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Granada, Spain

Granada, the capital of Moorish Andalusia, is breathtaking from every vantage point.

From The Alhambra in particular, Granada feels entirely different from the rest of Spain. Exotic, romantic and wild.

The town’s main site is a massive, medieval complex which can easily take an entire day to explore. Its features include the towering Alcazaba fort, stately Palacios Nazaries (Nasrid Palaces), colossal Charles V Palace and expansive gardens of the Generalife. Most visitors concentrate their time in the Nasrid Palaces.

The14th century palace’s decor is exquisite. It contains carved wood ceilings, beautiful ceramic tiles and filigree windows. One phrase, “Only Allah is victorious,” is written in Arabic calligraphy 9,000 times. The setting inspires visions of the sultan in his throne room, flocked by his harem of women and servants. The highlight of the palace is the Patio de los Leones (The Court of Lions.) The alabaster fountain showcases the ingenuity of 11th century engineering. Functioning as decor, it also served as a complex water system throughout the entire grounds.

The room with the most historical significance is the Hall of the Ambassadors where the Reconquista was completed in 1492.

The Treaty of Granada forced Muslims and Jews living in Spain to convert to Christianity or be expelled. The last Moorish king, Muhammad XII of Granada (known as Boabdil), signed the terms of his surrender.

That same year, Christopher Columbus made his pitch to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel to finance a sea voyage to the Orient. The infamous trip led to his accidental discovery of the sailing route to the Americas. And the rest, well, is history. (Incidentally, Ferdinand and Isabel’s tombs are in the nearby Royal Chapel of Granada.)

Outside The Alhambra, the town of Granada proves equally as alluring.

We explored a labyrinth of winding streets with details of the city’s Moorish past in the architecture. And of course, we checked out the amazing tapas scene.

Crossing Plaza Nueva, we hiked up narrow cobblestone streets in the old Arab quarter to reach the San Nicolás mirador (“viewpoint.”) Against snow-capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada, The Alhambra looked surreal in its tranquility. Nearby, local gypsies sang folk songs, adding to the dreamy atmosphere.

As the sun began its descent into the horizon, we noticed it seemed to move slowly. Even reluctantly? Perhaps, like us, it didn’t want to leave such a magical setting.

“How lazily the sun goes down in Granada, it hides beneath the water, it conceals in the Alhambra.”

Ernest Hemingway

Lodging: Pension Landazuri  |  Food: La Hosteria del Prado, La Gran TabernaBodegas CastanedaLa Nueva Bodego, Grandes Tabernas | Activities: The Alhambra (Alcazaba, Nasrid Palaces, Charles V Palace, Generalife), Royal Chapel of Granada

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