Monday, January 28, 2013

Alhambra Part 1: Generalife Gardens

The Alhambra in Granada.

The Alhambra complex of palaces, fort, and gardens in Granada, Spain, is one of Europe's finest and most famous Berber Islamic sites, with architecture dating back to the 10th century and a beautiful serenity that has endured over the centuries for us to enjoy today.  It was an overwhelming joy to visit there last summer.

The Alhambra is a walled village within the city of Granada, with two hotels and shops and vehicle traffic, atop a 1,530,000 square foot acre hill.  You could spend your entire Granada visit there without ever venturing into the metropolis below.  The compound grounds are beautiful to explore, and you should, but if you want to enter the Palace Nazare or Generalife Gardens, it takes a little bit of advance planning.

Generalife Gardens in the distance.
It is imperative to purchase tickets to the Palace Nazare and Generalife Gardens months in advance if you're going during high season, and to know the exact date and time you wish to visit.  We bought our tickets on-line three months in advance.  The clearest instructions for how to do this are on TripAdvisor here, and my advice is to follow these directions to the letter.

One must choose the morning session visit or the afternoon session visit and we chose the morning (8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.)  Our exact time for entering the Palace Nazare was 12:00, which meant we had a 30 minute window from noon to 12:30 to be at the front entrance.  It is critical to know that it is a 20 - 30 minute walk from the Generalife Gardens to the Nazare entrance so as not to miss your 30 minute admission window.

I was pleased with our planning and I would recommend it:  at 8:00 a.m. we entered the Generalife Gardens and felt like we had plenty of time to leisurely explore this magnificent oasis.  At about 10:00, we began walking down to the lower Alhambra to the Palace Nazare.  By then it was about 10:30, and we were confident that was enough time to enter and tour the Alcazaba fort and still make it to the Nazare entrance by noon.  (The Palace of Charles V does not require any admission ticket at all, so it can be toured anytime.)

Alright then, let me begin, if I can do it justice, to describe the Generalife Gardens, one of the oldest surviving Moorish gardens, designed as early as 1319.  The gardens are a sanctuary of flowering plants, light, architecture, and the sounds and play of water.

The Court of Acequia, or Court of the Water Channel, is one of the most popular and striking courtyards in the garden, with a long pool, arched fountains, colonnades, and elegant pavilions at both ends.

Off the Court of Acequia is Sultana's Garden, a legendary lover's garden.  The deep, rectangular pool in the center supplies the water for all the fountains in the Generalife and the Alhambra.

You can see part of the trunk of the 700 year old cypress tree to the left in this photo. 

The cypress hedged lower gardens with beautiful paved mosaic paths center around two intersecting linear pools with arched jets of water shooting through the air.  It is a very calm and tranquil place.

The upper gardens are exquisite as well and are where you'll find the famous water steps, where streams flow down the handrails of staircases.

The water steps have streams running down the handrails.

Most spectacular are the views of the Alhambra and Granada from the Generalife Gardens.

Important things to know about visiting Generalife Gardens:

•  A ticket to the gardens can be purchased separately (7€) or combined with admission to the other parts of the Alhambra (13€ for adults, 8€ for children 12 - 15, free for children under 12.)

•  Admission can be purchased for a morning shift or an afternoon shift.

•  It takes 20 to 30 minutes to walk from Generalife to the fort and the Palace Nazare, so plan your time wisely in order not to miss your designated entrance time into the Palace.

Read Alhambra Part 2:  Palace Nazare here.
Read Alhambra Part 3:  Palace of Charles V here.
Read Alhambra Part 4:  Alcazaba Fort here.

1 comment:

  1. You always post the best pictures and it just confirms that I really need to explore more of Spain.


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