Granada was first inhabited by native tribes in the prehistoric period, and was known as Ilbyr. When the Romans colonised southern Spain , they built their own city here and called it Illibris. The Arabs, who invaded the peninsula in the 8th century, gave it its current name of Granada . It was the last Muslim city to fall to the Christians in 1492, at the hands of Queen Isabel of Castile and her husband Ferdinand of Aragon.
One of the most brilliant jewels of universal architecture is the Alhambra , a series of palaces and gardens built under the Nazari Dynasty in the 14th C.
This mighty compound of buildings – including the summer palace called Generalife , with its fountains and gardens – stands at the foot of Spain ‘s highest mountain range, the Sierra Nevada , and overlooks the city below and the fertile plain of Granada.
At the centre of the Alhambra stands the massive Palace of Charles V, an outstanding example of Spanish Renaissance architecture.
Other major Christian monuments found in the city are the Cathedral, including the Royal Chapel where Isabel and Ferdinand lie buried, the Monastery of La Cartuja and many churches built by Moorish craftsmen after the Reconquest, in Granada’s unique “mudéjar” style.
The hill facing the Alhambra is the old Moorish casbah or “medina”, called the Albaicin , a fascinating labyrinth of narrow streets and whitewashed houses with secluded inner gardens, known as “cármenes”. The Plaza de San Nicolas, at the highest point of the Albaicin, is famous for its magnificent view of the Moorish palace.
The Sacromonte hill, which overlooks the city from the North, is famous for its cave dwellings, once the home of Granada ‘s large gypsy community.
The name Granada is ancient and mysterious. It may mean “great castle”, for the Roman fortress which once stood on the Albaicin Hill. When the Moors came here, the town was largely inhabited by Jews, for which they called it Garnat-al-Yahud – Granada of the Jews. The Jews are said to have been one of the first peoples to settle in Spain , even before the Romans.
The old town centre of Almuñécar is a historical, sightseeing and cultural treasure-trove, and it’s enjoyed by all. The genuine heart of Almuñécar is located around the Castle of San Miguel , which inspired the name of this old quarter, “Castillo” or “San Miguel”.
The streets are paved with traditional Almuñécar cobblestones, and there are innumerable little squares, patios and corners where neighbours pause to chat. It is easy to get lost here, but there is no need to worry, as it is a delightful pleasure just to wander around the back streets of this quarter and perhaps discover an unexpected beauty spot.
The quarter dates back to the first Phoenician settlers of Almuñécar. Right at the top is the Moorish castle, at the foot of the hill is the Roman fish-curing factory, and in the middle, the Archeological Museum . For the most part, the original layout of the streets has been preserved, and until very recently there were still families living in caves excavated at the base of the castle or in Roman vaults. Even though St. Michaels castle is at present being restored, one can however still see enough remains which allow a wide view of its hazardous past. It is reached by the North side which shows four circular turrets, built in the time of Charles V arriving at the main door by a bridge with two openings. In the place nearest to the door, was found the draw-bridge
Salobreña, dazzling and white, can be found in the very heart of the Costa Tropical nestling amongst the geraniums and ancient, winding Arab streets. Caressed by a gentle sea breeze and illuminated by the bright sunlight, it closely hugs the contours of the huge rock which looks out across the sea.
Its privileged position and lush environment have attracted many different civilisations. Evidence of settlements, from Neolithic to Phoenician times, along with Roman and Arab developments can be found everywhere; from the dominant Arab castle at the top of the rock to the green sugar cane plantations below, from the sub-tropical fruit orchards to the beautiful beaches which bathe the coastline.
With its authentic tropical climate, it closely resembles that of the Caribbean , with a mean annual temperature of 18ºC, ranging from 14ºC min. to 32ºC max. You can take a “summer” holiday here in winter!
Due to its geographical location in the very heart of the Costa Tropical, Salobreña is close to the most important places of interest in the area.
It’s only an hour and ten minutes away to the international ski-resort in the white snow-capped Sierra Nevada which forms a picturesque backdrop to his beautiful scenic countryside, whilst Granada with its enchanting Alhambra Palace can be reached in 45 minutes.
A definite ‘must visit’ are the fishing port in Motril, Almuñecar and the Tropical Valley , the Contraviesa and the Guajares routes, all only a stone’s throw from Salobreña and Granada . The Costa Tropical offers something for everyone.
Motril is the largest town on the Costa Tropical with 56,000 inhabitants. Motril is indeed a commercial town with the largest selection of shops on the whole of the coast and is increasily popular with tourists looking for ‘typical’ Spanish towns away from the crowds of the Costa del Sol . The town of Motril is located just off the main coast road between Almeria and Malaga where the N340 turns inland for Granada . Therefore most tourists do not by pass the town. Whilst in Motril take a look some of the interesting sights:
Town Hall, Built in 1631 in baroque style. There is a mudejar coffered ceiling in the main entrance hall and the assembly hall.
The Sugar Cane Museum behind the Casa de la Palma.
Sanctuary of Ntra Sra de la Cabeza stands on a hill overlooking the Park of the countries of America . This baroque shrine was built on the former Moorish palace of Aixa , mother of Boabdil. The well kept park itself is a pleasant place for a quite stroll.
Motril also houses the only theatre on the coast well known for the great number of cultural events every month ( Teatro Calderón de la Barca.)
Motril is best known for its busy commercial port. There is also a fishing port and a yachting marina.
Motril’s coastal strip has seven beaches. The two main beaches in Motril, Playa Granada and Playa Poniente , have been improved with many services especially in summer and bars famous for the fish tapas they put on. In Playa Granada they are currently building 5 complexes of luxury appartments surrounded by the golf course currently being enlarged to 18 holes, as well as a 4* hotel. A select area of Motril.
Taking the little coast road west from Playa Poniente we pass Casa Astrida, formidable looking with its heavy security. If you see a lot of police standing guard then the King is probably in residence. It was here where the late King Baldwin of Belgium was staying when he died in 1993.
La Herradura and Almuñécar form the tourist capital of the Costa Tropical. This relatively unknown stretch of Spain ‘s southern coastline belongs to Granada province in Andalucia. It lies between the more populous Costa del Sol to the west, and the coast of Almería to the east.
It’s here that the continent of Africa is trying, and noticeably succeeding, to push its way under the mass of Europe . The dramatic results are what give the Costa Tropical its special geography and climate, so unlike any other coastline in southern Spain .
Rugged hills thrust up steeply from valley floors or plunge into the sea. Seasonal torrents, often swollen by melting snows, cut jagged ravines deep into the landscape. Once-forested hillsides, now denuded of their fertile topsoil, provide a scanty foothold for almond, olive and the hardy carob. Small villages and farming communities have developed in sheltered valleys or simply cling like limpets to the hillsides.
The mountains, which boast among them the highest peak in mainland Spain, form a natural weather-break which protects the Granadan coastline from the worst influences of the European winters, while Africa, to the south, helps buffer the harsh effects of both the Mediterranean and Atlantic weather. As a result, the area has an extraordinarily benign subtropical climate which can be seen in the variety of exotic products to be found in the local markets, especially the different fruits.
The horseshoe-shaped bay of La Herradura and another large natural promontory, Cerro Gordo , marks the end of the municipality and province. Inland, the approximately 80 km² municipality rises into the hills which form an impressive backdrop to the coast. Farmhouses and small hamlets dot the area overlooked by the Peña Escrita natural park.
Along the 19 km of local coastline visitors can choose from a large variety of beaches and small coves, ranging from fine sand to shingle. Watersports are very popular and there are numerous businesses offering different types of courses and equipment hire. Divers will find some of the best underwater scenery here of anywhere along the southern coast.
The Sierras are snowcapped for much of the year and offer skiing from November until late May. During the rest of the year the Sierra Nevada nature park offers the walker endless opportunities. The desolate upper slopes of Mt. Mulhacen at an altitude of well over 3000m give the impression of being in a lunar landscape.