Granada is situated inland 65 kilometres north from Motril, located on the main N-323 road. Granada is easy to find, close to Santa Fee and on your way to Sierra Nevada and you will know you have found the right place. Golf is available for players at the Granada Club Course which is located close to Las Gabias. Granada also has its own airport for domestic and international air travel.
As well as being a city famous for its gorgeous Alhambra, picturesque old Arab quarter and status as an important university town, Granada is also one of Andalucía's autonomous regions. The part closest to the Costa del Sol is a beautiful area with a warm climate ideal for growing fruit such as apples, avocados, oranges and lemons, while its interior contains the Sierra Nevada mountain range, treeless peaks which not only have the highest altitudes on the peninsula but also house Europe's southernmost ski resort.
Of all Andalucía's historical sites, particularly those connected with the Arab occupation, the most important and impressive is the Alhambra in Granada. Built under the orders of Ismail I, Yusuf I and Muhammad V during the Nasrid dynasty of 1238 to 1492, the reason for its construction was to demonstrate the strength and superiority of the Nasrid era and to be an image of heaven on earth.
The name Alhambra has been adapted from the original Arabic title "Al Qal'a al-amra" which means "red fort”. The Alhambra, like all fortresses, is divided into several different areas. The Alcazaba is the military section where the soldiers of the Nasrid were stationed and their living quarters, as well as some dungeons, can still be seen.
The main living quarters for the Arab rulers were found in the Casa Real, which, although splendid, is made from simple materials such as plaster, wood and tiles. This palace has many features including a huge banqueting hall and the famous Patio de Los Leones, in which a beautiful fountain has been built on the backs of 12 marble lions. The Salon de Embajadores is the throne room with a ceiling built to represent the seven heavens of the Muslim cosmos.
The grounds of the Alhambra also contain the Generalife, or summer residence of the Moorish rulers. It is located on higher ground than the rest of the Alhambra, since Muslim belief states that in this way they could reach closer to heaven. The Generalife is a giant garden of fountains, flowers and trees, which forms the backdrop of Granada's annual International Music and Dance Festival.
The surrender of the Arabs in 1492 marked the pinnacle of Isabella and Ferdinand's campaign and in true fashion they set about restoring Christianity to the area by building a new cathedral, which took over 180 years to construct. It was designed in the Gothic style by Enrique de Egas in 1523 and then supervised by Diego de Siloe, who was also responsible for part of the design of Málaga's cathedral. The Baroque is also evident in Alonso Cano's design of the western side of the building.
To mark their victory the Catholic Monarchs ordered the construction of the Royal Chapel, which was also built by Enrique de Egas between the years 1505 to 1507. The chapel is adorned with fine sculptures and figures of Isabella and Ferdinand designed by Domenico Fancelli in 1517. Steps lead down to the crypt in which the bodies of the king and queen can be found. The sacristy contains monuments to the Catholic monarchs as well as paintings and army standards. Isabella's crown and Ferdinand's sword are also on display.
If you choose to investigate Granada by taking a coach tour then you will inevitably find yourself in the fascinating Albaicín, which is the old Arab quarter and is perched on a hillside opposite the Alhambra. Apart from being an excellent point from which to photograph the fortress, the Albaicín is today still the best way to picture how Granada's citizens lived during the Moorish occupation. The streets are far too narrow to admit cars, so pedestrians will enjoy being able to walk freely around the area. In the hillside opposite you will be able to see the entrances of the troglodytes' dwellings, some of which are still occupied and quite sought-after.
Some of the other popular sites in the town include the Museo Arqueológico on the Carrera del Darro, a Renaissance mansion that houses Phoenician, Roman and Moorish antiquities found in the area of Granada. Another architectural sight worth viewing is the Monasterio de La Cartuja, which was built in 1516, and its beautiful cupola, which was the work of Antonio Palomino, highlighted with sculptures created by Luis Cabello.
Modern day Granada has everything that the contemporary tourist would expect from a European centre and more besides. Although some of its newer suburbs possess the type of ugliness caused by rapid urbanisation, it is nonetheless a beautiful city, which should ideally be explored over several days.