04.05.2012 - 05.05.2012
After leaving Nerja and the coast we drove North towards Granada but took a detour en route into the Alpujarra valleys known as “The Switzerland of Spain”. Backed by the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada and beautifully picturesque, this area of Andalusia certainly rivalled some of the landscapes we marvelled at in Asia. The curvy roads up into the hills meant that Sully did not get bored driving.
We stopped at a town called Orgiva where we called into the local bakery and visited the church that was surrounded by orange trees. Next we drove to Soportujar, a maze of white-walled alleys stacked neatly on the mountainside, and with amazing views to the valley below. We then drove further up into the high Alpujarras to a town called Pampaneira which sits over the Poqueira Gorge. It had a main square with an old church and a small place where they make chocolate! As we made our way back down, enjoying the amazing views from the road, our last stop was a market town called Lanjaron where they have natural hot springs.
Back on the road towards Granada, we pulled into a village called Niguelas where we were to be spending our next two nights in a hostel. The village is set at the foot of a snow-capped mountain and looked amazing as we approached. It was extremely quiet and definitely not a regular tourist destination so it was a perfect opportunity to practice our Spanish - in the bakery, asking for directions and trying to order dinner (although ‘Pizza’ is part of the global language!). Our hostel was in an old white-washed stone building, complete with ceramic tiled floors, a little kitchen and a mini rooftop terrace. Although we were in dorms, we were lucky that no one else was staying. It was warm during the day but freezing at night and we slept under a stack of blankets and woke in the morning to the sun shining through onto the wooden beams of the ceiling and to the sound of birds singing outside our window.
We spent our first afternoon in Granada in the Albaicin area. From here we had wonderful views of the whole city, of the Alhambra complex and of course, the surrounding mountains. We spent some time at the Mirador de San Nicolas, where musicians performed in front of the church and tourists gathered to admire the views. Nearby, we stumbled across a small mosque with a beautifully landscaped garden where a lady was selling homemade lemon cake – yum! We wandered the streets of the Albaicin, willing to get lost in the winding streets of the UNESCO World Heritage site.
Our final day in Granada was spent at the Alhambra – and oh, did we save the best until last! The Alhambra is over 700 years old and is the greatest treasure of Moorish Spain. It is also the most impressive piece of architecture we have seen on our travels. This was more of a surprise for Sophia since Sully has been here twice already. The series of Palace rooms were the most beautiful and the zillion photos we took could never do it justice. The design, engravings and intricate details of these rooms were stunning and were matched outside by beautiful courtyards, pretty fountains and landscaped gardens. If you haven’t been, we really recommend you visit the Alhambra and see what we just can’t describe in words.