Leaving Granada I took the highest road in Europe (3380m, though closed to the public after about 2600m) up Pico Veleta. Even in southern Spain that’s enough altitude for snow to still be on the ground, yet within 250km I would also visit somewhere that only gets three days of rain/year, and somewhere to go for a swim in the sea.
The road up (a dead end, so also back down) the mountain was fantastic: smooth and sweeping at the bottom then with altitude steeper, narrower, but no less well-surfaced. Across the rest of the Sierra Nevada mountains the roads were universally great. I had a couple picked out (including the one mentionned in this MCN article which I’m not sure if I found) but really you could point your bike at any hilly country and the road would be empty, scenic and fun to ride.
The far end of the Sierra Nevada range is Europe’s only desert, with whitewashed villages tucked into the folds of the landscape. Interestingly it is also where some of the finest Western films were shot. Certain to be safe from rain I experimented with the camp setup a bit.
From the desert I headed towards the coast. A barren landscape still, but draped, here and there, in polythene sheeting, under which fruit and vegetables are grown and no doubt, in some quantity, exported to the UK. Since it ticks the sun, sand and sea boxes the primary import was English tourists, though not quite in the expected quantity: every sea view opposed an apartment block, villa or hotel complex, half-constructed then abandoned to the economic downturn. There was a desperate aspect to it; it felt like Las Vegas-on-sea, the kind of place that 99% of people wouldn’t visit had it not been developed.
Back up into mountains a little way was the Balcon de Alicante, a viewpoint with an area where you can camp, legally, for free. Not having to be so sneaky I spread out the tarp and used my bike cover as a ground sheet. Nice to have somewhere to sit, cook and read while a shower passed overhead, and was lucky enough to see a deer shortly before night fell.
Southern Spain was striking, very different from anywhere else I’ve been in Europe and I hope to return. Next time: my route back to France.