Visit Granada and discover the wonders of Alhambra
Andalusia is the most diverse area in Spain; it offers from a national park full of wildlife (Parque Nacional de Doñana) to the fascinating Moorish Architecture that you will discover in Alhambra. Surprisingly, many tourist, especially British travellers decide to visit Malaga or Marbella to enjoy the white-sand beaches without even bothering to drive 20 kilometres away to have a break from the sun and enjoy one of the many attractions that the region offers to the visitor.
I recently went on a week holiday to Costa del Sol and unlike many of my friends I decided to travel around the area rather than just laying by the beach all day long; my plan was to visit six different places during a 4 day period and stay in the hotel, which by the way, had a beautiful beach view for two days; after my holiday was over I was happy I took that decision and the only thing I regret is not been able to spend a few more days in Andalusia in search of new and fascinating attractions.
After a lot of research (thanks eyewitness travel) I decided to visit Ronda, Sierra de las Nieves, Granada, Malaga, Marbella y Tangier, city that lies on the North African coast of Morocco (I will write a different article about this African city as it was a completely different experience to Spain).
It was without doubt my favourite place and it should be on your top list if you ever decide to visit this south part of Spain. Granada was first occupied by the Moors during the 8th century; the remarkable thing is that you can still observe their legacy all over the city; especially in Alhambra, a Moorish palace built during the Nasrid dynasty.
The city centre of Granada has very narrow one-way streets (not ideal for drivers); it is easy and small enough to explore on foot. As suggested by the travel guide I started in Granada Cathedral, the gothic façade is attractive and the Capilla is magnificent but you will only need 30 minutes there; once I prayed for five minutes J (I was raised as a good Catholic, just got lost in the way) I moved to “Palacio de La Madraza”, I have to admit that I was not very impressed with the Palace so I quickly went to “Casa de los Tiros”, a 1500s Palace that now functions as a Museum and to “Corral del Carbon”, perfect place if you want to buy a few souvenirs for your family.
The highlight of Granada was Alhambra and Generalife. My advice is to book the tickets at least a few days in advanced; the demand is quiet high and the whole point of going to Granada is to visit this magnificent example of Moorish Architecture (a truly masterpiece) that rises above the city of Granada.
My favourite part of Alhambra was the Palacio del Partal (the oldest building in Alhambra) and the Patio de Arrayanes (amazing building); you can basically spend the whole day if this complex in order to discover Royal Houses, the Palace of Charles V, churches and gardens with outstanding water fountains. You will also enjoy of one of the best panoramic views of the city of Granada.
Generalife is on the northern side of Alhambra, this is a country estate of the Nasrid kings and probably the place where they used to run for a moment of piece and tranquillity; the magic continues throughout Generalife, I particularly enjoyed El Patio de la Acequia y el Patio de los Cipreses.
On my second day, I decided to visit Ronda; in my opinion, one of the most spectacular towns in Europe. Although small, you can easily spend the whole day wandering though the small streets, observing the very typical but interesting colonial Spanish houses and enjoying the great views that the town offers (Ronda sits on a rocky outcrop).
The best sights in Ronda are definitely New Bridge (Puente Nuevo), 18th century work of art - or good example of civil engineering; the views from Mirador el Campillo and the Palacio Mondragon, palace decorated with original Moorish mosaics and plasterworks; but do not forget to visit the square, Palacio de Congreso y Exposiciones y el Palacio del Marques de Salvatierra.
Sierra de las Nieves:
On my way back from Ronda I decided to stop in Sierra de las Nieves, a beautiful natural park located on the hills between Ronda and Marbella; it feels like a very isolated area but close to all Andalucía’s wonders; there are only a few villages and almost no human manipulation apart from agriculture. This UNESCO site is perfect if you are interested in mountain climbing or horse riding.
I continued my expedition in Marbella (main destination in Costa del Sol). I have to admit that it was not what I was expecting; I thought that I was just going to find drunken British teenagers but was gladly surprised by the great beaches, nice (and expensive) restaurants, shopping centres and churches.
The Museum of Contemporary Spanish Engravings was my favourite place in the city; it has a great collection of 19th and 20th century’s prints by Picasso, Miró and Dali. You will also find in the square great sculptures by Salvador Dali.
On my 4th day I went to Malaga; it is very confusing driving in the city centre and I would had done without visiting Malaga in this occasion; the main highlights are the Cathedral, the Malaga Museum and the Picasso Museum (this is the city where Picasso was born); this magnificent building is housed in the Palacio de Buenavista, just in the Historic Centre on the city; just a few minutes away you will find “La Casa Natal” – birthplace of Picasso, there are exhibition rooms, pictures and view of how Picasso lived in his early years; I highly recommended visiting the museum and casa natal.
On my 5th day I went to Tangier (will provide more details later); I just rested and sunbathed for the rest of my holiday before heading back to London.
Andalusia is a great place to visit if you decide to explore the region, but if you are just after a relaxing holiday by the beach or swimming pool, do not forget to read my article: Enjoy a beach break in Costa Del Sol, Spain
If you love travelling, do not forget to read the travel guides I have prepared:
- Visit London; top 10 places to visit in the city of London
- Places to see in Manchester
- Kew Gardens "Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew"
- Marwell Zoo Review
- Places to visit in England - Brighton
- Visit Bourton on the Water
- Places to visit in Spain - Andalusia
- Bogota; top 10 places to visit in the city of Bogota
- Top 10 attractions in Budapest, "The Pearl of the Danube"
- Places to visit in Malaysia - Batu Caves
- Places to visit in Malaysia - Penang