Granada is most famous for the stunning Moorish palace of Alhambra, Serene Islamic architecture, monumental churches, old-school tapas bars and counterculture graffiti art combine to make Granada a compelling city break. Granada’s allure is its most palpable force, tucked away among the Sierra Nevada Mountains in southern Spain, this Andalusian gem is awash with an infectious European charm as well as a strong sense of mystery brought on by its storied history.
At the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, between the rivers Darro and Genil, lies one of the most interesting cities in eastern Andalusia. The most breathtaking of Granada is all within touching distance of nature; a beautiful river trickles off the mountainside where the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada sit in the distance. Granada is one of the most magical cities in Europe, a place where history comes to life, and old cobbled streets sit in the shadow of incredible Moorish palaces.
Granada’s history as a former Moorish empire fascinates, its age-old architecture enchants and its rich culture enthralls the scores of travelers who make the trek to this small Spanish city every year. Granada was the final stronghold of the Spanish Moors. Evidence of Islamic influence is still prevalent throughout the city, from its Arab baths to the Alcaiceria to the Albayzin and the mighty Alhambra.
Granada has an unmistakably Moorish flavour, as it was the last city to be reconquered by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492. The gastronomy, craftwork and urban planning are influenced by its glorious past. Fountains, viewpoints and “Cármenes”, houses surrounded by typical gardens of this city, create unforgettable corners in the city. It is no surprise that one of its historic districts, Albaicín, is a World Heritage Site, together with the Alhambra and Generalife. It was an important cultural centre for many centuries, under both Islamic and Christian rulers, and still boasts an admirable array of culture and leisure activities.
The Alhambra, a medieval Nasrid citadel and palace, is located in Granada. It is one of the most famous monuments of Islamic architecture and one of the most visited tourist sites in Spain. Islamic-period influence and Moorish architecture are also preserved in the Albaicín neighborhood and other medieval monuments in the city. The 16th century also saw a flourishing of Mudéjar architecture and Renaissance architecture, followed later by Baroque and Churrigueresque styles.
Granada is one of the most magical cities in Europe, a place where history comes to life, and old cobbled streets sit in the shadow of incredible Moorish palaces. The city reveals itself in unpredictable ways, peer through the intricate lattice of a Moorish window. Hear water burbling unseen among the labyrinthine hedges of the Generalife Gardens. Listen to a flute trilling deep in the swirl of alleys around the cathedral. Explore monuments of the Moorish civilization and its conquest in the old center.
In Granada, churches were once the sites of mosques, bakeries formerly bath houses and shops primarily served tea instead of tapas. Wandering the beautiful streets, and soaking up the chilled way of life in this enchanting city. Though the days of dynasties changing and cultures clashing are long gone, what’s left is a tangible sense of tradition. It’s one of the birthplaces of flamenco and home to the University of Granada. About a third of its population is comprised of students, giving it a relaxed college town vibe that belies its long and complex history.
As well as its impressive Al-Andalus heritage, there are Renaissance architectural gems and the most modern facilities, fit for the 21st century. Film, music or theatre festivals are complemented with permanent or travelling exhibitions on all fields of knowledge. Renaissance palaces are home to seminars, conferences and lectures, while the most innovative infrastructure is ready for larger-scale events.
In Granada, anything is possible,embrace the city in all its unique forms and get completely lost in its splendor. Catch a flamenco show in caves once inhabited by African gypsies, shop goods that can be found on the streets of Morocco, hike the foothills of Spain’s largest national park. Taste the treats of a North African–flavored culture that survives here today. Grab some free tapas with a local ‘Cerveza’, relax on the river shore, or watch the sun go down from a hilltop viewpoint.
Granada is a city that will captivate all your senses: your sense of sight with its impressive monuments such as the Alhambra, the Cathedral and the stunning landscapes seen from the viewpoint of San Nicolás; your sense of smell with its jasmine blossom scented streets in the Albaicín district; your sense of hearing with the flamenco celebrations of the Sacromonte; your sense of touch when you cast your hand over the ancient stones of the buildings; your sense of taste when you try the delicious local dishes. Granada is a city of kings, which has to be experienced.
Granada town is very pleasant to stroll in. The cathedral is enormous. Behind it is the Capilla Real, holding the tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella; the Corral de Carbon is a Moorish building nearby; the Albaicin is the old Moorish quarter, with lots of twisty little lanes, and several lookout points across the valley to the Alhambra. At the bottom, near the Plaza Nueva, are lots of Moroccan and touristy shops.
In addition to the provincial capital and the region of Granada, there are a number of towns historically linked to the city of the Alhambra. These towns share its rich heritage and are located in the town’s so-called green belt, surrounded by carefully tended gardens and green spaces. Some municipalities have played a crucial role in world history and culture, such as Santa Fe, a town created by the Catholic Kings to besiege Granada and where the Capitulations for the discovery of the Americas were signed by Christopher Columbus. Another example is Fuente Vaqueros, the birthplace of Federico García Lorca, one of the most important Spanish poets and playwrights.
The Alhambra is a fortified palace complex located on the Sabika hill, an outcrop of the Sierra Nevada which overlooks the city of Granada. The Alhambra is a city, fortress and palace built by the kings of the Nasrid dynasty of the Kingdom of Granada. Its name comes from the Arabic name for the colour of its walls (Al-Hamra), which were made using local clay, giving the bricks a reddish tint. It is the symbol of Granada and is the most visited monument in Spain, a true masterpiece of Muslim art in Europe. It is one of the most famous monuments of Islamic architecture and one of the best-preserved palaces of the historic Islamic world, in addition to containing notable examples of Spanish Renaissance architecture. The Alhambra was officially declared a World Heritage Site in 1984.
It is located on the Sabika hill, near the Río Darro. Most of it is made up of the Generalife gardens, the Palacios Nazaríes and the Alcazaba, built by the Arabs. Of Christian origin are the Palacio de Carlos V and the Iglesia de María, built on the site of a former mosque. The Palacios Nazaríes are grouped irregularly and the different chambers are connected by courtyards or galleries. The last Moorish stronghold in Europe, the Alhambra reflects the splendor of Moorish civilization in Andalusia and offers the visitor splendid ornamental architecture, spectacular and lush gardens, cascading and dripping water features, and breathtaking views of the city.
The Alhambra dates back to the 9th century, when the Alcazaba was used as a sanctuary. It was in the 13th century when the first Nasrid ruler, Mohammed I, made his royal residence here. His successor, Mohammed II, finished building the walled ramparts. In the 14th century, during the reigns of Yusuf and Mohammed V, the Alhambra acquired its splendid monumental appearance that we still see today. Yusuf ordered the Palacio de Comares to be built, with its impressive tower overlooking the city. The inner chamber of the palace was where the sultan’s throne was located, under the canopy representing the idea of the universe of Allah. Yusuf also added enormous gateways, including the Puerta de las Armas (the main entrance to the Alhambra) and the Puerta de la Justicia.
Mohammed V renovated the Palacio de Comares and added the impressive façade of the Patio Cuarto Dorado. He also built the innovative Palacio de los Leones, moving away from the traditional palace designs of the time and creating a new structure consisting of four parts based on the Eastern Islamic models. The Alhambra was a palace, citadel, fortress and the home of the Nasrid sultans, high government officials, servants of the court and elite soldiers from the 13th to the 14th century. Other notable buildings belonging to a different time period are also located within the Alhambra complex, most notably the Renaissance style Palace of Charles V, which houses the Alhambra Museum (with historical artifacts from the site) and the Fine Art Museum.
The Alhambra was a self-contained city separate from the rest of Granada below. It contained most of the amenities of a Muslim city such as a Friday mosque, hammams (public baths), roads, houses, artisan workshops, a tannery, and a sophisticated water supply system. As a royal city and citadel, it contained at least six major palaces, most of them located along the northern edge where they commanded views over the Albaicín quarter. The most famous and best-preserved are the Mexuar, the Comares Palace, the Palace of the Lions, and the Partal Palace, which form the main attraction to visitors today.
The other palaces are known from historical sources and from modern excavations. At the Alhambra’s western tip is the Alcazaba fortress, the centerpiece of its defensive system. The architecture of the Nasrid palaces reflects the tradition of Moorish architecture developed over previous centuries. Decoration is focused on the inside of the building and was executed primarily with tile mosaics on lower walls and carved stucco on the upper walls. Geometric patterns, vegetal motifs, and Arabic calligraphy were the main types of decorative motifs. Additionally, “stalactite”-like sculpting, known as muqarnas, was used for three-dimensional features like vaulted ceilings.
The Alhambra is a vast complex, composed of many structures and gardens on its lush grounds. The Alhambra is an unparalleled example of how light and water can be used as architectural effects. By carefully selecting the right materials, the appearance of the buildings changes with the varying patterns of light. The water acts as a kind of mirror, reflecting the architecture and decorative figures, adding to the sense of calm and tranquillity. The water, combining with light, creates optical illusions and helps soften the harsher lines of the horizontal architecture, such as in the Patio de los Arrayanes.
In order to fully appreciate the unique architecture of the Alhambra set within the surrounding landscape, it is advisable to see the Alhambra for afar as well as up close: several locations in the Albaizín (most notably the San Nicolás Viewpoint) or Sacromonte, both covered below, allow you the opportunity to truly admire the Alhambra’s spectacular location, lying just above the city of Granada.
The Alcazaba or citadel is the oldest part of the Alhambra today. It was the centerpiece of the complicated system of fortifications that protected the area. The ruins of a massive fortress perched atop the crest of the hill overlooking the city, this is the oldest part of the Alhambra and offers some of the finest views of anywhere in the complex, with an expansive panorama from the top of the prominent tower that gives you a spectacular view of nearly the entire city and the Sierra Nevada mountains. Within the fort’s walls are the ruins of a town which once held soldier’s homes and baths, though today only the outline of these rooms remain.
Its tallest tower, the 26 m high Tower of Homage, was the keep and military command post of the complex. It may have also been the first residence of Ibn al-Ahmar inside the Alhambra while the complex was being constructed. The westernmost tower, the 25 m high Torre de la Vela, acted as a watch tower. The flag of Ferdinand and Isabella was first raised above it as a symbol of the Spanish conquest of Granada on 2 January 1492. A bell was added on the tower soon afterward and for centuries it was rung at regular times every day and on special occasions. In 1843 the tower became part of the city’s coat of arms. Inside the enclosure of the inner fortress was a residential district that housed the elite guards of the Alhambra. It contained urban amenities like a communal kitchen, a hammam, and a water supply cistern, as well as multiple subterranean chambers which served as dungeons and silos.
The Nasrid royal palace and the primary attraction of the Alhambra complex, the palace is an impressive, at times breathtakingly beautiful work of architecture. The royal palace complex consists of three main parts, from west to east: the Mexuar, the Comares Palace, and the Palace of the Lions. Collectively, these palaces are also known as the Old Royal Palace, to distinguish them from the newer palaces erected next to them during the Christian Spanish period. Visitors get to see spectacular archways and windows, carved wooden ceilings, intricate molded-plaster work and colourful ceramic tiles at nearly every turn as they meander between lovely rooms and lush courtyards.
The tour starts in the Mexuar, a set of administrative rooms with a beautiful prayer room and a small square courtyard with the golden Façade of Comares. The Mexuar is the westernmost part of the palace complex. It was analogous to the mashwars (or mechouars) of royal palaces in North Africa. It was first built as part of the larger complex begun by Isma’il I which included the Comares Palace. It housed many of the administrative and more public functions of the palace, such as the chancery and the treasury. Its layout consisted of two consecutive courtyards followed by a main hall, all aligned along a central axis from west to east. Little remains of the two western courtyards of the Mexuar today, except for their foundations, a portico, and the water basin of a fountain. The main hall, known as the Sala del Mexuar or Council Hall, served as a throne hall where the sultan received and judged petitions.
The Comares Palace
The Comares Palace itself is centered around the Court of the Myrtles, a courtyard measuring 23 to 23.5 metres wide and 36.6 metres long, with its long axis aligned roughly north-to-south. A rectangular courtyard with a long pool of water flanked on each side by a myrtle hedge. The myrtle bushes that are the court’s namesake grow in hedges along either side of this pool. Two ornate porticos are situated at the north and south ends of the court, leading to further halls and rooms behind them. The court’s decoration contained eleven qasā’id by Ibn Zamrak, eight of which remain.
On the north side of the Court of the Myrtles, inside the massive Comares Tower, is the Hall of the Ambassadors, the largest room in the Alhambra. Cross to the other end of the Court of the Myrtles to enter the Ship Room, with its spectacular carved wooden ceiling in the shape of an upside-down hull, and the Chamber of the Ambassadors, the palace’s largest and perhaps most spectacular room, which once functioned as the throne room and features a star-studded wooden ceiling, intricately carved stucco walls and beautiful arched windows. The sultan’s throne was placed opposite the entrance in front of a recessed double-arched window at the back of the hall. In addition to the extensive tile and stucco decoration of the walls, the interior culminates in a large domed ceiling. The ceiling is made of 8017 interlinked pieces of wood that form an abstract geometric representation of the seven heavens. The hall and its tower project from the walls of the palace, with windows providing views in three directions.
At the end of the courtyard there is a view of the twelve Lion Statues from the fountain in the Court of the Lions, which is undergoing renovation. From here you’ll pass through a series of small rooms, including the Washington Irving Room, where Washington Irving wrote Tales of the Alhambra, as well as down an open-air hallway with an excellent view of an adjacent courtyard (the Court of Linda-Raja) and the Albayzín. Passing by the old bath house you’ll enter the Hall of the Two Sisters, a spectacular domed room with an intricate stucco ceiling and lovely views of the Court of Linda-Raja. From here you can navigate around the edge of the Court of the Lions (under renovation) to the Hall of the Abencerrages, structurally similar to the Hall of the Two Sisters. At this point you can exit the palace, which will place you near the entrance to the Partal Gardens.
Palace of the Lions
The Palace of the Lions is one of the most famous palaces in Islamic architecture and exemplifies the apogee of Nasrid architecture under the reign of Muhammad V. The arches and columns of the surrounding portico are arranged in a complex pattern of single columns alternating with groups of two or three columns, a design that was unique in Islamic architecture. Two ornate pavilions stand at the east and west sides of the courtyard, while the center is occupied by the famed Fountain of the Lions. The fountain consists of a large basin surrounded by twelve stylized lion sculptures, all carved from marble. Along the rim of the fountain’s basin is an inscribed poem composed by Ibn Zamrak. This praises the beauty of the fountain and the power of the lions, but it also describes their hydraulic systems and how they worked.
To the east of the Comares Palace and the Palace of the Lions is an area of Renaissance-style Christian additions dating primarily from the 16th century. Directly north of the Palace of the Lions is the Patio de Lindaraja (Lindaraja Courtyard), originally an open garden area but turned into a cloistered garden by the addition of new structures around it during the 16th century. The fountain at its center features a Baroque pedestal made in 1626 that supports a Nasrid marble basin installed here at the same time, although a replica now replaces the original basin which is kept at the Alhambra Museum.
The lush and gorgeous gardens of the Nasrid kings, the expansive Generalife is the finest set of Moorish style gardens in Andalusia, positioned on a hill situated at the rear of the complex overlooking the Alhambra palace. Within you’ll find beds of colorful flowers, more exquisite architecture, leaping fountains and cool shade. There are two entrances to the Generalife, one at the ticket booth on the east side of the complex and another next to the Palacios Nazaries which will take you through the 14 Partal Gardens, a collection of palace gardens with flowing water streams and a large pool of water which reflects a nearby portico.
To the east of the Palace of the Lions and the Renaissance additions is the Partal Palace, a pavilion structure on the edge of the Alhambra walls. From the Partal you can follow the Promenade of The Towers, the remains of the main wall and its adjoining towers that separate the Alhambra palace grounds from the Generalife. Beyond the Partal is an area of gardens stretching along the northern wall of the Alhambra. Several towers along this northern wall were converted into small palatial residences during the Nasrid period, including the Tower of the Pointed Battlements, the Tower of the Captive, and theTower of the Princesses.
As you cross a bridge over a small canyon you’ll enter the Generalife proper, where you can follow a promenade past the amphitheater to the Lower Gardens, a collection of hedge rows with rectangular ponds at the center and colorful flower beds throughout. Past this is the Generalife Palace, the white structure sitting atop the hill and the highlight of a visit to the gardens, for it is within that you will find spectacular views, lovely architecture, and the much-photographed Court of the Main Canal, with its crossing jets of water that arc over the rectangular pool. Nearby is the Soultana’s Court, another picturesque courtyard with leaping fountains. Above the palace are the High Gardens, where you can find a gorgeous long pergola and the Water Stairway, which true to its name is a beautiful stairway with water flowing down its parapets. The gardens are huge, but the layout is simple as everything in the Generalife can be seen along a long, circular path.
Palace of Charles V
A more recent addition to the Alhambra, this 16th century building was commissioned following the Reconquista by Charles V as a royal residence close to the Alhambra palace. The square two-level structure is done in Renaissance style with an impressive circular courtyard ringed by a colonnade within. The building is also home to two museums, the Museo de la Alhambra on the lower floor with a collection of artifacts and art from the Alhambra, and the Museo de Bellas Artes, a small fine art museum on the upper floor, which houses a collection of paintings from Granada dating from the 16th to 20th centuries, as well as a couple of changing museum exhibits which regularly feature art with some connection to the Alhambra.
The construction of a monumental Italian-influenced palace in the heart of the Nasrid-built Alhambra symbolized Charles V’s imperial status and the triumph of Christianity over Islam achieved by his grandparents (the Catholic Monarchs). It consists of a massive square structure of stone which encloses a perfectly circular courtyard. The exterior facades are divided into two horizontal zones of decoration, with rustication below and pilasters alternating with other embellishments above.The two main entrance portals, on the western and southern sides, have designs resembling triumphal arches with engaged columns. The pedestals of these columns are carved with reliefs depicting allegorical scenes such as the Victories destroying armaments, representing the emperor’s imposition of a universal peace. The upper façade of the southern entrance portal features a Serlian window. Among the other details of the palace façades are a series of bronze rings or knockers which are strictly ornamental, with more Hispanic symbolic imagery such as lion and eagle heads.
Oriented around the intersection of Gran Via de Colon and Calle Reyes Catolicos, central Granada is the historic center and bustling heart of the city, with its many shops, restaurants, bars and attractions situated along narrow cobblestone and brick alleys or on the edge of one of the many serene plazas in the area. Walking through and take in the sights, smells and sounds of superb architecture, good food, and pleasant conversations among residents.
Cathedral of Granada
The cathedral of Granada is built over the Nasrid Great Mosque of Granada, in the centre of the city. Towering over the surrounding blocks is this spectacular 16th century structure, the second-largest cathedral in Spain and noted for its bright Renaissance interior. Constructed after the Reconquista of Granada to replace the mosque on the site, the cathedral was laid out with Gothic foundations but built in the Renaissance style and decorated with Baroque elements. Its construction began during the Spanish Renaissance in the early 16th century, shortly after the conquest of Granada by the Catholic Monarchs, who commissioned the works to Juan Gil de Hontañón and Enrique Egas. Numerous grand buildings were built in the reign of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, so that the cathedral is contemporary to the Christian palace of the Alhambra, the University and the Real Chancillería (Supreme Court).
The church was conceived on the model of the Cathedral of Toledo, for what initially was a Gothic architectural project, as was customary in Spain in the early decades of the 16th century. However, Egas was relieved by the Catholic hierarchy in 1529, and the continuation of the work was assigned to Diego Siloe, who built upon the example of his predecessor, but changed the approach towards a fully Renaissance aesthetic. The architect drew new Renaissance lines for the whole building over the gothic foundations, with an ambulatory and five naves instead of the usual three. Over time, the bishopric continued to commission new architectural projects of importance, such as the redesign of the main façade, undertaken in 1664 by Alonso Cano (1601–1667) to introduce Baroque elements. In 1706 Francisco de Hurtado Izquierdo and later his collaborator José Bada built the current tabernacle of the cathedral.
Highlights of the church’s components include the main chapel, where may be found the praying statues of the Catholic Monarchs, which consists of a series of Corinthian columns with the entablature resting on their capitals, and the vault over all. The spaces of the walls between the columns are perforated by a series of windows. The design of the tabernacle of 1706 preserves the classic proportions of the church, with its multiple columns crossing the forms of Diego de Siloé. Upon entering you’ll be behind the main altar, located beneath the towering circular Capilla Mayor (sanctuary) with its magnificent domed ceiling. Surrounding the sanctuary and the pews are a series of chapels with magnificent artwork, and the sacristy holds a collection of fine paintings, mirrors, and furnishings. Additionally, the spectacular façade of the cathedral based on the design of a triumphal arch.
The chapel was constructed in Gothic style but the intricate marble tombs are done in Renaissance style. Built in several stages, the continuing evolution of its design joined Gothic construction and decoration with Renaissance ideals, as seen in the tombs and the 17th and 18th century Granadan art in the Chapel of Santa Cruz. Commissioned after the Reconquista of the city, the Royal Chapel holds the tombs of King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I, the famed Catholic Monarchs who conquered the city and decided to be buried at the site of their victory. The Royal Chapel of Granada, built over the former terrace of the Great Mosque, ranks with other important Granadan buildings such as the Lonja and the Catedral e Iglesia del Sagrario. In it are buried the Catholic Monarchs, their daughter Joanna of Castile (Juana la Loca) and her husband Felipe I (Felipe el Hermoso).
Construction of the Chapel started in 1505, directed by its designer, Enrique Egas. Over the years the church acquired a treasury of works of art, liturgical objects and relics. The most important parts of the chapel are its main retable, grid and vault. In the Sacristy-Museum is the legacy of the Catholic Monarchs. Its art gallery is highlighted by works of the Flemish, Italian and Spanish schools. Aside from the beautiful and intricate artwork in the chapel and high altar there is also a museum on-site with a number of objects symbolizing Ferdinand and Isabel’s rule, including Isabella’s art collection, crown and sceptre and Ferdinand’s sword.
Plaza Isabel la Catolica
At the intersection of Gran Via de Colon and Calle Reyes Catolicos. At the junction of Granada’s two grand boulevards is this small square with a prominent statue of Columbus unfurling a contract with Queen Isabel, outlining the terms of their agreement in preparation for his first voyage to the Americas, an event which likely occurred in Granada. A pleasant fountain surrounds the statue and there are benches nearby, allowing you to relax and take in the passing crowds of vehicles and people.
Plaza de Bib-Rambla
A block west of the Cathedral. A pleasant square with a view of the cathedral’s tower, this plaza was originally the center of Moorish Granada, a bustling focus point of markets and festivals. Under Christian rule the square was expanded and used as a focal point of Catholic processions. Today the square is a quiet place to relax, enjoy a coffee or a meal, or take in the colorful flowers and bubbling fountain.
South of the Cathedral is this set of winding alleyways which were originally home to a Moorish silk market under Granada’s Muslim rule. Although the market initially survived the Reconquista, Philip II had it shut down and a fire destroyed what was left in 1850. Today’s market was rebuilt in the late 19th century for tourists and holds mostly souvenir stores underneath the Moorish-style archways decorating the walls.
Corral del Carbón
One of the rare bits of Moorish architecture left in the central district, this courtyard building is perhaps the oldest monument in Granada. Originally the building was used as a caravanserai – a place for merchants to rest and store goods – and was one of many surrounding the Alcaiceria.
Calle Reyes Catolicos. Long an important center of life in Granada, Plaza Nueva is the city’s oldest square, situated beneath the Alhambra and at the foot of the Albayzin, and today links these attractions with the newer parts of the city to the west. Surrounding the square is a multitude of bars and tapas restaurants (making the square the city’s center for nightlife) as well as several important buildings such as the Royal Chancellery (Real Chancilleria), the House of Pisa (Casa de Los Pisa), and the Church of Santa Ana on the east side of the square, a 16th century church constructed in Mudejar style with a lovely tower.
Museo José Guerrero
A small museum dedicated to the Granada-born painter José Guerrero. The uppermost floor has a permanent collection of his abstract expressionist paintings, while the lower two floors show temporary exhibits of contemporary art and photography by Spanish and international artists.
Albayzín dates back to the fourteenth century and was built as a defensive town and thrived as one of the centers of Granada under Muslim rule. Situated on a hill above the center of town and across from the Alhambra, the Albayzín is an ancient Muslim neighborhood, still retains much of its medieval street plan dating back to the Nasrid period, although it has undergone physical and demographic changes since then. Among its narrow, winding streets one will find beautiful white-washed old buildings, splendid Arabic shops and restaurants, scenic gardens, and marvelous views of Granada and the Alhambra. Today part of a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Calle Calderería Nueva is a stepped cobblestone street lined with Arabic restaurants, tea shops, bakeries and shops selling imported goods from North Africa. Albayzín with many steep sections and stairways, always with a new path to explore or a hidden surprise waiting to be discovered. Old shops, apartments, and other buildings cluster up the hill in the Albayzin on one side, and across the Rio Darro along the other side is the steep hill upon which is the Alhambra. Along the street are beautifully preserved buildings, remains of Arab houses, stone bridges crossing the Rio Darro, and plenty of nice restaurants. Below the Albayzin is Carrera del Darro, one of the most scenic walks in Granada, a narrow street winding from Plaza Nueva along the meandering Rio Darro.
The traditional type of house is the carmen, consisting of a freestanding house with typically whitewashed walls and including a small orchard or garden. Among the oldest and most important preserved historic houses in the neighbourhood are the Casa de Zafra and the Dar al-Horra, both dating from the Nasrid period. The Casa de Zafra was built in the 14th to 15th century and is named after Hernando de Zafra, the Secretary of Ferdinand and Isabella. The Dar al-Horra was a Nasrid palace built in the 15th century. Both mansions include large rectangular courtyards oriented in a north-south direction. The main rooms of the houses were located behind porticos on the north and south sides of the courtyard.
Traditional house architecture evolved over the 15th and 16th centuries. Previously, the ground floors of residences were more important and more heavily decorated. Over this period, however, it became more common to build an upper story and this upper story often became more richly-decorated than the ground floor. The “doubling” of rooms on both the ground and upper floors likely reflected their seasonal use: the upper floors, which were warmer, were used in colder months while the ground floors were used in warmer months. In the 16th century, Castilian Gothic and Renaissance motifs also began to appear among the decorative motifs and the upper floor galleries were extended around all four sides of the courtyard (rather than just the north and south sides).
A section of the 11th-century Zirid city walls runs along the high ridge of the Albaicin today, from Puerta de Elvira in the west to Puerta Nueva in the east. These walls protected the former Zirid palace and citadel, the al-Qaṣaba al-Qadīma. A wide view of these walls can be seen from the Mirador de San Cristobal, among other vantage points. Further north, a long section of the 14th-century Nasrid extension of the walls runs from Carretera de Murcia in the west to the slopes above the Sacromonte area in the east. The highest point of these walls is marked by the Hermitage of San Miguel Alto, a church built on the site of a former Nasrid fortification tower (known as Burj al-Zeitun, “Tower of the Olive Tree”).
San José Church
Located in a spot previously occupied by the Almorabitín, or mosque of morabites, and is one of the oldest churches in Granada, dating back to the sixteenth century. The architecture of the old mosque is still visible in parts, particularly in the minaret-turned-bell tower.
San Nicolas Viewpoint
The most popular attraction in the Albayzin for tourists, this spot offers a spectacular view of the Alhambra and the mountains behind, as well as excellent vistas of the city and up the Rio Darro canyon.
Mosque of Granada
Built in 2003, stands as a link with the Muslim Granada of old. The mosque building is designed with traditional Muslim motifs. The building complex consists of a garden and center for Islamic studies. The center consists of library, conference hall, exhibition area, bookshop and reception area. Enter the fragrant garden and take in the architecture of the beautiful building. The garden’s marvelous view of the Alhambra and for the sight of Moorish-style architecture that’s newly constructed.
A small and shady plaza, this is the center of Albayzín for its residents, removed from the tourist crowds of the San Nicolas Viewpoint, surrounded by local shops and restaurants and home to a local market on Saturday mornings. On the west edge of the plaza, tucked around a corner, is Puerta Nueva, a passageway to Placeta de las Minas situated at the end of a remaining section of defensive wall which once protected the Albayzín.
Hamman El Bañuelo
The Bañuelo is the ruins of perhaps the most well-preserved Arabic bath house in Spain. Once a popular socializing spot during Muslim Granada, most of the bath houses in the city were destroyed followed the Reconquista – this one survived due to the construction of a private home above. Inside you can view the beautiful architecture and learn how the bath house functioned, with its hot and cooling rooms and scenic courtyard.
Paseo de los Tristes
Perched above the Rio Darro at the end of Carrera del Darro, this plaza was once on the busiest gathering spots in Granada, positioned along a curve of the river between the Alhambra and the Albayzin. Today it is a popular place to eat owing to the restaurants lining the north side of the square and the magnificent views of the Alhambra palace it offers.
Sacromonte is located on the hillside and in the valley of Valparaíso, opposite the Alhambra. The neighborhood is noted for its many cave dwellings built within the sides of the hill poking out here and there between the scrubby bushes and cacti. The district is also famous for its flamenco shows popular with tourists and the amazing views of the Alhambra. Traditionally the neighborhood of the Granadian Romani, who settled in Granada after the Christian conquest of the city in 1492, it is one of the most picturesque neighbourhoods of the city, with cave houses installed in whitewashed caves
At the top of this hill is the Abbey of Sacromonte and the College of Sacromonte, founded in the 17th century by the then Archbishop of Granada Pedro de Castro. The Abbey of Sacromonte was built to monitor and guard the alleged relics of the evangelists of Baetica. The abbey complex consists of the catacombs, the abbey (17th–18th centuries), the Colegio Viejo de San Dionisio Areopagita (17th century) and the Colegio Nuevo (19th century). The interior of the church is simple and small but has numerous excellent works of art, which accentuate the size and rich carving of the Crucificado de Risueño, an object of devotion for the Romani people, who sing and dance in the procession of Holy Week. The facilities also include a museum, which houses the works acquired by the Foundation.
Sacromonte Caves Museum
This museum offers the chance to get to know this neighborhood, with geological and historical exhibits on the caves, the biology, the people and the form of living as well as the traditional handicrafts of the locals. This Museum opened its doors in 2002 and occupies a space of 4800 square metres in which up to 11 caves have been recovered for viewing in their original state as maintained by their inhabitants. The aim of the museum is to make known and help understand the culture, history and natural environment of the Darro River Valley (a Site of Cultural Interest since 2016). Through these 11 caves visitors can recognize the cave-house, the stable, the traditional trades (basketry, forge, loom, pottery), a cave exclusively dedicated to the history of flamenco in the Sacromonte and another one specialized in troglodyte architecture in the world.
Stretching north of central Granada, the north side of town encompass a set of newer neighborhoods with wide boulevards, modern and grand classically-designed buildings and lovely urban parks. This section of town include the Universidad de Granada, government buildings, and two of the train station and the bus depot.
Charterhouse of Granada
The Charterhouse of Granada is a monastery of cloistered monks, located in what was a farm or Muslim almunia called fountain of tears that had an abundance of water and fruit trees. Also known as Cartuja Monastery, a spectacular example of Baroque-style architecture, this monastery was commissioned in the 16th century but construction was interrupted and not completed until over three centuries later. The street entrance to the complex is an ornate arch of Plateresque style. Through it one reaches a large courtyard, at the end which is a wide staircase leading to the entrance of the church. The church, of early 16th century style and plan, has three entrances, one for the faithful and the other two for monks and clergy. Upon entering you’ll pass through a cloister garden that serves as the building’s tranquil courtyard, with small rooms splitting off from here.
Its plan has a single nave divided into four sections, highlighting the retables of Juan Sánchez Cotán and the chancel’s glass doors, adorned with mother-of-pearl, silver, rare woods, and ivory. The presbytery is covered by elliptical vaulting. The main altar, between the chancel arch and the church tabernacle, is gilded wood. The church’s tabernacle and sancta sanctorum are considered a masterpiece of Baroque Spanish art in its blend of architecture, painting and sculpture. The dome that covers this area is decorated with frescoes by the Córdoba artist Antonio Palomino (18th century) representing the triumph of the Church Militant, faith, and religious life. The courtyard, with galleries of arches on Doric order columns opening on it, is centered by a fountain. The Chapter House of Legos is the oldest building of the monastery (1517). It is rectangular and covered with groin vaulting.
Once the principal gate to the old city, Elvira’s Gate now stands on the edge of a plaza, a grand Moorish-style archway over a local street.
Commissioned in 1504 by Isabel and Ferdinand, this massive square red-brick building was originally used as a hospital for the poor and soldiers who had been injured in the Reconquista of Granada. Situated on a hill over a nearby park, the structure now belongs to the University and is worth looking inside for its splendid architecture.
A beautiful urban park situated beneath the Hospital Real, the gardens hold a large fountain and an isolated column with a monument to the Virgin at the center overlooking the Avenida de La Constitucion. Evening is the best time to come, when the fountains are lit and the backdrop with the illuminated Hospital Real is most dramatic.
San Jeronimo Monastery
The first monastery to be built in the city after the reconquest by the Christians, this monastery is noted for its picturesque courtyards, the Spanish Baroque-style sacristy and the splendid artwork on display.
Basilica San Juan de Dios
A gorgeous example of the Baroque granadino style with an over-the-top interior—not an inch isn’t lavishly decorated. The basilica is also the final resting place of many of Granada’s saints: climb the stairs to the room behind the main altar where 190 bones and other relics are displayed.
Rio Genil is the main river through Granada, the south side of town is an interesting mix of old and new. To the east, on the foothills beneath the Alhambra, sits Realejo, once the Jewish district under Muslim Granada and now a sleepy neighborhood with many scenic villas and gardens among its narrow streets. To the west, closer to the center of town, lies bustling Puerta Real. Surrounding the intersection of Calle Reyes Catolicos, Calle Recogidas and Acera Del Darro, Puerta Real is the center of modern Granada, a district of grand classical and modern buildings and the city’s primary shopping destination. South of the river is a modern section of town with many apartment highrises and office buildings.
Santo Domingo Church
Founded in 1512 by the Catholic Kings, this beautiful church sports a handsome stone portico entrance with a lovely painting and sculptures beneath an impressive bell tower. Inside, the high ceilings and domed sanctuary are spectacular and the chapels feature intricate artwork.
Carmen de los Mártires
An absolutely beautiful set of gardens near the Alhambra, this place is well worth a side trip if you have an hour or two to spare. The gardens date to the nineteenth century and have a blend of Moorish-style elements such as amble shade, decorative arches and bubbling fountains with English and French romantic style elements – one garden has an ornamental duck pond complete with statues, grottoes and follies (keep an eye out for the peacocks that wander the gardens). In addition, the views of Granada and the Alhambra from the terraces are absolutely marvelous.
Federico García Lorca Museum
On the outskirts of town is this charming house that was once the summer home of poet Federico Garcia Lorca. The house-turned-museum holds the original furnishings from when he lived here in the 1920s and 30s and is pleasant enough, but the real attraction here is the splendid public park that surrounds the house that was once the family’s private estate. Within the park you’ll find tree-lined pathways, streams of water, a duck pond, a large rose garden, and a children’s playground.
Palace of the Marqués de Salar
The Palace of the Marqués de Salar is an architectural example of the classical Granada during the Renaissance transformation of the XVIth century. It was built by the Marqués de Salar, great-grandson of both Hernán Pérez del Pulgar and Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, Captain-General of the Castilian-Aragonese forces that concluded the Reconquest of the peninsula. The palace is now the museum of perfumes El Patio de los Perfumes, with 1,500 square metres of floor space on two floors and 130 square metres of patio to relax surrounded by flowers and perfumes.
Basilica Nuestra Señora de Las Angustia
The temple to Granada’s patron saint, this seventeenth century church has a richly decorated interior and is a center for local Catholic processions. The evening mass held here is one of the most heavily attended in the city and is one of the best opportunities to experience the city’s religious heritage firsthand.
There is a nice tree-lined promenade running alongside the river from Acera Del Darro along Paseo del Salon with some very pleasant gardens. From here a pleasant trail follows the river south out of the city into the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Parque de las Ciencias
Four different exhibition areas with lots to see,. Bird show every day, but take note of timing. The Al-Andalus and Science Pavilion is a major highlight, featuring unique technology brought here by the Arabs, particularly in the fields of astronomy and architecture.
The gastronomy of Granada is part of the Arabic-Andalusian cuisine tradition, with a strong Arab and Jewish heritage, which is reflected in its condiments and spices, such as cumin, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, raisins, almonds or honey. The climatic differences of the different regions of the province, from the coast to the peaks of the Sierra Nevada propitiates a great variety of raw materials: vegetables, meats and sausages, and fish that are combined in a multitude of dishes and recipes for soups and stews. The famous and reputed Trevélez ham comes from the Sierra of Granada, to which other pork derivatives are added, sausages such as chorizo, black pudding and pork tenderloin.
Ham and beans, two products of the land, are combined in one of its most typical dishes, beans with ham; Other known dishes are the Sacromonte tortilla, which among other ingredients must have cooked brains and veal crustaillas, chopped and sauteed before mixing with the egg. It is also worth mentioning “papas a lo pobre”, potatoes which are usually served with egg and fried peppers, as well as with pieces of pork or ham. Among the stews and potajes, the pot of San Antón stands out, which is eaten mainly towards the second half of January; cabbage stew, which combines vegetables and legumes; the stew of green beans and fennel; The thistle and pumpkin casserole, with noodles and aromatic herbs, or gypsy pottery are other dishes of the land.
Confectionery is well represented in the gastronomy of Granada, for sweets prepared by the nuns can be purchased in the numerous convents of the city: the pestiños of Vélez or those of the Encarnación, the puff pastries of San Jerónimo, the ovos moles of San Antón, the Zafra biscuit, sweet potato rolls, cocas, roscos from Santo Tomas and mantecados. Aljojábanas, honey and cheese dumplings and some of the fritters called almohados, as well as fig bread, Moorish roscos and an almond cake called soyá are all of Arabic heritage.
Festivals and entertainment
In Granada there is a wide program of leisure and entertainment, which covers a large number of fields, available to both visitors and citizens themselves. Old bridal parties held by the gypsies of the city, and that disappeared for years before their current vindication. They develop in the caves of the Sacromonte neighborhood and have a unique character in the world of flamenco. There are also more classic flamenco shows in the Albaicín. These flamenco shows, usually linked to restaurants, are one of the city’s cultural attractions.
Granada has a very complete range of events: International Music and Dance Festival, International Jazz Festival, Granada Festival South Cinemas and International Tango Festival, among others. Easter Week (semana santa) is the biggest fiesta. At the spring equinox, Orgiva hosts the Dragon Festival, which is a week long bash of travellers, competing sound trucks, live music, theatre and insomnia. Throughout the year there is a stable program of concerts in the Manuel de Falla Auditorium and theater and opera performances in the Congress Palace. Throughout the year several parties are held on significant dates. A botellon in Granada is basically a street drinking party, mainly populated by students from the university. Dates are variable.
Granada is a province in Andalusia in Spain. Granada is music and poetry, monuments which are pure art, and ancient culture. The coast of Granada province, the Costa Tropical, attracts hordes of Spanish and foreign beach-seekers. The city of Granada’s Moorish architecture and famous Alhambra palace bring in tourists from all over the world. In the winter the mountains of the Sierra Nevada play host to Europe’s most southerly ski resort. Hiking and eco-tourism also attract visitors to areas such as the Alpujarras and Lecrin Valley.
This province reaches towards the skies from the craggy summits of the Sierra Nevada mountains; cities with breathtaking architecture which reside serenely in the Altiplano region; white villages scattered across hills and valleys which slope down to the cliffs and beaches of the Costa Tropical. The province of Granada, tourist destination par excellence, offers travellers the chance to ski in the Sierra Nevada mountains, discover hidden villages in the Alpujarra region, explore the last frontier of the Al-Andalus empire in eastern Granada or stay in caves and experience a troglodyte’s lifestyle.
The province of Granada is characterised by a descending series of raised plains which start at the high summits and go right down to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. These plains and the height of the terrain mean that the climate in winter is extremely cold. This greatly affects the vegetation, agriculture, cattle farming and game animals. Three clearly distinct zones can be seen in Granada: the coast, the river plain in Granada, and the mountain area. Each one has its own climate, geography, history and location which set it apart from the others. A land of mild warm summers and winters which are ideal for snow sports.
The whole province is full of incentives for those who love architecture and culture. The district of Santa Fe was where the discovery of America was planned by Christopher Columbus, and Fuente Vaqueros is the birthplace of Federico García Lorca, one of the most important poets and playwrights to grace Spanish literature.
The remains of a hominid dating between one and two million years old were discovered in the Altiplano region of Granada. The Bastetani, an Iberian people, bequeathed to posterity a relic of great historic and cultural value: the Lady of Baza. Some coins struck by the Turduli people towards the 5th century bear witness to the origin of the capital of this lovely province. In the 8th century, the Berbers conquered these lands which reached their apogee with the Nasrids, who brought an economic, social, artistic and cultural development whose influence can still be seen today.
Federico Garcia Lorca is associated with Granada. A park and a museum are dedicated to him. The coast to the west of Motril is given over to tourists, with Salobrena and Almunecar as the main resorts. The coast to the east of Motril is given over to plastic greenhouses (invernaderos) which extend all the way to Almeria.
Inland lies the Alpujarra, a valley running about 50 km east-west along the southern edge of the Sierra Nevada. It contains about 80 settled places, most of them tiny villages, usually containing a jumble of white-painted houses around a plaza. The Alpujarra was the last place from which the Moors were expelled by the Christians. Little visible trace of them remains. Occasionally it is obvious that the church is a converted mosque (e.g. in Jubar).
The most popular visitor destinations in the Alpujarra are the ‘white villages’ of Pampaneira, Bubion, and Capiliera, possibly with an extension to Trevelez, where the high, dry air lends itself to the curing of ham. Fans of Gerald Brennan’s book ‘South From Granada’ may want to go further again to Yegen. To see the Sierra Nevada, most of the operators offering walking and riding tours are in the Alpujarra.
Granada province is also host to some lovely coast (Salobrena, Almunecar are only 40 minutes from Granada city, or east of there are some great beaches, from coves and hideaway nudist beaches to resorts and fishing villages like La Rabita, Castel del Ferro and Torre Nueva. The Poniente Granadino region is the western part of the Province of Granada. The region is rich in areas of archaeological interest and is encircled by the Sierra of Cordoba to the north, the Axarquia of Malaga to the South and to the west, the Valleys of Archidona and Antequera.
Sierra Nevada district
The Sierra Nevada, declared a Biosphere Reserve and Nature Reserve, is an area of striking beauty. This is nature in its purest state, with small lakes, Mediterranean woodland and rich flora and fauna. The Sierra Nevada district is located next to the districts of Alpujarra and El Marquesado del Zenete. It is home to the highest mountain range within the Iberian Peninsula. From the top of the Veleta and the Mulhacén peaks you can see the Mediterranean Sea. It is a natural alpine paradise in the heart of Andalucía with mild summers and cold winters. Between its snow-covered peaks, its rivers and forests, there are many charming villages tucked away between the monumental city of Granada and the imposing mountain ranges of the Sierra Nevada.
The villages are immersed in their natural surroundings, maintaining the rich flavour of their traditions. There, listening to the silence, you can enjoy quietness and rest. Many of these villages date back to Moorish times and had a tradition of agriculture and silk production, relying on the provincial capital for their trade. The Moorish influence can still be seen in the web of canals that collect the water of the melted snow from the Sierra Nevada taking it down to the plains. Because of its unique fauna and flora, the Sierra Nevada was declared a Biosphere Reserve, then a Natural Park and finally it was awarded National Park status. The best ski resort in Spain is located within this area. The ski resort offers miles of ski slopes, wonderful facilities, all the pleasures of Granada cuisine and breathtaking panoramic views.
At the bottom of the Sierra Nevada, the province’s capital city, Granada, with its strategic location, is the result of the fusion of western and eastern civilisations. The capital of the former Nasrid kingdom, the old city preserves the urban atmosphere with picturesque areas. The Alhambra, one of the most fascinating monumental sites in the world, dominates the city.
Costa Tropical and Valle de Lecrín
Granada’s coastal area has dozens of beaches and small coves with crystal-clear water, 320 sunny days a year and an average temperature of 20 degrees. These are the basic facts that sum up the 73 kilometres of tropical coastline in the province of Granada, which gets its name from the exceptionally good weather it enjoys all year round. On the Costa Tropical you will find more than 60 beaches along 73 km of coastline, where sea merges with land and the horizon reaches as high as the peaks of the Sierra Nevada. The Valle de Lecrín offers routes through stunning whitewashed villages, with narrow, steep streets, in the midst of a landscape that, in ancient times, bewitched Pheonecians and Romans.
The land between the sea and the mountains, where there are lush spots with a gentle climate, is used to grow the tastiest tropical fruits: mangos, avocados, custard applies, and others. Two centuries ago, this was the only place in Europe where subtropical fruits such as mangos, cherimoyas, avocados and papayas could be grown. These are fruits that evoke exotic flavours and places but, in fact, they are grown in Europe, in one of the most privileged corners of Andalucía.
This region is home to the towns of Albuñol, Almuñecar, Gualchos, Castell de Ferro, Ítrabo, Jete, Lentejí, Molvízar, Motril, Otívar, Polopos, Salobreña and Vélez de Benaudalla. Nineteen towns make up the “European Tropics”. Almuñécar, founded by the Phoenicians in 1000BC and given the name Sexi, is a place full of history that still has the remains of a Roman salted-fish factory and a fantastic jazz festival in the summer. Motril is the town with the highest population in the province of Granada, after Granada itself. Its most impressive monuments include the Iglesia Mayor de la Encarnación church and the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de la Cabeza, built on the site of the palace of Queen Aixa, mother of last king of the Nasrid dynasty, Boabdil.
Salobreña looks like a huge mountain made of sugar lumps. Its little square white houses are dotted around the hill topped with a monumental Arab castle, overlooking the sea. From the top of the hill you can enjoy the stunning panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada, the Mediterranean Sea and the plains below. Near the beaches there are a number of small and quiet coves such as Albuñol, Castell de Ferro-Gualchos and La Mamola-Polopos. Nearby you will find the towns of Albondón, Ítrabo, Jete, Lentejí, Los Guájares, Lújar, Molvízar, Murtas, Otívar, Rubite, Sorvilán, Turón and Vélez de Benaudalla, each one located in a beautiful natural setting.
The Granada coastline, with its splendid beaches, hidden coves and rugged cliffs, is ideal for every kind of sport, including diving and snorkelling, windsurfing, hang gliding and paragliding. Apart from beaches and culture, you can enjoy all kinds of outdoor activities in Granada’s Costa Tropical. And in Marina del Este (Almuñécar) and the Club Náutico in Motril you can take part in all kinds of nautical sports. The local food in the area is delicious; here you can enjoy all kinds of tropical fruits in salads or desserts, many different types of seafood such as muttonfish, bream and shrimp.
Poniente Granadino district
The Poniente Granadino district spans the western part of Granada. It includes mountain ranges, valleys, plains and countryside that together form a rich and diverse landscape. The Poniente Granadino region, the last enclave of the Andalusi border, is criss-crossed with paths and cultures in which important archaeological sites from high antiquity are preserved. The Poniente Granadino borders with the western mountain ranges as well as with the Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama. This borderland is a mixture Christian and Arab cultures, with an ancient past. Nature has been generous with this area. From the plains of the Río Genil to the peaks of the Sierra Nevada, this is a place where pines, cork trees and oak trees offer homes to the ibex, the golden eagle, the peregrine falcon and the goshawk. It is a natural environment that perfectly absorbs the typical Moorish villages such as Alhama de Granada, Arenas del Rey and Jayena.
The southwest is the most mountainous area, visitors will note a certain balance between rural and urban land, and a huge artistic heritage can be found when you tour the towns of Agrón, Algarinejo, Arenas del Rey, Cacín, Escúzar, Huétor-Tájar, Íllora, Jayena, Loja, Moclín, Montefrío, Moraleda de Zafayona, Salar, Santa Cruz del Comercio, Ventas de Huelma, Villanueva Mesía, Zafarraya and Zagra. The Tajos de Alhama is an impressive series of vertical walls topped by the town of Alhama de Granada. The dolmens of the Peña de los Gitanos are a testimony to the megalithic cultures that once inhabited the region. Later the Iberians arrived, and then the Romans and the Visigoths. It was even the backdrop of the fall of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada. La Alhama was the doorway to the capital of the last Nasrid kingdom, made up of white villages with narrow streets built around old castles.
Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans also left their imprint here, while the legacy of the Moorish culture remains alive among the inhabitants of its towns and cities, for example, the Alhama de Granada, with its Arabic thermal baths. This area’s traditional cuisine is based on ancient recipes inherited from the old Muslim and Jewish settlers. Ingredients of the finest quality are used. They include typical dishes from Andalucía such as gazpacho, stews, recipes using trout caviar from the Riofrio, asparagus from Huétor-Tájar, homemade goats cheese from Montefrio or the plains of Zafarraya, and typical Arab pastries from Loja.
La Alpujarra lies between the Sierra Nevada and the Lújar and Gádor mountain ranges. It opens up to the Mediterranean Sea from the Mulhacén, the highest peak of the Iberian Peninsula. The Granada Alpujarra boasts stunning scenery, including almond trees, vineyards and crops grown on terraces. Its landscape is rough yet colourful, scattered with ravines, canyons and valleys with traditional villages lying all around. Due to the particularly hilly terrain, the towns have adapted to the uneven land, which is why they are built spaced out and facing south, to make the most of the gentle Mediterranean climate. The cobbled, winding streets are ideal to go for a stroll and breathe in calmness and tranquillity. Time really does seem to have stopped in the Alpujarra.
This region was inhabited by Phoenicians and Romans, however it was the eight centuries of Arab domination which gave it its tiered architecture, its water irrigation system, its cuisine and even its name. Isolated and inaccessible for centuries, this rugged terrain has been kept almost unspoiled, as if time had stopped in La Alpujarra. The villages of LaAlpujarra, with their whitewashed houses, are scattered along the slopes between green forests. Next to La Alpujarra is the Valle de Lecrín valley, whose orange and lemon groves fill it with their scent. Old flourmills, Arab castles and charming farmhouses are scattered around this quiet region with its beautiful light.
The beauty of these villages is only one of its many attractions. Lanjarón, a spa town famous for the longevity and good health of its inhabitants, is the gate to the La Alpujarras’ wonders. Also known as the Puerta de la Alpujarra. It is the perfect spot to relax in the mineral-medicinal waters. There is also Órgiva, distinguished by its Moorish style. Trévelez, the highest town in Europe, is best known for its exquisite hams. Another main tourist destination the Barranco de Poqueira, a ravine where the villages of Pampaneira, Bubión and Capileira are. The Balcón de la Alpujarra, formed by the whitewashed villages of Cañar, Soportújar and Carataunas, and the Barranco de Poqueira, home to the towns of Pampaneira, Bubión and Capileira, are a must-see in this region. It is said that this is an area of goblins and witches, in addition to the smell of olives and trout with ham.
The Rio Guadalfeo divides lengthwise La Alpujarra in two, giving rise tothe High and Low Alpujarra. The High onefalls in the southern part of the Sierra Nevada where beautiful villages such as Bérchules, Busquístar, Bubión, Juviles or Yegen are located. The LowLa Alpujarra is made up of La Contraviesa, where we find unusual villages such as Lújar, Sorvilán and Albondón among others. Pedro Antonio de Alarcón dedicated his first Spanish travel book to these villages and Gerald Brenan sang of their beauty in Al Sur de Granada. For Federico García Lorca this was “the land of nowhere.”
The tradition of singing and dancing is an important part of this area’s rich folklore. The Moors and Christians alike are celebrated in many forms of art, one of the most original being the so-called alpujarreños ballads. Here, two minstrels improvise to take turns to sing an imitation of what the other has just sung. Cuisine in the Alpujarra mainly features meat and cured meat, especially the ham from Trévelez. This town is famous for being the highest municipality in Spain, as well as its typical Moorish pastries and cakes.
Located in the northeast of the province of Granada, the Altiplano or High Plateau is a unique territory that is an extraordinary mosaic of overflowing landscapes, from spectacular badlands to reservoirs with crystalline water, lush forests, green meadows and beautiful ravines. El Altiplano lies to the northeast of Granada, where immense plateaus rise up to more than 1000 metres above sea level. There is a huge and mainly deserted plain in its central part, surrounded by the mountain ranges of Sagra, Castril, Baza and Orce. This is a land of contrasts, with short and warm summers and freezing winters. In spring you can see the amazing sight of the snow melting and descending from the summits into the reservoirs of El Portillo, San Clemente and El Negratín. This district has beautiful landscapes including two natural parks, the Sierra de Baza and the Sierra de Castril.
According to archaeological evidence, this was one of the first homes to man in continental Europe, more than a million years ago. Later, the Iberians arrived, then the Romans and, from the 8th century onwards, the Muslims. The legacy left by the Islamic culture can still be identified in villages such as Benamaurel or Castilléjar, where we find caves used by the settlers. The old Barrio de Santiago de la Alcazaba of Baza or the Alcazaba de lasSiete Torres in Orce are other places where you can clearly see the area’s Muslim legacy. After the Christian conquest of the region, the rulers built churches such as the Colegiata de Huéscar and Colegiata de Baza, or the Palacio de Los Enríquez in Baza or the Casa de los Patiños in the Puebla de Don Fadrique.
In this district you can find some fantastic holiday accommodation in cave dwellings, for example in Guadix and El Marquesado. They are some of the most fun attractions in the province, especially as they are all at least of three-star-hotel standard. The range of tourist attractions and active tourism options are impressive. They include picturesque horse rides and treks as well as paragliding and hang-gliding from the Pico del Jabalcón. The province’s delicious cuisine includes cordero segureño (a lamb dish) and homemade sausages that are dried inside caves. It also has a long heritage in craftsmanship. In the Altiplano you can buy all sorts of artefacts, ranging from replicas of ancient ceramic cups to hand-made guitars in Baza.
La Vega y la Campana
This region, which runs around the outskirts of Granada, has lots of character. The densely-populated green fertile land, the poplar forests, the crop fields, through which the River Genil runs, and the history-laden villages, lend it a special charm. The towns of Santa Fe, where Nasrid Granada was surrendered, and Fuente Vaqueros, birthplace of Federico García Lorca, whose house has been turned into a museum, should not be missed. Up in the mountains you will come across Víznar and Alfacar, on the trail of Lorca’s places. It is believed he is buried here.
Guadix and El Marquesado district
The Guadix and El Marquesado district is located in the eastern part of the province of Granada. It is made up of the town Guadix and its surrounding villages, all rich in archaeological and historical attractions. It has hilly slopes that reach out towards the foot Sierra Nevada as well as an impressive lunar landscape in the Montes Orientales. A number of rivers wind their way between the reddish shades of the Hoya de Guadix and the green valleys. This scenery in this region is full of contrasts: the red of the Hoya de Guadix and the green of the valleys formed by the river. The towers of the Mudejar churches rise up out of this vast plain, among whitewashed villages and cave house quarters, with their chimneys that spring up from the ground and that have become quite a tourist attraction.
The towns along this trail are: Gorafe, famous for its dolmens; Guadix, a thousand-year-old city with lots of wonderful monuments; La Calahorra, where the first Renaissance-style building was built on the Iberian Peninsula, and Alquife, known for its iron mines. The particular terrain of the Hoya de Guadix and the valleys of the Río Fardes and Río Gor have given rise to a unique kind of dwelling – cave dwellings. As they are dug out from underground and provide insulation, they ensure that the temperature remains constant all year round. They are warm in winter and cool in summer, they are rustic and welcoming with their whitewashed walls. Their simplicity will make you fall in love with them and they make a great place to stay for a holiday.
By travelling along the ancient paths, see impressive dolmens, ruins from the Iberian era and remains of the Roman city of Acci (Guadix) founded by Julius Cesar himself. In the 8th century the Muslims arrived and even though they were expelled in the 16th century, their Islamic legacy can still very much be felt in the Mudejar churches, agricultural techniques that are still used today and, most obviously, in the many Arab place names. Here there are also outstanding examples of Christian architecture such as the cathedral of Guadix and the Castillo de la Calahorra, one of the most beautiful renaissance palaces in Spain.
Under occupation since the remotest prehistoric times, it has a diverse cultural heritage shared between all of it municipalities. Local craftsmanship has survived due to the fact that it is appreciated as a valuable art from. This region has a very distinctive ceramic style and unique forms for certain objects such as the pitcher, the Jarra accitana jar or the torico de Guadix. Stonework, wickerwork and ironwork are other art forms that are widely practised in this area. Guadix and El Marquesado also have a rich tradition of folklore, festivals, pilgrimages, and all sorts of strange traditions such as the Fiesta de Cascamorras in Guadix and Baza.