For many, the concept of a holiday in Spain often involves spending a week or two lounging on the beach or by the pool of a resort. As much as we all love a lazy getaway in the sunshine, however, we sometimes feel the urge to break away from the sun lounger and do a bit of exploring. That’s where the beauty of picking up a car hire comes into play, enabling you to hop on a flight to Spain and hit the road in no time.
This week we’ve set our sights on the country’s Granada region, where you can enjoy some stunning scenery in the surrounding mountains or explore the charming towns and villages dotted along the nearby coastline. So check out our outsider’s guide to the city of Granada and beyond and prepare to go continental on your next road trip.
Granada’s most iconic landmark, the Alhambra palace, has towered over the area for centuries and provides magnificent views of the city and surrounding mountains. The name means Red Castle in Arabic, a reference to the colour of its exterior walls, and actually consists of several inter-linked palaces complete with immaculately presented gardens, towers and outdoor pools.
Needless to say it’s a must-visit for anyone spending time in the city, so make sure you don’t miss out on a chance to tour this magnificent World Heritage Site. Bear in mind that tickets are in great demand, so avoid disappointment by booking well in advance. Guided tours are also available at certain times throughout the day, albeit at an extra cost.
Sierra Nevada National Park
The Sierra Nevada mountain range provides the spectacular backdrop to the city of Granada and is home to mainland Spain’s highest mountain peak, fantastic hiking terrain and Europe’s sunniest ski resort.
Pick up your car hire in Granada and head south west on the A-395, which takes you on a scenic route through the Sierra Nevada foothills and into the vast mountain terrain. Head for the charming alpine village of Pradollano which is built around the Sierra Nevadaski resort. The ski season here usually runs from November to May, offering a choice of over 120 runs across 105 kilometres of terrain.
There’s plenty to do here outside the ski season as well, as the resort remains open throughout the year, with its ski lifts transporting hikers and mountain bike enthusiasts into the magnificent terrain surrounding the village. Pick up a hiking map in a local store and hit the walking trails, with routes varying in length and difficulty.
The village of Salobrena is less than an hour’s drive south of Granada and is the very definition of a small Spanish costal village, its narrow streets lined with white-washed houses and an array of tapas bars and cosy restaurants.
You won’t find much in the way of exciting attractions here, rather it’s the ideal place in which to spend a lazy afternoon wandering the quaint streets or taking in the views from the 10th if you’re up for it, follow the steep streets up to the Old Town for some truly exceptional views of the coast and an insight into area’s rich history.
If you’d rather just kick back and enjoy the pleasant autumn temperatures, however, then head down to one of the beachside restaurants for some tasty refreshments.
Religious battles form a key part of Granada’s rich history, with the area having been under both Muslim and Christian control through the centuries. Evidence of the region’s Islamic connections can still be found to this day, and some of the most prominent features come in the shape of rejuvenating Arab Baths. These public bath houses go by the Arabic name of ‘hammam’ and the city’s most famous establishment, El Banuelo, is open to the public. You can tour the fascinating old building free of charge and then spend the rest of the afternoon wandering the old streets of the charming Carrera del Darro neighbourhood.
Should you feel like experiencing a spot of ancient Arabic pampering for yourself, then head along to the Aljibe Banos Arabes baths and treat yourself to a few hours of total relaxation with a mixture of hot pools, massages and generous helpings of mint tea.
The picturesque coastal town of Nerja is located an hour’s drive south of Granada, making it an ideal day-trip destination if you feel the need for a change of scenery. Average temperatures in November tend to hover around the 20 degrees Celsius mark, making the stroll along the palm-lined boulevard towards the Balcon de Europa all the more pleasant. The famous view point provides stunning panoramic views of the coastline and Alboran Sea and looks down on the secluded beach which forms part of the adjacent hotel.
After spending the afternoon taking in the town sights, hop back in your car and head four kilometres east of town for an underground experience like no other. The Cueva de Nerja cave complex spans four kilometres under the slopes of Sierra Almijara, and is open to the public for tours throughout the day. The magical rock formations are tastefully illuminated, whilst the larger parts of the caves feature a large seating area and often host concerts and theatrical performances. Whatever you do, don’t leave that camera in the car.
In the mood for hitting the roads on the continent this autumn? Check out some of our other posts for additional inspiration: