This year we decided to try a road trip with a camper for the first time, to see if this way of travel suited us, or not.
We flew from Brussels to Malaga where we had booked a Fiat Carado T132 camper with Ibero Camper. Frank picked us up at the airport and drove us to his ‘finca’ (farm) in Mijas. He offered us a coffee or soda and a small cake. If you arrive late in the evening at Malaga airport you can always stay the first night at their place. They have a flattened camper space you can use. He ran us through the specs of the camper. He had sent us some videos the day before explaining how everything worked. The camper comes with two filled gas bottles, two electrical cables, blocks for the wheels, bed linnen, two sets of towels, all kitchen utensils, plates, glasses, bowls, cups, pots and pans, coffee machine, everything for washing dishes, some toilet paper, some small toiletries for the first night, a Tom Tom gps, products for the chemical toilet, a rope and some clothes pegs for your laundry, cleaning utensils, … and a bottle of wine and water in the fridge, a super welcome. We had unlimited kilometres and transfer to and from the airport included in the rental price. We rented two trekking bikes and an outdoor table and two chairs extra.
The camper is very functional, has a toilet and a shower, a three pits gas stove, a fridge, wash bassin, a comfortable double bed and lots of storage place. You get a list with camping spots along the way and Frank also gives some extra travel tips before setting off. Thogether we checked the camper for small defects and dents, and after this very thorough introduction, were ready for our first experience traveling in a camper. Not very far from his finca you find a large Aldi supermarket to stock up on foods and drinks.
Our first destination was the Sierra Nevada just beyond Granada. We left Frank’s place around 5:30 PM, made a stop at the supermarket and immediately drove towards Granada via the toll road, since we wanted to reach camping Las Lomas before the reception closed at 8 PM. From Franks place to our camping was a two hour drive. We managed to arrive just a few minutes before 8 PM at camping Las Lomas, East of Granada on the border of the Sierra Nevada national park. We were welcomed by the owners and chose a plot on the roomy camping. Each plot is separated from the next by greenery and trees. The camping has a restaurant so we immediately booked a table for 9 PM (the restaurant closes at 10 PM). We emptied our suitcases in the camper and made everything ready for our first night. The camping has views of the mountains of the Sierra Nevada and a lower lying barrage lake. It is a nice and quiet place with clean infrastructure (toilets and showers). There is a little shop and you can get different kinds of bread and croissants in the morning. We had dinner on the outside terrace of the restaurant, where ordered four dishes to share, which was in fact far too much for the two of us, but the food tasted really nice.
The next morning we paid 29,25 euro for our stay, drove back in the direction of Granada, and turned left just before the city in the direction of Monachil. We parked on the large public parking lot of Monachil, Los Cahorros (free of charge), and if you walk towards the next bridge, away from the town, you arrive at the start of this very popular hike: ‘The walk of the gorge of Monachil and the hanging bridges of Los Cahorros’. Just past the bridge, you walk up on the right side of the Monachil river, and after about 100 m you find a sign with the map of the walk. The walk starts by descending some steps to the left towards the bank of the small river, and from there you follow the river on the right side, pass the former hydroelectric power station and several hanging bridges, which you have to cross to the other side of the river. After the 55 m long hanging bridge, you continue on a small ridge along the water, where the rocks are sometimes hanging over the ridge and where you either have to crawl under the rocks or use handles. The sides of the gorge towers above you. You end up in a valley, where we had a pauze and some snacks as lunch. You then cross the next hanging bridge and start on the way back to Monachil. You climb up and at a crossroads take the small path to the left. You walk the ridge with beautiful views of the gorge below you, you pass a stone carriage, and after coming down between olive trees you can either take a right turn and walk into the village and end up at the other side of the bridge from where you started or take a left and cross a hanging bridge and return via the shaded path besides the river and end up where you started the walk. From there it is a 50 m walk to the parking lot. The walk takes between 3 and 4 hours. We walked towards the medieval little church in the centre of Monachil but is was unfortunately closed.
We decided to drive towards Granada and decide where to park for the night. We first tried to reach the Mirador San Nicolas to watch the sunset, but that proved to be a bad idea with our camper as we did not want to get stuck in the small and busy streets of Granada. You can park you camper for the night for free on the parking area next to the train station (Aparcamiento Estación de tren Granada), but we decided to park on the camper parking lot of the Alhambra. There is ample place and several other campers also spent the night here. The place is quiet but in the morning cars start to drive up quite early. Parking here costs 32,90 euro for 24 hours, you have no service, but the parking is very convenient to visit the Albambra early and walk into the city of Granada, which we did after parking our camper that evening.
The city of Granada is really beautiful and bustling in the evening, the cathedral and surroundings are nicely lighted and the architecture is impressive. The little streets of Alcaiceria, the old silk market, have a North African feel of a bustling bazaar with little shops. The terraces on the little squares in the area around the cathedral are filled with people enjoying dinner outside in the warm evening air. We walked around and decided on a little restaurant, Romanilla Duquesa 3 on Plaza de la Romanilla, a real gem. The dishes are very fine and nicely presented, and they have a good choice of vegetarian dishes and great wines, and the waiter let me charge my photo battery.
We entered the parish church del Sagrario just next to the cathedral which is so richly decorated you think for a moment you actually entered the cathedral. It was nice and quiet inside the church at this time of day. We walked back to the parking lot which is a 20 to 25 min. steep climb.
After breakfast the next morning we headed to the main entrance of the Alhambra, showed our entry tickets and ID and walked straight towards the palaces passing by the ruins of the medina and some beautiful gardens. One important piece of advice; when planning your trip to Andalucia, after booking your flights, you first book your tickets for the Alhambra, especially in summer because the number of tickets per day are limited and sell out weeks in advance during high season! Plan the rest of your trip around it.
We first visited the palace of Charles V, a palace that was built in the 16th century after he married Isabella of Portugal in Seville by Pedro Machuca, a pupil of Michelangelo. The couple spent a long honeymoon in the Alhambra and Charles wanted to establish a permanent residence on the grounds of the Alhambra palaces. They never saw the palace finished and it stayed roofless until the late 20th century. It is a big renaissance square building on the outside, with a two story round arena on the inside. On the ground floor you can visit the Alhambra museum (free of charge) with beautiful artefacts from the Arab period that lasted 700 years and on the second floor you find the museum of Fine Arts (free of charge for European citizens) with paintings from the 16th century onwards. We continued to the the Alcazaba palace where you again have to show your entrance tickets and your ID, a military fortress with thick walls and large towers dating back to the 13th century.
To end of this morning visit we continued towards the Generalife, and again we had to show entrance tickets and ID at the medina and again on entering the Generalife. The moorish Generalife used to be the summer palace of the Arab sultans and is surrounded by beautiful gardens.
We then walked down into Granada city for lunch which we took at Monje Taberna Espirituosa on Plaza Pescaderia. Here we tasted the fried aubergines with sugar cane syrup, a really tasty local specialty. Just opposite is an attractive bakery, La tarta de la madre the Cris, where they sell the best cheesecake of Granada in different flavours. We bought two pieces of the traditional one to eat later that evening.
We then went to visit The Cathedral, which is huge, has four huge organs, a choir with richly decorated chapels, mostly in renaissance style, everything is simply over the top. It was built on top of the mosque after the reconquest of Granada in 1492. From another side of the cathedral you can enter the Capilla Real (with separate tickets), a mausoleum for king Fernando and queen Isabella and their daughter Joanna and her husband Philip the handsome, where they lie buried in white marble tombs. You can go down into the catacomb where you see five lead coffins. In the connecting room you can visit a museum where I was taken by surprise seeing paintings by several Flemish primitive painters: Hans Memling, Dirk Bouts and Rogier van der Weyden.
Just opposite the Capilla Real stands the Arab University (Madraza). You can walk in and admire the Moorish decorations. We walked the steep road back up to the Alhambre and entered at the Justice gate. We had some extra time and had a drink on the terrace of the Parador in the Alhambre until it was time to stand in line for the Nasrid palaces.
We had booked an entrance for the Nasrid Palace at 4 PM, and went to stand in line at 3:30 PM. They first let all the people in with an entrance ticket for the time slot at 3:30 PM, and then continue with those who have a ticket for 4 PM, and they let you enter the palace at exactly 4 PM, not a second earlier. The Nasrid palaces are the most impressive of the whole Alhambra site. It is a fairytale place with intricate stucco walls, antique wooden ceilings, brightly coloured tiles, courtyards with pools and fountains, walls and ceilings decorated with muqarnas (honeycombed ornamentation) on walls and ceilings and carved with Arab inscriptions.
We then walked back up to our camper, paid the 24 hour parking fee and drove to Cazorla where we had our cheesecake that evening as part of our camper dinner.
- Download the app Park4Night to find parking spaces where you can overnight with your camper or van.
- Download the app Campercontact to find camping sites when on the road.
- You can also find camping spots via Google Maps
- Gloves are handy to empty your chemical toilet
- A headlamp can be handy
- Take an extra battery for your camera, for the nights you park without electricity
- Take a powerbank to charge phone and tablet when you park overnight without electricity
- Flip-flops and something easy to wear to go to the shower on the camping
- Two sets of shampoo/shower soap so you can shower simultaneously
- Best time to visit Andalucia is from October till May, during summer it gets very busy and very hot! Spring and Autumn are the best periods!
- If you don’t want to spend money on special toilet paper for your chemical toilet, dispose of your toilet paper in a plastic garbage bag which you throw away in the garbage container.
- Book your tickets for the Alhambra as early as possible, the tickets are limited and sell out quickly
- You can go in and out of the Alhambra complex as many times as you like on the day of your ticket, only the entrance to the Nasrid palace is time sensitive and you should make sure you arrive well before the entrance time slot at the Nasrid Palace!
- You can enter the Nasrid palace, the Generalife and the Alcazaba palace only once with your ticket. You can enter the palace of Charles V several times.
- The parking of the Alhambra is a good base to visit the Alhambra and the city.
- Plan an evening visit to Granada, the atmosphere is great in the evening.
- There are no campings within walking distance of Granada centre or the Alhambra.