Set in southern Spain’s Andalusia region, Granada is the home of one of Spain’s most visited landmarks, the Alhambra, and is the ideal base to experience the stunning landscapes as it is surrounded by the mountains of the Sierra Nevada.
Granada is a lively university city which is steeped in culture. This Moorish city is packed with bars and cafes and is renowned for its flamenco clubs. It’s also the home of Granada’s greatest poet and the most read Spanish writer of all time, Federico García Lorca. In fact, it’s possible to experience a guided theatrical walk, “the Granada of Lorca,” through the historic centre of the city where local actors role play well known scenes from Lorca’s life in some of the most notable places, including the Restaurante Chikito, (formally cafeteria Alameda), in the Plaza del Campillo, where Federico held literary gatherings and recited his first poems. It’s both an entertaining and educational way to get a real insight into the modern history of Granada.
If great food is high up on the priority list, try the Tapas Route through the centre of Granada. You can book a guide who will know all the best places, and their knowledge of the food and the districts will make the dining experience all the more enjoyable. Make sure to include Lemon Rock Hostel restaurant with its contemporary decor and industrial vibe and nightly entertainment of DJ nights and live music featuring local and touring acts.
The Alhambra is the crown jewel of Granada. Located on a hill in the centre of the city, this stunning UNESCO World Heritage site dominates the skyline. The Alhambra is not only Granada and Andalusia’s biggest tourist attraction, but it’s also one of the most-visited spots in all of Spain. Granada was a Muslim Kingdom for 800 years, which is the longest Muslim rule in Spain, so no surprise the Alhambra is known for grand examples of medieval architecture dating to the Moorish occupation with royal palaces, serene patios, and reflecting pools from the Nasrid dynasty. It is easy to while away a day here, experiencing the beauty of the architecture, the mesmerising geometry and precision of the ceramic tiles and hearing of the life of its early inhabitants.
Geoparque de Granada
A one hour drive northwest of Granada will take you to the Geoparque de Granada which is where we prebooked an electric bike route through the Gorafe desert to the Geopark viewpoint. This is a great way to experience the park, and because it spans 1,823 square miles across southern Spain, there are many landscapes, much of which is classified as semi-desert. The Sierra Nevada mountains run throughout the park, as does a network of badlands and steep gullies.
To get a real feel for the area, we stayed in Guadix in the Cuevas La Granja, which is a unique complex of 18 restored caves on a traditional old farm dating back to the 19th century. Each cave has been sympathetically updated and renovated – incorporating modern comforts, luxuries and facilities into the caves’ original splendour. The traditional style of the caves includes original paving, curved vaulted ceilings and rustic furniture. Each cave is a self-contained unit with a kitchen and free Wi-Fi. We arrived at night time, so it was only when we walked outside in the morning, did we experience the beauty of the setting. We were greeted by a dozen hot air balloons making their way through the valley in front with the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains as a backdrop. There’s an outdoor pool and children’s play area and a romantic spot for watching the sunset and experiencing some sunrise yoga. Lunch at La Tinaja restaurant and a guided tour of Guadix was followed by a fun afternoon taking part in a traditional bread making workshop. We got to make and bake and eat it (I didn’t!!) as I was looking forward to dinner at La Granja Cave restaurant. The following day we did two detours on our way to Malaga airport. The first was at Piscifactory Caviar de Riofrío for a guided tour of its facilities and subsequent caviar tasting. It was well worth the visit as it’s the only caviar producer with organic certification in Spain.
There’s nothing like leaving the best to last; our afternoon spent in Montefrío certainly had us leaving Spain on a high. Located in the northwestern corner of Granada province near the Cordoba border, this village enjoys one of the region’s most striking settings, with one of its churches perched on top of a bare, rocky pinnacle, overlooking the town and its surrounding hillsides of forests and olive groves. National Geographic magazine has included Montefrío as one of the top most beautiful medieval towns in the whole of Spain, the only town listed throughout Andalucia and ranked Montefrío as the fourth town in the top 10 ‘towns with the best views’ in the world. There are several viewpoints (miradors) around the town, each showing off the spectacular views of Montefrío and the surrounding countryside. The village has lots more to see, including the pantheon-style Iglesia de la Encarnación, which has a huge domed roof and was designed in the 18th century by the acclaimed neoclassical architect Ventura Rodríguez. Our last lunch was in El Pregonero restaurant in Montefrío, where we ate a menu chosen by the chef of a delicious selection of traditional recipes made with local ingredients. Possibly one of the best lunches I have had in Spain.
How to get there: There are regular flights from Dublin, Shannon and Knock to Malaga.
Where to stay: Gran Luna hotel in Granada. delunahotels.com Guadix in the Cuevas La Granja (Caves)
Where to eat: Lunch at Lemon Rock Hostel, Montalbán 6, Granada. Dinner and flamenco show in Cueva del Sacromonte: Venta del Gallo cuevaventaelgallo.es Guadix: Lunch at La Tinaja restaurant Dinner at La Granja cave restaurant. Montefrío: El Pregonero el-pregonero. eatbu.com Traditional bread making workshop Visit of Trópolis, firstname.lastname@example.org
Alhambra and Tapas Tour -Manu Estudillo
Theatrical walk “Granada of Lorca guide”
Geoparque de Granada- Fernando
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