The magnificence of Alhambra

Granada is a city of hills. Seven hills to be exact. The city perches above and sprawls between them. Like the rest of Andalusia, the weather is nothing short of incredible. Mild, beautiful and with the Sierra Nevada close by, cooling winds pervade throughout much of the valley.

Granada was by far the highlight of our trip. For several reasons but the most important of which (as all Andalusian travellers will know) was the Alhambra – a 14th century palace of the Nasrid Emirate of Granada of Moorish rule. Our views on the Alhambra are not unique – it’s an incredibly awesome place that everyone should visit. In terms of Islamic architecture, we rank it close to our experiences in Iran, Turkey and elsewhere in Muslim world. 

But the best part of Alhambra, ironically, was getting into it. Alhambra is the place to see in all of Andalusia and the attraction accommodates a limited number of tourists each day. It is highly recommended to book the tickets ahead of time. The general lead time you need, usually is about a month or even a couple of weeks before booking. The trouble for us was that a Spanish holiday coincided with our trip to Andalusia so demand for tickets was excessive. Tickets were sold out more than six weeks before our departure. I literally checked almost daily for any openings. Nothing. So we researched a myriad of different options to find a way to get in. City cards, private tours, bribery Spanish gift giving, amongst others – we scowered through hundreds of TripAdvisor comments and Reddit posts for that little gold nugget. Again nothing.

So we had to do it the old fashion way. Wait in line. There are about 100 or so tickets sold at a ticket office for each day which sell out almost instantly. The ticket office opens up at 8:00 a.m. An American traveller we met in Cordoba told us she got there at 5:30 a.m. Yeah ….

We slept in a bit and got there at 6:30 a.m. And despite that, there were still over 100 people in line ahead of us. But we met a wonderful, retired Australian couple in line in front of us who we chatted with non-stop about travel, politics and living life to the fullest.  Retired people who love to travel are clearly the best people in the world.  I guess that's what happens when your pension is overflowing with cash.    

After about a 3-hour wait, we finally got in, with about 20 or so total tickets remaining! Usually, the returns to patience can be overrated but certainly not in this case. When I think of Alhambra now, my mind plays a British voice repeating in robotic, Siri-like fashion “A stunning visual experience”. It’s that incredible. Check it out.