The beautiful city Granada with the famous Alhambra is only one hour away. Granada is the capital of the Spanish province of the same name, located in Andalusia in southern Spain. It’s most famous for being home to the fabulous Alhambra Palace which is widely regarded as being one of the 10 architectural wonders of the world. Dig deeper than the modern, urban sprawl of the highly industrialised zone and you’ll find a magical city where flamenco dancers perform in gypsy caves and Andalusia’s exotic Moorish past oozes from the walls of ancient edifices.
The city is 70 kilometres north of the Costa Tropical, looking out over the fertile Vega plain with the magnificent mountains of the Sierra Nevada as its backdrop. If you’re visiting the city at certain times of the year you can ski in the morning and sunbathe on the beaches of the Mediterranean in the afternoon.
The Alhambra is undoubtedly the biggest magnet for most tourists – a magnificent Moorish stronghold which was the sumptuous royal residence of the Arab Sultans from the 13th century until they were driven from Spain by the Catholic monarchs King Ferdinand and his Queen Isabella. Its Alcazaba fortress, beautiful palaces, elaborate courtyards and luxurious residences were built over several centuries. The sheer luxury and beauty of its palaces were a triumph of Islamic art and workmanship, unrivalled anywhere in the world.
Another beautiful city is Cordoba, located two hour drive from Granada. Cordoba is located in the Spanish region of Andalusia and is one of the most fascinating cities in southern Spain. Ten centuries ago it was the western capital of the mighty Islamic empire with an opulence unrivalled anywhere in Europe. Today it still boasts many great historic treasures, including its fabulous Arab mosque, which serve as reminders of the glory days when Cordoba was one of the greatest cities in the world.
In Cordoba’s heyday of the ninth and tenth centuries there were more than 200,000 houses in the city along with 600 mosques, 900 public baths, and 50 hospitals. You could walk the streets for 10 miles at night guided by the light of lamps throughout the entire journey (it would be another 700 years before London and Paris could offer such abundance to its citizens.)
Without doubt the most famous attraction in Cordoba is its “Mezquita” which is the third largest mosque in the world and one of the most impressive buildings in the whole of Spain. It’s something of an architectural oddity because a Christian cathedral was erected inside the walls of the Islamic mosque after the Moorish invaders were ousted from the city in the 13th century. The cathedral took nearly 250 years to build so the result is an extraordinary mixture of typical Moorish architecture combined with Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles. Emperor Charles V lamented the construction of the cathedral saying: “You have destroyed something unique in the world with something that can be found anywhere.” But the mosque and cathedral still continue to attract Muslim and Christian pilgrims from around the world along with those who come merely to admire its extraordinary beauty and workmanship.