For 2 years we were planning a trip to Andalusia with friends. Originally we wanted to continue from there to Morroco by road and return to Europe mainland by Ferry to Genua. As the discussion proceeded, this round trip became more and more difficult to be imagined. While 3 of us were highly enthusiastic about visiting Andalusia, the 4th one’s interest were the Souks in Morocco!
An interesting trip offer decided it for us: it was an unbelievable offer for a round trip to Andalusia, starting from Madrid, including the flight, 4 Star Hotels with breakfast and a car rental at our disposal- either 2 cars for 2 parties or one car of us all. The cost: 550 Swiss Francs per Person! Once I saw this offer, there was no backing out! Within a week we agreed on the timing to go for a 8 days, got our vacations and papers – if required- and booked.
A word of caution: if you are heading to travel together with friends for kilometers: get separate vehicles, unless you are a big group in a bus! It saved our friendship! The priorities and interests can be very different, which can be quite interrupting. While we are morning people on the road , they were relaxed and started late, and many other small issues, which become big problems, if you are glued to each other for a week without any choice. In the end, the choice was the best, to have taken 2 cars and maintain some flexibility!
A few tips on preparation of the trip:
1. Spring is the most beautiful time to go to Andalusia, esp. end of April – May, when all the flowers start blooming in the gardens and towns, and not to miss out on the Patio Festival Cordoba, where the Cordobians open up their Patios to public, running a competition of the most beautifully decorated house with flower pots- Geraniums, Petunias etc.
2.Avoid Easter time: Processions will Interrupt daily business, everything will be closed.
3.Tickets: Try to get the Alhambra Tickets online to avoid the long queues and disappointments of not being able to visit the Nasride (Moorisch) Palaces: they are only allowed to let in a fixed number of visitors per day.
When you book the tickets, note, that the 1/2 hour on your tickets is the time slot, in which you can enter the Nasride Palace (not the main gate of Alhambra which is 40 minutes – 60 minutes walk from there!!). If you don’t get there within that 1/2 hour slot, you will NOT Be allowed to go inside. Once you are inside the palace, you can stay as long as you want to! If you do get the tickets in advance, don’t go to the main entrance, which will take you almost 40 minutes – 1hr to get to the Nasride Palace. There is a side entrance, look it up on the online maps. From there you get directly to the end of the Alhambra, where lies the Palace of King Chares V, behind it and hidden by it, the Nasride Palace and to the left the Al-Cazaba towers, which have to be visited at day time for a wonderful view over Granada!
You can get the tickets online and plan your visit, this is a good Website: Alhambra Patronato
4. Once you arrive at the Airport, you get your keys for the car-rentals and are ready to go! We arrived at night and our first destination was Madrid. Try to get a flight to Malaga, which is closer for a Andalusia Round trip! And make sure to take along your GPS with the most current cards of Spain!
5. The highways in Spain are a luxury and the traffic outside the cities rather orderly. However, it is advisable to get started quite early in the morning. Our first destination was Granada. We chose to leave out Toledo on the way to get in time to Granada for our first Alhambra visits at 5:30 p.m. and the decision was correct!
In Granada, I had to retrieve the online bought tickets from a La Caixa Bankomat. This proved to be a bit of a challenge, but in the end everything was settled on time!
The Alhambra visit can’t be put in words, just have a look at the Pictures:
Once finished, we went for Paellea and Seafood Salad dinner just opposite to the exit of the Alhambra and at 7:30 we were back for our “Night visit of the Nasirde palace”. For this visit they light up the palace inside, which adds to the magic of this place. Another benefit is, that there are much less visitors at this time.
Generally they advise 2 different visits of the Alhambra and this is what we did: The next day we went for the Al Cazaba, the towers at one end of the Alhambra, where also the soldiers used to live and food and ammunition was stored.
From the top of the Al-Cazaba you will enjoy a marvelous view of Granada. The walk though the Genera-Life Gardens in the early spring was beautiful, as well as the summer palace.
We ended our stay in Granada with a bus ride to the Albaiycin, the original Muslim inhabited quarters. Here you will have the most narrow lanes, the steepest roads and the craziest bus drivers, but being tired, we were happy to get an idea of the place without much effort! Far away, at a distance you could see the inhabited caves. The Sacramento Museum, which is a stop of this bus and lies just across the Alhambra, provided a beautiful view of the Alhambra
There is lots more to do in Granada, but our schedule had it, that we had to hit the road the very next morning towards Seville, passing through Ronda. Thus it was an early-to-bed evening!
This post was written by avid traveler and adventurer Majida Tufail Hanel. You can follow Hanel and her travels on twitter: @Hanelstravels or one of her two blogs: http://hanelstravels.wordpress.com/ or http://ibnbattutatrail.wordpress.com/.