Jumat, 12 September 2008

Travel Tips For Visiting the Alhambra

By Stewart Palmer

When holidaying in Spain recently, we decided to visit the Alhambra. We did a little research on the internet prior to our holiday and read that it is advisable to book tickets in advance for tours of the Alhambra palaces and the Generalife. The articles we read warned us that even if tickets were available on arrival, the queues for them are usually very long.

As it would be almost unthinkable to visit the Alhambra without going into the palaces and Generalife, we decided to purchase our tickets online. When booking you are required to stipulate both date and time of your visit and the tickets are printed with these on them. However, it is very important to understand that this is time of admission to the palace of the Nasrid Kings and not the time you need to arrive at the main entrance of the Alhambra.

In addition to allowing for the ten minutes it takes to walk from the main entrance to the palace, you also need to allow at least fifteen minutes for the "Tickets Only Queue" which forms outside of the Alhambra.

Our appointed time was 10 a.m. and more by luck than judgment, we arrived at the Alhambra at 9.25 a.m. By the time we had parked, got though the main entrance queue, hired our recorded tour guide phones and walked to the Palace of the Nasrid Kings, it was 9.55 a.m., by which time the queue for the 10 a.m. tour had already mixed itself up with queues for later tours. If you miss your slot, your ticket becomes invalid and we only just made it in time.

The system may sound somewhat bureaucratic but once you get inside the palaces and Generlife you will appreciate why it is necessary. It prevents these beautiful buildings and gardens from becoming overcrowded, allowing just about the maximum number of tourists possible without spoiling views, causing discomfort or hurrying your tour. We quickly realised how efficiently it worked and congratulated the Spaniards for having a system that is sadly lacking in historic buildings in other countries. Our only criticism is that advance publicity, including the official web site does not present the system in sufficient clarity or stress the need to pre-book as strongly as it needs to.

The Alhambra visit took us four hours and we could easily have spent more time there if our schedule that day had been less ambitious. We were totally overcome by the magnificence and splendour of the palaces, the beauty of the gardens of the Generlife, and the views and vistas of the Alhambra's almost surreal surroundings. The meaning of the word Generlife is "Garden of Paradise" and I can think of no more fitting a description for it than that. Even though the day we visited was at the end of June with temperatures reaching 32 degrees, the nearby Sierra Nevada were still snow-capped. Out of all the wonderful historic places we have visited throughout Europe, none compare with this setting.

We most certainly intend to visit the Alhambra again but would most love to do so in spring time when the temperatures are lower, the flowers are even more magnificent and more snow can be seen on the mountain backdrop.

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