(Granada is best known as the home of the stunning Alhambra Fortress, but in this post we’re going to focus on some other sights in this amazing city and leave the Alhambra to the next post).
From Gibraltar, we drove northeast towards Granada along the Costa del Sol of Spain – which was quite beautiful. Since were were visiting in March, it really wasn’t beach or swim weather, but we stopped in a couple of beautiful towns to get a feel for the coast. There are lots of vacation homes, resorts and golf courses along the coast. I’d love to go back and spend more time in this area. Gibraltar to Granada is about 284 km or 176 miles via the route we took.
Costa del Sol
Granada is one of the main tourist destinations in southern Spain, known primarily for its 13th century Alhambra palace/fortress, one of Europe’s best known treasures. While the Alhambra is outstanding, Granada is fun place to visit for many other reasons as well (my next post will focus on the Alhambra specifically).
We arrived in Granada in mid-afternoon and found our way to our apartment, located in the historic (and hilly) Albaicín (also Albayzín) district, just across a large ravine from the Alhambra. Luckily our apartment had a designated space in a parking garage just a couple blocks away. Parking space is at a premium in this old, charming district.
Our apartment was in a great location – within walking distance of downtown Granada (if you don’t mind lots of stairways winding down to the main city) and just a bus ride from the Alhambra. Be prepared to get your exercise walking in Granada (up and down many small hills and stairways) or learn to use the bus system. There was a bus stop just a block from our apartment.
One of the things the Albaicín area of Granada is known for are the flamenco dance shows, many of which are performed in little hillside caves that are part of the restaurants and bars in this areas of town, just across the ravine from the Alhambra. The flamenco art form, in which the dancer creates their own interpretation, is indigenous to southern Spain.
There’s a lot to explore in Granada. We noticed a strong north African/Arabic influence in the city, both as an important part of its long history and currently – with many internatioinal students, since Granada is home to one of Spain’s largest universities. We found many Arabic restaurants, shops, and historical sights in addition to traditional Gothic European architecture.
Cathedral and Royal Chapel
Granada’s 16th century cathedral is located in the heart of downtown Granada. One of its key treasures (located in the Royal Chapel) are the ornate tombs of the 15th century Spanish monarchs – King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella; they requested that their remains be brought to rest in Granada, the city they considered as their crowning achievement of the Reconquista. Their roles in the Reconquista of Spain and commissioning of Columbus’ exploration of the Western Hemisphere changed the course of Western history. Unfortunately no photos are allowed inside the Royal Chapel. The figures on the tombs of the King and Queen are quite interesting and definitely worth a thorough look. Their actual remains are in simpler coffins in the crypt below the tombs, you can view these as well.
We’ll cover the magnificent Alhambra in my next post, it is the primary reason why tourists come to Granada, but I recommend you take a little additional time to see more of this marvelous historical city.
Visiting Gibraltar during our auto tour of Southern Spain was a fascinating experience. We had a great tour of Gibraltar that also allowed us some time to wander in the afternoon. From the town of Ronda in Andalucia, we drove south about 112 km (70 miles) to La Linea, through very hilly countryside that was quite beautiful. La Linea is the Spanish port city that borders the autonomous British territory of Gibraltar.
Our plan was to spend the day visiting Gibraltar and then return back to La Linea for the night, before continuing on our journey northeast along the Costa del Sol and then inland towards Granada. This plan worked out well!
Once we parked our car, we walked to the border crossing. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, since COVID was still a thing as of March 2022 and I couldn’t find much information online ahead of time as to any COVID restrictions. The crossing turned out to be very simple as tourists. We showed our passport once and went right through the whole border control process in a matter of a few minutes.
As a tourist in Gibraltar, there is a standard itinerary most tourists/tours follow (see our main stops below). My only question beforehand had been whether to arrange a tour prior to our visit or try to do everything on our own. As it turned out, right after walking through the border, there was a tour agency desk and they offered tours that covered everything we wanted to see in a few hours! The tour was less than €30/person (also payable in Gibraltar Pounds Sterling – same value as Bank of England notes) and worked out great. Our group of four happened to be the only tourists coming through the border at that particular time, so it ended up being a private tour! Our itinerary is shown below.
At the end of this post, I share some logistical information about visiting Gibraltar.
In addition to being the name of the local football (soccer) club, Mons Calpe is the ancient name of the Rock of Gibraltar and is one of “the pillars of Hercules”. After quick drive through part of the town, we stopped at this lookout point and could see the African continent (specifically Morocco and a small outpost of Spain, Ceuta) in the distance, about 9 miles away at the closest point.
St. Michael’s Cave
The Rock of Gibraltar is full of caves and tunnels. St. Michael’s Cave is the most famous and was fun to visit, with its spectacular lighting effects and our little Gibraltar ape friends showing the way. At the end of the visit, you gather in the huge natural amphitheater for a short show before leaving the cave.
Drive Up to the Rock’s Ridgeline
There is one little narrow road leading to the knife-edge ridge of Gibraltar. It is VERY narrow. You can also hike up here via a very steep stairway or take a tram up as well. There is no place to park, other than in the road, and hence only tours drive up here. This spot allows for magnificent views in all directions.
The Barbary Macaques (Apes or Monkeys?)
These little guys are considered apes locally since they do not have tails, but are part of the monkey family. They originated from Morocco, and arrived sometime before 1704, although no one seems to know exactly when or how they arrived, probably brought by the Moors as pets. They are monitored closely by the government of Gibraltar and are fed every day. Our tour guide said there are about 300 monkeys divided into 5 groups living on Gibraltar (each with their own territory). There is a saying that as long as the monkeys live on Gibraltar, the British will have control of the Rock, so they receive great care. Do NOT feed or touch the monkeys, there are some serious fines if you do. You also have to watch your backpacks carefully – they can run off with them!
There are about 34 miles of tunnels in the Rock. They were built over a 200 year period from the 18th to the 20th centuries, for protection against bombardment and to facilitate the movement of supplies and quick access to defensive positions (gun emplacements) in strategic spots along the length of the Rock. The battles and political struggles (mainly between Spain, France and Britain) over this Rock could fill volumes. As part of our tour, we visited “The Great Siege” Tunnels at the northern end of Gibraltar, which were constructed during the siege of Gibraltar by Spain and France around the time of the American Revolutionary War. What a lot of work it must have taken to blast and dig these tunnels! The tunnels in some cases are multiple levels deep, and you can explore them for hours. There are many exhibits along points in the tunnels explaining the history and showing the living quarters, storage areas and cannon emplacements.
At the completion of our tour, we were dropped off at Casemates Square, the center of Gibraltar’s restaurant and pub scene. Pedestrian streets extend south from here providing access to all kinds of shopping, other services, quaint churches and alleyways extending into residential neighborhoods. After a late lunch, we spent some time wandering the streets and checking out the various shops. I was hoping to find a good quality “Gibraltar” sweatshirt, but didn’t have any luck – there’s lots of the typical tourist items available and many shops with high-end brands as well.
We decided there was no sense in taking our rental car into Gibraltar–the territory is tiny, and walking over the border saves the hassle of crossing with a vehicle, finding parking, etc. We were able to find a car park within walking distance of the border (there are several). While La Linea is a pretty good-sized city, the traffic was light and we found our way from the main highway south to the border crossing area quite easily. Our hotel (an AC Hotel/Marriott in La Linea) was just a couple kilometers away, making the logistics of our visit very easy.
Making Your Way Across the Border
While we had a tour van take us into Gibraltar, we walked back over to Spain at the end of the day, which was a fun experience.
A few other comments about Gibraltar: The whole territory (2.6 square miles) is mainly just a huge rock mountain, with precious little arable land. It’s really interesting to see this unique geologic feature – while the surrounding land is hilly, this huge granite rock at the end of a small peninsula really stands out.
Although tiny in terms of geography, its strategic importance cannot be overstated and throughout the centuries, there have been countless battles over this Rock, with evidence of those struggles still remaining today. In fact, Britain and Spain continue to argue over the sovereignty of Gibraltar and its citizens have voted recently to continue remaining part of the UK.
From Seville, we traveled southeast through Andalucía, known for its beautiful countryside and white hill towns. Our time was somewhat limited, so we just visited two towns, Zahara de la Sierra and Ronda. We spent the night in Ronda, which is about 133 km (83 miles) from Seville. There are at least a half-dozen quaint towns in this area and it would be easy to spend several days or even a week exploring this popular region of Spain.
Zahara de la Sierra
This little town is a spectacular sight, nestled against a rocky outcrop below a 15th century castle keep, with rolling green hills and a large reservoir nearby.
We took the steep hike up to the Castle from a small car park (opposite the side of the town). The Castle is open to visitors and from the top you get a commanding view of the town, valley and countryside (we visited in March and weather was pretty dry and warm).
After visiting the castle, we hiked down into the town’s main square. Shops and restaurants were just setting up for the day as the sun rose over the rock outcropping and began to warm the streets and plazas.
Ronda may be the busiest of the Andalucían hill towns, as evidenced by the number of people on the streets. It has a stunning setting also, situated dramatically on a high cliff divided into two parts by a deep gorge (El Tajo). The gorge separates the “new” town (15th century) from its older, quieter counterpart, the original old city center which dates back to Moorish times. The two parts of the city are connected by the majestic Puente Nuevo, a tall (over 300 feet) 18th century bridge that is the postcard image of Ronda.
Ronda Old Town
I was a bit surprised how quiet the old center of Ronda was. It really felt like a completely separate town and almost deserted. Perhaps we were there on a particularly quiet day. We enjoyed wandering the streets and exploring this part of the city.
Plaza de Toros
Ronda is also renown for its 18th century Plaza de Toros, one of the first constructed entirely of stone and the largest bull ring in Spain. It is considered a highly prestigious place to fight – all bullfighters aspire to showcase their skills here.
We stayed in an apartment just a few blocks from the Plaza de Toros and within walking distance of the Puente Nuevo. It had a secure parking space and was very convenient. From Ronda, it was on to Gibraltar! Be on the lookout for our next post.
Beyond the old quarter of Seville, there is a lot to explore in this great city. A major event occurred in Seville in 1929 which altered the city’s legacy and architecture and still adds interest and beauty nearly 100 years later. The event was the Ibero-American Exposition, a year-long world’s fair focusing on the ties between the Iberian peninsula and the Americas which left many landmarks in Seville. In addition, there are other interesting sections of the city that are a bit off the tourist path.
Plaza de España
One of the most beautiful parts of Seville, this Plaza is just a short distance south of the Gothic Cathedral and is part of the massive Maria Luisa Park. Built for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929 to showcase Spain’s industrial and technology exhibits, the half-circle plaza, adjacent building, ponds, fountains and tile works extending around the entire plaza are quite stunning.
Other Views of Seville
We took a “hop on, hop off” bus tour of Seville one afternoon and we were glad we did, this allowed us to get a glimpse of the city beyond the main tourist areas we’ve shared in previous posts. The tour had several different routes and a nighttime tour (at no additional cost) available as well.
After a great time in Seville, we next headed further south into the hill towns of Andalucia. Posts on our visit to this area will be coming shortly.
In my first post on Seville, we explored its amazing Gothic cathedral, located in the heart of the old quarter of Seville. In this post we’ll explore some other nearby sights.
The RealAlcázar is right across the plaza from the Cathedral, making it convenient to visit at the same time. The Alcázar was (and still is) the home of the rulers of Seville and Spain. It dates back to Moorish times (11th and 12th centuries) and then continued to be a home for subsequent Christian monarchs including Ferdinand and Isabella, King and Queen during the time of Columbus. Later, 16th century kings remodeled and added rooms. The royal family of Spain still uses some of the upper floor rooms today.
Since Seville was a gateway to the New World in the 15th and 16th centuries (being just 50 miles from the Atlantic via the Guadalquivir River), the palace holds a major place in history as the site where plans were drawn up to explore the western hemisphere. The Alcázar has a long and complicated history, with many changes over the centuries.
This is a neighborhood directly east of the Seville cathedral and was once a Jewish ghetto. It is worth walking through this area – restaurants, picturesque alleys, and beautiful architecture are the rewards for doing so.
Torre del Oro
The “Tower of Gold” was one of two towers that stood beside the river to protect Seville from invaders. The 2nd tower across the river no longer stands. A chain could be raised across the river from the towers to stop ships from entering the harbor of Seville. The Torre del Oro is now the launch point for river cruises and “hop on – hop off” bus tours. It’s about a 10-15 minute walk along the Guadalquivir River from the Cathedral to the Torre del Oro.
In this post our frequent guest writer, Jesse Clark, provides travel tips for those who are differently-abled. This is a topic I have thought a lot about recently and her recommendations may help ease the challenges differently-abled people might face. Check out the links included, they contain useful resources. Her bio information is below.
When you’re differently abled, traveling can seem intimidating. You might be eager to explore the world, but at the same time, you may worry that once you leave home, you won’t have access to the accommodations and support you need. But today, it’s becoming easier for differently-abled travelers to travel. With resources from The Independent Tourist, you’ll be able to plan your dream vacation. Plus, these tips will help you navigate everything from finding a place to stay to organizing your medical records!
Deciding where to go is your first task! Consider cities that have specifically taken steps to better support differently abled residents and tourists. Culture Trip states that cities like Berlin, Germany, Seattle, WA, Sydney, Australia, and Montreal, Canada have all made commitments to better serve differently abled visitors.
Protect Your Travel Documents
Everyone should pack a few key documents when they travel, especially when they go overseas. This is particularly important for differently-abled travelers – if you need to seek medical care or assistance when you’re far away from home, you’ll want to be able to hand over any healthcare paperwork you have that details your needs. You can also create a backup digital file for your documents.
As you digitize your paper records, you can also combine different documents into a single file for convenience. Just follow these quick steps to add content to your PDF document! You can add pages to PDFs with an online tool. You can even use a tool like this to reorder, delete, and rotate specific pages.
At home, you have all the tools and features you need to maneuver around safely – but what about when you’re traveling? It can take some time to find a hotel where you can stay comfortably, but with a little bit of research, you should be able to book accommodations where your needs will be met. Adaptive Living Guide recommends looking up promising hotels on reservations websites and then calling the hotels directly to ask questions about their services and accessibility features. Once you’ve asked about the specific services they offer, you can book the hotel that will best suit your needs.
Perhaps you’re going to take a road trip with your friend, and you already know that the vehicle you’ll be taking is outfitted for your needs. But what if you’re going to be flying? If you’re nervous about the flight, it’s understandable – flying can be stressful even under the best of circumstances. Upgraded Points recommends booking your flight with an airline that has strong protections for differently-abled travelers, getting to the airport early, and communicating clearly with the flight staff. The good news is that many airlines accommodate differently-abled travelers by allowing them to board the plane first and ensuring their needs are met to the best of the airline’s abilities.
Don’t wait until the night before your trip to start packing! Make a comprehensive packing list ahead of time so that you don’t lose track of anything you need. You can include a few different categories, like clothing, toiletries, medications, and any medical aids or tools that you use on a daily basis. If you’re going overseas, keep your passport in an easily accessible compartment in your backpack.
When you’re booking your flight, you’ll want to double-check the airline’s baggage policies. Choose an airline with lenient baggage policies so that you won’t be charged for bringing extra luggage with you on the flight.
Traveling when you’re differently abled isn’t always easy. You might have to deal with some obstacles as you plan your trip. But with careful preparation, you can take to the skies and see the destinations you’ve always dreamed about. By following these tips, you’ll be able to map out your itinerary, digitize your paperwork, and stay safe while you’re enjoying your trip.
Want to get inspired for your next trip? Find the tips and recommendations you need from The Independent Tourist! Browse our website today to start planning your vacation.
Jesse Clark is a traveler, so she’s no stranger to experiencing wanderlust and that strong desire to travel. She’s already had enough experiences to last a lifetime, but she’s not stopping anytime soon. Find out more and contact her through soulful-travel.com.
From Mérida, we drove south to Seville. Seville is one of the great cities of Spain and for that matter, one of the great cities of Europe. Seville sits primarily on the eastern bank of the Guadalquivir River which is drains into the Atlantic, just 80 km (50 miles) to the south. It has been a port city for centuries. It is a large city, with about 1.5 million people living in the greater metropolitan area. In spite of its size, the main tourist sites can be visited comfortably over a couple days. We will divide our tour of Seville into three posts. This first one will cover the marvelous cathedral.
The Seville Cathedral is one of the great Gothic cathedrals in Europe, and in fact the largest in Europe. It was built on the site of a great mosque, of which the tower (La Giralda) and a courtyard (Patio de los Naranjos) are remnants. This is the where the tomb of Columbus is located. It is difficult to get a great exterior photo of this cathedral due to its size and somewhat cramped location in the old Jewish quarter (Santa Cruz) of Seville.
Cathedral Rooftop Tour& La Giralda Tower
We took a tour of the Seville Cathedral rooftop (“Cubiertas”). We planned this tour in advance since tickets and tour times are limited and crowds can make for long lines. The tour was offered only in Spanish, but our tour guide was kind enough to give us a short summary in English after each stop. It was fun getting a more intimate experience with the cathedral than offered by just visiting the main hall. The rooftop tour was 20 Euro/person and the Cathedral & Tower entrance fees were 11 Euro/person as of March 2022. If I had to choose, I would just do the Cathedral & Tower, since the views are a bit better from the tower than the rooftop. The best European cathedral rooftops I have visited are Milan (Italy) and Chartres (France).
Unique views of the cathedral and its construction are provided on the rooftop tour.
La Giralda Tower
We also climbed La Giralda tower, dating from the 12th century. Rather than steps, there is a sloping ramp all the way to the top of the tower, making the ascent a bit easier.
In my next post, we’ll explore the beautiful Real Alcázar, a 14th century Moorish palace-fortress located right next to the cathedral.
(Contributed Post from Samantha Dunn – Sam is a freelance writer who loves food and traveling. She has been a digital nomad exploring different countries for over a decade. She particularly loves the beach and enjoys trying new cuisines from each place she has visited.)
Turkey remains one of the most well-loved destinations for many tourists and one that is particularly great for history lovers. This is no surprise when you learn that the country has influences that range from Roman to Ottoman and Byzantine. Turkey undoubtedly has plenty of history to dive into and lots of top tourist attractions to visit with this in mind.
But what are the three must-visit spots in Turkey for the history-loving holidaymaker?
Located at the entrance to this stunning resort, the Temple of Apollo is a sight any history lover will never forget. Although there are actually a number of temples dedicated to this mythological god in the region, the one here is easily the most impressive. It was also one of the largest in the ancient world and its sheer scale takes the breath away even now.
Although the temple is ruined, the majesty of the columns and the serene grounds it sits on still provide plenty of interest. Once home to one of the most famous Oracles of ancient times, it also has a famous Medusa Head statue to admire – plus a purification well to gaze upon. Didim’s Temple of Apollo is also close to the ruins of Miletus and Priene for holidaymakers who want even more history to enjoy.
2. The Blue Mosque
Also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, The Blue Mosque is a majestic sight and found in the city of Istanbul. Although there are plenty of other things which make Istanbul cool, this famous mosque is number one.
Even from the outside, it is a stunning spectacle to behold. Finished in 1616, it features awe-inspiring domes and six beautifully designed minarets. It gets even better for history lovers inside, with 20,000 hand-painted blue tiles and a real sense of the past. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985, the iconic domes are bathed in light come nighttime to magical effect.
3. Castle of St. Peter
From the boutique beach hotels to its lively feel, Bodrum has lots to offer any visitor. If you love your history though, the Castle of St. Peter is the main draw.
It is certainly a top attraction in Turkey and comes with a fascinating backstory. Although it might now house Bodrum’s Museum of Underwater Archaeology, it was founded initially in the 15th century by the Knights Hospitaller. The castle itself sits on a prominent waterfront location in Bodrum and this means it offers superb views over the marina. There are four towers in the castle which are known as the English, French, Italian and German towers. This is because each tower was named after the nationality of the knights who built it.
There is no doubt that Turkey remains a great tourist destination and has something to offer everyone. This is especially true for history lovers and there are some amazing spots to take in around the country with this in mind. For more information on where to visit in Turkey or tips for traveling in other countries, check out the rest of our website today.
Mérida is a bit of a well-kept secret from tourists and yet it has some amazing Roman and Moorish ruins. The town was founded by Augustus in 25 BC and was known as Augustus Emerita. Today, it’s a relatively small city (population of about 60,000) that feels smaller since much of the main town is walkable and most of the main sights are within the central part of the city. We were fortunate to find a lovely apartment just a block or so away from the main Roman ruins (we visited in March, and had most of the sights to ourselves). Check out this post for a map of Spain reference.
Casa del Anfiteatro
Also next to the Roman Theater and Amphitheater is the Casa del Anfiteatro, which provides a glimpse into life of the Roman nobility. Baths, highly sophisticated plumbing systems, beautiful mosaics, and burial chambers are all on display at this excavated site.
Other Roman Ruins Around Town
There are other Roman Ruins all over town just waiting to be explored.
One of the most fascinating sights in Mérida is the Alcazaba, one of Spain’s oldest Moorish buildings (AD 835), built over Roman ruins and right next to the Roman bridge (above). There are interpretive signs to help explain what life was like in the fortress.
Los Milagros Aqueduct
Just outside central Mérida is Los Milagros Aqueduct, another reminder of Roman engineering skills and influence in this part of Spain. It dates from the 1st century AD and is part of a large park on the outskirts of Mérida.
You can purchase a “Roman Ruins Circuit Ticket” for 16 Euro per person (as of March 2022) at the Theater which will get you into all the main sights. Well worth it. Our apartment, shown below, was fantastic – a very nice and accommodating owner, 3 bedrooms, 3 baths, well-equipped kitchen and right in the heart of town. However, as the owner says in his instructions, don’t follow Apple or Google Maps for the address – they took us to a dead-end street right below the apartment and we had to go up a different street to get to the apartment (we read his instructions afterwards!).
From Trujillo we continued on our journey driving west a short distance to Cáceres (46 km or 28 miles) and then south to Mérida (62 km or 38 miles from Cáceres), for an overnight stay. In this post I will share a few images of Cáceres and in my next post we’ll cover Mérida, a treasure trove of Roman-era ruins.
Cáceres is a pretty large modern city (population of about 100,000) that has a well-preserved old Renaissance-era center (Ciudad Monumental), located just west of the Plaza Mayor. We found a parking garage about 10 minutes walking distance from the old town. It seemed that we were the only tourists visiting this interesting and quiet historical locale.
Most of the old town’s structures date from the 15th and 16th centuries, and they, along with remnants of Moorish walls dating from the 12th century, are the heart of this Renaissance enclave that seems stuck in time.
A Few Other Sights Around Cáceres Old Town
Cáceres experienced an economic boom after Columbus’ discovery of the New World and lucky for us, the old town has held up well over the centuries. While there are not many major tourist sights (a few palaces, towers and churches), our main objective was to just wander the quaint streets a bit and enjoy the ambience.
The modern city of Cáceres has a growing reputation in the worlds of art and modern cuisine, making it worth a stop for many reasons.