Whilst staying at the amazing Club la Costa in Fuengirola we often look for good day trips in our rental car, a fantastic target was the Alhambra in Granada. At just over 100 miles it is an easy drive up the A92 from Malaga.
The drive itself is nothing to be shouted about as it mainly motorway with dried land and rocky outcrops. This drive was all about the destination.
On approach to Granada the Alhambra, easily the town most famous attraction, is signposted well and we had little trouble finding our way there.
Once there though our troubles began. The weather was intense heat at around 42 degrees which is common in midsummer and had been hotter still a few days earlier. Walking down from the car parks was a zig zag affair trying to keep in the shade of the trees. On arrival to the entrance we were met with a sea of packaged day trippers and the place was heaving. I don’t like big crowds at the best of times and I aren’t one for stupidly hot weather either. A combination off too much weight and living in the North of England makes a hot day tough. I am a tough guy though and was determined the family would bloody enjoy themselves whether they liked it or not. “2 tickets please, 2 adult and two children, por favor”. The attendant smiled and said no. All sold out!!!
It was 10.30 am and they had sold out. The leaflets back on the costas never said anything about this. Apparently it is the norm in summer and you must prebook. There were guided tours available from the nearby shops who had access to tickets if we wanted. So off we wandered to the travel shops across the road. 70 EUROS EACH. Are they mental? I turned and looked at the family and they were clearly fed up but no way was I paying that.
I looked at the photos and Alhambra did look beautiful . I noticed that many of the photos were taken from across the valley though and we decided to go over there to get some selfies with the Alhambra in the background.
The disaster of a day then began to transform into something magical. As we made our way in the car across to Albaicin it became clear this was a very special place indeed. The whole village is on a hillside offering spectacular views of the Alhambra. The houses are all whitewashed Andalucia style and the narrow cobble streets were all beautiful. The village itself is a Unesco World Heritage site as a place of Outstanding Universal Value. The village has strong Moorish influences and is one of the oldest centres of Muslim cultures in Granada.
Before arriving in Albaicin we stumbled across Sacromonte Abbey.
The buildings were stunning and the setting was both beautiful and peaceful.
The history of the place is amazing and there are relic of st John there along with caves and relics of martyred Christians.There were guided tours available and I really wished we had gone on one. My two little ones had different ideas though and were beginning to go into complete meltdown with the heat.
I urge you to visit and information can be found here.
From here we drove a couple of miles in to the village of Albaicin. Parking was difficult but at the top of the town are public car parks so we decided to park at the top and walk all the way down. Luckily, on such a hot day, there are street cafes and bars galore meaning we could break the walk up into a few short strolls before another refreshment.
This suited us as it gave us time to soak up the atmosphere. There was a real feel of art and culture in every square and I was soon becoming immersed in the culture. Around every corner there seemed to be anther spectacular view the palace and by now I was really glad I hadn’t spent 280 euros to go in there as part of a guided tour.
Eventually we had made our way to the bottom of the village and stopped for lunch by the river under the Alhambra. The road is called Paseo de los Tristes or walk of sorrows. It was named, long before motor cars, after the route in which people carried the dead up to the cemetry. Nowadays it is a wonderfully cool spot to relax eat and be happy. I can not think of many places more beautiful than here to have lunch. Simply stunning.
From here we walked along the Carrera del Darro. The road is barely a road and seems pedestrianised until you see the taxis trying to make their way through the people walking. Its a lovely cobbled road with lots of really unique shops selling everything from candles to ice creams. There are old churches where was lucky enough to see a wedding and lots of historic building with plaques to tell you the significance.
From here you enter Plaza de Santa Ana And the Plaza Nueva and what begins the more main part of the city of Granada. Just around the corner is the cathedral. Built in the early 1500s it is a little different to most Spanish cathedrals because they had to wait until the Muslim rule was ended. By the time it was built Spanish renaissance designs had begun to replace the traditional gothic designs.
The cathedral is build on top of the remains of the mosque it has an unusual desing as it took 181 years to build and so incorporated many design styles. Further information is available on the cathedrals website.
The streets around the Cathedral are filled with entertainers.
Around the corner from the Cathedral is a wonderful little area of shops. Named Atesania Alcazar it is very reminiscent of the bazaars of north Africa and the middle east and a great palce to find souvenirs.
By now evening was setting in and the town would have been a wonderful night out. So vibrant and noisy it looked fantastico. However with two little people it seemed fair to get back to the car and take them home to bed.
To sum up the day. Granada is definitely worth more than a day trip. Alhambra itself is a must but to visit the area and just see the Alhambra would mean missing out on so much more beauty and culture. Next time we will be there for a couple of days.