Saturday, 6 April 2013

Semana Santa in Granada: Trip Costs and Details

I spent the holy week in Andalusia, Southern Spain with four days in Granada and a day trip to Cordoba.

The Alhambra, sizzling flamenco, Moorish architecture, a surprisingly festive vibe, good food at cheaper prices than Madrid, and the sweetest(no trace of sourness) freshly squeezed orange juice I've tasted. What's not to love in Andalusia?

For those who are planning a trip to Andalusia, here's a breakdown of what we did and the corresponding prices to help you plan your trip.

Getting There: By Plane, by Train or By Bus

We took the ALSA bus to Granada since we had ample time to spare and because it's the cheapest option. The five hour bus trip from Madrid to Granada's Estacion de Autobus costs about 35€ return. The buses were very comfortable, with a clean toilet and wide bus chairs. There were movies shown in the bus plus each chair has individual earphone jacks so one can choose to either watch the movie being screened or listen to music.

It is easy to travel around Granada. The taxis are cheap (about 5-10 Euros from one point to another on the average) and there are many local buses at all the must-see stops (1.20€ fare for the local buses).

Hotel Camino, Granada: Located just outside the city center, about fifteen minutes away, this was a beautiful hotel with great service. The plus point is that the bus stop to the city center is just outside the hotel. The rooms were spacious, the restaurant was open till late night and we had a wonderful view from our room.

View from our room

Price is 60€ per night for a twin sharing room. Buffet Breakfast is an additional 6€ per person.

Hotel Alixares: We booked one night at this hotel so we could go to the Alhambra without hiccups. Its edge is its wonderful location, literally right next to the Alhambra. The vibe is more touristy than Hotel Camino, but well, what do you expect for a hotel right next to the Alhambra? The rooms are sparse and definitely smaller than Hotel Camino despite it being more expensive but its location proved to be convenient for us since we took a late night viewing tour of the Nasrid Palace in Alhambra.
Price: 100€ per night for twin sharing

Granada's flamenco culture is thriving, so watching flamenco here was a must. The two hour show with a three course lunch/dinner (tapa, first course, second course, dessert plus bread and wine/drink) costs 35€. I say it's worth it. The show was great and the food was better than expected.

The flamenco dancer.Photo courtesy of my travel mate, MM.

After watching the show, Flamenco, to my mind, was borne out of a yearning to express that which is pure. The rhythms, the singer's wails, and the dancer's sashaying hips are extremely intimate and full of fervor. Flamenco must be viewed in small venues so one can experience the intense spirit of this art.

Day Trip outside Granada
Because, we wanted to get the most of our Andalusia trip we also alloted a day to travel to a neighboring city. There are many cities to visit in Andalusia: Cadiz, Cordoba, Sevilla, Malaga. We opted for Cordoba since it's only a three hour bus ride away from Granada and is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Bus fare to Cordoba is 25€ return.

The Roman Bridge in Cordoba. Photo by ShaoRang

Granada Highlights

-Visit the Cathedral

Because we were there during the holy week, the cathedral was the center of activity during our stay, a grand and literally glittering procession was the highlight of each night. We did not do this, but if I remember correctly, one can go view the cathedral for about 8€.

Festive mood in Granada on Holy Thursday waiting for the procession to start.

The golden tableau of the persecution of Christ.

-Go to Albayzin and Sacromonte
These are a short bus stop away from the city center. Albayzin is known for its narrow cobbled streets and Moorish architecture (History check: Andalusia, and therefore Granada, was once under Moslem/Moorish rule before it became part of Ibero-Christian Spain). There is a popular viewing point in Albayzin, at the church of San Nicolas. From here one can get an expansive view of the Alhambra.

The Alhambra from the San Nicolas viewing deck. Photo courtesy of my travel mate, MM.

Sacromonte is the district where the gypsies live. Known for the houses and bars carved out of caves. It is about a fifteen minute walk from Albayzin's San Salvador bus stop.

-Drink your orange juice!
The streets of Andalusia are literally teeming with orange trees. Every turn, even in the city center, you will find an orange tree brimming with fruits. So do not miss the chance of drinking sweet freshly squeezed, freshly plucked from the tree orange juice while in Andalusia!

-Visit the Alhambra
One word: Grand. No explanation needed. One needs to visit the place to appreciate the grandeur. Walking shoes necessary, hours of walking guaranteed. Visit pass to Alhambra costs 16.60€.

The Nasrid Palace in Alhambra.Photo courtesy of my travel mate, MM.

What to bring back from Granada
Aside from the usual souvenir stuff there are a lot of artisanal goodies in Granada such as teas, honey and olive oil-based soap.

Also do try Granada's famous sweets, the Piononos de Sta. Fe which is very different from the Pionono we know in the Philippines. It is small, can be eaten in two bites, has a creamy center, a custard topping and the cake is infused with rum. Yum!

So that's it for Granada. I hope this post will help you plan your trip!

P.S. Yes,the two teenagers whose images were unintentionally taken as background of the Granada marker were smooching!

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