Spain: Toledo and Granada

Last April and May the hubby and I did some amazing travels, about which I hadn’t find the time yet to write about and show you some pics. The truth is we visited so many picturesque places and saw so many stunning things that I simply don’t know where to start and what images to show you.

So I decided to simply divide our travels into several posts as well as to make some collages to be able to show you some of the places we visited. Today I will talk about the two first towns we drove to after landing in Madrid (we didn’t skip the Spanish capital but kept it until the very end): Toledo and Granada.

Toledo

View of Toledo

View of Toledo

The small and amiable town of Toledo is located at only 70 kilometers south of Madrid and should be on anyone’s travel list. There is plenty to visit, but we went mainly for the stunning views.

The town, which may seem of little importance, has been the capital during Visigothic Spain, the capital of one of the richest Taifas of Al-Andalus, and of Castile, until the court moved to Madrid in the 16th century. The result is an interesting mix of cultures located on a hill and surrounded by hills, which offer scenic views of the medieval town.

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One of the city gates

Though we only stayed one night, we did feel we had enough time to explore the UNESCO-enlisted old town. If you like to enter the cathedral and museums you may want to stay another night. We were happy we had only planned one day in this town, because when we woke up the next day it was raining cats and dogs, and Toledo is a town you only want to visit when the weather is good.

Granada

Fountain in Granadas new mosque

Fountain in the garden of Granada’s new mosque overlooking the Alhambra

While driving south, the sky cleared and a warm spring sun appeared. We checked in at our hotel in the middle of the center and immediately took off to explore the town, as we had booked only one night here as well.

Several weeks prior to our trip we had tried to book tickets for the Alhambra, the enchanting attraction most people visit Granada for, but they were already sold out. Although it is possible to obtain tickets on the day of the visit, it is very difficult and we decided to forget about it this time, given that we had already visited the Alhambra when we visited the town nine years ago, albeit not together.

Alhambra

The Alhambra

Luckily, we did manage to see the Alhambra from outside from the touristy Plaza San Nicolás, both during the day, around sunset, and at night, which allowed us to observe the architectural marvel in its full glory.

Not being able to visit the city’s highlight also allowed us to focus on different historical places that are also well worth a visit but are often overlooked by tourists due to time restraints, such as the Madraza, an old Islamic school with magnificent Arabesque decorations.

The Madraza is currently a cultural space of the University of Granada.

The Madraza is currently a cultural space of the University of Granada.

Walking around in the town, we both wondered why we hadn’t chosen Granada to study back in 2005. We met in Sevilla, which perhaps has more to offer for young students, but Granada is at least as beautiful. Plus, it is known for being a university town and has plenty of interesting places to go to.

The Church of Santa, located right at the end of Plaza Nueva, was built on the site of a former mosque and used the minaret for its bell tower.

The Church of Santa, located right at the end of Plaza Nueva, was built on the site of a former mosque and used the minaret for its bell tower.

One interesting neighborhood is Albaicín, the city’s old Arabic neighborhood, where the windy streets and whitewashed houses haven’t changed much since it was inhabited by the Arabs.

Albaicín is a wonderful place in itself, but its most loved attraction is the views it offers of the Alhambra, as both the neighborhood and the palace are situated on two different hills.

Visitors watching the Alhambra from Plaza San Nicolás

Visitors watching the Alhambra from Plaza San Nicolás

The area also houses Granada’s new Great Mosque, which offers views as stunning as from Plaza San Nicolás, but without the throngs of tourists and locals that gather at the square around sunset.

Tapas at Albaicín neighborhood

Tapas in Albaicín neighborhood

In addition to this, Albaicín is a popular spot for a drink and tapas. Not only has Granada very good tapas, they are also not expensive at all. Often, you will be served a tapa with every drink you offer.

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Calle Galderería Nueva is a lively “souq-like” street full of teterías (tearooms) and shisha places

Descending from Albaicín we found ourselves in the middle of the huzzle and buzzle of Calle Galderería Nueva, a lively street full of small shops selling everything from Arabic-style clothing to accessories, tearooms, and shisha places.

By that time, we already realized we had made a mistake by only booking one night in this wonderful town, but we had already booked our next night elsewhere, so we could not change plans anymore.

Cahorros walk

Los Cahorros walk

On our way to the Costa del Sol we stopped by Monachil, a small town less than 10 kilometers away from Granada and gate to the gorgeous Sierra Nevada. We parked the car to do the Cahorros walk, a spectacular hike that follows a gorge, passes greener than green fields, and returns to the town over the mountain to offer incredible views.

Occasionally, we had to crawl during Los Cahorros walk

Occasionally, we had to crawl during Los Cahorros walk

The hike was a lot of fun, including hanging bridges, caves, metal handles to help you stay on the path, and sometimes the necessity to crawl to get past the overhanging rocks.

We did kinda lose our way (the route was not very well signposted) but to be honest I didn’t mind spending some extra hours hiking in this gorgeous landscape.

These were only the first three days of our trip, so stay tuned for more pictures and stories about the places we visited!

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