Granada is located near Spain’s Sierra Nevada mountain range in the eastern part of Andalucia. Granada — not to be confused with Grenada, the Caribbean island — isn’t as well known as some of Spain’s other cities, but it is just as charming and one of my favorite places I visited on my trip. As a side note, If you ever book a plane ticket to Granada or Grenada, make sure you’re going to the right place, unlike this unfortunate grandmother from the UK or this American couple.
The title of this post references ‘free tapas’ because with every drink purchase in Granada, most restaurants will give you free tapas. As far as I understand, the free tapas custom used to be more common throughout Spain, but now Granada is one of the only remaining places where this is still true. The free tapas weren’t anything spectacular, but I could sit down, purchase a couple of cheap beers and get a free lunch or snack out of it. The food that I actually paid for in the city was excellent.
The Caminito Del Rey (Little Pathway of the King) is located in El Chorro, Spain, approximately one hour northwest of Málaga. The pathway was built from 1901 to 1905 as a means for workers to cross between two hydroelectric plants in the area. The path is elevated up to 330 ft above the canyon floor, and over time it has deteriorated to dangerous levels. Despite the path’s poor condition, adventure seekers continued to cross it, leading to multiple deaths over time. The danger of the path is well documented by the Expert Vagabond. He is a braver man than I am. Starting in 2011, the pathway was closed for renovations, and it finally reopened in 2015 with a safer wooden boardwalk and handrails. In the pictures below, you can see the new path built over the old, dilapidated path.
There is nothing surprising about southern Spain. It is exactly how you imagine it to be — a place full of natural beauty, wonderful food, rich culture, intriguing history and some of the nicest people on the planet. I loved the tranquility of the coastal cities and hated when it was finally time to leave. There is so much to see and do in this region, but I only had a couple of weeks, so I settled on visiting Tarifa, Málaga, and Cádiz. Each city was great in its own way.
I arrived in Tarifa, Spain after a short ferry ride from Tangier, Morocco. I knew Africa and Europe were fairly close together (at least between Spain and Morocco), but it didn’t fully sink in until I was standing in Europe looking back at northern Africa. Tarifa’s sunny weather, friendly people, and relaxing street-side cafes made the chaos of Morocco seem like a distant memory. It was the perfect place to decompress and start my three weeks in Spain. Here are a few of my initial impressions about southern Spain.
Note: Ma’a as-salaama is the pronunciation for the word “goodbye” in Arabic (based on a lazy Google search)
Morocco was unlike any place I had visited before. As much as I loved exploring the natural beauty and learning about the Moroccan culture, I was somewhat relieved when I finally boarded the ferry to Spain. Traveling in Morocco was difficult. The aggressive vendors, the scammers and the constant chaos had taken its toll on me. Arriving in Tarifa, Spain was like traveling to a different world. I’ll never forget my time in Morocco, even if it wasn’t as relaxing as a week at the beach.
Some of my favorite things I experienced were:
- Drinking incredible fresh-squeezed orange juice everyday
- Observing building after building with intricate tile and woodwork
- Walking among the merchants, musical performers and snake charmers in the Jemaa el-Fnaa
- Relaxing in the calm, coastal town of Essaouira
- Spending the night under the stars in the Sahara Desert
- Exploring the visually-stunning city of Ait Benhaddou
- Hiking up to the Spanish Mosque in Chefchaouen and getting great views of the city below
I went everywhere I planned to go in Morocco, but since it is larger than California, there was too much to see and do in one trip. If I went back to Morocco, I’d also like to do the following:
- Visit Meknes, the former capital city
- Spend more time on the western coast, including in the city of Agadir
- Go hiking in the High Atlas Mountains and visit some of the mountain villages
- Explore Todgha Gorge
- Return to Marrakech to see some of the things I missed, such as the Bahia Palace
- Visit Rabat and Chellah
Chefchaouen was made for Instagram. Let’s count the ways. Old buildings and winding streets painted in varying shades of blue. Check. A picturesque mountain setting with lush green vegetation. Check. Cute elderly people walking the streets in their culturally appropriate yet non-oppressive clothing. Double check! Underneath Chefchaouen’s photogenic exterior you will find a quaint city with a laid-back vibe. It’s no surprise it was one of my favorite places I visited in Morocco.
Less than a two-hour drive from Fes, you can find two of Morocco’s most important historical locations, Volubilis and Moulay Idriss. Volubilis was a Roman city that was eventually abandoned due to its remoteness and pressure from the local tribes inhabiting the area. Now, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the best-preserved Roman colonial cities. Nearby, the town of Moulay Idriss is considered the holiest city in Morocco since it is where Islam was first introduced. We hired a grand taxi and spent a sunny day touring these two beautiful and interesting sites.
Fes is the second-largest city in Morocco, and the country’s former capital (the current capital is Rabat). The city’s long and diverse history dates back to the late 700s, when it was founded by members of the Idrisid Dynasty, who are often credited with the foundation of the Moroccan state. In the clothing realm, Fes is well-known for its hats of the same name. I did not observe these hats being worn commonly on the streets of Fes, but the attendants in the riad I stayed at wore them at dinner, perhaps as a throwback to days of the past.
To me, Fes was a much calmer and somewhat less-interesting version of Marrakech. It had the same winding medina, the same beautiful architecture, and the same souks selling an assortment of goods. Missing was some of the hustle and bustle and, thankfully, a lot of the harassment from merchants and other locals looking to make a buck. (more…)
My good friend, Jess, and I had been in Morocco for only a few days before we headed to the desert. As much fun as we were having in the Moroccan cities, we had our eyes set on Merzouga, a small town situated at the base of the Erg Chebbi dunes. Spending the night in the Sahara was at the top of our list of things to do in Morocco, and we weren’t going to let a small thing like an eight hour bus ride deter us. We had seen the pictures online, and our minds were made up. (more…)
This is the second part of my tour of Marrakech. To read the first part, click here.
The Saadian Tombs are one of the top tourist attractions in Marrakech. The tombs are the final resting place for several members of the Saadi dynasty, including Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur. The entrance to the tombs is just a random opening in the wall which is fairly hard to locate if you don’t know what you are looking for (like pretty much every attraction in Morocco). If you can find the tombs, it is worth the 10 Mdh to take a peek inside. There are no information plaques, so it is helpful to have a guide give you a tour.