The greatest benefit of spending a few days in Granada is that it gives you time to visit both the beach and the mountains in one long weekend. The first day there, I took the bus straight the nearest beach in Salobrena. I took a nap on the pebble-covered coast, swam in the Mediterranean and had a view of a hill adorned with a castle and little white houses.
Granada is a university town with a laid-back hippie vibe and apparent Arab roots. It is certainly the place to go for tapas in Spain! After spending much time in Madrid where the tapas are mostly potato chips, olives, nuts, a few slices of cheese or a slice of Spanish tortilla, I was astounded at the quantity of free food that appeared on my plate at the Granada tapas bars. There, a two-euro beverage can include an entire dinner!
We took a tour of the major viewpoints in the mountains surrounding the city. Standing at the Mirador of Saint Nicholas, you can see the 11th-century Moorish palace, the Alhambra, in the distance, which is especially beautiful light up at night.
In the mountains surrounding Granada city there is a village of man-made caves that were once occupied by the Romani. Now they are filled with cave-squatters living rent-free in a tight-knight, off-the-grid community. There is one cave open to the public that we visited. The man that lives there sells beer and coca-cola out of his mini-fridge. There is nothing like relaxing at an Arab tea-house after all the hiking up and down the mountains.
The Alhambra palace is one of the most well preserved and frequently visited monuments in all of Europe. I tried to purchase general admission tickets but they were already sold out a week in advance! We had to split our visit into two parts and see the palaces at night and the gardens and Gerneralife the next morning. As it turned out, I preferred this option. The ornate walls and ceilings were beautifully lit by low lamps and the moon. When you gazed out from the balcony you had a view of downtown Granada all aglow. It was also less overwhelming to see the palaces separate from the rest of the estate because the Alhambra is huge! I admit I was tired after seeing only the palaces. The next Game of Thrones is scheduled to be shot there. Gazing out over the city from the Alhambra tower could make anyone feel like royalty.
My last day there I went on a hike organized by the Oasis hostel into the Sierra Nevada mountains. Our guide took us over planked, wooden bridges, under rock formations and into the waterfalls. We brought our bathing suits and jumped into the freezing pools beneath the crashing mountain water. After the hike, we ate together at local restaurant, sharing tapas and stories, and contemplated joining the cave-dwelling hippies.