Part 4 of our Spanish Road Trip:
Last week, I shared Part 3 of our Spanish Road Trip: Costa de la Luz and Gibratlar and this week, I’ll share our experiences at Malaga and Granada.
If you recall, we left Gibraltar after visiting the famous Rock of Gibraltar and got stuck for a bit at the border. Luckily, Malaga wasn’t that far away- just an hour and a half. The drive was pretty uneventful and we quickly arrived at our hotel just before lunch time. After checking in, we grabbed a cab to the beach so we could enjoy a nice, relaxing afternoon after several days of sight-seeing. The beach was relatively crowded, but not too bad.
Our first order of business was to find some food and luckily, there were several restaurants right on the beach. They all looked pretty packed both with folks dressed for the beach and with those not in beach attire, so we figured the food was probably good. We both decided to stick with tradition and get an assortment of tapas for lunch. We ended up with several dishes and samplers and really enjoyed what we got. I especially liked the fried octopus.
After lunch, we rented some chairs under an umbrella and spent the day enjoying the beach. This was our first time going to the beach in Europe and it was a little different from the US. The main difference was that lots of women chose to go topless at the beach. And while I’d heard about this intellectually, it’s a bit of a shock when you see/experience it for yourself.
Regardless of the differences, it was still a pleasantly relaxing day at the beach. Around 6, we grabbed a cab back to our hotel and decided to grab some food in the mall next to our hotel. We ended up doing a bit of shopping because the summer sales in Spain were way better than the ones we’d encountered in France, Switzerland, and Italy. After shopping, we grabbed some sushi to go (this was probably the only time on our trip we didn’t eat traditional Spanish food) and headed back to the hotel for some down time.
In the morning, we headed out bright and early for Granada. It was about a 2 hour and 40 minute drive and we were really looking forward to visiting Granada because of the Alhambra. After checking in to our hotel, we grabbed a cab into the old Moorish quarter of the city. We started at the San Nicolas viewpoint near the top of the hill. From here, we could see the Alhambra and were able to look down over the rest of the city.
After enjoying the view, we grabbed a smoothie from a smoothie stand and wandered through the old Moorish quarter, known as Albayzin. This area of town was really neat and is completely closed to cars (strictly because there aren’t any roads and they wouldn’t fit). Virtually all the buildings and streets remain from the city’s medieval Moorish past. There were lots of shops selling “Moorish” souvenirs that were a unique mix of Islamic, North African, and Spanish. There were silver tea sets and serving platters, beautifully carved wooden boxes, hookahs, flowy clothing, and much more.
After winding our way down through the Moorish quarter, we found ourselves in one of the central tourist plazas. Since we still had a bit of time before our Alhambra time slot (you have to get tickets for a specific time window), we grabbed lunch at one of the restaurants before taking a cab up to Alhambra. Since we had purchased our tickets online, we had to pick them up at the automated machines at the main entrance.
Since we still had a bit of time before we could enter the Alhambra complex, we browsed the gift shop. There were actually a lot of neat books about Islamic and Moorish architecture and design and of course plenty of souvenirs relating to Alhambra. Our time slot finally approached and we entered Alhambra.
When you enter Alhambra, you start by the Generalife and its about a 15 – 20 minute walk across the complex to the Palacio Nazaries, which is one of 3 palaces at Alhambra and the most stunning in my opinion. Since they limit how many people can enter Palacio Nazaries at a time, you get a 30 minute window in which to enter the palace printed on your ticket. Ours was 30 minutes after entering Alhambra, so we headed straight to the line to enter the palace.
After we made it into the palace, we were amazed at the details decorating the rooms and the ceilings. There were also several stunning courtyards, all making use of water. The first courtyard we entered was the Courtyard of the Myrtles, which featured a long pond flanked by two myrtle hedges.
Next, we visited the throne room, called the Hall of the Ambassadors. The ceiling in this room was stunning and was made from 8,017 inlaid wood pieces. The phrase “only Allah is victorious” was carved in this room and throughout the palace over 9,000 times! It was in this room that Columbus asked the Spanish King and Queen to finance his trip to the Orient.
Next, we visited the most famous courtyard in all of Alhambra: the Courtyard of the Lions. It is in this courtyard that a fountain surrounded by 12 lion statues stands. Back in Moorish times, the fountain told the time with water spouting from a different lion each hour. However, after the area was reclaimed by the Spanish, the fountain was taken apart to see how it worked. When it was reassembled, it no longer worked as a clock, but still makes a pretty fountain.
We continued our visit through the Palacio Nazaries to many other beautiful rooms and one more courtyard. After finishing up at Palacio Nazaries, we headed to Alcabaza. Alcabaza is the oldest part of the Alhambra complex and the original fort. Much of the original fort was destroyed when Napoleon’s troops were stationed here. At Alcabaza, we climbed to the top of the tower for a spectacular view of the city.
When we had finished touring Alcabaza, we headed to Charles V’s palace, which was built by Charles V, Holy Roman Empire. It is a square building with a perfectly round inner courtyard. We didn’t go into the palace rooms because they have been converted into an art museum, but we did visit the courtyard. The courtyard was impressive with its two floors of columns, but certainly not the most interesting of all Alhambra’s sights.
We finished up our tour of Alhambra with a visit to the gardens and Generalife. Generalife was the summer palace back in Moorish times and while it was certainly beautiful, it doesn’t compare to Palacio Nazaries. We started with the gardens leading up to the Generalife palace. These were something else and were planted in the 1930’s with beautiful trees, archways, and fountains. Upon first entering Generalife, we found ourselves in another stunning courtyard with a water feature and garden. This garden was planted about 600 years ago and still looks essentially the same today (verified by paintings).
After winding our way through the Generalife garden, we found ourselves back at the entrance/exit. It took us about 3 hours to visit everything at Alhambra and we were worn out even though it was only around 5 pm. So, we grabbed a cab back to our hotel to rest after the long day. We ate dinner that night on the roof of our hotel and had a spectacular view of the sunset over Granada and of the Alhambra.
Check back next week for the 5th part of our Spanish road trip: Alicante and Valencia.
Want to read more about our Spanish road trip? Check out the first 3 posts in the series:
Part 4: Malaga & Gibraltar (you are here!)