February 06, 2020

Turkey and Spain - Part 4 (Granada)

After fifteen days exploring Turkey, we endured an early wake up in Izmir and a full day’s worth of travelling including two flights to Madrid and a high speed train ride to Granada where we stayed for three days. It was nice to be on a high speed train again since my last trip to Europe in 2014. Our Airbnb was a short walk away from the train station and a couple of grocery stores were nearby to grab some food. Aside from the lack of bathroom privacy with the glass walls and no locks, the room was clean and we were relieved to get some laundry done.
Passing by the Alhambra during our walk around Granada

Walking Around Granada

Our main reason for visiting Granada was to enjoy some hiking trails in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. We were originally going to do the one way hike from Beas de Granada back to Granada, but things did not work out this time around. Maybe next time. Instead, we used Christmas Eve to stroll around the Albaicin neighbourhood which our host (Ruben) suggested a route starting and ending at the Arco de Elvira.
The Albaicin has lots of cute homes including hanging plants and decorated plates
The Albaicin is very hilly, but walkable with lots of plazas and narrow streets which slow down cars to as low as 20 km/h. We noticed a lot of Islamic influence with their buildings, as well as with shops selling Turkish lamps and ceramics. Even ceramic pomegranates – which were everywhere in Turkey – though it should be noted pomegranate translates to Granada in Spanish! 😉
This gift shop in Granada feels right at home in Turkey
Our walk brought us next to the Alhambra; an Islamic palace and fortress which we didn’t go to since tickets often sell out at least a month in advance. We did visit the San Juan de Dios Church which was very beautiful inside; especially the woodwork.
Inside San Juan de Dios Church
Christmas Eve in Granada feels different than in North America. There isn’t anywhere near as much cheesy Christmas decorations such as Santa Claus, reindeer, or snowmen. Instead, some pop up shops sell nativity scene sets which are very tasteful.
Christmas decorations in Granada are not as flashy as in North America
Shops close early on Christmas Eve, though unlike in North America, a lot of places remain open on Christmas Day. The rental car place wasn’t, so I had to pick up the Fiat 500 and park it for our hikes to Ruta Medieval and Cruz de Viznar.

Ruta Medieval
Getting to Ruta Medieval is an epic drive with lots of curves (and great views)
The Ruta Medieval starts and ends at Portugos, which is an hour and a half drive southeast of Granada. It’s what I would call an epic drive with lots of curves and spectacular views.
Some curious sheep greeting us at the start of Ruta Medieval
The Ruta Medieval is a unique trail which goes through a few small villages with mostly white facades. There were lots of fountains along the way, olive and persimmon trees, and some curious farm animals. The views of the Sierra Nevada mountains were also amazing.
Busquistar is one of several small villages along the Ruta Medieval
The Trek Sierra Nevada website provides GPX files which – along with the GPX Viewer app – help you navigate the trail. This was a very helpful resource, given the wayfinding markings – though elegant – aren’t always placed properly and there was a rocky area where we had to backtrack slightly.
The wayfinding signage is elegant but their placement needs work
We also noticed the website cited faster hiking times than we were able to do – 3.5 hours instead of 2.5 hours – whereas North American trails tend to overestimate the time required.
One of several fountains along the trail
We stopped by Pampinera on the way back, which had a few shops open and a nifty knitting studio. Their Abuela Ili Chocolate shop is also delicious. The back of the village had some water running in the middle of an alley. Not a bad way to spend Christmas Day.
The village of Pampineira
Cruz de Viznar

Before taking the train to Seville, we drove to Sierra de Huétor National Park to hike the Cruz de Viznar trail. The trail starts with a steep and rocky climb of approximately 250 metres high. Once we finished climbing, the rest of the trail is pretty smooth. There is a cross on the top, but some signs indicated it was not recommended to go all the way up. Even so, there were still some nice views of Granada to enjoy.
Some spectacular views can be enjoyed along the Cruz de Viznar trail
A passer by with his dog informed us the trail connected with the Cueva del Agua. While going down was also smooth and wayfinding was more straight forward, we had to follow the road for almost half the distance back to the visitor centre.
A cross (Cruz de Viznar) at the top of a hill
Since we had some time, we stopped by the town of Viznar on the way back. There isn’t much to do, but it is a pleasant place to walk around with a public fountain and a quilted tree in the main square.
A quilted tree in Viznar's village square
While we enjoyed our time hiking in Granada, the expression “saving the best for last” certainly applies for our final destination of Seville, though Istanbul is also excellent.

Climb away!
Rob Z (e-mail)

1 comment:

  1. You can see the hotel we stayed in the plaza with the Christmas decorations. Loved it there. You must go back to tour the Alhambra.