Granada is a city in southern Spain’s Andalusia region, in the Sierra Nevada mountains’ foothills. It’s known for splendid examples of medieval architecture dating to the Moorish occupation, especially the Alhambra. This sprawling hilltop fortress complex encompasses royal palaces, serene patios, and reflecting pools from the Nasrid dynasty and the fountains and orchards of the Generalife gardens. I made a point of taking several walking tours that allow me to see all of this beautiful region.
Once I finally made my way out of Madrid, the trip to Granada was reasonably straightforward. My GPS kept trying to sidetrack me into the hills as a shorter route as I approached the city limits of Granada. I decided to follow it, and I ended up saving not only time but, as I found later, a potentially crazy time driving through the too windy and hilly streets of this fantastic City. I finally arrived at The Airbnb, which was as advertised:
We offer a luxury independent bedroom and bathroom in a typical Andalusian house—close bus stop, besides the famous neighbourhood “Albaicín”. Live the Spanish culture within a family. TV and free Wi-Fi. Luxury, comfort and privacy with double bedroom. Private bathroom and all in a typical Andalusian atmosphere. In summertime, the guest can use the pool. The pool is communal and usually is open from 1st July to 1st September. However, this period can vary slightly. If you have a special interest, please ask us. There is free parking in the main Street for the guest that came by car.
If you are thinking to visit the Alhambra, book with time, cause sometimes all tickets are sold.
I was enchanted by the space that included a beautiful pink and white bedroom and my bathroom and sitting area on the small patio to myself. At only $52 Canadian, I was happy I had booked the three nights.
Alejandro and Delores’ hosts were terrific and pointed out things that I should see while there. I had already booked a tour for that afternoon, and after receiving directions, I headed downtown to the agency.
There were lots of walking tours to choose from, and it was hard to decide, but I ended up with this one, entitled Moorish and Gypsy Quarters Evening Walk
Join me through two of the most exciting areas of Granada. After taking a bus towards the high part of the Albaicin Quarter, we begin walking down the cobbled stone streets of the Moorish Quarter of Granada, still so authentic after so many centuries. You will think that we get lost in the winding streets of Albaicin …but that is not true… I know myself very well in the Quarter and will take you around in an easy and confident walk. In the evening, as the light turns down, the views of the Alhambra will leave you breathless because during the walk you will have several opportunities to see the Alhambra from different viewpoints and in different moments of light… some of them very popular, that you cannot miss in Granada and some others quite hidden. For many guests, this part of the experience makes the day! As well, do you want to know how the spirit of Flamenco is still alive in the gypsy Zambras? How gypsies settled and made their living inside a cave? We will talk about it in the Vereda de Enmedio, looking over the caves where they live. After two hours of tour, How about finishing with a nice conversation, in front of a tapa?
As with all the tour guides so far, Beatriz was perfect, knowledgeable and energetic. I liked that we would taxi to the top and make our way down because the roads were quite steep, and I was a little tired from my nearly 3-hour drive. The group was small and about on the same level physically, so there were a nice pace and sense of camaraderie that happened while we walked. The views were spectacular, and of course, the history lessons Beatriz gave us was riveting as we toured the Alhambra and the Gypsy community. Adela lived her childhood high in the hills and was able to tell us about the area from a firsthand point of reference and experience. The tour was $60, a little steep for a walking tour based on my experiences so far, but I think well worth the price based on all that I learned and saw. And the promised tapas and drink at the end of the day was a perfect ending.
Day 2- I spent the early part of the day poolside immediately next to the condo I was staying. The weather had been cooperating throughout my journey, and I enjoyed the downtime almost as much as the activity. But I had booked another tour for later at 5 pm.
I chose this particular tour Street Art & The Caves Tour because I have always liked graffiti-style art, and I wanted to photograph it. Although I knew I would possibly see some of the same areas of the tour the day before, this seemed like it would be different based on what the ad said:
We will be visiting three oldest neighbourhoods of Granada : Albayzin , Sacramonte , Realejo. Secret Gardens of Carmen de Los Martyres , Cuesta del Ray Chico and the highest viewpoints in the City. We will follow the best STREET ART around and enter the oldest cave houses in the Gypsy neighbourhood. We will visit the very hidden gems of Granada. Amazing Photos Guaranteed!!! 23 Euros!
It turns out I was correct. Michael, our host, showed a much different and exciting tour than did Beatriz. Although both were equally great and did cover some of the same ground, they were unique and complimented each other somehow. Michael’s tour started us at the bottom of the hill in the centre of town and led us through many streets which featured some of the most incredible street art I had ever seen. The tour took 4 hours up some reasonably steep climbs. On seeing that some of us were not thrilled with the other climbing, Michael arranged for us to take a taxi to a viewpoint and the rest of the group would meet us on top later. It was a perfect solution and after my 5-hour tour the day before, one that my feet could appreciate.
Unlike the day before, we were able to enter one of the cave homes for a snack and drink and speak to the owner and her family. We learned that as Gypsies, they had lived in the cave houses for generations- probably centuries.
Michael also recommended a couple of places to eat. After a shower and change of clothes for the evening, I ventured down to the city centre, my not so trusty GPS in hand. Of course, as usual, I got lost. Just as I was about to give up, I bumped into one of the young men on the tour, also from Canada. I tagged along with he and his friend. At the restaurant was the rest of the group who had also taken Michael’s suggestion and we had a little party in the corner of the restaurant.
Which just proved my point that you don’t always have to travel with someone to enjoy a trip. I find that being alone forces you out of your comfort zone. I certainly made some beautiful connections during this trip, and never felt lonely at any time as there was always someone to talk to along the way I found
Day 3- The next morning, I headed downtown to do some shopping and get myself lost in the City’s incredibly narrow streets. It was like stepping back in time- both romantic and mysterious. The Gypsy vibe fascinated me. After a few hours wandering and taking photos, I purchased a couple of trinkets and a beautiful skirt and headed back to my quarters for a rest for yet another walking tour that evening.
Both of the walking tours I had done had taken us alongside the palace and buildings, but not inside. My B&B hosts suggested that I purchase tickets to get an even better understanding of the Alhambra and visit the famous gardens. I booked through Skip the Line for the next day in the late afternoon and happily made my way with a small group of tourists through the many buildings and palaces that made up the Alhambra. Our guide Adela was excellent and like all the others, extremely knowledgeable.
By the end of the tour, I was overwhelmed from all I had seen, experienced and learned and knew I needed to find some time to be. I visited the famous Granada Cathedral and wandered the streets for photo ops, of which there were plenty, of beautiful buildings, fountains and people.
The next morning my host Alejandro accompanied me in my rental car to a place where I could pick up the highway without getting lost along the way. My next destination was Seville, but I know that I will never forget the magic and wonder of Granada in a million years.