to offer this hike and help develop tourism in this part of the Alpujarra and employ local people like guides in an area which has suffered a big decline in tourism. In the future more tourism can attract state funding for repair of the ancient waterways and the mountain gites.

The Sierra Nevada are a small and lovely range, less visited than the Pyrenees or Alps, but they offer 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.

About the Sierra Nevada

The Sierra Nevada means "snowy range" in Spanish, its many peaks include the highest point of continental Spain, Mulhacén (3478m), and more than 20 others over 3000m.

The range was formed during the same events as the European Alps and the the Atlas of North Africa, with the Iberian and Eurasian plates being impacted by the African plate. The geology of the area is made up of tertiary alpine formations. of snowy peaks, abundant sunshine and a warm Mediterranean coastline.

The cities of Granada, Almería and Málaga are all in the vicinity and the Sierra Nevada National Park was formally established on 14 January 1999 and range is also designated a UNESCO Biosphere (1986).

The range is part of the wider mountain belt known as the Baetic System, winding along Spain's Mediterranean coast. The broad geography of the range is one of a ridge running broadly west-south-west to east-north-east. To the South, several long but narrow river valleys lead off towards the south-west, separated by subsidiary ridges. The characteristically steeper northern aspect, has a less orderly array of valleys and ridges, feeding the Genil River below.

The climatic conditions in the region vary enormously throughout the year and by elevation above sea level. Summer in the valleys can be swelteringly hot and winter on the peaks is sufficient to allow skiing and winter mountaineering with temperatures as low as -35degC. Rainfall varies greatly with altitude from 350mm to 1600mm annually.

There is a wealth of wildlife throughout the range including 64 endemic species. A visitor stands a good chance of seeing Spanish ibex mountain goat, rabbits, hares and squirrels. It is also home to foxes, badgers, martens and wild cats although you would be very lucky to catch a glimpse of these shy creatures. In the blue skies above you there can often see Royal Eagle, Golden Eagle, Bonelli’s Eagle, Common Kestrel, Little Owl and Eurasian Eagle-owl. There are also many other smaller birds and fowl and also lizards, frogs, toads, dragonfly and butterfly.

The range of vegatation is huge, as one would expect from an environment encompassing everything from dry sub-tropical zones through orchards, meadows, alpine and barren rocky peaks. Lower zones play host to juniper and gorse, higher up are the figs and olive trees, higher again are the oaks, chestnuts, poplars before giving way to scots pine and alpine flowers such as crocus and violet.

Walking Guides and maps for the Sierra Nevada

Sierra Nevada - La Integral de los 3,000, Editorial Piolet, 1:25,000, ISBN 9788493787493
Walking in the Sierra Nevada, Cicerone, Walmsley,  ISBN-10: 1852844353, ISBN-13: 978-1852844356
Walk! The Alpujarras, Discovery Walking Guides, Davis, ISBN 1-904946-23-2
Sierra Nevada - Alpujarras Walking Guide, Discovery Walking Guides Ltd, Brawn, ISBN-10: 1899554378, ISBN-13: 978-1899554379

Sierra Nevada, La Alpujarra Map and Hiking Guide, 1:40,000 Illustrated Map, ISBN-10: 8480902558, ISBN-13: 978-8480902557
Alpujarras Tour & Trail Map, Discovery Walking Guides, (waterproof) 1:40,000, ISBN 10: 1904946259, ISBN 13: 9781904946250
Sierra Nevada: Alpujarras/Marquesado del Zenete, Editorial Penibetica, 1:40,000, ISBN: 9788493444938
GR 240: Tour of the Sierra Nevada, Editorial Penibetica, 1:40,000,
Sierra Nevada - Las Alpujarras, IGN, 1:100,000,


Bespoke Dates

Day by day itinerary

DayElevationTravel TimeInfo
1   3 hrs Fly to Malaga to preferably arrive by 1700 for a 1730 group vehicle transfer to the refuge hut in the mountain village of Lanjaron. Journey time about 2.5 hours.
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 walk along an easy ridge and pass the Pena Partida Refuge. 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, emerging at Picon de Jerez our first 3000m peak. It is an easy walk around to the next, Puntal de Juntillas. From here an optional 1hr detour to the 3182m peak of Horcajon.
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 to Mojon Alto.
Another descent and re-ascent through the Vacares col brings us to the 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 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 45 minute 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 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
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   3-4hrs  Mairena - Malaga airport
After savouring a last slow continental morning and lunch we will drive back to Malaga for evening flights back to the UK.


  • Group airport transfers (to/from Malaga airport)
  • Local trekking guide
  • All meals on trek
  • Tents, stoves, cooking equipment
  • Mules to carry main bags and food on trek
  • Transportation of travel & leisure clothes and spare kit from Lanjaron to Mairena
  • Two nights full board accommodation in Las Chimineas hotel


  • International airfare
  • Travel Insurance
  • Extra days food and accommodation
  • Airport transfers if not travelling with the main group
  • Evening meal in Lanjaron on day 1

Note: Do register for the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which has replaced the previous E111 scheme, or in the event of the card not being valid in Europe following Brexit, adequate travel insurance.

Choose a scheduled date or contact us to set up private dates or a bespoke itinerary. The minimum deposit is £100.00 and the balance is due six weeks before travel.

Tours from only pp Dates & Bookings
Key Information
  • Duration 8 days
  • Numbers 4 min
  • Altitude 3478m
  • Challenge Moderate to tough
  • Distance 75 kms
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