Travel to Explore the Alhambra in Granada

We depart Órgiva and La Alpujarra in the pouring rain, following another twisting mountain road toward Granada. We arrive to Granada’s Albayzín neighborhood, drive beneath a lovely arch, turn left and end up on a cobbled street that ends in stairs. Lisa skillfully turns the car around in the narrow passageway, and we make our way back to the original decision point–a traffic circle with 5 choices.


We drove through this Moorish arch called Puerta Elvira, then took a wrong turn.

A moto man pulls up and asks if we need help, we show him our map,  then follow him. The one-way cobbled streets are so steep, our guide must push his moto up the hill! He brings us to the apartment and asks for money,  he’s part of the “sharing” economy. We give him a few coins in thanks. Fortunately the rain ended as we fumbled with keys to gate, keys to garage, etc.

Our apartment has a lovely terrace, but it’s freezing non-terrace day in Granada. The portable propane heater has “Camping A-Z” printed on it, and a page of instructions to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, so we use an electric portable heater instead. It’s woefully inadequate, so we go out to warm up by climbing the hills in our neighborhood. Albayzín is the oldest part of the city, and was Muslim quarter of the city after the Catholics took over from the Moors in 1492.


Cobbled streets become staircases in the Albayzín.


Cathedral of Granada and plains to the west of the city.

We happen upon a park/plaza, the Mirador de San Nicolás, with spectacular views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This time we’re viewing the north side, and we see much more snow than on the La Alpujarra side.


Part of the 8th century Ziri Wall and tower (from the Moorish citadel) in the foreground.


Neighborhood iglesia in the foreground.



Pavement designs typical of Granada plazas.

Islamic and Catholic designs blend in the Albayzín:

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Granada dogs wait outside a café.

The next day, we walk to Llano de la Perdiz. We take the back route to the Alhambra area, pass beneath its fortress walls, and head into the hills above it. Click here for TrekSierraNevada photos and map of the route. We see a few mountain bikers, runners, and dog walkers enjoying the forests and fields and great views of the Sierra Nevada.


These photos barely capture the grandeur of the mountains.


Can you spot the tiny mountain bikers?

The next day, we eat a delicious lunch at a Teteria (Arab tea house) on a narrow street that looks like Morocco.


We lunch early at this tea house.

Before heading uphill to the Alhambra, we visit the a building that used to house the hammam, or Arab baths. Like ancient Roman baths, the hammam was a place for relaxing, doing business, and making political connections. There were tepid, warm, and hot rooms. Stars and moons carved into domed ceilings let it natural light.

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Now we’re ready for the Alhambra, but first, a brief fitness break.


Lisa pedals in place with the Alhambra tower above.

Built over many centuries when the Moors ruled Spain, the Alhambra contains palaces, fortresses, gardens, ruins, two hotels, and a museum. There are several entrances to the Alhambra.


Puerta de la Justicia (gate of justice), one entrance to the Alhambra.

Built as a fortress in the 9th century, it reached its height beauty and use from 1200 to 1400 when it became a “palace city” under the leadership the Nasrid Dynasty. They built a system of acequias to water the gardens and fountains of their royal city. Later Catholic kings used the Alhambra palaces, and also expanded them.

Within the Alhambra compound, we first discover the fountains, gardens, and courtyards of The Generalife, built in the 14th century, and restored several times.

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Inside The Generalife palace, we get our first taste of intricate designs– Arabic poems, exaltations, and other texts carved into the walls.  The Moors also decorated with colorful tiles and intricate wooden ceiling panels.The Generalife was the recreation area for the rulers of Granada; here they escaped from their official duties to enjoy life.

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At the appointed time on our ticket, we enter the jewel of the Alhambra, the Nasrid Palaces. More amazing designs, fountain-filled courtyards and the Lion Fountain. We appreciate “the golden mean,” (known as phi, also used in classic Greek architecture) used by its architects that makes proportions most pleasing to our eyes.


Nasrid Palace courtyard.


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 Hall of the Albencerrajes ceiling carved with intricate stalactites. There are an estimated 500 honeycombed cells in this ceiling.


Delicate columns and arches over channels and fountains embedded in marble floors (closed for repairs).


The Patio de los Leones, and the Lion Fountain.



Panorama of the Hall of the Ambassadors with every surface carved.

After the Nasrid Palace, we explore the fortifications of the Alhambra. This military area is the oldest part of the Alhambra. Thick walls and towers protected the the Sultan and his royal court. The area now called Plaza de las Armas contains walls of houses where palace staff and soldiers lived.


We walk along the wall to the Torre de la Vela (watch tower).


Schoolchildren learn about the Plaza de las Armas.


The Albayzín neighborhood viewed from the Alhambra.



It’s cold in Granada.

We look forward to tomorrow’s journey to the warmth of Cordoba!

© 2015 by Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds. All rights reserved.

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