• Marion Mueller

Andalusia - white villages, magical places and gourmet delights

Updated: Apr 23, 2021


Spain is one of the most well-known tourism destination in Europe and when telling people you are going there often pictures from crowded beaches, drunken tourists with Sangria pots in front of them and ugly hotel towers come in their minds. Of course places like that unfortunately do exist, but they are not doing justice to the beautiful landscapes and places you can visit in this country - Spain is so much more than its mass tourism image.

From north to south sceneries are changing drastically - the green lush landscapes of the Basque country in the north, over the huge plains of Don Quixote's La Mancha until the picturesque hills with their white villages and cities with stunning Arabic architecture in the South. Spain has it all.

For this trip we have decided to explore the South of Spain - Andalusia - on a Roadtrip of 12 days. Of course you can just rent a car and drive wherever you wanna go, but as it was the summer season and we were not sure if we always can find available accommodation, I was looking for a DMC agency to arrange this trip for us. And by coincidence on a tourism fair I found a real jewel - Spaintop. From the beginning this agency did not disappoint with a very quick and sufficient communication. The team is super friendly and top professional. You can tell them approximately what you have in mind and they tailor-make the itinerary for you. In our case I told them some cities that we really liked to see and informed them that we would prefer smaller Boutique Hotels to stay - routing and all things to do I left it up to them. They came up shortly with a fantastic itinerary, interesting excursions, guided tours on private basis for some cities and hotels that I already fell in love with when I checked them out in the internet. They also have a super easy booking system where you can see the status of your booking at any time, download the itinerary and do the payment through credit card online. We also booked the car rental through them and for all this together they came up with a fair price. I believe that quality always pays out in the end, so I can really recommend this agency for arranging your trip ( they are doing whole Spain and Portugal) - and NO, I am not getting a commission from them, I am just convinced that these guys are really doing a very good job :-)

Spaintop

Antonio Gomez Coronado

c/Alcala 180 - Bajo D

28028 Madrid

product@spaintop.com / res@spaintop.com

Tel.: +34910820002

Fax: +34917241338

www.spaintop.com

Day 1 Arrival into Malaga

Our trip started in Malaga with a late evening arrival. Car rental went smooth and all papers were in order and we were super lucky as we got a brand new car. In case you do the car rental by yourself, be super careful what you exactly have booked as in Spain they are trying to take you on a ride in most car rentals and sell expansive extra insurances that you really do not need.

The hotel of our first night was a 15 minutes drive away from the airport in Torremolinos and a bit hard to find even with the GPS system, but a friendly taxi driver helped us out so we arrived midnight at the La Luna Blanca Hotel 3* (www.hotellalunablanca.com). Already when you enter your room you see "oh, something is different here" - beside a normal bed was also a Japanese low Tatami Furo seating area and further inspections in the bathroom revealed a Japanese shower chair and yesssss I do love the Japanese toilets, which I already got to know on a trip to Tokio some years ago - they offer different water streams for cleaning for men and women with warm water after you have done your thing - no further comments on that, whoever has tried them out knows what I am talking about:-)

The Japanese owners have built here some real Zen hideaway in the middle of Torremolinos and you can enjoy your breakfast in the Japanese garden and even try some Japanese food. Shame we were only here for that first short night.

Japanese Takami seating

Japanese Toilet

Zen Garden at La Luna Blanca Hotel

Day 2 Ronda

We had an early morning departure then from the Garden of Zen right away into the mountains of Andalusia. Passing the coast and Marbella we took the road inland and reached the famous little town of Ronda in about 90 minutes drive. The main highways in Spain have a fee, so always keep some change with you for the toll gates (sometimes it can be paid with credit card as well).

However before driving into the city we did a small diversion to a farm estate located in a Natural Park that our agency has booked for us to experience a tour to see how fighting bulls are raised. The Reservatauro (www.reservatauro.com) was founded by the famous Spanish bullfighter Rafael Tejada to show people the close relation bullfighters are developing to their animals and in what ambiance they are brought up. I think it is a fantastic idea as usually bullfights are only recognized as cruel and bloody and a lot of people even in Spain want to stop them. But in my point of view they are part of the heritage and culture of Spain and if everybody could get that look behind the scenes I am sure some people would change their mind. On the tour they will show you how cows are selected for breeding and how bulls are selected for fighting - because not every impressive bull has also the potential to be a good fighting bull as they need to have a certain level of aggression, same as the cows giving birth. Afterwards they will drive you around the huge estate where you can see the bulls in their natural environment and well they looked really peaceful - but the instruction not to get out of the car was for sure serious.

You will also get to know to their beautiful purebred Spanish horses which are trained for the ring as well there and they will do some demonstrations for you - and we were super lucky as the master himself Rafael Tejada was there and we could observe him in his training. Even the well experienced torerros practice almost every day how to move the capote (kind of colored blanket) with which they attract the attention of the bull.

At the end of the tour you can enjoy some local wine and tapas on their peaceful terrace.

Reservatauro trainings arena

Reservatauro fighting bull

Spanish purebread

Rafael Tejada the master himself

The new bullfighter with the traditional capote

Afterwards we headed to the town of Ronda and checked into our hotel Ronda Parador 4*(www.parador.es). On a trip to Spain you should at least have stayed one time in a Parador Hotel - these luxury hotels (but often with moderate prices, especially when you book them through an agency) are usually located in a converted historic building like a monastery, castle or as the Ronda one in the Old Town Hall built in 1761 (rooms are of course not from that time anymore :-)). The Ronda Parador has a spectacular location as well, directly on the top of the cliff over the deep gorge (120 meters) for which Ronda is so famous for. Lobby was a bit stiff and the modernized entry portal does not fit to the rest of the historic building, but rooms were large and our balcony was facing the beautiful panorama outside. The hotel also has a small pool and garden and breakfast was excellent with many choices.

Ronda Parador located in the old Town Hall

Ronda Parador on top of the cliff

View from balcony

Main attraction in Ronda is the gorge itself and the city bridge, Puente Nuevo, crossing it. On both cliff sides you can find a couple of restaurants in which of course the picturesque view is included in the steep menu prices.

Ronda bridge

Ronda gorge

Beside the gorge the town is nice to take a walk around as you can find many historical buildings and don't miss a visit to Daver Confiteria for some delicious sweets and cakes (www.confiteriadaver.es). On your walk you should also visit the bullfighting arena Plaza de Toros de Ronda which is a national heritage of the country and known as one of the oldest and most beautiful ones in Spain.

Plaza de Toros de Ronda

Iglesia del Socorro

As we did not want to get cheated in one of the touristic restaurants, we followed the advise from our guide at the bullfighter farm for some delicious tapas in a totally unspectacular restaurant/bar in the center. Very delicious and with a creative twist at Restaurante Las Maravillas (Carrera Espinel 3).

Seared Tuna Tapas

Ronda is also nice for a walk around at night to see the illuminated buildings and churches and have a wine in some typical neighborhood bar like the Tabanco los Arcos (Calle Arminan 6) right beside the bridge.

Tabanco de los Arcos

Day 3 Route of the White Villages

The Sherry city of Jerez de la Frontera was the destination of the day, however a very picturesque drive was awaiting us before through the famous white villages. The Pueblos Blancos you can actually find all over Southern Spain but in the region around Ronda, you can find some of the most beautiful and spectacular ones in terms of location. The reason for the white color has been postulated to be a chemical result of the limestones used.

Our first stop was at the village of Grazalema which is nestled in a valley and surrounded by the picturesque Parque Natural de Sierra de Grazalema. Here you can find all what a Pueblo Blanco needs to have: small whitewashed houses, narrow alleys, quiet squares and a maze of streets waiting to be explored by you. In between you can meet the very friendly and laid back locals.

Grazalema village

Locals ready for a chat

Streets of Grazalema

Exploring the narrow alleys

We then moved on passing through real nice forest territory until we reached a bigger Pueblo Blanco: Arcos de la Frontera, which is also known as the gateway to the White Villages Route and has been declared a national historic site. The white houses here are arranged high up on a cliff over the Guadalete river. If you park your car in the lower town it involves some steep walking to reach the upper church square, but it is worth the effort and on the way you have beautiful narrow streets, churches, squares and museums to explore. If you are tired you can find a couple of bars and restaurants along the way which are often hidden away in peaceful patios like the Meson Patio Andaluz (www.mesonpatioandaluz.es) - a very nice old lady on the street insisted to bring us there, ok maybe she was the grandmother of the owner :-) but the food was good and the place had a great ambiance.

Arcos de la Frontera

Climb up the narrow streets

Meson de Patio Andaluz

After a nice lunch with gazpacho (the famous chilled Spanish soup), some grilled main course and a pudding for dessert, we felt more like sleeping than driving further on. During lunch time watch out in Spain for the very affordable "Platos del Dia menu" - here you can often get a 3-course meal for not more than 10 EUR.

After an hour drive further south we then reached Jerez de la Frontera, which felt like a big city after our small white villages. Here we stayed for two days in the very elegant Villa de Jerez (www.villajerez.com), which used to be an old manor house. Very nice rooms with individual details and upon arrival you are offered a glass of Sherry - of course what else in the City of Sherry! The hotel garden is beautiful and the ample terrace and swimming pool gives a real holiday feeling. Breakfast was good as well. The hotel also runs a well-known restaurant, unfortunately we had no time to try it out.

Villa Jerez Front

Villa Jerez terrace

Villa Jerez Pool

The hotel is a bit out of the Old Center, but still in walking distance to it. So we took a small evening walk and followed the hotel recommendation for the best fish restaurant in town - El Bichero (Calle Pescaderia Vieja 4 - a bit hidden behind Plaza del Arenal). Delicious fresh fish a bit moody service. If you are more into smaller tapas bites you can also find one of the best Tapas Bars in town right beside - Bar Juanito. Another very famous tapas bar is El Gallo Azul Tapas y Copas (Calle Larga 2) in the middle of the pedestrian area- however drinks and food is pricey there.

El Bichero fish restaurant

Day 4 Jerez de la Frontera

Beside its very famous sherry bodegas Jerez de la Frontera is also well-know for its horse riding school - Real Escuela (www.realescuela.org). So you can easily spend one day in this city. For the horse riding school they usually have their performance in the morning and if you are not booked through an agent it is important to book the tickets online during the season as otherwise they might be sold out on the day. It is worth to arrive there early so that you have enough time to walk through the public areas and observe the free training outside.

The Andalusian School of Equestrian Art is similar to the Spanish Horse Riding School in Vienna and an institution in the city. Here the classical traditions of horse riding, dressage and all aspects of horsemanship should be preserved. During the show you will see some impressive demonstrations of the close relation between horses and riders and both their abilities. It is not allowed to take videos or pictures during the show, but if you like to have an idea what you can expect, you have some movies on their website.

Real Escuela outside

Real Escuela free training

Real Escuela riding hall outside

Real Escuela inside riding show hall

Afterwards of course we had to come to the main Jerez affaire - the SHERRY. There are a couple of real big Bodegas in the city, most famous among them is for sure Tio Pepe (www.bodegastiopepe.com) - the brand image, a man with his big hat is well known. All these big Bodegas offer tasting tours for visitors, but rather being in one big group it is worth to have a look around in the smaller family owned ones as a lot of them offer tours as well. Our agency did again an excellent choice with the visit of the privately owned Diez-Merito Bodega (www.diezmerito.com), where the tour was only for us, but they also have some scheduled group tours.

Sherry is a fortified wine made from the white grapes that are grown in the area around Jerez. It is produced in various styles with light ones similar to white table wines to darker and heavier versions who have been allowed to oxidise as they age in barrels and also sweet dessert wines are on offer. In the Diez-Merito Bodega the excellent wines rest and age under archs and vaults that date back until the year 1760. Here the Espinosa family from Jerez is producing some of the best and oldest Sherry wines of the region.

On the tour they take you through the cellars and patios and you are surrounded by the impressive oak barrels. Later of course it is tasting time and they are very generous with the amounts they pour in your glasses so the accompanying food is very welcomed and also had a real good taste - lunch sorted :-) The Bodega can be also rented for private events or weddings.

In the Diez Merito Bodega

Oak barrels in the cellar

Inside an oak barrel oxidise process

Diez Merito emblem

Ancient Sherry

Sherry tasting

Jerez de la Frontera has further more a nice pedestrian area and some famous monuments like the impressive Catedral of Jerez.

For our second evening in the city we were asking the hotel for a recommendation for a Flamenco Show - of course no Spain visit is complete without one - but a lot of them are super touristic and the food that is served there not worth to mention. However we got an excellent recommendation for a smaller tablao the Tablao Cale (Calle Muro 14 / +34649383978), which is less frequented. The singers and dancers here are rotating and often just at the beginning of their careers - which doesn't make them less worth to see. The show was so full of emotion that the air in the small Tablao was literally vibrating as the performers put all their heart and soul in that one hour and due to the small size of the place you are real close up to them. Food was good, but nothing special - various tapas that were included in the price, but you can also take just the show. Great ambiance where you can feel the real spirit of Flamenco.

Tablao Cale

Tapas dinner at Tablao Cale

Day 5 First glance on Sevilla

The next day we left the peaceful surroundings of the Villa Jerez in the morning for our drive to Sevilla- which was just a bit more than an hour away. Our hotel was right in the historic Judish Quarter, which meant a lot of navigation through narrow streets, but thanks to the navigation system we reached our hotel easily and they had a parking service in a nearby garage.

The Hotel Las Casas de la Juderia 4* (www.lascasasdelajuderiasevilla.com) is right in the heart of the Jewish district, which is one of the most typical and frequented areas of the city. Once the Duke of Bejar, protector of Cervantes and member of one of the most famous families in Spanish aristocracy lived here. So in this place you are surrounded by history. The whole hotel actually consists of various houses joined together from the old Casa de Juderia and other nearby buildings which were forming a complex of lodges and accommodations for the Duke and his servants. Also the first American Indians were accommodated here, brought by Christoph Columbus after his first journey.

The charming historic hotel stretches over a whole block and the different houses are connected through 40! patios and underground tunnels - a real maze, which will take you some time to get oriented. Rooms are all different, but a bit dark and you literally can breath the historic age - but well, that's part of the experience. Wifi does not really work in the rooms - but then Christoph Columbus also hasn't one. Breakfast room is located underground in the old storage rooms - very funky! However the best of this hotel is the lovely rooftop terrace with a beautiful view over the Historic Center, a small swimming pool and bar. What you need more after a day of walking through the city...... the hotel also has a Roman inspired Spa and a Piano Bar.

Las Casas de la Juderia lobby

Historicroom

One of the 40 patios

Rooftop bar and pool

Sevilla is a real amazing city full of life and history, where reality is mixed with fairy-tales. Sevilla is a romantic city and the citizens are proud that the Flamenco is said to be born here. But with all its dedication for traditions, the city also tries out new things and is experimenting with modern architecture. Plaza del Triunfo is the main square of the Old Center and main meeting point for visits of the Cathedral, the Palace and Gardens. We started our visit to Sevilla in the lazy way by hiring one of the many horse carriages that are waiting for customers at the Plaza as well - price is usually around 50 EUR/total for approximate 40 minutes ride around the Old Center, the river, the Parque Maria Luisa until the Plaza de Espana. Not cheap in aspect to the quite short distance, but somehow a Sevilla-must-do.

The horse liked my shirt

Plaza de Espana

On a walk through the Jewish District you can be sure never to be alone as it is flooded with tourists, however if you leave a bit the common tourist trails you can still find some beautiful patios and colorful streets.

Street in the Jewish district

Houses outside the Alcazar Garden

Hidden Trails

At the side of the Jewish District starts also the main pedestrian street for shopping. Due to the fabrics that are spanned from the house roofs over the street it has a lofty and airy feeling even on very hot summer days. So you won't build up a sweat while shopping - maybe only when thinking of the money you spent :-)

Shopping Street in Sevilla

Further down the shopping district you reach the Plaza de la Encarnacion with the modern installment Metropol Parasol (www.setasdesevilla.com). It is a wooden structure designed by the German architect Juergen Mayer and completed in April 2011 and claims to be the largest wooden structure in the world. Due to its appearance, location, delays and immense costs it is controversially discussed in public. Under Sevillans it is also known as the Incarnation Mushrooms. For tourists its offers great views over the city from the innovative walking platforms on top.

The Incarnation Mushrooms

Walking Platform on top

City Views from the top

For dinner we followed a recommendation in the Jewish District close to our hotel. Of course all the restaurants and bars in that area are quite touristic, but you can still find some solid ones with good food for fair prices. The restaurant La Cueva (www.restaurantelacueva.eu) is a typical Spanish restaurant that offers some excellent fish and meat dishes. You can either sit in the ancient historical courtyard, on the nice outside terrace facing the Plaza Elvira with its orange and lemon trees or beside some bull head trophies inside.


La Cueva Restaurant inside area

If you are up for some walk afterwards go on a stroll around the Palace and Alcazar Gardens - in summer time they have often readings and small concerts there as well during evening hours. If you are up for some elegance you can also have a drink on the terrace of the best hotel in town the Alfonso XIII, member of the Luxury Collection (www.hotel-alfonsoxiii-sevilla.com). Ancient building, elegant atmosphere and of course steep prices.

Inside the Hotel Alfonso XIII

Day 6 Walking Tour through Sevilla and Boat Cruise

Today our agency arranged a Walking Tour through the historic center with a private guide. Meeting point was at the Plaza Triunfo and the famous Giralda of the cathedral. Our guide, Luis Salas, was super friendly and very knowledgeable about the city and its interesting little details. As we were already walking around the day before we of course have seen already some of the places of the tour, but it was still very interesting to get the story behind and to explore some little hidden places around. I always prefer these kind of private tours than being in a big group and follow like in a sheep herd. For tours in Sevilla you can contact them directly on www.reallydiscovery.com

Giralda of Seville

The tour started with a visit to the General Archives of India (www.sevilla.org), which is housed in the ancient merchants exchange and holds extremely valuable archival documents illustrating the history of the Spanish Empire in the Americas and Philippines. The building is a serene example of Spanish Renaissance architecture and the whole Archive is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

General Archives of the Indies from inside

We then went on to a nice closed market for handicrafts in the old post office El Postigo (www.mercadodeartesanialpostigo.com), perfect to hunt down some nice souvenir. Afterwards we pass through the courtyard of the Residence of the Archbishop and then on again towards the shopping district, where we visited a shop with beautiful traditional Flamenco dresses.

Archbishop Residence

Traditional Flamenco dress

We followed our guide then further to visit some hidden away churches, explore the various architectural styles of the buildings in the city center and have a coffee in some local community neighborhood bar.

Small church in the center
Historical Building

Art Deco building

The second part of our private tour was a river cruise on the Guadalquivir river on a small eco-friendly electric boat (www.guadaluxe.com). And we were lucky as we had the boat only for us. The nice captain explained for us the buildings along the way and there are even drinks on offer. A very relaxed way to explore the city from its river side. Most of the tourists are going on the big old-fashioned tourist boats that offer standardized comments in various languages. So I can really recommend these small electric boats for an individual and intimate way to explore the city. You will pass the castle of the Spanish Inquisition and they drive you all the way down to the Expo 92 area and the significant high rise building over there - that the locals call their Lipstick.

Guadaluxe eco-friendly electro boat

On the river passing Triana

The Lipstick

How many days we were now in Spain and we did not had Paella until now - so we had to change that situation and went for a real nice tapas bar/restaurant close to the Cathedral, where we got an excellent one. Gago 6 (Callle Mateos Gago 6).

Paella at Gago 6

If you are up for some sweet treat and a coffee afterwards try to find the cute little Salt and Sugar coffee shop (Calle Ximenez de Encisco 12) in the maze of the small streets of the Jewish District. Here you can get some well brewed coffee with small little cakes and bites - very yummmmi!

Salt and Sugar coffee shop

In the evening we followed the recommendation of our tourguide Luis to one of his favorite restaurants La Azotea (www.laazoteasevilla.com), where they are doing some very nice and creative dishes. If you sit outside you can observe the buzzling street life as well and have the Giralda in front of you. Tapas at its best you can get also at the bar El Rinconcillo (www.elrinconcillo.es).

La Azotea grilled octopus

If you want to have a different experience it is also nice to walk over to the other side of the river. You have the neighborhood of Triana there, which is traditionally known as the workers neighborhood and the Trianeros see themselves different from the rest of the city. Triana has a traditional pottery and tile industry, a vibrant flamenco culture and its own festivals. You can experience there a real laid back and relaxed vibe and can try some simple, but delicious food in one of the many bars and restaurants along the river (all around the bridge Puente de Triana). When you come closer to the next bridge Puente de San Telmo, you can find some more up-marked and modern restaurants like the Abades Triana (www.abadestriana.com) and a very cool river bar, jungle style.

Puente de Triana by night

River bar

If you are up for a Flamenco Show while in Sevilla you can check out following places for shows and concerts: Casa de la Guitarra (www.casadelaguitarra.es), La casa de Flamenco (www.lacasadelflamencosevilla.com) and La Esencia del Flamenco in Triana (+34654111508/info@flamencoesencia.com).

Day 7 Over Cordoba to Granada

The next morning we bit farewell to the maze of the Casas de Juderia and left Sevilla towards Cordoba. As our tour in Cordoba was only scheduled for the afternoon we had time to stop at one of the most beautiful Paradores in Spain en route. The Parador de Carmona (www.parador.es), which is located in a stunning 14th-century Arabic fortress. It's massive and stands high above the town. The view from the lobby balcony is amazing on clear days. In the Andalusian Patio you can have a coffee in pure tranquility. In the lobby area you can admire some excellent tile work, reminding you that you are in Andalusia where the light is special. Also take a look into the dining room which is located in the former refectory.

Parador de Carmona entrance
View from lobby balcony
Andalusian Patio

After another 45-minutes driver we reached Cordoba - which has a modern new town, but all the touristic sights are located in between the walls of the Historic Center. The Historic Center itself is beautiful with narrow streets and the typical Andalusian mix of European and Arabic elements. You enter the Old Town through one of the main gates in the city wall and then just wander around and explore the various Plazas, museums, bars, restaurants and shops. Cordoba is a city with an impressive cultural and memorial heritage. Due to its strategic location at the riverside of the Guadalquivir the city was always considered a privileged place and has attracted many famous inhabitants. Cordoba has been the capital of many different Empires and not only the Mezquita but the whole Old Town has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage. You can explore here the Jewish Quarter, the Medieval Synagoge and of course the unique Mosque-Cathedral one of the most stunning buildings in the world.

We still had some time before our tour, so we explored the streets a bit on our own and had lunch in a cute little restaurant, El Rincon de Carmen (www.restauranterincondecarmen.es).

We also came across a super tranquil Arabic styled cafe with a lovely patio - Salon de Te (www.lacasaandalusi.com). Here you can enjoy a tasty glass of tea or a cup of strong Turkish coffee and try out some Arabic cookies and bakery.

Then it was time to meet our guide for the private tour which was arranged from the agency and once again we had a super good guide, who had the ability to explain all the detailed history in an interesting and compact way with lots of humor. She took us on a small walking tour, but then of course the main sight to visit was the Mezquita of Cordoba (www.mezquita-catedraldecordoba.es). The structure is regarded as one of the most accomplished monuments of Moorish architecture. Originally the Catholic Basilica of Saint Visigoth stood on the site, which later has been extended and transferred into a Mosque. With the Spanish Inquisition Christianity returned and the building was converted in a Roman Catholic church. The history is very long and complex and didn't stick in my mind, but what does stick in my mind is the stunning architecture, the hundreds of pillars and the amazing cathedral inside. Words can not really describe the experience that you will have inside. The architectural mix is unique in the world. Muslims have started in 2000 a petition to be allowed to pray on the grounds, but so far have not been granted that right. But anyway with all the visitors inside this place feels rather a museum than a place of worship.

Inside the Mezquita

Stunning roof and walls

Pillars of the former Mosque

Cathedral roof

Choir stalls and organ

After we took a walk around on the outside where you can still see how massive this structure is, reaching down until the Gualdaqivir river.

The Mezquita from outside

On the shore of the Guadalquivir river

As we still had a 200 km drive in front of us to Granada, we unfortunately had not more time to explore this extraordinary place for longer. So we left our guide and decided to take the countryside route and not the highway to Granada. It was a good decision as it was a very scenic route through farmland, olive tree plantations and mountain villages. After around a 2 hours drive we reached the plain of Granada with the impressive mountain scenery at the backdrop. On clear days and during spring time a real wow experience when the peaks of the Sierra Nevada are still covered with snow.

Our navigation system brought us straight and through the most narrow streets of the Old Town to our lovely hotel. Casa Morisca 3* (www.hotelcasamorisca.com)- which was my favorite hotel of the whole route. Nestled in a steep dead-end street on the foot of the Alhambra in the historic district of the lower Albayzin. It is a charming little place that offers a cozy feeling. All rooms are with different decorations and are situated on three floors around the open Patio. The historic house is dating back to the end of the 15th century and from many rooms you have a stunning view on the Alhambra and Generalife. Morisco is the name given to Muslims who stayed on in Granada after the conquest. The magic of the Alhambra is as well reflected in Morisco houses with stucco-work arches, panels of colored tiles and multicolored wooden ceilings with Arabic calligraphy. Sorry for that long hotel description, but I really loved the atmosphere of this Boutique Hotel. And the beds were sooooooo comfortable and the bed linen just amazing, we are still trying to contact that Portuguese company that sells that linen!

Casa Morisca street view

Casa Morisca Patio

Casa Morisca room

The hotel is also in walking distance to the main town center, you just need to follow the road down along the Darro river. We had dinner at the Antigua Bodega Castaneda (Calle Elvira 5), which serves some great and authentic Tapas.

Day 8 Visit to the Alhambra in Grenada and drive to Malaga

The next morning we had time for a walk through the Albayzin, the old Moorish quarter behind the hotel which lies opposite the Alhambra. It's a maze of typical old streets and protected by the Unesco. It takes some breath to climb the steep streets and many steps to the top, but the view from the Plaza S. Nicolas to the Alhambra and the mountains in the back is worth it, simply stunning. If you are in that district at night it is also nice to have dinner here with these great views, however they come with the according price tag of course - Restaurant Las Estrellas de San Nicolas (www.estrellasdesannicolas.es), Carmen Aben Humeya (www.abenhumeya.com) or a more simple Arabic one, however with no view at the Plaza S. Nicolas - Teteria Marrakech (Calle Espalda de San Nicolas 9).

Street in the Moorish quarter

View from the Albayzin to Alhambra

Afterwards we had our private tour through the UNESCO world heritage site of the Alhambra palaces and gardens (www.alhambra-patronato.es). Again we had a super knowledgeable and friendly guide, Patricia Rodrigo, who took us on a tour through this impressive monument. On a rocky hill on the banks of the River Darro protected by mountains and among the eldest quarter in the city the Alhambra rises up like an imposing castle with its distinctive reddish stone and its high walls preventing the outside world to see the delicate beauty enclosed behind. The Alhambra ranks among the world's finest examples of Islamic art with carved-cedar wood, astonishing stucco work and gorgeous mosaics. Originally designed as a military area, the Alhambra became the residence of royalty and the court of Granada in the middle 13th century.

The history is long and the place huge, so I think the best way to see the highlights in a limited time is a tour with a private guide arranged through an agency. However if you come alone make sure that you book your tickets online well in advance, as in the main season the Alhambra is literally sold out.

We started with a tour through the beautiful Alhambra gardens full of blooming flowers and with spectacular views. They are the best and most famous late-medieval castle gardens in Europe and are situated on a fortified plateau, across a valley from the Generalife and surrounded by the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Alhambra Garden view towards Generalife

Alhambra Gardens Palace

Alhambra Gardens courtyard

Then we moved over to the Nazaries Palace complex which has been the residence of the kings of Granada and is simply stunning. The founder of the dynasty, Alhamar, began to build it in the 13th century, although the buildings that have survived to the present date are mainly from the 14th century. Three palaces form this enclosure: the Mexuar, the Palace of Comares and the Palace of the Lions, which is the most beautiful one out of all of them and hosts some delicate Arabic art and structures. Before you reach to the Nazaries Palace you pass the Palace of Charles V which is a Renaissance building with impressive features, however it has never been a home to a monarch.

Charles V Renaissance Palace

Mexuar Palace

Palace of Comares

Palace of Comares reflecting pool

Lion Palace

Inside the Lion Palace

Beside the Palace of Nazaries with our guide Patricia

During the summer month the gardens and different palaces are hosting the Granada Music Festival (www.granadafestival.org) - getting a ticket for one of the performances is like winning the lottery, but if you manage you are rewarded with world class performances in this magical ambiance. A truly unforgettable experience.

If you want to see some gypsy inspired Flamenco called Zambra - Granada is the right place to do that as there are some famous dance places located in caves of the Sacromonte. For nice performances check out Maria la Canastera (www.granadainfo.com/canastera)

With Granada the cultural part of this trip came basically to an end and we headed down to the coast again for some fun in the sun and to stretch out on the beautiful white beaches of the Costa del Sol and Costa de la Luz. See my seperate Blog post for this part of the trip.


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