It was my granddad who booked me on a holiday to Andalucia, including a visit to the Alhambra. I was a disinterested teenager back then, not really keen on spending a week having my granddad chasing me around from palace, to tapas bar and back to the museum with a group of 60plus year olds. Anyways, I agreed to one week of snoring, continental breakfast feasts, unfunny jokes and several attempts of my granddad trying to sell me for less than 15 camels, after all it was for free.
Never, would I have spent a week looking at so many sights. There are many wonderful places in Andalucia, but what has fascinated me most were the Alhambra and the Mezquita in Cordoba. The fusion of Islamic and Christian architecture is so unique and I found both buildings representing the admiration for Islamic inheritance and architecture captivating. So captivating in fact, that part of my studies later focused on Islamic influences in European culture (thanks granddad!!!). No wonder, I am not the only one and the Alhambra is today the most visited landmark in Spain. Luckily, my granddad is a super organised ex-accountant, the type of man who has guidelines on the first page of his files, of how the file has been organised. So unsurprisingly, he had booked us in for a guided walk, with no need to wait in the endless lines outside the ticket booth.
The Alhambra (Arabic for Red Fortress) is set on the foothills of the Serra Nevada Mountains. On a nice day (as most days in Andalucia) the view is breathtaking, the winter landscape in the back and the valleys and the city of Granada to the South. The Alhambra was built as the residence for Muslim rulers in the 14th history. When the Spanish re-conquered Andalucia at the end of the 15th century, the Alhambra became a royal residence once more and Christian characteristics were added. The perfection and unique synthesis have made the Alhambra one of the world’s top sights and last year over 3 million people visited.
Pretty unwelcoming fact, I find, remembering again the miles of queues. I also recall what my colleague from a Spanish travel agency told me recently. Tickets are fixed to a visiting slot and only a set number of visitors will be allowed entry each day. A fellow blogger argues “On a corner of the Alhambra Museum is a picture which shows tourists fighting outside the entrance before ticket numbers were limited” (http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/p/m/25acb1/ ).
Not surprising then, that Alhambra Tickets sell like hot cakes. When buying your tickets beforehand, whether that is at the destination or online, make sure you get a fair price. Alhambra Ticket Trading is in Granada, what Chelsea Tickets sales are in London. So here are the three golden rules for staying safe and paying fair:
1. Always read the small print. Some tours are expensive because they offer little extras. Others are expensive for the sake of it.
2. The vendor should give you supplier details once you have booked. Check that they really do!
3. Read user reviews from travellers who have booked the same tour in teh past.
It may seem like an effort to do it all before, but believe me, it is nothing compared to the stress you would have at the ticket stand. Take your voucher, meet your guide and enjoy, because the Alhambra is really a magnificent site.