When in Spain: Granada

Many people are quick to acquaint Spain travel with either Madrid or Barcelona only as these are the 2 largest cities that offer the most frequent and easiest entry points to Spain. Nevertheless, there are other Spanish cities that also deserve to be explored. One of which is the beautiful province of Granada located in the historically and culturally rich region of Andalusia.





Granada and Andalusia

Granada is around 420 kilometers from the capital, Madrid. It's part of and the capital of the autonomous region of Andalusia in southern Spain. This region is known for a very festive ambiance, with numerous fiestas (parties) that celebrate the people's strong religious beliefs and passion for dance and music. If you’ve heard of the famous Spanish dance flamenco, then you should know that Andalusia was where it all began.
Aside from Granada, Andalusia is comprised of 9 other provinces including Seville, Málaga, and Córdoba, all of which are also highly recommended when visiting the south. Talking about Andalusians, I'd say that of all the people I met in Spain, they're perhaps the friendliest, happiest, and if not, the funniest, in the pack.


Side story: Funnily, communicating with the Andalusians could be a bit tricky at times. Aside from the fact that only a few can speak English in the region, Andalusian Spanish seems different. While I can understand Spanish, still, I always catch myself dazed with the way Andalusians speak. They tend to speak way too fast and accented. They also crave so much for their words that they eat and swallow every last delicious syllable, hehe. Despite this, I stand to what I first said that Andalusians are one of the coolest people in Spain.


Traveling Granada

Unlike the bigger Spanish cities with a dense population of international travelers, Granada is more likely visited by local tourists. It’s well-traveled throughout the year, but people usually flock in during spring (March-May) or autumn (September-October). During these months, the temperature is average and tolerable. One thing to keep in mind is that Granada and the rest of southern Spain has the warmest, most humid temperature in Spain. It could reach as high as 40°C during summer time.
As mentioned, Granada is just small. When I went there in May, I mostly traveled on foot to go from one point to another. For longer distances, I took local micro buses that move around Granada while having bus stops in significant spots like the Alhambra. You can either buy a single ticket for 1.40€ or a top-up card at 5€ for 5 trips, which reduces the fare to 1€. Ticketing machines are available at bus stops, the Granada airport, and train station.
Meanwhile, note that there’s a separate ticket for the airport bus that costs 3€ per trip. These are usually the green buses with Aeropuerto Granada ⇋ Granada signage operated by ALSA.

The Alhambra

Of course. As they say, you can’t finish telling about Granada without even mentioning the great Alhambra. For some, including myself, it’s the very reason why we go to Granada. The Alhambra is a complex of palaces, fortresses, and gardens built as early as the 1200s during the Nasrid dynasty led by Muhammad I, the last Muslim ruler in Spain. It was set on a plateau, which was purposely meant to overlook the old Moorish city, called Albaicin (Albayzin).
Honestly, it's hard to put into words how beautiful the Alhambra is. The experience was truly worth it. What amazed me the most were the carvings on the walls and ceilings, especially inside the Nasrid Palaces. I just could not imagine the time and effort poured into carving them. They're so detailed and artistic in every way you see it.




The Alhambra is as huge as 35 acres, which should take at least half a day to visit. A good way to start exploring the Alhambra is by entering the Nasrid Palaces first, simply because it’s the only area with a timed entry. Note: Make sure to observe the time allotted to you. Otherwise, you'll miss the slot to enter. To know the time, it's simply the one you selected when you purchased the ticket.
Next, you can choose to go to the Alcazaba, which are ruins of a century-old fortress that served as barracks of the elite guards who protected the Alhambra complex. The Alcazaba is also a huge area and mostly outdoor, so moving around require a lot of walking and leg work.
After the fortress, you can head to Generalife (pronounced as /He-ne-ra-li-fe/, not /Je-ne-ra-layf/), which is a separate and different palace from the Nasrid Palaces. Entry time isn't scheduled, so you can go there anytime. It features a patio-like garden with water channels and 2 rows of water fountains.

How to enter the Alhambra

Entrance tickets to the Alhambra run out almost all the time. This is why it's best to book early and directly from the official website to get the cheapest prices. The rates are based on which areas you'd like to visit and the time of the day (daytime and nighttime visits are available).

For me, the most ideal ticket is the Alhambra General that costs 14€ and gives access to the Nasrid Palaces, Alcazaba, and Generalife.
Make sure to book in advance especially during peak season (September-October). In case you visit during this time, it’s not about booking ahead in days or weeks, but rather, in months! With my experience, I booked a month beforehand to score a day-time entry ticket. I even bought the 17€-ticket (Alhambra and Rodriguez Acosta Foundation Combined Tour) since there wasn't any Alhambra General ticket anymore.

Catedral de Granada (Granada Cathedral)

The Granada Cathedral is a huge Roman Catholic church that serves as the seat of the Archdiocese of Granada. Aside from being a religious site, the cathedral stands as the focal point or center of the province. The cathedral is located along Gran Via de Colon, a big road with significant bus routes, including the ones going to and from Granada airport and train station.
Upon entrance to the cathedral, I was immediately mesmerized by the detailed ceiling with carvings and paintings. Entrance to the cathedral is 5€ with audio guide, but is free on Sundays from 3pm-5:45PM.

Alcaicería

The alcaicería is an interesting bazaar of unique items, most of which are of Moorish influence. In fact, walking around its narrow alleys and small shops reminded me so much of my travels in Morocco, which makes sense because the idea of alcaicería really came from Arabs. As said, the word alcaicería came from the Arabic word al-Kaysar-ia, which means "the place of Caesar.” The term was used to thank Justinian the Great, emperor of Byzantine empire, for giving the Arabs the rights to create and sell silks during the 6th century.
From stained-glass lamps called granadino farolas to products with wooden inlay called taracea and painted ceramic plates called fajalauza, it’s a one-stop shop for souvenirs. However, I have to mention that prices here aren’t the cheapest and it's prone to pickpockets since it’s a very touristy place. It's located at Calle Alcaicería, which extends up to Calle Reyes Catolicos and the back of the Granada Cathedral.

Sacromonte

Part of Albaicin, Sacromonte is a neighborhood located east of Granada. It's home to 16th century white cuevas (caves) that are said to be built by the Jewish and Muslims refugees who left their homes during the Spanish inquisition era. Now, they got turned into cave houses where traditional flamenco dances are mostly held at night. To get there, you can either trek (which I did) or take a micro bus.
Flamenco shows in Sacromonte are normally combined with dinner, drinks, and hotel pick-up services that may range from 58€ and up. If you wish to watch the show only, you may do so and the price is at around 20€. It starts from 9PM onward and it’s best to arrive early because the caves have a limited space.

Flamenco dancers in Granada are countless, but to catch one talented act, then it has to be Claudia La Debla’s performance. This lady started dancing flamenco at a very young age as seen in the mastery of her moves. She performs at Venta El Gallo only on weeknights (perhaps it’s because she goes to school on weekdays).

Mirador de San Nicolas (San Nicolas Viewpoint)

On the way to Sacromonte and also in Albaicin, there are several viewpoints that leave a breathtaking view of the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada behind. One of those is the Mirador de San Nicolas.
True enough with what Bill Clinton said when he visited in 1997, “it’s the most beautiful sunset in the world.” Thus, it’s best to visit the place in the afternoon. Not to mention there are also several pubs around for an afternoon tapas and drinks.

How to go to Granada

Direct international flights to Granada isn’t very common, but it can be reached by taking a quick domestic flight from Barcelona (Vueling Airlines) or Madrid (Iberia Airlines). With my experience, since I came from Prague, I had to land first in Madrid, then took a connecting flight to Granada.
If coming from Madrid, there are more options for land transfers. You can either take a 3-hour train via RENFE or by multiple bus rides operated by ALSA.

If coming from any part of Andalusia, the estimated hours by ALSA bus are as follows

  • Málaga to Granada: 2 hours
  • Córdoba to Granada: 2.5 hours
  • Seville to Granada: 3 hours

Would you consider Granada part of your travel bucket list?




When in Spain: Granada When in Spain: Granada Reviewed by Shelly Viajera Travel on 5.11.19 Rating: 5

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