The Sierra Nevada is a dramatic, rugged and extensive mountain range, the highest in Europe after the Alps and the most significant section of the Cordillera Penibética. The protected area encompasses 86,208ha of torrential rivers, sheer-sided gorges, stony scree slopes, glacial lakes between snowy summits and, in the foothills of the Alpujarras, cultivated terraces of almond trees and vegetables.
Designated a national park in 1998, it is one of only two in Andalucia, the other being the Doñana National Park. It retains its status of natural park, which it has been since 1989, and this covers a marginally smaller area, of 85,777ha. It was declared a Unesco Biosphere Reserve in 1986, in recognition of its exceptionally diverse plant, bird and animal species.
There are over 20 peaks more than 3,000m, which makes it the second highest mountain range in Europe after the Alps. The two highest peaks in the Iberian Peninsula are in the park, the Mulhacén at 3,482m, closely followed by the Pico del Veleta, at 3,396m. On a clear day these mountains can be seen from as far away as Africa.
Smaller and lighter in color than the Beceite and Gredos types, but larger and darker than the Ronda type. Horn size and shape vary considerably from place to place, with those from the Sierra Nevada generally the largest. Horns from Tejada-Almijara tend to be the most distinctive, forming a circle with the tips growing toward the neck like those of a mouflon. The keel is smooth, making the horns almost round in cross-section.