Precious diamond of Andalucia – visit Granada
January 1, 1970
For me, a girl from northern Europe, all the countries in the south look so appealing. The warmth, the southern friendliness, palms on every street corner and beautiful seaside. These four things are the key to perfect holiday. That is why few months back I decided to pack my stuff and visit Andalucia. It is the most southern part of Spain, which borders Gibraltar (it makes a really nice one day trip going there). There are three main cities of the region – Malaga, Granada and Seville. I was lucky to visit all three of them.
I guess the question you are asking right now is – why the hell did you choose Andalucia? Every single person who visits Spain goes to either Barcelona, Madrid or the islands. I was trying to do a „tiny bit less touristy“ route. I was traveling to Andalucia in late May – early June, so the weather was perfect.
Tip for you: if you are planning to go to south of Spain, plan your trip for either April-June, or September –November. Otherwise, if you get there during summer months, the heat will make it difficult to explore.
Getting around Andalucia
Honestly, I am not the person who plans the trip from A to Z every time I buy the tickets. I just tend to find a tourist information centre, grab a map and explore. That also includes getting lost many times. The only thing I try to sort out before leaving is airport shuttles and getting from one city to another (if the trip includes in-country travelling. That was where ALSA (main bus company of Spain) came in handy. Since I was flying to Malaga airport and also leaving from there, I needed tickets for routes Malaga – Granada and Granada – Seville. I bought the tickets about a month before the trip, so I got them for really cheap. First one cost me like 5 eur, the other one – about 12 eur.
Tip for you: plan your trip in advance – the more you wait, the more you are going to pay for bus tickets if you purchase them one or two weeks before the trip.
First stop – Granada
It took about 2 hours to get to Granada from Malaga. I arrived there on early Thursday morning. The little research that I did before arriving surprised me. Apparently, I have arrived on a really important religious holiday called “Corpus Christi”. Many streets in the city center were closed, there were loads of people on the streets and they had huge religious procession with huge dolls, priests and crosses. It was really interesting to watch, though the whole thing made it a little difficult to navigate around.
Before going there some friends asked me – what the hell are you going to do there? They said it’s tiny and really not worth going there. But of course I did not listen to them. During those few years of frequent traveling I have realized, that getting your hopes up before going somewhere is not going to help you enjoy. My best offer is – doesn’t matter where you go, try to keep an excited, but neutral mood. In this case you will not be disappointed if something goes not according to your plan. In this case – Granada blew my mind.
What to do in Granada?
Grab a map at a hostel or tourist information center. Just walk around the old town. Admire beautiful architecture. Sit down at any café and enjoy a cup of tasty coffee or yummy sangria. You will be able to spend a whole day by just walking around. Without that there are two more things to do in Granada. The whole city is famous for it’s palace called Alhambra. It is a beautiful and huge palace with many buildings and breathtaking gardens that has been standing on the top of the hill in the middle of Granada since XVI century. Alhambra is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, so enough said – this is a place to go. And if you get a ticket for the whole complex of the palace, you will surely spend half a day walking around and taking pictures.
The main catch is – buy the ticket to the palace at least a week before your visit. The tickets tend to get sold out easily, so the best way to make sure you see this precious monument is by buying a ticket on the internet in advance. I have learned from my mistake and it led me to another amazing attraction in precious Granada.
The first day of my visit in Granada, I climbed all the way up the hill of Alhambra (which, believe me, is pretty steep and high). I stood in the line for the ticket for about an hour just so I could hear the magic words – “sorry, tickets are sold out, come back tomorrow”. I got back to the old town, sat down on a bench in one of the main squares and, honestly, started feeling a tiny bit stupid. After few minutes I was nicely approached buy a guy on a segway. He explained to me, that he works in this “non touristic” travel agency called “Play Granada” and that they offer all kinds of tours around the city – walking, segway or bike tours. I told him that the last thing I am interested in is paying for a random tour. We started chatting and I told him that unfortunately, I was unable to get tickets to Alhambra and this was the moment when he made my day!
Unexpected night hike
Apparently, no travel agency can sell just Alhambra tickets and get profit from it (it is banned by the city municipality). But, as the guy explained, they can sell a bundle of tickets – one for Alhambra and one for any tour of my choosing. I thought about it for a minute and decided – what the heck – I have to go to Alhambra anyway. So I chose to book a night walking tour and a ticket for the palace. For both I paid about 45 euro and that, I strongly believe, was the best spent money ever.
During the night walking tour, a French guide walked us through the gypsy neighborhood all the way to the top of Sacromonte hill. The hill is just on the opposite side of Alhambra and the night view was simply amazing and breathtaking. The guide also gave us loads of interesting information, he was eager to bond with us, so it was a really nice hike. It was one of those moments when you want the whole world to stop. So this is how I came to the second best attraction of Granada. Honestly, I never thought that tours are worth paying for. I would have never gone on a night hike alone with a group of random people. That was my first time. And honestly, those 4 hours were amazing. That is why I suggest to everyone – go on a night hike up the Sacromonte hill. You can do it also without paying for the agency, but the neighborhood which you will have to pass is not very pleasant. It is always better to go there with a native Andalucian person.
To sum it up…
Granada is a small, beautiful city in the south of Spain. Really good Spanish infrastructure makes it easy to get there from other cities. I would offer to spend 2 days in Granada but if your schedule is really tight – one can be enough. Learn something from my mistakes – get ready before the trip to avoid disappointment and buy all the tickets in advance. Explore. Enjoy. And you will never forget. Viva la Andalucia! ♥