Alhambra - Generalife Gardens, Granada
In the Generalife gardens I came close to the type of enchanted atmosphere and ambience I expected from the Alhambra. The palaces and buildings were all wonderful but allowed few opportunities for contemplation. In the Generalife however, you can wander and find little corners all for yourself. The gardens were designed with certain ideas in mind and nature is reined in to create a sense of harmony and beauty which is meant to soothe the soul and nourish thespirit. Here you will find almost a mini outdoor version of some aspects of the palaces: courtyards enclosed behind high hedges; patios and cypress trees and water, water everywhere. Well not everywhere but in several spectacular Moorish gardens like the Patio de la Acequia and the North Pavillion. I Don't know much about trees and flowers or gardens generally so I am at a loss to describe these other than to say they are a glorious cornocupia of greenery, water, light and shadow. Wandering round them it's very easy to immerse yourself in their unique atmosphere and the higher you climb the better the views get. Eventually you come to the point where you are looking down on the walls and towers of the Alhambra and here the whole experience comes full circle. You've been there and now you can look down knowing what's inside. For a brief moent or two you feel like a sultan or sultana, lord or lady of all you survey. A great experience !
After strolling through the gardens at Generalife, we headed up the stairs into the Summer Palace along with several tour groups which I imagine you encounter no matter what time of day it is.
The first patio you come across is the Patio de la Acequia, built around a long rectangular pool with jets of water. From there you pass into the Patio de la Sultana where you will find the trunk of a 700 year old cyprus tree where legend has it that Abu al-Hasan caught his favorite harem girl, Zoraya, with the leader of the Abencerraj family, which led to the family being murdered at a banquet in the Sala de los Abencerrajes at the Nasrid Palace.
From here you go to the upper gardens where you can see the Escalera del Agua (water staircase) running along a set of stairs.
Since we had afternoon tickets and a 18:00 time slot to visit the Nasrid Palace, we started our visit around 14:00, the earliest time you can start your visit with an afternoon time slot for the Nasrid Palace, with a leisurely stroll through the lush gardens at Generalife. Pronounced heh-ner-rah-lee-feh, the name means "architect's garden". The sultans would retreat here to spend the hot Andalusian summers here with their harem.
The gardens were started in the 13th century but have been modified over the years, the original gardens contained orchards and pastures. Today in the gardens leading to the Summer Palace, you'll find beautiful roses, manicured shrubbery (why do I always hear Monty Python voices in my head when I say that word?) and a long pool filled with lilypads not to mention some beautiful views from the gardens across to the Nasrid Palace.
If you are not able to secure tickets to the Nasrid Palace because you dillied and dallied, you can still visit Generalife for 1/2 the price of the full ticket, currently 5E for a garden only ticket. "Garden only" tickets were still available when we picked up our reserved tickets.
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!
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.
A short walk from the Alhambra palaces takes you into the Generalife Gardens. Again the interpretation of these gardens was to resemble as closely as possible paradise on earth (as paradise is explained in the Koran).
The gardens were originally started in the 13th century and have been modified several times in the interim period. It is in these gardens that Granadas annual music and dance festival takes place.
The Patio de la Acequia as shown in this picture is based on an oriental garden with a long thin central pool that has the obligatory fountains.
Your ticket for the Alhambra Palace will get you into the Generalife Garednes too.
If you look around in the Generalife Gardens, it is very likely that you will be able to see large cactus plants that are either flowering or carrying cactus fruits on. The common name for Cactus Fruits is Indian Figs. The fruits are very tasty, but very full of pips and some find them to be an acquired taste. Be careful how you handle them as the fruits are covered in tiny thorns and you really need a special picking device to pick them (or strong gloves). To eat them you peel off the skin (a bit like a potato) and eat what is left.
The Palacio de Gerenalife was built near the end of the 13th Century but with multiple interval reconstructions. It is surrounded by gardens and patios including English cypress trees imported some centuries later. The inspiration is believed to be the Koran representation of Paradise emphasizing the running water and shade so prized by the Moors which their desert heritage.
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.
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!
I'll show you in here just two pictures taken at Generalife Gardens,located also in the Alhambra.If you want to see a few more pictures of the gardens,then take a look in to my travelogue.
The gardens of the Generalife are a really great experience after all the Alhambra architecture. Shade, flowers, fountains, etc., make this a great place to go to at the end of your Alahambra visit.
The Generalife was used as the summer residence of the Nazaries monarchs.
The Gardens of the Alhambra or the "Gardens of the Generalife" were buiult in the 14th century and the shape and composition of these magnificent gardens are still maintained today. I wondered if the gardens of the Huntington Library in Pasadena, California were inspired by these gardens. American author Washington Irving wrote "The Tales of the Alhambra" when he visited these serene and complex gardens.
Gardens Generalife (Jardines de Generalife) are stretched on a slope of another Alhambra hill. Sultans spent here the hottest summertime among blossoming acacias and bushes of a jasmin, under murmur of a fountain.
Generelife means on-arabian "a garden of the architect", was a vacation spot of Nasrid kings. It is dated XII - XIII centuries.
After the Generalife was definitively attached to the Alhambra, public opinion was mustered to build a public park. The area between the Alhambra and the Generalife Palace was built up and landscaped gardens were added.
You can watch my 7 min 33 sec about Video Granada Alhambra Generalife part 2 out of my Youtube channel or here on VT.
Generalife gardens are the result of the Moorish Sultans' attempts to create a paradisical oasis in thier capital city of Alahambra. With terraced gardens, neatly pruned hedges of myrtle, rows of flowering orange trees and tropical palms and water trinkling through ornate fountains, these gardens offer a lush contrast to the red stone Alahambra buildings.
Generalife was used as a summer retreat by the andalucian sultans.
Entrance is included with your Alahambra ticket.