With over 300 days of strong Andalusian sunshine here in southern Spain, you would not think that there would be snow. Think again! The Sierra Nevada, about a one-hour drive from the city of Granada, boasts the southernmost point of Europe where you can ski, sled and snowboard as late as early May. You can literally hit the snow slopes all morning and swim in the Mediterranean in the afternoon. The snow resort of Hoya de la Mora (loosely translated: blueberry ear or leaf) offers family fun sledding, skis for beginners, and other snow plays. And best of all. . . it’s FREE!.
Smack dab in the middle of this past winter and we were wearing t-shirts. So we decided to go for a long-weekend trip from the land of sherry, sea, and sand to the sierras for some snow play, about a 3.5-hour drive from Jerez de la Frontera.
This trip was our older child Karol’s birthday present. Instead of toys we requested a collective gift of experience from our families. He was quickly sold to the idea and was so excited to go up to the mountains, not just to see snow, but to play on it too!
You see, for all you snow-pampered ice-monkeys out there (tongue-in-cheek-with-a-big-smile intended here), snow is a precious commodity down here in Jerez de la Frontera (and the flatlands of Andalucia for that matter). I think the town will gladly trade its sherry for snow in the winter. The last time it snowed here was apparently in 1954 for a few hours overnight and for no more than 10 centimeters (about 4 inches). And everyone thought it was the end of the world 😊
With mountain peaks such as Pico de Veleta at 3,398 metres (11,148 feet)–higher than the tallest mountain in Germany, Zugspitze, at 2,962 m (9,718 ft)–Andalucia does have SNOW! On a side note, Sierra Nevada has the highest paved road, apparently, in all of Europe that goes all the way up, 10 meters short of the peak’s height. However, it is now only accessible to service personnel.
Tips for family fun travelers
Get up and get there early. . . to Hoya de la Mora (loosely means blackberry ear/leaf) for a family fun sledding, beginner ski lessons, and other snow plays. This snow resort is FREE (no fees). There are two main widely open areas mostly for sledding (with some beginner skiers on bunny hills too). The lower section is ideally for younger children. In practice, it’s madness. A second one is much bigger and safer with higher slope. A third one, higher up, is an unofficial sledding area
with riskier drops and can have fewer visitors. The ski and snowboarding area that attract those more experienced in snow sports are located nearby (that section is not free).
Eat. Drink. P**p. Hoya de la Mora has a few bars/shacks where you can have drinks and basic food/tapas. It tends to be pricey. Many visitors seemed to know this and brought their own food and were equipped with portable picnic tables, chairs, etc. They just parked at a side of a road with a beautiful view of the snow-covered mountains and. . . eat, laugh and chill. Unfortunately there seems to be only two WC/restrooms/places where you can heed the call of nature–one at the hostel/restaurant (typically a long line) and another “al fresco” or in the warm embrace of a clump of trees nearby. But if you gotta go, you gotta GO!… just don’t fall off.
Drive. Parking. You can drive all the way up to Hoya de la Mora snow resort, and even find parking if you get there early enough in the morning. Otherwise it could fill up very quickly. When we went the first time on a Saturday there was already a stop-crawl-go traffic at 10 in the morning and parking was even worse. You’ll end up walking (and likely carrying your children), as we did for kilometers…. UPHILL!… if you want to get to the resort. If you miss parking at the top, there are several parking lots lower down. It would cost around 20 euros for the day, at least. Or you can try your luck for FREE parking as marked on the map below. Unless, you roll in early enough, don’t even bother finding one at the main resort village of Pradollano. We simply drove through this developed village since it was too crowded and was not the point of our trip.
Can’t get to the top? We saw many families who got caught in traffic and decided to do improvised sledding on the safe side of mountains, in-between buildings, on the side and in the midst of a forest next to the road, and basically anywhere there was snow, open space and some kind of incline. Many who could not reach the painful march to the top ended up having fun time at an improvised sledding spot marked on the map.
Tips to avoid traffic. Other than getting to the resort very early, to avoid the crowd we recommend going there during off-peak season and avoid Saturdays. When we failed to reach the top on Saturday, we went again the next day and there was much less traffic. We were able to park very close to the top with less than a kilometer walk to the resort. And we left the B&B at about the same time.
Sun worshippers. Bring sunscreen/sunblock with strong SPF. Andalucian sun is strong, especially 3,000 meters up. We forgot ours (happy idiot houseband striked again!) and, after all day up there, those of us with sunglasses looked like raccoons.
For Rent? At the top, you can rent many things you need for your family fun snow play, as long as you are willing to pay the price. It is still a good option to have in case you forget or break something, and you or your kids are (in the words of Metallica) on the “frayed ends of sanity”.
Buy sleds. There are several people selling a lot of snowplay-type items (i.e. sunglasses, sleds). They charge about 20 euros for a full sled versus 12 from a store in your local Decathlon. You can probably haggle down the price to 15. But if you want to help out someone who came a long long way to get there, please support them and buy something.
CHEAPER PLACE TO STAY NEAR HOYA DE LA MORA
We chose to chill in Monachil–a sleepy village with 2 stores and 4 bars (or something like that)–45 minutes (30 kilometers) away from Hoya de la Mora and 25 minutes (~14 km) from the city center of Granada. It had the cheapest accommodation (a bed and breakfast) we could find for our family of 4. Naturally, rooms at the resort, particularly at Pradollano, were expensive especially in the middle of Winter.
What else can you do in northwestern Sierra Nevada for your Family get-away?
We are slow travelers who prefer to GO SLOW and “save some” things for later rather than packing everything there is to see in a destination in a short time. That’s why we skipped the main ski resort village of Pradollano. If we can see one must-do/see thing a day, that’s good enough for us. There is NO NEED TO RUSH ABOUT and GET ALL STRESSED OUT. So, here’s our list for the next time. Except for the snow part, these things you can also do all year round.
Hiking, Trekking (or senderismo). Plenty of mountain trails to discover. Use Monachil as your base. Or, if you are driving, you can get to the top of Sierra Nevada National Park via the Carretera de el Purche and use it as your base.
Ski or freestyle snowboarding. Same general area as Hoya de la Mora, just at different parts of the mountain.
Visit Granada city–the beauty of the last Moorish kingdom to fall into Christian Spain captured in this city. We’ve been here a couple of times and will have a post on it at some point.
Cruise the Alpujarras and visit remote white villages.
Meditate at a Buddhist temple.
Listen to Granaina (a flamenco style of the mountains), though it is not easy to come across one here. You may be luckier at one of those white villages.
The nearest decent beach (Playa de Calahonda) is only a little less than an hour away (74 kilometers).
If you don’t have kids, cycle to the top of Hoya de la Mora.
THANKS for reading.
That’s it. Go Slow! Please put your comments/questions below. Big Smile!