Anyone who knows me very well knows that I’m not much of a planner. I can be when I have to, or when it’s important to me, and I can be pretty damn good at it. But on a day-to-day basis, I really prefer to wing it. So it makes for a fairly unique travel style, but one that’s very well suited to solo trips! Sometimes the big, major attractions in a city require a decent amount of foresight. They might only sell a certain number of tickets per day, or the lines are excessively long if you don’t book beforehand. And that doesn’t work out too well for me: the spontaneous, fly by the seat of your pants traveller that I am. I like traveling alone because it gives me the flexibility to just pick what I’m doing that day and not make anyone else mad if it doesn’t go very smoothly. Don’t get me wrong, traveling in couples and groups is great too, but if I fail miserably at my daily activities, I don’t want anyone else to have their day ruined because of it. I’d rather be the favorite of the bunch than the guy that made everyone trek 5 miles to a blowhole that doesn’t even work in February.
Today for example, I’m in Granada, Spain. One of the main attractions here is La Alhambra, a large Moorish fortress on top of a hill overlooking the city. It is very popular and they only sell a certain number of spots each day. So by the time I knew I was going to be in Granada, it was already too late to book tickets online for any of the days that I’d be here. There’s an option to queue up at 7am and most likely get one of the spots that they only sell the day-of and in-person, and while I may still do that tomorrow, it sounds miserable. So I decided to just hike up there today and check out the exterior and scope out the situation. It’s a very beautiful old building surrounded by gardens and it did look like it would be very cool to go inside. But I also noticed that the hills climb up behind it even further, probably giving better views of the surrounding valley and providing some good exercise for the day. So I decided to go for it! You could see paths winding all over the mountain, so I walked to the base, just picked one and headed up. I was right about the views. You could see the whole valley, the vast expanse of Granada, and the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains all covered with snow off on the distance.
I hiked among the olive and pine trees to make my way to the top of the hill and while I was up there, I got a nice view of the hills to the northeast, on the opposite side of my mountain from Granada. They were slightly taller and had another large, old looking building that seemed intriguing to explore. I pulled it up on Google Maps and guessed that it must be the Sacromonte Abbey. As I only have Google Maps on my phone and no other access to data unless I’m in a wifi zone, I couldn’t get any information other than that, but decided I’d trek over and check it out. This is another nice thing about traveling alone. I am a glutton for punishment. I have no problem with hiking all day and barely eating. I can walk 15 miles in the heat of the day pretty happily, while few other people I know would be willing to subject themselves to that.
I followed my map to the Camino del Sacromonte and winded my way up toward the abbey. There were far fewer people here than there were at La Alhambra and great views the whole time. The road passed through the town of Sacromonte, a pretty cool area made up of cave houses and occupied by Flamenco-dancing gypsies. The houses are built up against the side of the mountain and the interiors are white-washed caves that have been dug into the mountain side. The road led up to the top of the hill and finding the Abbey was super easy.
Another perk here is that I got to accidentally discover a lesser-known attraction in the area and explore it while virtually no one else was around. And it turns out that with this one, you can just show up and get a tour! Of course, I went during the two-hour window that tours were closed, but maybe I’ll go back (I probably won’t.) The building itself is very expansive and it turns out, mostly in pretty rough shape. It looks like they’re working on renovating it and that only part of it is currently open as a museum. The roof is collapsed on a large portion of it and most of the windows are broken or boarded up. But it was a fascinating scene and gave some even more spectacular views of La Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada. I hiked along the road that leads up to the abbey and headed behind the building. You can pretty easily climb up the backside of the large hill it sits on to get even more views as well as a better sense of the size and condition of the building. I wanted to break into it and explore so badly, but as getting arrested isn’t near the top of my European bucket list, I decided to show some self control.
In all, it was a pretty great hike. I walked about 8 miles and scoped out some great new scenery. People always tell you that you HAVE to go see certain spots when you’re out traveling. And while I appreciate those tips, I have never been the kind of person who has major attraction FOMO. I will go see the Louvre when I go to Paris and I have been to the Leaning Tower when I was in Pisa, but sometimes just stumbling upon cool stuff that you would never have found unless by accident is much more fun to me!