La Alhambra is an extraordinary collection of buildings begun in the 9th century. it was added to and embellished over the next six centuries. Sheer red walls rise from woods of cypress and elm. Strung along a ridge line, it dominates the region.
The entry, reached after a long, steady uphill walk, is located on the upper ridge, but the entry is not at the highest area of La Alhambra.
That privilege goes to the Generalife gardens, accessed by a steady walk even further uphill (as noted earlier, getting fit in Granada is unavoidable). The Generalife is a maze of terraces covered with cypress pines, carefully tended flower beds and shrubbery which lead to a small summer palace. And – everywhere – pools, fountains, formal streams fed by springs which originate from yet further uphill. The splash and burble of water is most soothing, cooling the shaded walkways and patios from the fierce Andalusian summer.
Located half way down the ridge, the Palacio de Nazaries is truly an extraordinary building. Plaster lacework lavishly covers the walls, delicate traceries of timber lattices shade windows, fine marble columns support graceful archways. Craftsmen’s personal marks are still visible. At the height of its opulence, palace walls which were not covered in the plaster lacework (now white, but originally brilliantly painted) were once hung with sumptuous silk banners. Entry to the Nazaries is timed and limits the numbers who an enter, enabling visitors to step back and really appreciate the space.
The Alcazaba, the original citadel, is located at the tip of the bottom end of the ridge. The Torre de la Vela provides outstanding views across the plains and to distant mountains, once you ascend numerous flights of stairs to reach the tower, before clambering up the winding staircase in the tower.