Author Sushant Published on October 18th 2018
Granada, ‘The land of a Thousand Castles’ is beauty and serenity in the true sense.
The road trip from Barcelona to Granada
Our Spain holiday was a precursor to the Mediterranean Cruise we had planned from Barcelona. So before we got on board ‘The Royal Caribbean Cruise’, we decided to spend a week in Spain and discover its beautiful terrain by road. I think the place evoked the maximum recall of the Bollywood movie ‘Zindagi Milegi Na Dobara’ which inspired us to do this road trip.
We hired a Mercedes van (from Europcar) big enough to accommodate 2 families and our over- sized luggage. The drive along the eastern-southern coastline of Spain has been one of the most picturesque road trips I’ve done so far. The coastal route from Barcelona to Seville via Valencia and Granada caught my attention the most when I was reading about Spain road trips over the internet. I had a wonderful time in a small ancient town called Albaicin, Granada.
Getting into Albaicín, Granada
After a long drive from Barcelona with a stopover at Valencia for lunch and a refreshing dip in the Mediterranean sea, we arrived in Granada late into the night. We had booked our stay at the Smart Suites Albaicín and despite using google maps, we were lost in the narrow cobble stoned streets of Albaicín. The Albaicín, part of UNESCO World Heritage site, is the old Arabic quarter located on the hill opposite the Alhambra. We somehow found our way with the help of a local person walking on the streets with whom our boys tried to strike a conversation in Spanish (sounded gibberish though). It was a beautiful accommodation with apartments spread out within the complex.
The typical whitewashed buildings in Albaicin
Grenada is at the foothills of Albaicin and is a short walking distance through the buzzling street shops. The climb back is a bit steep, but then you need to burn all the calories accumulated from the various forms of cheese available. The town is bright, lively and buzzing with tourists. The Grenada Cathedral amidst the market square is a majestic structure and a perfect backdrop for a photograph. The architecture in Grenada is a blend of Islamic & Catholic as the place was ruled by Moroccans for almost a century.
Travel stay tip: if visiting Grenada, stay in the small town of Albaicin, and preferably in an apartment. If you are reaching late in the night like we did, make sure to call the apartment owners beforehand. The town sleeps by 8 pm.
The Granada Cathedral
Exploring the enchanting old Arabic quarter of Albaicín
A beautiful view from my room (Smart Suites)
We woke up to a bright glistening morning with fantastic views of ancient churches and castles from our terrace. This small town is best explored on foot. The stony streets are lined with tea salons, small cafes’ and shops selling these beautiful mosaic lanterns & other souvenirs. We thoroughly enjoyed walking up the steep white streets, interacting with the warm and friendly locals and appreciating the Arabic and Muslim architecture. There is a small tram which takes you through the entire town, however I recommend walking through the town.
The cobbled streets of Albaicin
At the top of the Albaicín district is the church of San Nicolás, fronted by the square named Plaza de San Nicolás. It enjoys the definitive view of the Alhambra, set off by the vast peaks of the Sierra Nevada in the background. The most prominent feature of the landscape in Spain are the tall Cypress trees which seem as bodyguards to the large fort. This square is a great place for the view, taking a breather after the steep climb so sit back and enjoy a panorama that has captivated people for centuries. The small square overlooking the Alhambra fort is a view just out of a postcard. The place has an archaic feel about it, with many artists performing and exhibiting their skills.
There are musicians, singers, painters and calligraphists. We decided to get our names calligraphed in Arabic and now have it framed on the walls of our living room. And interestingly, you’ll find small fresh water outlets with bronze taps to quench your thirst.
Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex originally constructed in AD 889 on the remains of Roman fortifications and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. While we could not take a tour of the Alhambra fort as were a bit short of time and did not find the tickets online, I’m sure it would be worth every penny and minute spent at the fort.
The gorgeous Alhambra
Tip: Book tickets for the Alhambra fort well in advance
The royal and beautiul Alhambra in the moonlight
One of the most picturesque dinner setting of the trip was at the El Huerto de Juan Ranas, overlooking the Alhambra fort. The sight is breathtaking in the bright moonlight. Spain is known for Tapas which in layman language means starters. These are small portions and go perfectly with drinks. Tapas can include anything from olives and Jamon serrano to patatas bravas, small panini sandwiches and deep-fried calamari.
Granada is one destination I’ll always adore. In one word, Spain is simply amazing with its beautiful and intriguing landscape.
Continue to travel with me through such picturesque locations. Stay tuned.
“How lazily the sun goes down in Granada, it hides beneath the water, it conceals in the Alhambra.”