Located at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Granada is a wonderful city located in southern Spain. For obvious reasons, the Alhambra Palace is a definite highlight of a visit to Granada, but there is more to see than just the fortress and palace. The narrow streets, beautiful cathedral, the Royal Chapel, and restaurants and stores make visiting the city worth at least a couple of days in order to see it adequately. The city is very walkable, although many of the narrow streets can be quite steep, so feel free to stop at a local bistro for a quick break to enjoy a glass of Spanish wine.
With an elevation over 2,400 feet (730 meters) above sea level and with roads that crawl up the sides of the Sierra Nevada mountains, there are wonderful views of the city from several vantage points. Some of the best are from the walls of Alhambra, but there are many from neighborhoods as well. Even though the panoramic views are amazing, the best views can be found by walking the side streets and discovering some of the many restaurants and shops that the city has to offer. One of our favorite streets wrapped itself along the sides of Alhambra and provided a different view of the fortress.
When planning a trip to Granada, or southern Spain in general, one should be prepared to be on a relaxing schedule. No one is in a hurry and even though the temperatures can be more mild than other parts of the region, people still go out for walks late into the evening. Granada is located about an hour’s drive from the coast and an hour and a half from the city of Malaga. It was closer to a four and a half hour drive from where we stayed in Estepona. It was certainly worth taking the time to get there. If you intend to go to Alhambra, as you definitely should, be sure to buy your tickets well in advance as they do sell out up to six to eight weeks ahead of time.
We really enjoyed our time in Granada and it was one of our favorite memories of the region. We also spent time in Seville as well as Ronda, but seeing Alhambra in Granada is a memory of a lifetime. We spent several days in Granada, making our time there very relaxing and enjoying many different restaurants with wonderful food.
The Citadella is a fortress that sits on top of Gellért Hill on the Buda side of the Danube River. The Liberty Statue that is located next to the citadel can be seen from throughout the downtown area of Pest. The bronze statue features a woman raising a palm leaf toward the sky and, although it was built by the Soviet Union, it still represents Hungary’s freedom from Nazi occupation. As interesting as the fortress and statues are, the main reason for making the trek to the top of Gellért Hill is for the views of Budapest. You can see the Buda Castle District, the Parliament Building, St. Stephen’s Basilica, the Danube River, and the heart of Budapest.
We walked from our hotel down to the river where we crossed Liberty Bridge to start our hike to the top of Gellért Hill, which is 771 feet above the river below. The winding path is fairly steep and takes you through a wooded area as well as by the St. Gellért Monument. The hill gets its name because it is the location where St. Gellért was brutally killed and apparently tossed from the hill. It took us about an hour to make the walk to the top of the hill, but we stopped several times to take in the scenic views at the various overlooks.
As we reached the Citadella at the top of the hill, we had worked up quite a thirst and were quite happy to find out that their were several vendors selling food and drinks next to the fortress walls. In addition to the Liberty Statue, there were also two smaller statues that remain from the original four statues that were erected at the site. The other two statues were moved to Statue Park some time after 1947 when Liberty Statue was erected. Once at the top of the hill, we spent about thirty minutes walking around the fortress and statues. We happened to go on a Saturday and there was a mix of tourists as well as locals enjoying the beautiful weather.
There are many wonderful sites to visit while in Budapest and the Citadella is certainly one of them. We would definitely recommend going on a clear day in order to take full advantage of the incredible views of the city.
As far as historical points of interest within Panama, visiting Fort San Lorenzo is definitely a key site to visit. The Chagres River was a key method of transportation across the isthmus of Panama during the 1500’s as Spain used it to transport gold from its conquests in Mexico and South America to the Caribbean Sea where they could return it to Spain. It wasn’t long before pirates began attacking the ships as they made their way to the sea, so Spain built Fort San Lorenzo around 1560 to protect their ships from the pirates.
The pirates that attacked the ships were not the ones of a Disney movie and were vicious and ruthless. Over the next 40 years, the fortifications at the fort continued to evolve as the fort became more secure. One of the first things that you notice as you visit the remains of the fort is that the canons all face inland and not towards the river. This is because the attacks on the fortress actually occurred from land as the pirates tried to take control of the high point above the river. The cliffs around the fortress are far too steep for anyone to attack the fort from the river. The fortress also has two motes around it providing the ability to trap attackers as the soldiers retreated into the interior walls.
The fort was attacked and pretty much put into ruins in 1670 by the infamous pirate, Henry Morgan (from Captain Morgan rum fame). It was pretty much abandoned after that, but it was used as a prison during part of the 1700’s. Spain abandoned travel through the isthmus in favor of traveling around Cape Horn, but it became a popular route once again during the gold rush of 1848. The fort was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980 and is part of the current Panama Canal.
You travel through a national park on your way to the fortress and during our ride, we stopped several times to see monkeys, a tree sloth, and most interestingly, an anteater in the trees. We spent about an hour walking through the ruins and despite being a world heritage site, our group was all alone during our time there. Afterwards, we set up chairs underneath a tree to enjoy some lunch. We did have one visitor during our lunch as a tarantula poked his head out of a hole in the tree to see what we were eating. We would definitely recommend that you put Fort San Lorenzo on your itinerary when visiting Panama City.