Sierra Nevada (Spain)


Sierra Nevada

The Sierra Nevada ( Spanish for " snowy mountain range " ) is with 3482 meters the highest mountain of the Iberian Peninsula, which until May wears a snow cover every year from November usually. It is in the south of Spain in the provinces of Granada and Almería in the autonomous community of Andalusia and is a 100 km long part of the Betic Cordillera. Since 1999, the core area of 86.208 hectares is protected as a National Park Sierra Nevada.

Location and landscape

The Sierra Nevada stretches from west to east direction on a part of the southern Mediterranean coast of Spain along. Partial rich the steep slopes right up to the Mediterranean approach, such as in and around Almeria.

The highest elevation is the Mulhacen ( 3482 meters), followed by the Pico del Veleta ( 3397 m) and Alcazaba ( 3392 m).

The melting water from the Sierra Nevada supplies the surrounding areas, including the greenhouse crops in Almeria, the Vega of Granada and the cities of Granada and Almería with drinking water. Even the most well-known mineral water brand in Spain, Lanjaron, draws its water from a source in the same place in the Alpujarras, which form the south side of the mountain.

Surface forms

The Sierra Nevada is a mountain range. The vertical extent ranges from 1500 m to 3482 m ( Pico Mulhacen, highest elevation mainland Spain / the Iberian Peninsula). The Sierra Nevada thus has a typical high mountain morphological character. The height of the mountain parts of the Sierra Nevada were glaciated in the Vistula Glacial.

The most important manifestation of high mountains is the type of weathering of the surface material. Thus one speaks of frost weathering debris. The frost weathering debris has its origins in the prevailing low temperatures in the high mountains. In the temperate to warm summer months, water can enter fissures of rocks, which freezes in winter. By extending the change in the aggregate state, the rocks are shattered. The weathering thus produces a very rugged rock material. By the last glaciation phase forms can be found in the Sierra Nevada glacial overprint. These forms include, valley shapes (U - valley ), expression of raised bogs, Solifluktionen and moraines.

Sierra Nevada (view from Granada)

Looking into the southern Küstenvorländer


The Betic Cordillera is a mountain range, which was folded up in the alpidischen orogeny by two convergent plate margins. The starting material is Variscan. In the Sierra Nevada can be evidence for both components, see alpidisch embossed and Variscan material. The Betic Cordillera is characterized by a high incidence of marine, Jurassic sedimentary rocks. Limestones are predominant and the metamorphic rock marble sequence. In the mountainous regions of Andalusia, there are a variety of marble quarries.

The Betic Cordillera is divided into three parts, the south -lying Jurassic zone, dominated by marine sedimentary rocks, the Paleozoic, crystalline autochthonous central zone and the north lies also maritime sediment - dominated zone.

In the Sierra Nevada find themselves predominantly mica schist. Mica schist is a metamorphic, slate-like rock. The parent rock is gneiss, a metamorphic intrusives imprinted with the same mineral composition as granite, but an increased feldspar content of more than 20%.

Due to the shape of the mountain range itself already suggests the abrupt change of the various rocks. So dominated by lime parts are rugged and heavily influenced by ablation. The crystalline parts are round and flat.


The Sierra Nevada is located in the Mediterranean region in a typical for this room warm and wet winter climate. The coast along the mountain pulling the Betic Cordillera has a function as a climatic divide, acts his elevation to the incoming air masses as a barrier.

The mountain has typical mountain wind systems. So take for lunch out of the mountain updraft clearly and leads in humid air by condensation in colder altitudes for cloud and fog formation. The Sierra Nevada is a major source of water for the surrounding areas, especially the coastal areas.

Vegetation and vegetation zones

In the Sierra Nevada, there is the typical for the Mediterranean area situation that there are virtually no primary trees. If land were afforested, this happened to be the cultivation of oil or nut trees of fast-growing, undemanding trees or the vacant land is used. Nevertheless, there are some places where the vegetation and especially the change in vegetation can be observed with height.

The vegetation can be divided into five Mediterranean mountain stages. The lowest level, the Mediterranean level, extends approximately 1600 m. Typical are evergreen and deciduous trees, here predominantly the holm oak (Quercus ilex). The next stage is dominated by deciduous trees. The winter temperatures drop in this stage already so far from that evergreen vegetation can not develop. A typical representative of this stage is the Pyrenean oak (Quercus pyrenaica ). The oak forests were partially converted to chestnut groves. From 1800 m is about a transitional stage from softwoods forms until the tree line is reached. The occurrence of the pine trees here is considered the southernmost of Europe. The tree line varies depending on the exposure of the slope ( and anthropogenic influence). The following submontane stage is characterized by dwarf shrubs, predominantly juniper. The wind exposure is an important factor here. In the montane alpine grasses form mats that withstand the extreme weather conditions.

Mountain Sports

About the place Pradollano (also called Sol y Nieve ) one reaches the summit of Pico del Veleta on the highest road in Europe. With your own car you can drive on them but only up to the Hoya de la Mora (2500 m). If you want to high until the Veleta, you have to walk further by bike or by bus to the National Park. Sol y Nieve is an artificially incurred resort, where in 1995 the Alpine World Ski Championships to be held. But precisely in that year in the Sierra Nevada, there was a lack of snow, it was shifted to 1996 and discharged as Alpine World Ski Championships 1996. In addition, here the Mountain Bike World Championships 2000 were held.