Granada receives millions of tourists every year and it is undeniable that many of them come with the firm intention of visiting the Alhambra. However, the Nasrid province is much more than the red fort and the capital of tapas. In its vast territory there are countless cultural, natural, artistic and even religious tourist attractions that are worth knowing.
Table of contents
- 1 Discover the charms of the province beyond the city of La Alhambra
- 2 Alhama de Granada: the spa, the gorges and the tapas
- 3 Montefrío: the Arab fortress and the Church of La Villa
- 4 Guadix with its Cathedral and its Alcazaba
- 5 Almuñécar: a paradise on the Costa Tropical
- 6 Motril, “the capital” of the Costa Tropical
- 7 On the Roman trail in Salar
- 8 Víznar, the town that made Ibn Battuta fall in love
- 9 O Sel Ling, the Buddhist centre in La Alpujarra
- 10 Baza, a geological paradise
- 11 The Castle of La Calahorra, love at first sight
- 12 Follow Lorca’s trail in Fuente Vaqueros
- 13 The Dolmens of Gorafe
- 14 Redwoods in Huéscar
- 15 The Fuente Agria Spring in Pórtugos
- 16 The Busquístar Mosque
Discover the charms of the province beyond the city of La Alhambra
I propose a wide range of places you must see in Granada province. Some are more popular and others are not so common.
Alhama de Granada: the spa, the gorges and the tapas
One hour from the capital in a south-westerly direction, near the Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama, we arrive at Alhama de Granada, a charming town in Granada that holds much interest. The first curious fact is its name, Alhama, from the Arabic “Al-hamma”, the baths.
Its thermal baths are its greatest attraction and can be enjoyed in two formats: the Hotel Balneario or the more economical proposal, the open-air thermal waters next to the hotel itself, two free access pools to enjoy a very pleasant experience.
The town is considered a historic-artistic site, so any corner is of great interest, but if I had to stay with another enclave, that would undoubtedly be the Mirador and the Paseo de los Tajos. This is a trekking route that starts at the viewpoint and wanders along the riverbank, contemplating the impressive stone walls of up to 80 metres, which are modulated by the water and the wind’s erosion.
In Alhama there is no lack of traditional tapas with a drink, a perfect formula for filling your mouth at a more than economical price.
Montefrío: the Arab fortress and the Church of La Villa
This municipality is one of the ones that welcomes more international tourists outside the capital. National Geographic even included it as one of the 100 most beautiful towns in the world, and it’s no wonder.
It has a castle, religious temples, viewpoints and is surrounded by fields of olive trees, cereals and almonds with which excellent typical dishes are prepared, especially desserts. Among all its corners, the Church of La Villa and the Castle of Montefrío are the most interesting enclaves and the best place to enjoy the views of the municipality.
Guadix with its Cathedral and its Alcazaba
There are three places I recommend in Guadix: the Cathedral of the Incarnation, the Medieval Alcazaba and the Peñaflor Palace. There are only three because when you discover these you will want to spend much more time in this town.
We start with the Cathedral of the Incarnation, a temple of Renaissance and Baroque style that was built between the 16th and 18th centuries. Built on top of a 10th-century Hispano-Visigothic church, this temple is of the cathedral type. The diocese of Guadix could be one of the first episcopal seats in Spain, since it was created in the first century.
The Cathedral of the Incarnation is the most important Catholic temple of the municipality, but in this province everything is a mixture of cultures and an example of this is the Medieval Alcazaba, one of the best known buildings of Guadix. This defensive enclosure is one of the best preserved in Andalusia and its origins date back to the 11th century.
I finish this review on what to see in the province of Granada in Guadix with the Palace of Peñaflor, a civil building also very representative of the town. Built in the 16th century, the building belonged to noble families closely linked to the Catholic Monarchs.
Almuñécar: a paradise on the Costa Tropical
We travel to the Costa Tropical of Granada to discover Almuñécar. In this town you cannot miss the Castle of San Miguel, built by Ferdinand the Catholic in the time of Charles V and which contains centuries of history. I will show you just one piece of information to arouse your curiosity: it was bombed by the English in the war of independence against the French.
Another interesting point is the Archaeological Museum Cueva de los Siete Palacios, the remains of an old Roman temple which owes its name to the seven vaulted sections. It exhibits remains found in El Majuelo Park, especially an Egyptian amphora that is attributed to the Pharaoh Apophis I.
The Church of the Incarnation, the columbarium of the Tower of the Monk, the Roman aqueduct and the thermal baths or the monument to the Phoenicians are other places to see, although if you want to disconnect and practice exercise I recommend the climb to the Peñón del Santo or the view of the ecological zoo Peña Escrita, ideal for children. It has kangaroos, bears, lions, tigers, etc., many of these specimens in semi-freedom.
Motril, “the capital” of the Costa Tropical
Not only is it not necessary to leave your beloved Costa Tropical, but travelling to Motril you will be in its capital. You can go to the Tourist Office to make sure you have all the necessary plans, although I have already written down some of them, in addition to the plan to sunbathe on the sand in summer: the Collegiate Church of the Incarnation, eclectic in style; the Town Hall building, baroque with a Mudejar coffered ceiling; the Casa de la Palma, whose origin dates back to the 16th century and which houses a garden with trees from America and a Mudejar coffered ceiling.
Do you want more? The Church of El Carmen, the Church of Los Capuchinos, the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Cabeza or the Park of the Peoples of America invite you to take a long walk. I also don’t want to leave behind the Pre-Industrial Museum of Sugar Cane, introduced by the Arabs around the 10th century. The exquisite tropical climate turned it into a reference activity in Las Vegas.
On the Roman trail in Salar
It’s time to head back inland. Salar is also in the Sierra de Alhama, and its name is probably linked to that of the salt industry, which has now disappeared. And it’s because salt flats abound in its territory.
The ideal thing to do in Salar is to go to Fuente Alta or Cruz de Marino and admire its landscapes, as well as Cueva Monea or Cueva del Bañuelo. But what you can’t miss is the Roman Villa of Salar, unknown until recently and which has been attracting interest thanks to recent discoveries that reveal its riches. It was found in 2004 during the construction of a sewage station, and although the machines caused some irreparable damage, their value has been proven.
Víznar, the town that made Ibn Battuta fall in love
Ibn Battuta was a traveller and explorer born in Tangier at the time of the Merinid dynasty. He praised the surroundings of Granada assuring that they are unparalleled for their gardens, orchards or orchards that, together with castles and vineyards, surround Granada. And among them is Víznar.
Among its historic-artistic heritage, the Plaza de la Constitución stands out, but I especially recommend the Cueva del Agua route. It is a path that runs through pines, oaks and non-native Spanish firs until you reach the cave. It is of medium difficulty and takes about three hours. But even without having the intention of reaching the cave, which is closed for looting, it is worth it for the views of Sierra Nevada.
O Sel Ling, the Buddhist centre in La Alpujarra
It would be worthwhile to make a route through this wide region of the southern slope of the Sierra Nevada. Beyond Lanjarón and Órgiva, which are well worth a visit, there are hidden places that will surprise you, such as the Osel Ling Buddhist Centre. It is situated at 1600 metres above sea level and aims to facilitate meditation in solitude. If you need to disconnect completely, free yourself from stress and enjoy the silence in a place enveloped in mysticism, this is your place.
It has individual retreat houses in the middle of the mountain, as well as intensive courses in meditation and intensive Buddhist philosophy. They are suitable for all levels, but are especially aimed at those who want to do long retreats.
Baza, a geological paradise
In the urban area of Baza you have jewels like the Iberian-Roman city of Basti or its necropolis, where the Lady of Baza was found. But what really makes the town stand out is the landscape of the Sierra de Baza, whose richness earned it the title of Natural Park in 1989: it has peaks of over 2,000 metres, semi-desert lands (the badlands of the Altiplano) and greenery in the Vega.
The Geopark of Granada is one of the few natural deserts in Europe, and if you want to see it up close, there is nothing better than a route on foot, by bike or on horseback.
The Castle of La Calahorra, love at first sight
It is located in the region of Guadix, in the middle of a peculiar landscape in which the figure of this reddish fortress stands out, due to the dust from the nearby Alquife mines. It is of Arab origin, it is estimated that it was built about 500 years ago, and makes a luxury border between Sierra Nevada and the Sierra de Baza.
It has been declared a Cultural Interest Property, but it is managed by private hands. If you want to visit it, therefore, you will have to request it to the person in charge who lives in the village, and spend a Wednesday in the morning (from 10:00 to 13:00) or in the afternoon (from 16:00 to 18:00). In any case, it is better to get information because times and dates may vary.
Follow Lorca’s trail in Fuente Vaqueros
Who says Fuente Vaqueros, says Lorca. Seeing his fields, poplar groves, farmhouses or hermitages helps to understand the inspiration of the poet and playwright, although it is clear that his was a special sensitivity, a gift nourished by reference figures like his mother, Mrs. Vicenta Lorca, a village teacher.
To go deeper into his figure and context, there is nothing better than a visit to the house museum where Federico García Lorca was born in 1898, and where he lived before moving to Valderrubio. “When I was a child I lived in a very quiet and smelly little village on the plain of Granada. Everything that used to happen and all the feelings it had, pass through me today, veiled by the nostalgia of childhood and time”, wrote the poet.
The Dolmens of Gorafe
Gorafe is located in the northern part of Guadix, on the bank of the River Gor, and is bordered by the rugged area of conglomerates that are the desert badlands.
But what stands out about this municipality are its 240 dolmens of Neolithic origin scattered among its 10 necropolises, which make up the largest concentration of prehistoric burial mounds in the entire country. Going to Gorafe allows one to explore the past of this town that, as is known, lived in a complex and hierarchical society that excavated houses on the slopes or arranged stones with branches for roofing. You can do this through the visitors’ interpretation centre and by walking through its megalithic park.
Redwoods in Huéscar
You wonder what to see in the province of Granada, but travelling Huéscar will make you feel like you are walking through the Canyon of the Kings in California. Well, you don’t have to go that far, since in the Sierra de La Sagra you have some examples of giant sequoias that have been declared unique trees in Andalusia, since they are protected and form part of our natural heritage.
The Fuente Agria Spring in Pórtugos
Half a kilometre from Pórtugos, in the heart of Granada’s Alpujarra, is this fountain which has become one of the most visited sites. It comes from a spring of ferruginous waters, that is, rich in bivalent iron. Therefore, drinking directly from it regularly helps to counteract low iron levels in the body and their possible consequences in the form of anaemia and fatigue. Walking around the province of Granada, therefore, is also an investment in health.
The Busquístar Mosque
I’ll finish my review in the same region to tell you about this archaeological site which, as it is dated between the 8th and 14th centuries, is the oldest in the Alpujarra. It has the remains of rooms, a children’s burial pit, a well and a large pool.
Without further ado, I hope you have discovered for yourself these wonderful municipalities of Granada and some of their very special monuments.
By the way, many of these places in the province of Granada celebrate wonderful popular festivals in honour of their Saint – or Virgin – that are well worth a visit during the summer.