Alhambra - Generalife Gardens, Granada
The lower gardens are close to the Theatre of the Generalife and connects to the Alhambra. There are three areas of new gardens. The are beautiful rose gardens and arched cypress trees which have been established close to the buildings. This area has also incorporated a Muslim-style garden which has water channels.
In 1952 an Amphitheatre was created in the Generalife for the International Festival of Music and Dance. The event has been held there every year since. In comparison the area is quite modern but also very fitting.
The Generalife part of the Alhambra was deemed the area of pleasure and relaxation for the Kings of Granada. It was a respite from the official life and affairs of the palace. The gardens were established on the slopes of the Cerro del Sol.
At one end of the Patio de la Acequia or Water Garden Courtyard is the North Pavilion. Intricately carved arches lead into three smaller arches. On the top level is a balcony area which was built after the 15th century.
One of the lovely parts of the Generalife are the fountains in the Patio de la Acequia courtyard. A narrow aqueduct runs through the middle of the courtyard which has two rows of fountain jets either side arching into the pool. Surrounding the waterway are oriental gardens
For me, we saved the best for the last when we finally reached the Patio de la Acequia (Water-Garden Courtyard)! It had a really impressive 49 x 13 m (162 x 43 ft) interior courtyard with a long and thin pool down its length, complete with delicate jets of water arcing into the air providing a most relaxing sound. The combination of gurgling water and beautiful decorative plants such as myrtle and orange trees, bougainvillea, geraniums and climbing roses (2nd photo) was a spectacular sight in the bright winter sun.
The views of the water-garden itself were futher complemented by the two-story Spanish-style loggias (the northern and southern pavilions) with Moorish arches, tiled roofs and terraces. The northern pavilion (3rd photo) dating from 1319 was originally a single-story structure with bedchambers but had another two floors built in 1494 to provide an even better view of the gardens on one side and Granada stretching out below on the other.
We had entered Patio de la Arequia through its southern pavilion (4th photo) which was actually the main one used by royalty when on the premises. It also has a 'mirador' (lookout) which could be used to gaze down at the pool, as well as bed chambers for its guests. By then, other tour groups were starting to catch up with us so we made our way to the exit as our tour of historic Alhambra and Generalife was almost over.
It was around noon, and the Saturday morning crowds had finally awakened, making our tour of the Generalife a more rushed affair than our earlier exertions in the Alhambra. However, I enjoyed the beautiful landscaping and being outdoors in the winter sunshine (it was -40 C back home in Canada!) with wonderful views in all directions - whether it was toward the Alhambra, the city of Granada itself or the many plants scattered about. These views were taken near to where you enter the main grounds of the Generalife, where a wide promenade runs beside the shrubbery and along a cliff edge which provides great views of Granada.
The Generalife (which means 'Architect's Garden' in Arabic) with its palace and gardens was built as the summer residence and country estate of the Nasrid sultans of Granada. This is one of the oldest of the Moorish attractions in Granada, with the original works being carried out between 1302-1309, followed by renovations not long afterward between 1313-1324. However, as with many of the buildings and gardens of the Alhambra, repairs or futher renovations have been made over the centuries following the Christian conquest - with the existing gardens having been developed over a twenty year period between 1931-51.
By this stage, we were almost out of the Alhambra part of these historic relics and, being a country boy at heart, I was enjoying the various bits of shrubbery and views of some excellent gardens as we made our way toward the outer defensive wall of this part of the Alhambra. This view shows the Torre de los Picos defensive fortification in the wall as we climbed a brick staircase on our way to next visit the buildings of the Generalife. Built in the period 1333-1354, Torre de los Picos is one of the largest along the walls and is the main entry/exit point for this part of the Alhambra.
Also in this area, we passed some elaborately trimmed hedges (2nd photo) as well as the vegetable gardens of the nearby Generalife (3rd photo). It was interesting to see the orangey fruit of a pomegranate tree still holding on in the gardens, with a distant Granada as background. In fact, the city is named after the Spanish word for this fruit which is originally native to the area from Iran to northern India, where it finds its preferred climate of high altitude with moderate temperatures. Early explorers brought them back to the countries of the Mediterranean Sea area and the rest is history.
Halfway between the wall and the Generalife, there is a large open area containing hedges and benches, where it was possible to sit and rest in the sunshine for about 30 minutes. It was still a bit too soon for the start of our Generalife tour, so we enjoyed sipping our water bottles and eating some ham, mayo and cheese sandwiches made there by Sue from bits she had thrown into her backpack due to our sudden departure from our hostal without having had breakfast. A very friendly feral cat kept close-by trying to entice a few bits from us, but with no luck since this was both breakfast and lunch for us!
It was appropriate that we should leave the royal summer retreat of the Generalife through its Upper Gardens as we returned to where we had started our Alhambra tour a few hours earlier. Because this area was where guests would leave their horses before continuing downhill toward the accommodation pavilions, it was enhanced with the usual pleasing shrubbery to soothe one's nerves after a long ride. The Moors were experts in achieving a harmony of sights, sounds and smells through their use of plants and artificial waterways.
However, that was then and this is today - hundreds of years later. The few scenes here are due to much more recent efforts in the Upper Gardens as ownership of this property passed down through both the Christian conquerors and private owners (the last being in 1921) before coming under Spanish government control. These views of formal hedges were actually quite impressive (despite my attempts to photograph them) and made a fitting end to our trip as far as I was concerned!
Like the rest of the Alhambra, the Generalife has it share of beautiful and artful buildings in the Northern Pavalion, here are just a few examples of what you can find there. The first photo is looking out a window back toward the Alcazaba area. Photos 2,3,4 are details of the fine work on the interior walls. The last photo shows Zohara looking out upon the city that shelters the Alhambra, Granada.
Here in the gardens of the Alhambra, or the proper term is the "Generalife", you will find tiny corners of color, or at least tiny as compared with gardens you will find in the French palaces for instance, scattered around. Some contain elements of water or compliment the buildings surrounding the garden, or cause it to be secluded. What is for sure is that meticulous care is given to every square meter, take for example the trees that have their trunks wrapped in burlap to protect them.
This beautiful staircase is sourrounded by a vault of laurels. It has three sections and between of them ther are landing with small fountains and by its handrail run the water that fall donw to la Acequa Real.
Esta preciosa escalera esta rodeada por una espesa bóveda de laureles, tiene tres tramos, entre los que hay rellanos con fuentecillas y por su pasamanos corren canales por los que bajan las aguas de la Acequia Real.
Generalife sites on cerro del sol, in the back side of la Alhambra and its crowns by St Ana castle. It was the country house for the kings on their summer vacation. It was built at the end of c XIII or the begining of the XIV under the reign of Ismail. I
El Generalife se encuentra en el cerro del sol, a las espaldas de la Alhambra y está coronado por el castillo de Santa Ana o Silla del Moro y era la finca de recreo a la que los reyes se retiraban en verano. Se construyó a finales del siglo XIII o principios del siglor XIV bajo el reinado de Ismail I.
High above the Alhambra, on the breast of the mountain, amidst embowered gardens and stately terraces, rise the lofty towers and white walls of the Generalife; a fairy palace, full of storied recollections.
from “Tales of the Alhambra” by Washington Irving
A Place to Escape To We left the Alhambra for el Generalife, a place of leisure for the sultans of Granada. Here they escaped from the pressures of life at court.
El Generalife occupies the slopes of the Hill of the Sun, Cerro del Sol. There are several interpretations of its name; among them are the Governor's Garden and the Architect's (alarife) Garden.
It was built in the 13th century and rebuilt in 1319. In spite of it being very close to the Alhambra and the close relationship between the two, it is considered to be outside that complex.
It is not known what el Generalife originally looked like because it has been extensively altered. The first changes were necessary because of a state of deterioration and neglect in the late Moorish period; later the changes were made at will.
What can I say that hasn't probably been said before? The Generalife gardens of the Alahmbra are a little piece of heaven on earth. We went at 9am and it was nice and cool even in August, the trees and plants make for alot of shade, just perfect.