Sierra Nevada - wild flowers and mountain wildlife

An introduction to the wild flowers, butterflies, birds and mammals of Spain’s beautiful Sierra Nevada.
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Located in southern Spain, the Mediterranean climate and rugged landscape of the Sierra Nevada make this an important location for plants. Over 2,100 plant species have been recorded here amongst the alpine meadows, rocky outcrops and pine woods, including many that are unique to Iberia, Spain or even the Sierra Nevada itself.

Our trip will take us from the surrounds of the highest peak at Mulhacén and the Alpujarra valley slopes northwards to the woodland and limestone outcrops of Trevenque and Cortijuela. We will also visit the semi-arid Desierto de Tabernas and the striking landscape of Cabo de Gata.

This region of Spain has a rich cultural heritage and the legacy of the Berbers who once inhabited the area can be seen in the architecture of the houses and villages, as well as the systems of terraces and irrigation ditches of the valleys.

Our time in the Sierra Nevada would not be complete without a visit to see the beautiful and ornate details of the palace at Alhambra.

Although our itinerary is focused on the plants of the area, there should be opportunities to see many of the other specialities of the area including Spanish Ibex, reptiles such as Ladder Snake and perhaps some of the Sierra’s endemic butterflies, Spanish Brassy Ringlet and Zullichi’s Blue. In the mountains we can expect to see plenty of larks and wheatears, along with Bonelli’s Eagles and perhaps even a wandering Lammergeier, whilst we hope to find Trumpeter Finch during our time nearer the coast.

Day 1 Our morning flight takes us to Granada. From here we travel south to our hotel (c. 1.5 hours) in the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada. After lunch we will explore the local area for our first introduction to the flora and landscape.

Day 2 Today we visit Mulhacén, the highest mountain in the Iberian Peninsula, taking a walk towards Laguna de la Caldera. Among the rocky outcrops we should find some of the area’s specialties including Viola crassiuscula, Sempervivum minutum, Leontodon boryi and the pretty toadlfax Linaria glacialis. We will watch for birds of prey soaring by, which could include Golden and Bonelli’s Eagles, and Griffon Vulture.

Day 3 We will spend the day exploring the Alpujarra walking among a network of terraces and irrigation channels, known as acequias, created by the Berbers who arrived in the area during the 8th Century. The plant community here includes Erinacea anthyllis, Genista versicolor, Echinospartum boissieri, Adenocarpus decorticans, Juniperus sabina and Astragalus granatensis, and we may Subalpine Warbler and Iberian Grey Shrike among the scrub.

Day 4 We travel north to explore the area around the scenic peak of Trevenque. Taking a path near Boca de la Pescá we will search for some of the limestone flora, before moving on to explore the pine forests of the Cortijuela. The area is botanically rich and we hope to find many of the specialities of the area including Aquilegia nevadensis, Erodium boissieri, Centaurea granatensis, Armeria filicaulis subsp. trevenqueana, Helianthemum pannosum and Rothmaleria granatensis

Day 5 Today takes us to the area around Pico del Veleta. We will make along part of the Ruta Prados de Otero where, depending on the season, we hope to find Veronica nevadensis, Euphorbia nevadensis, Eryngium glaciale and Hormatophyla purpurea alongside the vibrant Gentiana sierra and the endemic butterwort Pinguicula nevadensis. As we stroll along the path we will look out for Iberian Ibex on the slopes.

Day 6 We visit the semi-desert and ramblas of the Desierto de Tabernas, before continuing south to the ragged peaks of Cabo de Gata. We will look for species adapted to the arid conditions such as Periploca angustifolia, Ziziphus lotus, Withania frutescens, Limonium sinuatum and the endemic Verbascum charidemi. Spiny-footed and Sierra Nevada Ocellated Lizards may be spotted sheltering under rocks.

Day 7 We spend our morning in the magnificent palace of the Alhambra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site to find out more about the history and cultural context with a local guide. 

Day 8 After an early breakfast it is time to make our way back to Granada and our flights home.

Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.

We will stay at two locations during our holiday: in Capiléira we will stay in Finca los Llanos (or similar), whilst in Alcudia de Gaudix we will stay in the Cuevas del Tío Tobas.

All meals are included. Evening meals will be at the hotel and we will have picnic lunches on most days.

We will travel by minibus for our excursions.

Group flights

Group flights are with Easyjet from London Gatwick to Malaga.

It is also possible to fly direct from Manchester and Liverpool.

Overland travel

You can reach Malaga by train from London, with an overnight stay in Barcelona, or on a sleeper train. Contact us to find out more, and to make your holiday flight-free.

Time zone

Spain is one hour ahead of UK time.

Entry requirements

If you hold a British passport you can travel to countries in the Schengen area (including Spain) for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa. You must have at least six months left on your passport to travel to most countries in Europe.

The weather at this time of year is usually sunny and warm and is likely to be hot during our visits to Tabernas and the Alhambra. If we do get hotter weather we will adapt the itinerary as much as possible. There may be some cooler weather and some rain, particulary in the mountains.

On several days, we will be walking for much of the day, albeit at a relatively slow pace, with some rougher ground and slopes, both up and down. Walking boots (e.g. lightweight) are essential. The pace will be relaxed with plenty of time to enjoy the surroundings and take photos, as well as stopping to enjoy the wildlife we find along the way. If you are a slower walker, please contact us to discuss whether any of the walks will be a problem for you. We will be visiting altitudes of around 2,600m on Mulhacén. If you have any reason to believe you will be adversely affected at these altitudes, you should consult your doctor prior to booking.