So you have decided to travel to Granada, the Arabian pearl of Southern Spain? Welcome! And might I just congratulate you for choosing the most gorgeous, unique, vivid and all around best city in the country to visit. As you can tell, Granada has a very special space in my heart – and as soon as you arrive, you will well understand why.
Disclaimer: I am not a local nor even Spanish; I spent five months in the city (LINK) so while I know more than an average tourist, maybe ask someone smarter than me if you need more information.
BEFORE WE BEGIN:
Hold up, there are a few things you should know before visiting!
Granada is Spanish meaning “pomegranate”; when you walk around the city, you’ll see this delicious fruit featured in fountains, street art, doors and even those little poles that separate the sidewalk from the road and that every tourist keeps tripping over. (You’ve been warned.)
BY AIR: Granada has an airport – a tiny, nameless thing that has very few direct flights and is probably super expensive. If you’re flying in, get to Malaga – there are direct buses from the airport to the centre of Granada, and the trip takes just two hours.
BY RAIL: Granada actually has a train station! However, rail travel in Spain is not a Big Deal so there are few connections and they’re pretty expensive.
BY BUS: Easiest way to get around! Most connections are serviced by Alsa,(LINK) you can also look for and book tickets here. Note that the bus station is pretty far from the centre, so if you don’t fancy footing it for 45 minutes, grab a taxi (5 e) or bus number 33 (1,4 e).
BY CAR: Even if you don’t have a car or aren’t renting one, arriving by car is the cheapest option: Check out BlaBlaCar for rides. (Hitchhiking is not recommended since it’s not very common in Spain and you’ll have a hard time getting picked up.)
BEST TIME TO VISIT:
Weather-wise, the high season runs March-June and September-October. Technically the Spanish peak season is in the middle of the summer, but due to intense heat – I’m talking about 40 degrees Celsius in shade – the summer months are probably unbearable to visit. Besides, you’ll miss all the fun of this vibrant, young city, since the population largely escapes the town for the beaches and the mountains, and some small businesses even close for July and August.
Because Granada is located in the South of Spain, you might be lucky to catch t-shirt weather as late as December and as early as February. But be warned: Granada is also located by the mountains and it gets cold. Bring your sweater and warm PJs so that your poor hostel staff doesn’t have to hear you complain about poorly built Spanish houses.
ABOUT THIS ITINERARY.
I’ve tried to lead the way in the most logical manner possible so that you don’t have to do a lot of backtracking but no one’s perfect – and on day 2, you probably most likely definitely will get lost in Albayzin, so just chill and go with the flow. That’s what the Spanish do.
You can kinda follow this itinerary based on how many days you’ve got in Granada; if you’ve only got one day, I’d recommend cramming Albayzin in the afternoon after your visit to Alhambra. Although I just can’t understand why you’d only want to spend one day in the most magical place in Spain.
DAY 1: Alhambra
Ah, Alhambra – the thing that Granada is most famous for, and deservedly so. The palace complex dominating the skyline of the town was the seat of the last Muslim king of Andalucia and the last stronghold of the Islamic empire. The name comes from the Arabic word meaning “the red one” – an important tidbit of information since it will undoubtedly be the first thing people will try to tell you about Alhambra. Look at you, now you’re smarter than them.
Visiting Alhambra should be number one on your Granada wish list – but there are things that no one tells you about visiting. No fear, your Finnish Granada mum is here!
(Pst – if you’re looking for tips for the best places to photograph Alhambra, scroll to the end of the section!)
There is a limited number of tickets to Alhambra every day, and in general there are two types that are worth looking into:
General admission, 14 e, which allows you entrance to the grounds and all the buildings in there, and;
Gardens, Alcazaba military complex and Generalife palace, 7 e, which allows you to check out everything except for the Nasrid palaces.
In high season and on weekends and holidays, both admissions are probably sold out weeks beforehand, so as soon as you’ve booked your trip to Granada, prance up to the website and buy your ticket.
But what if you’re left without tickets?
Everyone and their neighbour’s cousin will tell you to go on the website exactly at midnight to snatch cancelled tickets; but since this is a trick that literally everyone knows, it’s almost impossible to actually get a hold of tickets that way. If you’re desperate, you can go to the gates in person at 8 a.m. when the ticket office opens. I’ve heard of a few people who managed to get tickets this way.
Remember that you need the tickets printed to be able to enter!
Secondly, the actual visit.
When you book your ticket, you book a specific time slot. This is the time when you visit the Nasrid palace, but you can actually enter the grounds before your time slot or stay wandering around after your palace visit. Just make sure to be on time – the tickets are allotted for every half an hour, and if you miss your mark – for example, your ticket is for 11 o’clock and you show up at 11.31 – you won’t be let in.
What makes this even more exciting is that the palace is actually located a good fifteen-minute walk from the front gate. Don’t be like me and show up almost too late so that you’ll have to run through the whole royal garden.
You also need to show the ticket to enter the Alcazaba complex and the Generalife palace – you can only use the tickets to enter once – but you can do that either before or after the palace.
Fun fact: American writer Irving Washington (that Sleepy Hollow guy) stayed in the palace for a few months, collecting local legends and stories and writing them down in his books The Tales of Alhambra. It might be interesting to check out a few of those stories but be warned, even the preface to the book basically says “well, it’s not his best work”. I read the first hundred pages but if you asked me if I’d finish it, well, I would prefer not to.
Depending whether you’re me or not-me, your visit might take anywhere between six and two hours; on average, people spend four hours in Alhambra.
THE BEST PLACES TO PHOTOGRAPH THE ALHAMBRA PALACE:
You’ll see the view from the San Nicolas (this is THE famous picture) and San Miguel view points tomorrow (if you’re a good lil’ thing and follow my instructions). You can see the palace from there with a kazillion other tourists, or you can follow in my super-influencer footsteps and get a more unique angle to the complex.
San Miguel, but like, Pt. II.
When you get to the San Miguel viewpoint, walk behind the church. This is where Granadan wilderness starts; watch out for the dragons. (Jokes – but sometimes there are big dogs on the way.) You can walk along the old city wall a little downhill or take one of the dirt paths leading away from the church for a further-away view.
Carmen de los Martires garden
There’s a free-to-enter, awesome little city park next to the palace. When most visitors stay in the lower part of the park, walk as far up as you can for views of the palace complex. (see Day 2/Day 3)
Silla de Moros viewing platform.
It’s a bit of a hike from the city but grants relatively uncrowded views over the city and the palace. The official platform closes at 6 p.m. but you can still see Alhambra from outside the gate. I also recommend walking a bit further up the hill to the second lookout with the same name – you won’t see the Big Al but you’ll see everything else. (See Day 3)
Carmen de los Martires
Hopefully you’re an early bird (horrendous, I know) because now you’ll have time to visit the Carmen de los Martires garden next to Alhambra. You’ll have gorgeous views over the city and you can enjoy a stroll around fountains and sculptures or venture a little bit further up for some awesome views over Alhambra. And they’ve got a few resident peacocks!
Don’t worry, if you’re tired you can also add the park to the itinerary at the end of day 3. Entry to the park is free and its open 10-18.
You must be pretty hungry by now. Oh, sorry, I should have probably mentioned that first – take your own snacks to Alhambra because you’ll only find expensive little markets and even more expensive vending machines on the grounds.
At this point of the day, you might want to grab an apple from some Carrefour and chill at your hostel for a few hours because buddy, you’re in Spain – and Spain has no pity for your stomach churning in the afternoon. Most worthwhile places close for the afternoon and open again around 8 o’clock, and the Spaniards themselves will start filing out around 9 or 10.
A quick note about dining in Granada, which ya’ll should know by now but I just want to repeat it: DO NOT EAT AT THE TOURISTY RESTAURANTS AROUND THE PLAZAS IN THE CENTRE. They are overpriced and usually pretty terrible quality.
So, for dinner we have a few options, but let’s go with something quintessentially Spanish: tapas.
Tapas literally means “lids” since it used to be a piece of bread and couple of slices of something on top that you’d get served on top of your drink. While most of Spain has realised the commercial potential of tapas and are not extorting tourists for extra money for each tostada, Granada still holds firm with the tradition that tapas should be free.
You’ll get a free tapas in 95% of the bars in Granada – and the rest will make you pay 50 cents extra – with each drink purchase. Traditionally that means paying 2 euros for a caña, a small beer, but my sober friends will rejoice to know that you’ll get handed out tapas for soda and juice purchases, too. (And if you’re looking for sangria, skip it: most places don’t make a very good one. Instead, order a similar red wine drink tinto de verano.)
The art of dining on tapas is… well, not very complex. To ensure that you get full on these bite-sides dishes and get to try as many things as possible, go with a few friends. If you go with two or three people, most places let everyone pick their own tapas; but with bigger groups you’ll usually share the same thing.
Here are my favourite tapas spots in Granada!
Babel – World fusion tapas. The service is slow because the place is always PACKED – but it’s my #1 favourite in Granada. I always get the fajitas and the hummus. Vegan friendly!
La Riviera – Classic Spanish tapas and one of the only cheap places where you’ll find sea food on the menu. Try the fried octopus and berenjelas (eggplant).
Salta Maria Decobar – This cute lil’ spot not only has great tapas – you’ll HAVE to eat the carne asado sandwich – they are also possibly the only place in the centre that serves churros any time of the day. (Usually churros are either a breakfast or a pre-dinner snack thing so most places don’t have them between 2ish and 5ish.)
Establo – Little known place that serves the best sandwich tapas in town.
Bubion II – After Babel, Bubion has the tastiest tapas in Granada, and they have a rotating list of daily goodies so you’ll get to try a lot of new stuff every time you go.
El Peruano – A little out of the way but worth it if you’re hungry. This student favourite has HUGE portions. Like I’m talking a full chicken leg with rice for 2,70 e.
(You’ll also hear a lot of hype about Bar Poe when you get to Granada, and they do have lovely Thai inspired chicken; but the bar’s owned by a foreigner and even though it’s a good place, it’s very tiny, and after you’ve tried all the other delish tapas in the city, the food in Poe can’t compare.)
Las noches en la ciudad…
So now that our bellies are full and the spirits are high after a few cañas…. The next logical step is to find some more drinks. The most famous Granada beer is Alhambra – named after our old friend the palace.
Bohemian Jazz Café is a speakeasy-style place that’s perfect for a chill drink or two. And guess what? They serve nuts and sweets as beer snacks. Order a bottle of Sacromonte beer to try something local with a unique flavour.
But that’s just the warm-up – the real party’s happening over at the Pedro Antonio street where students get wasted side by side with business persons on afterhours. Head to Chupiteria 69 to try one (or all) of their 99 shots that each only cost 1 e; and stumble onwards to Refugio with an awesome Star Wars façade (my favourite) for a similar deal.
If you reaaally wanna stretch the night, you can go find a club next – this being in Spain, the sun will be up before they close. Personally I’m not a big fan of clubs in general, and the ones in Granada are no exception. You could go suffer for a bit to Mae West just to say you’ve been to the biggest nightclub in Andalucia or head over to Booga Club that actually occasionally IS fun – if you don’t mind dancing in a half-empty bar to very obscure music.
Phew, that’s been a day. We’ve got another long one ahead of us tomorrow so make sure you won’t be suffering from a hangover tomorrow and grab a kebab before bed. There are plenty of shops on Calle Elvira (Elvira Street); Puerta de Syria has the best falafel (2.5 e) and Damascos has the best kebab I have ever eaten, ever, anywhere. No joke. (Both chicken tandoori and chicken curry, 3 e, are excellent.)
DAY 2: Albaycin and Sacromonte
Good morning! Hope you slept well? Good, because we’ve got another long day ahead of us. But don’t worry, it’s pretty well paced out, and instead of heavy sightseeing we will be doing some nice strolling about.
Just kidding. There’ll be a lot of hills. Surprise!
Besides Alhambra, the second biggest draw in Granda is Albaycin, the old Arabic neighbourhood. (Fun fact: Al is an Arabian article so all Spanish place names that begin with an “Al” are of Arabic origin.)
The name Albaycin comes from the Arabic word for “miserables” since it’s the part of the city where the poorest citizens used to live. These days, the community is working hard to save the old neighbourhood: locals are reluctant to sell to outsiders for fear that their apartments might be turned into tourist apartments and Airbnbs so houses are often passed onto the family’s children.
It’s hard to imagine that anyone these days living in the beautiful old houses in the white town of Albaycin would be particularly miserable, and rental prices are still fairly cheap. Just FYI in case you fall in love with Granada and decide to stay there forever.
So put on your most comfortable shoes because you’ll be walking up and down the hilly streets of Albaycin until you’ve got thighs like Thor. Unless it rains – then the streets become so slippery that the best course of action is to grab a window seat at a bar or a café and watch other people fall over.
The old Arabic quarter has a strong Moroccan feel, and its most famous part might be Calle Caldereria Nueva which is most commonly known just as the “Teashop street” or the “Moroccan street”. It’s a good place to grab some cool souvenirs (unless you’re heading to Morocco next – because you’ll probably find the same stuff for a lot cheaper there) but it’s hopelessly overcrowded. I avoided it as much as I could.
The tea shops along the street are pretty unremarkable. Most of the little bakeries are overloaded with Arabian pastries covered in honey and almonds, and as delicious as they are, they’re so sweet all your teeth will probably fall out if you have more than two.
If you want to grab a quick snack, find Pasteleria Andalusi Nujaila halfway up the street. It’s one of the few places in Albaycin serving savoury take-away snacks (empanadas). They’ve also got some vegan products.
Do you like cake for lunch?
Too bad if you don’t because that’s what we’re having.
As you continue uphill, you’ll come across Cuatro Gatos. They have great sandwiches and more importantly – really good cheesecake. Or find Abaco Té that has a terrace facing Alhambra. (Because clearly you didn’t get enough of it yesterday.)
But hold on! Continue a little longer, a little further into the labyrinth of white walls and uneven cobblestones until you get to Bañuelo. Teteria Bañuelo is the worst kept local secret – everyone in the town seems to know it but they can’t stop recommending it – and for a good reason. The Palestinian family that runs it makes objectively – OBJECTIVELY – the best cakes in Granada. Try the chocolate cake or the peanut cake or the carrot cake… actually, just try all of them. And get a pot of lovely Spanish tea to wash it down with. Combined with the beautiful décor and a terrace with views of Alhambra, Bañuelo is a place I keep dragging all my friends to time and time again.
The holy trinity of viewing platforms
Since Albaycin is sprawled on a hill, it is naturally The Place to Be for landscape photography in town. If you’re looking for guidance, just ask a local “mirador”?
All these platforms are also great for sunsets – which in Granada are Super Duper Dope – but since none of them are exactly secret locations, they are going to be very, very crowded.
First, find your way to Mirador de San Nicolas. Maybe (probably not) in honour of his namesake Santa Claus, San Nicolas is teeming with all sorts of gifts to buy with craftspeople and street vendors selling jewellery and pieces of paper with your name written in Arabic, and in the day time there’s also a flamenco musician or two around.
If the crowd makes you want to wildly swing your umbrella around, find the mosque next door. The view is basically the same but with 25% of the people.
Next, take back to the streets and trace your way to Mirador de San Cristobal which might be the only point in Granada that does not have a great view of Alhambra but does provide nice photo opps of the Albaycin neighbourhood.
The third and the last mirador stop of the day is the most majestic of them all – San Miguel. Perched high above the city, it is the local favourite sunset hang. Located next to a juvenile prison, it is quite ironic that people drink wine in the open and smoke weed here – both of which are illegal in Spain.
If you’ve still got sunlight left, don’t go back the way you came from but descend to Sacromonte. (Or f you just want to catch a glimpse of it, walk behind the old city wall for better views.)
limpse of it, walk behind the old city wall for better views.)
Sacromonte is one of the most unique, intriguing places in Granada. Born separate from the city, it has now become essentially Granadian.
During the Spanish inquisition that started in the 15th century – don’t worry, we’re only going back for a lil’ bit -, all religions apart from Catholicism were outlawed in Spain. This left two options: convert or flee the country. Many Romanis living in Spain at that time didn’t have the money to make the long, expensive journey to Portugal or France, so instead they hid on the mountains outside of city gates and formed their own communities in secret.
The communities lived in caves build into the mountainside and pretty much only interacted with each other. Fun fact, Andalucia is where flamenco was born; it was a way for this community to express all the anger, hurt and passion that they went through during all those years in isolation.
These days the caves that they lived in still remain but most of them have now been converted into actual living spaces with wifi and heating. It is definitely an interesting neighbourhood to see but if you’re planning to photograph it, just be respectful – these are real houses where actual people live.
In addition to caves, the Sacromonte area has lots of little restaurants and, of course, flamenco caves. Come back in the evening to catch a show. Tickets in general are a little less than 30 e but usually you can get a small discount if you book through your hostel or hotel! The ticket includes one drink, and like, why wouldn’t you want to sip on some sangria and watch pretty people dance?
The Sacromonte area is not necessarily dodgy – but it’s still recommended to take a taxi out after dark.
(If you’re broke but still wanna see some flamenco, there are other places to catch a show – I don’t know exactly where, though. I’ve heard that Taberna J&J also arranges flamenco shows where the entrance fee is a food donation.)
Other than that, you’re on your own, buddy. Apart fromt he miradores, Albaycin doesn’t have many fixed points of interest (unless you’re real crazy about old Catholic churches). The best way to discover the neighbourhood is put in the leg work and get lost along the tall, narrow streets, letting the city reveal itself to you.
Should we get dinner at an actual restaurant today? If you’re feeling like more tapas, double back to the list from day 1 – otherwise these are some good options.
Hicuri Art Vegan – a central vegan restaurant with a varied, extremely delicious menu! I had a nice lasagna with decent vegan cheese for about 10 e, and my friends were very happy with their burgers as well.
Restaurante Palacio Andaluz – deep in Albayzin, this Moroccan-style restaurant has great hummus and even greater tajin. Unlike most touristic Moroccan restaurants in Granada, Palacio doesn’t go overboard with décor, instead creating a cozy, relaxed atmosphere – like dining in someone’s living room.
Bodegas Castañeda – if you’re craving for more Spanish stuff, this place is affordable and very delicious – and even though it’s quite touristic, I’ve mostly seen Spanish tourists dining there instead of foreign ones. Try the cold platter, you won’t be hungry after! The locale is divided into the restaurant area and a tapas bar, and while the tapas are good, due to the place being so popular, the tapas side is always busy so service can be slow and quite bad.
Nightlife Pt II: Electric Booga(loo)
If you’re still standing after last night’s escapades around Pedro Antonio, head out for a drink or two around lower Albaycin today. Here are some recommendations:
Chaplin – a dive bar popular with students.
Tantra – when your friends want to keep drinking but you just want to dance, Tantra is a mixture of a bar and a club. It’s slightly more expensive than other spots around here but they usually play danceable music (although it might be anything from salsa to reggaeton to Final Countdown).
Pata Palo – the ultimate dive bar where drinks are stiff and music’s strange. To be honest, PP is not my favourite but it’s a bizarre experience where you’ll have a chance to meet some very interesting types.
After you’ve done with tonight’s debauchery, grab another kebab. You’ve earned it. Now go to sleep. Buenas noches.
DAY 3: Central Granada and Realejo
Listen, if you wanted to kinda skip the new centre of Granada, I completely understand; the commercial centre is full of souvenir shops (as well as regular shopping), overpriced restaurants and, compared to what you’ve seen in the past two days, not a lot of pretty sightseeing. However, you know I still gotta mention the basics.
So, the cathedral. The most prominent feature of the new centre that juts out amidst the houses like an ancient jewel from a tower of Lego blocks. Actually, ancient is the wrong word; for a Spanish cathedral, the one in Granada is pretty new with its construction only starting in the 16th century after they’d kicked the last Muslim king out of town.
If you like religious buildings, the entrance fee – 5 e – is not overwhelming and the altar is quite pretty. However, compared to some other cathedrals I’ve seen in Spain, this one left me feeling rather unimpressed
If you want to check out some better cathedrals in the city, walk about 10 minutes to Monasterio de San Jeronimo which is supposed to be spectacular. They keep weird opening schedules, though, so I never made it in.
(Another monastery worth mentioning is the Carthusian monastery a little out of the city – it’s in brackets because technically it’s not a part of today’s itinerary but I loved it. The main church and side chapels are breathtakingly beautiful with their detailed decorations and if you can spare the time, I think it’s worth the de-tour.
If you’re around that area, you can also go check out the bullfighting ring but I wouldn’t pay to tour it – they still have bullfights in the arena and I want to discourage anyone from giving them money in any form, even if you’re not witnessing an actual bullfight. Opinions on the tradition in Spain are very polarised, advocates for bullfighting appealing to its traditional position, but thankfully I’ve seen a shift in the younger generation that’s not interested in the upkeep of this tradition anymore. If you’re a tourist, please vote with your money and skip the shows.)
Okay, back on track.
Even if you’re not super into glorified churches or shopping, it’s still worth checking out a few cafés around here. AKA stuff your face with cake.
Café Baraka is almost legendary: it serves smoothies, pancakes, breakfasts, sandwiches, teas and the biggest cheesecakes in town, just to mention a few things; and because of their strong wifi connection, it’s one of the favourite spots for local students and digital nomads to work at.
Café Deti is just around the corner. Slightly harder to find since it doesn’t have a sign in front of it but worth it. Their cheesecake is DELISH; they also have a small shelf of English-speaking books for exchange.
If it’s a sunny day, sit in front of the market hall and try their tapas; or find Carlos I Cafeteria two blocks up from Baraka. Carlos I doesn’t have great service or good food but in winter afternoons, it is one of the only places in the area where you can sit out in sunlight.
Many if not most restaurants offer Menu del Dias at lunch time that usually cost 9-12 e and include an aperitivo, main, drink and dessert. I can’t recommend any specific places since I don’t really do lunch – but these menus are super easy to find.
If it’s Wednesday or Sunday, head to 100 Montaditos on Camino de Ronda. It’s a Spain-wide chain that serves small sandwiches – and on Wednesdays and Sundays, the whole sandwich menu is 1 e per sandwich. Cheap, tasty and filling. (Getting hungry right now thinking about them.)
Realejo, the old Jewish neighbourhood
Just at the end of Gran Vía – the high street – starts the neighbourhood of Realejo that looks like a love child of the new centre and Albaycin. The local Jewish population lived in this suburb before the Christian conquest, after which they got kicked out and the neighbourhood got run down.
Now the area is home to the same little churches that dabble the streets of any Spanish city and new, hip restaurants and coffee shops next to low-rated hole-in-the-wall type of eateries. It’s also become pretty expensive for locals in an otherwise affordable city since many AirBnB’s moved in. Or, you know, that’s what the locals say.
If you decide to flip today’s itinerary on its head and start in Realejo in the morning, find the San Matias bakery – it’s rumoured to have the best empanadas in town.
The biggest draw in the area is definitely the street art. Most of the pieces have been done by a local artist called “El Niño de las Pinturas” – you can find his house on Calle Molinos. Follow the street all the way to the end to find murals by numerous guest artists.
Carmen de los martires and Silla de Moro
It’s still early, right? Ready for some more leg work?
Turn left at the end of Calle Molinos (yep, up and past the graffiti) and walk uphill until you get to the Carmen de los Martires garden. You might remember this gem from our first day itinerary. Views! Palm trees! (Which, fun fact, are not native to Granada.) Peacocks! And if someone finds the lens cap that I dropped there, my camera would be very thankful.
Afterwards, walk uphill past Alhambra on Camino Viejo de Cemeterio; when you get to the end of the parking lot, turn left and find the path going into the forest. Oh sorry, I forgot to mention what we’re doing. We’re going up to Silla de Moros now. It actually translates as “the Moorish Seat” (not as “the Chair of morons” like my brain always tries to autocorrect).
The actual viewing platform closes at 6 p.m. but you can still get a good view of Alhambra and the city from outside the gate; but even better if you keep walking to the second Silla de Moros viewing point. Don’t ask me why it’s called the same – but the second one is further uphill and can be found on Maps.me by that name. If you’re looking for rad photo locations, this is the place. Like, The Place. After this you can just go home.
(For real, you probably should. If you’ve timed your tour right, it should be getting dark soon, and it’s time to grab dinner before heading out to another night out.)
The third night – don’t worry, no heavy drinking involved today.
You’re in Spain. Right? By now you’ve probably noticed that while your hostel folks speak impeccable English with a charming Spanish accent, a lot of people in the Iberian peninsula don’t have a very firm grasp of the language. Hopefully you’ve already taken a few Duolingo lessons because tonight we’ll work to improve your Spanish.
Granada is full of exchange students and travellers wanting to practice their español, and locals looking for some English exercise. It’s possible to find a language exchange almost every night. These are the ones that existed in spring 2019:
Monday: Lemon Rock Hostel
Tuesday: Entresuelo pub
Wednesday: Salta Maria Decobar (Couchsurfing meeting)
Friday: Ecohostel / Vita Hostel
You can look for more on Couchsurfing or join a language exchange group on Facebook.
DAY 4: Daytrip
You already want to get out of Granada? Are you sure? Fine, that’s more Arabic cakes for me.
One of the best loved hikes in the Sierra Nevada national park gets you to cross five suspension bridges, leads you through a cave and along the river where the water flows fresh from the mountains, through a dry Andalucian valley and up the hill for wonderful views over the gorges and surrounding fields of olive trees. If you’re lucky, you might spot some mountain goats or a couple of dare-devils on a slack line.
This hike gets busy especially on holidays and weekends, so if you’re visiting at the peak of the high season and crave for natural peace, it might be a better idea to find another route.
The Sierra Nevada national park is pretty dope even if you’re not willing to put in the leg work. You can also do rock climbing or even hang gliding.
To get there: Take the bus 183 to the last stop in the town of Monachil. The ticket costs 1.4 e. Note that on Sundays the bus only runs till the town before, about 2 km away from Monachil. Monachil has a supermarket for last-minute trail snack-shopping and two bars that serve really tasty tapas! There are no signposts on the trail but download Maps.me and a PDF guide here.
Beas de Granada
An easy, breezy beautiful hike through Andalucian countryside was also responsible for my first sunburn of the year. You’ll be walking above little white towns and spreads of olive trees, all the while following the perpetually snow-covered mountains in the distance. Fun fact: a part of this hike is also a part of Camino Mozarabe, one of the many Caminos de Santiago you can walk in Spain. (LINK to a camino post)
The one-way route is easiest to complete if you take a bus to the town of Beas de Granada and hike back into the city from there. the route is 16 km and takes about 5 hours. Make sure to bring enough water, you won’t find refill options after the town!
To get there: Take the bus 300 to Beas de Granada. The bus stop is on Avenida Capitán Moreno in front of the school and the ticket costs 1.8 e. Download the hike PDF here.
For fish. Just kidding, I mean people who like water
The only thing Granada doesn’t have is a solid beach; luckily, Costa del Sol is not too far and the sea can easily be visited as a day trip.
Nerja is one of the most popular towns to check out, and if you don’t mind fighting for space with a bunch of Scandinavians and British retirees, you’ll have a grand time. The coast, surrounded by small mountains in the distance, is gorgeous, and you can find very cheap dinner among the Irish pubs and flashy tourist restaurants. Little Italy might not be four-star quality nor even Spanish but hey, at least you filled your belly with a massive pasta and only paid 3.5 e for it.
Getting there: Find a BlaBlaCar or take a bus; one way ticket should cost 11 e.
Santa Fe and Alhama de Granada hot springs
You got a car? You got a fast car? Is it fast enough that you could drive away? Spanish traffic is not nearly as hectic as you might think (nothing compared to driving in Greece, anyway) and renting a car is pretty easy and affordable. So why not get out there and find some natural hot springs?
There are two towns where you can soak in: Santa Fe pools are bigger and closer to Granada but apparently more crowded, whereas Alhama – the one that I visited – was lovely until some Germans showed up and started yelling at Spanish children. (At that point it became hilarious.)
Entrance to both hot springs is free.
Accommodation in a hostel: low season during the week 12-15 e, high season during the weekend 20-30 e for a bed in a dorm.
Food: Breakfast 3-5 e in a café, lunch 10 e with menu del dia, dinner 10-15 e (either tapas or restaurants).
Attractions: Visiting Alhambra, the cathedral and monasteries cost but mostly you can just wander about, wonder around and not pay a penny
Total: 30-40 e daily budget is not unthinkable, especially if you budget your meals. Compared to many other Spanish cities, Granada is very affordable.
You have survived four (?) intense days of sightseeing around the best most wonderful city in Spain. Now it’s time to rest – just kidding, there’s so much more to see in Andalucia and the Spaniards sure ain’t feeling tired yet.
You might’ve noticed my list of day trips didn’t include any cities. That’s because, while doable, I don’t think visiting many of these places in just one day is going to be very fun. (Don’t trust some of these lists out there – I saw one that listed Cadiz, five hours away, as a day trip destination.) It’s better to beeline towards them after your time in Granada and spend one or two nights. Or forever, if you fall in love with a handsome Alejandro.
Here are some great places to continue to:
Malaga: Best for parties; the beaches are not amazing. Many day trip lists from Granada that I saw listed Caminito del Rey as a great destination but it’s much easier to visit from Malaga – just make sure you book your ticket weeks if not months beforehand.
Ronda: The most beautiful, unique town in Andalucia (after Granada) that was also Ernest Hemingway’s favourite. There’s no bus so find a BlaBlaCar or see if the train is running.
Cordoba: Best to spend at least one night there since the main draw, the famous mosque-cathedral amalgamation is free to enter between 8.30 and 9.30.
Alpujarras villages: Little mountain towns outside of Granada that are great places for hikes and horseback riding. Next time I’m around, I want to visit the abandoned hospital in Alfaguara that I hear is haunted as fuck – and it’s supposedly where the Granada poet Federico Garcia Lorca is buried.
Tarifa – quiet seaside town that’s a great stopover if you want to visit Gibraltar (you should) and Cadiz.
Yyyyy eso es! That’s a wrap folks! I don’t know about you but I’m hungry and I need a glass of wine. (Hopefully you’ve had one in your hand this whole time to get into the Andalucian mood. Side note, Andalucian wines are freaking great.) I sure hope this round-up has been useful and if not, why are you still here? It’s been like 6,000 words. Go do something with your life that you actually enjoy.