Granada: Gypsies and Game of Thrones

As I said before, Granada quickly became one of my favourite cities. The free tapas definitely had a pull, but the city offers so much more than just free food and cheap beer (as if that wasn’t enough). Luke and I spent nearly 7 hours hiking around the town of Granada and we never ran out of things to see. Our hostel was in the middle of an Arabic market, right next to the winding corridors of the Jewish Quarter. The walls sported intricate mural graffiti from a local artist that reminded me of the decorated side streets of Valparaiso or Melbourne.
Granada is nestled in a little valley, which means most sightseeing involves some rigorous uphill walking. After wandering the lower streets of the city, we meandered uphill towards the Alhambra.
The Alhambra is the main sight in Granada. Not only it is the most popular tourist attraction, but it can also be seen from almost anywhere in the city. It’s an ancient fortress and palace, clinging to the side of a cliff top. Originally built by Arabs in the 800’s, the Alhambra is a stunning sight. The palaces within the fortress have walls of intricately carved marble and areas with stained glass ceilings. And for those that are Game of Thrones fans like I am, filming for the next season is taking place here and at the Alcazar in Seville. This will be Dorne! (A fact I couldn’t quite get over as I explored the area in childish excitement). There are so many royal gardens and forts and lookouts that the Alhambra takes nearly four hours to walk around completely. We managed to see the major sights faster than most tour groups and finished the highlights in just over two hours. With only one full day to see Granada, we wanted to make sure we saw more than just where the royals lived. We wanted to climb the hill to the church of San Miguel, where we were supposed to find both stunning views of the city, and Gypsies living in caves…
The hike up to San Miguel was more than we had anticipated. It’s definitely an uphill battle when you are climbing in the high heat of the afternoon in all black. But the sights along the way made it all worth it: tiny streets with whitewashed buildings and plazas full of locals, the mirador of San Nicholas with postcard views of the Alhambra, and finally the beautiful and towering church of San Miguel itself. And our guidebook was right: the views were incredible. From the top of the mountain you could see all of Granada in it’s glory, and particularly the immense size of the Cathedral that sits right in it’s center. We sat on a wall surrounding the church and gazed over the hill we had just climbed until we sufficiently caught our breaths. Granada really was amazing.
On our way down we joined up with a young guy from California to explore the gypsy caves. These are natural caves, found in the side of the mountain, that the Gypsy people have turned into homes. While some are very primitive, others have doors and furniture and even wifi! Some budget travelers prefer to squat in the caves with the gypsies instead of paying for a bed in a hostel. Although a great story and a money saver, I suppose you run the high risk of being robbed, or in the case of a man we met that lived there, being bit by a two foot long centipede while taking a siesta.
While some of these caves are homes, others are communal areas where gypsies will put on private Flamenco shows for money. We only explored the “residential” part of the caves… If you could call it that. As the three of us wound our way downhill through bushes and dirt paths, it was less a magical gypsy land and more like the slums of Granada. At one point we were fairly certain of being attacked by a wild dog that gave us a stare down and growled at us the whole way past him. We were very relieved to reach “normal” civilization without getting either robbed or rabies. But all part of the fun of exploring!
On our walk home we meandered along the riverside into the center of town. Probably one of the most picturesque views of Granada I’d seen. It was leisurely and quiet, with some cafés and churches along one side of the path, and the winding river on the other. We arrived back at the hostel almost 7 hours after we had left it and were absolutely famished. At least we’d earned our fair share of tapas for the evening!















2 thoughts on “Granada: Gypsies and Game of Thrones

  1. John from work brought me back a wine topper from Granada. He loved it as much as you.

    I hear your pain about hiking in the heat. In Italy I was constantly red in the face and sweating all the time from climbing yet another walled town perch at the top of the hill or more stairs. But all worth it! Enjoy. You are making me jealous once again. Wish I was there. Pictures just don’t show how steep

    Sent from my iPad



    • Yes, I have a feeling I’ll be in a similar situation hiking through the cinque Terre as well. But might be a good way to work off all the tajine’s I’ve been eating here in Morocco!


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