Our adventures in Granada Province were top notch during our one month house sit in Andalusia, Spain. We explored every inch of our small, mountain-top village, several of the nearby villages, and the capital city of Granada. As per usual, we didn’t see nearly as much as we wanted, but we sure did try.
Our village of Freila is about an hour’s drive east of the city of Granada. It doesn’t offer much in the way of tourist attractions, but as with any foreign land, there was still plenty to see and experience. For one thing, I have never been to a mountain-top village before. It was really striking how the houses layer on top of each other and how narrow and steep the roads were in order to accommodate the tight, hilly quarters.
Each house we saw was so beautifully Spanish. I loved the rock and tile work that decorated nearly every home. And although some places looked fairly old and run down, each doorway was still maintained with a meticulous eye for detail.
The church was the largest building in the village, dominating the western side of the mountain. Built on prime property, the public landing/gathering space provided views of the Sierra Nevadas, the neighboring lake, and most of Freila. You could tell it was the pride and joy of the village, as it was easily the cleanest and best maintained area of town. Given how strongly the Spanish identify with Catholicism, it’s no surprise.
Although I didn’t enjoy seeing the wealth disparity between the church and the neighboring homes, I did appreciate feeling the community of it. We were able to explore almost every inch of the church freely, including the cool and inviting terraces that dotted the cliff-side walls. It was very beautiful and felt like a place built for the people’s enjoyment.
Province of Granada’s Villages
Because we rented a car for this stay, we had more freedom to explore a little farther afoot. We drove through many of the neighboring villages and nature reserves. Each was unique and fun in their own right. Several of the villages were mountaintop cave towns like ours, but others were built in a circular shape in the middle of a vast valley. There were cave homes scattered about on the roadside, as well as large orchards and tree farms.
The neighboring town of Baza (pronounced Ba-tha) was an easy drive and a fun mini adventure in Granada Province. We had a couple of meals there and even took an afternoon to explore the town center. Once again, the central church dominated the city. We had hoped to see the historic baths that reside in Baza, but unfortunately they were closed each time we visited.
Finally, the main event: the Alhambra. It started as a small fortress in 889 CE. 400 years later, the fortress was renovated and became a palace for the Moorish sultans ruling over Granada. By the 1500’s, the Christians took over and it became the royal court of the Spanish monarchy. The complex continued switching hands and experiencing bouts of abandonment and renovation throughout most of the rest of its history. Now the collection of fortresses, palaces, and churches that make up the Alhambra is one of Spain’s most famous tourist attractions and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Because of the long and varied history of the complex, the Alhambra is a feast for the eyes. There is a mix of Moorish buildings, Christian paintings, and Italian furnishings. Every corner holds a different story from a different time. We spent almost three hours exploring the Alhambra and absolutely loved it.
Exploring the Alhambra
The Alhambra hosts a limited number of guests each day, so it is important to buy tickets in advance. As we were there during the off-season, we were able to buy ours only a few days in advance from the official sales site (€14 each). Our tickets gave us access to nearly everything plus a strictly scheduled reservation for the Nasrid Palace.
We started our walk through the gardens. Although I was floored by nearly everything we saw that day, I think was most impressed by the garden. It was spring, so everything was in bloom, the weather was perfect, and the crowds were light.
From there we wandered in and out of each building. I loved seeing the clash of cultures. The stylings weren’t all perfectly blended, but some of the areas were very beautifully paired. It was just another reminder of how small the world truly is and how even the most different cultures can come together to create something truly special.
That’s a Wrap
So ends our stay in Andalusia, Spain. It was a visit I will never forget and the type of journey that I am sure I will be searching out for the rest of my life. Next up, we head north to the cold, gloomy, and surprisingly playful country of England!