Monday, August 4, 2014

Granada and Cordoba :: My One Week Andalucia Road trip


Generalife Gardens of Alhambra in Granada

After Seville, we hit the road early in the morning and headed north to Cordoba, about an hour and half drive. Cordoba is home to the famous Mesquita, the 'Great Mosque' which is stunning. It was originally a mosque which got converted into a church. Inside the simple spacious interiors is a forest of 856 red and white stone pillars that form striped red and white arches that are unusually striking. I could imagine it being one of the most tranquil places to worship with its beautiful and intricate prayer wall. There is massive altar in the centre that was built by a Spanish King to convert it into a church and who, infamously later regretted building it saying it spoiled the beauty of the original building and "destroyed something that was unique to this world".






The arches in the Mesquita of Cordoba

We decided not to stay in Cordoba but chose to drive on to Granada about 2 hour drive, where I had booked a night visit to see the famous Alhambra, a palace and fortress that is a World Heritage site. Tip: The Alhambra is immensely popular in the summer and I would recommend buying tickets (via Ticketmaster) as soon as possible. 


View from Iznajar

On the way to the Granada, we decided to take a small detour to see Iznajar , a small town set on a cliff and I’m so glad we did as it was such a charming quaint town with beautiful panoramic view when you go right to the top. It's hardly mentioned in any guidebooks - you must stop there if you’re driving from Cordoba to Granada, definitely worth a quick visit.

After stopping at Iznajar, we reached Granada pretty late and I had picked a hotel near the Alhambra in the old district of Albayzin. I’m not going to recommend this hotel as it was rather difficult to get to by car and the staff and management were not the friendliest. The rooms were adequate but it was the most expensive of all the hotel rooms we paid for during the trip and by far, our least favourite. I guess we were paying for the location since it was right at the bottom of the hill the Alhambra is on.


View of the Alhambra from our hotel

Tired and hungry, we picked the first restaurant along the water outside our hotel which was a bit of mistake. The food wasn't that great and was quite expensive. In fact, it was far more expensive than the best meal we had in Seville at La Brunilda. I would recommend walking out Plaza Neuva and finding a local tapas bar. We later found a place that offered a free tapa with every drink you ordered – and they were delicious! It was so incredible – I didn't think such places existed. We actually had to ask them to stop giving us free food because I was stuffed!


The Alhambra at night
So as you probably guess, I was not in the best of moods when we arrived at Granada. We had a long day driving and then had to manoeuvre through the tiny roads in the old town to get to our hotel. I then was cross we fell for all the tourist traps like pricey restaurants and hotels and so when we finally started walking up the hill in the dark to see the Alhambra, I was not a happy camper. 

And then I saw it – in the dark, 'The Red Castle' glows a beautiful golden ochre colour and it took my breath away. Despite my tiredness and exhaustion, I couldn't deny how utterly beautiful and ethereal it is. Entering inside and seeing the Alhambra up close, I was amazed the beauty and creativity of all those intricate carvings and geometric designs on the walls and ceilings. I fell in love with one of the rooms that had an exquisite dome made of 8000 wooden pieces to look like stars in the midnight sky.

So in the end, everyone was right. All the guidebooks, all the reviews, everything I read about it. The Alhambara is simply magical and certainly, one of Spain's historic treasures and architectural gems. 


Tip: We bought the Alhambra experience ticket which was 15 euros on Ticketmaster. It lets you see the Alhamabra palaces at night and then the next day, you can go in the morning and see the Generalife Gardens which are beautifully maintained. There are two ways to get to the Alhambra – a short 15 minute walk which is bit steep and then a longer walk more leisurely paced at half an hour by the main road.


The interiors of the Alhambra in Granada
The Prayer Wall of the Mesquita in Cordoba


Coming next: Visiting Marbella and then relaxing at the beautiful Vejer..



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