Top Islamic Heritage Site in Seville, Andalusia

Top Islamic Heritage Site in Seville, Andalusia

The travel giant Lonely Planet announced in 2018 the quintessentially Andalusian city of Seville as its top travel city. Home of the flamenco, bullfighting, tapas, and over 500 hundred years of Muslim history. So here are our top five Muslim heritage sites you simply have to visit in the stunning Spanish city once known as “Ishbiliya”

 

 Giralda Tower

The Cathedral of Seville houses the remains of aljama almohade de Sevilla, built in 1172 by the caliph Abu Ya’qub, although the works were extended until 1198, already under the rule of his successor Abu Yusuf. Only the courtyard of the original mosque remains (sahn) in part corresponding to the current “Patio de Orange trees”, and minarets, the popular “Giralda”.

The minaret was started in 1184 and completed in 1198. It is located next to the door its rest of the courtyard (known as “Puerta del Lagarto”), and has a square floor plan with ashlar base and brick elevation.  On the facades of the minaret cloth of sebka is worked with the traditional rhomboid pattern, together with blind and open polylobed arches in windows communicated internally by a ramp that communicates the different levels of the building. Originally the minaret was crowned with a yamur composed of four golden balls, ruined in the tea of 1356. The current bell tower is the work of the second half of the s. XVI, crowned in 1568 with the statue/vane of the “Triumph of Faith” or “Giralda”, which gives current name to the whole tower.

 

Royal Alcazar Palaces

This is Seville’s Alhambra. Smaller but equally beautiful, the Alcazar is often overlooked by seekers of Andalusian Muslim heritage. This is because what you see today has been mainly built by Christian kings on the site of the original 10th-century Muslim fort. However, their architects were Muslims, and nowhere is this more apparent than the “jewel” in The Alcazar’s crown, the Mudejar Palacio de Don Pedro. This sumptuous courtyard built by King Pedro I is a direct replica of the one in Granada’s Alhambra, complete with water feature and arabesque arches. Even inside the Alcazar, Christian kings praised their Lord in the then-fashionable Arabic language, using inscriptions such as “Wa la ghalib ill Allah”: “There is no victor but God.” 

The Golden Tower

This 13th century tower is also an Almohad construction. It sits overlooking the River Guadalquivir (from the Arabic “Wadi al Kabir”, or “the Great River”) at what was once a corner of the ancient city. The tower gets its name from the belief that its dome used to be covered in golden tiles. Today, it is home to a maritime museum.

 

Orange Courtyard

Once part of the Great Mosque of Ishbiliya, this courtyard and the Giralda are all that remain of the old Islamic building. The site was the old sahn during the al-Andalus ages. It contains 66 Naranjos (orange trees, which are said to have been introduced to Andalusia by the Muslims) and has many of the arabesque arches along the original garden walls that flank the Puerta del Perdon, the stunning Muslim-era gate. With a trickling fountain in the middle, the Patio de Los Naranjos is the perfect oasis to sit and contemplate Seville’s five centuries of Muslim civilization.

 

More about Seville

Top Islamic Heritage Site in Seville, Andalusia

Top Islamic Heritage Site in Seville, Andalusia

The travel giant Lonely Planet announced in 2018 the quintessentially Andalusian city of Seville as its top travel city. Home of the flamenco, bullfighting, tapas, and over 500 hundred years of Muslim history. So here are our top five Muslim heritage sites you simply...

Muslim Spain Brief History

Muslim Spain Brief History

By the time 'Abd al-Rahman reached Spain, the Arabs from North Africa were already entrenched on the Iberian Peninsula and had begun to write one of the most glorious chapters in Islamic history. After their forays into France were blunted by Charles Martel, the...

Seville’s Most Charming Streets fo a Picturesque Stroll in the Historic Center

Seville’s Most Charming Streets fo a Picturesque Stroll in the Historic Center

Explore Seville’s historic heart with our guide to the most enchanting streets in the city’s center. From the famous Calle Sierpes, lined with shops and tapas bars, to the cobbled beauty of Calle Mateos Gago near the iconic Santa Cruz neighborhood, discover the perfect routes for leisurely walks. Immerse yourself in the neoclassical allure of Tetuán Street, the artistic ambiance of Regina Street, and the riverside views of Betis Street in Triana. Whether you’re seeking shopping, history, or tranquil beauty, Seville’s historic streets have it all.

Sintra: the perfect get away from Lisbon

Sintra: the perfect get away from Lisbon

With its various palaces, the ruins of an Arab castle and the beaches surrounding it, Sintra stands out for looking taken from a fairy tale.

Just 30 kilometers from Lisbon is located this town catalogued by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site under the special category of «cultural landscape», because with its exotic vegetation and exceptional microclimate, it is not surprising that it has been disputed for years by Romans, Arabs, Portuguese and Castilians.

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it achieved its splendor by becoming the favorite summer destination of the Portuguese monarchy and the inspiration of poets and writers such as Lord Byron, who defined it as «glorious Eden». Nowadays, Sintra retains its charm and for this and many reasons, it is the ideal place for a weekend getaway.

The best way to get to know Sintra and its surroundings is by car, since most of its monuments are located at distant points or on steep slopes that not all people could do on foot. To get to know the Vila-Velha or historic center, the reference point is the National Palace of Sintra or da Vila that dates from the sixteenth century and mixes several architectural styles: medieval, Gothic, Romanesque and Renaissance.

Around, you can stroll through the various alleys, squares and observe the charming chalets, some of which offer hotel accommodation to tourists. It is worth making a stop at one of the many cafes to taste the traditional pastries of Sintra such as queijadas or travesseiros.

Inside the old town, there is also another architectural jewel of the city: the Quinta de la Regualeira or do Monteiro dos Milhões, which stands out for its gardens related to the enigmas of alchemy, masonry, the Templars and the Rosicrucians.

To get an idea of the distribution of the city, it is necessary to explore the Sierra de Sintra, where on a rocky massif stands the Castelo Dos Mouros, built by the Arabs during the invasion of the Iberian Peninsula in the eighth century. It stands out for its walls, impressive towers and its views, from here you can see the Atlantic Ocean.

In the same municipality, known as São Pedro de Penaferrim, is located on a hill 500 meters high the Pena Palace, built with neo-Gothic, neoclassical and Islamic forms, and considered one of the seven wonders of Portugal.

Hidden among the woods, there is also the Convent dos Capuchos or da Santa Cruz, which is far from the luxuries since it was inhabited by successive communities of Franciscan monks, which with its tiny cork-lined cells transport its visitors to the sober but idyllic world of 1560 in which it was founded.

If you go west, just four kilometers away is Montserrate Park, a 30-hectare garden with totally wild areas and a wide variety of flora. The Monserrate Palace stands out in the center of the park and has been configured as one of the greatest examples of the romantic art of the country thanks to its circular tower and its extravagant decorations.

But the palaces and convents are not the only charm of Sintra, since only 12 kilometers to the West extend wonderful beaches for all tastes.  The Praia Grande enjoys huge waves that attract surfers, as it is home to the European Championships.

For travelers seeking tranquility, Praia das Maçãs is a smaller and more intimate cove. Two kilometers away is the village of Azenhas do Mar, embedded in a cliff where you will also find another small hidden beach to escape the crowds.

Before leaving the region, you should not miss a typical Portuguese dish, such as cod, or Portuguese stew, which is cooked with beans. Also try the feijoada, all accompanied by port or green wine are ideal to complete the journey through the beautiful city of Sintra.

Sintra & Cascais Natural Park

Sintra & Cascais Natural Park

This Portuguese Eden brings together a great diversity of landscapes and heritage displayed between the lush Sierra de Sintra and a rugged Atlantic coast.

As soon as the traveler enters the Sintra-Cascáis Natural Park, he is immediately ecstatic. It is inevitable that emotion and melancholy surface before the ingredients of its potion: incalculable architectural treasures, large doses of exotic green and wild blue. All this in perfect harmony and combined with a special light that conquers at any time of the year.

Located approximately 30 minutes from Lisbon, this Portuguese orchard ranges from the Sierra de Sintra to the Atlantic coast, where it takes over beaches of dunes and dizzying cliffs high over a hundred meters above sea level.

iStock-153754372. Patrimonio de la Humanidad desde 1995
FOTO: ISTOCK1 / 15

WORLD HERITAGE SITE SINCE 1995

Culture and history beat with special force in Sintra, heart of the park and first European place to be considered, in 1995, Cultural Landscape by UNESCO. A fairytale town coloured by stately houses and palaces surrounded by fantasy gardens, each more spectacular. The romantic aesthetic glides between winding paths, waterfalls, passages, caves and countless unimaginable corners surrounded by lush vegetation.

GettyImages-152375693. Carreteras y 'queijadas'
FOTO: GETTY IMAGES2 / 15

ROADS AND ‘QUEIJADAS’

Getting lost among cobblestone slopes is discovering the essence of Sintra and also its sweetest flavors, those of the transvestites and the queijadas that are baked in the numerous pastry shops of the city. Outside the historic quarter, a labyrinth of winding roads lead between the palaces dotted by its hills, which, a little further down, end up merging with the ocean.

GettyImages-885378800. Escenario de palacios
VISTA AÉREA DEL PALACION NACIONAL. FOTO: GETTY IMAGES3 / 15

ESCENARIO DE PALACIOS

The microclimate of the Natural Park of Sintra-Cascáis is ideal for the proliferation of all those plant species that fill it and, in addition, is responsible for the area was chosen by kings and aristocrats throughout history to build their palaces, Stately homes and gardens with magnificent ocean views.

In the historic quarter of Sintra, the National Palace, combining Gothic, Mudejar and Manueline styles, is the most sober of all and also the oldest. It was inhabited for almost eight centuries, mainly during the Middle Ages, a period in which it was used by the Portuguese monarchy and its court to escape the plague or as a holiday retreat. In its whitewashed facade stand out two huge conical fireplaces of 33 meters high. They are those of the kitchen, which were built by King John I to serve the entire palace. Inside, the Coat of Arms Room and the Cinema Room, with the painted ceiling of these birds, are the most outstanding spaces.

iStock-515815860. Quinta da Regaleira: un pozo y mucho más
FOTO: ISTOCK4 / 15

QUINTA DA REGALEIRA: A WELL AND MUCH MORE

This particular tale continues in the illusory gardens of Quinta da Regaleira, four hectares full of secrets hidden among fountains, caves, stone tunnels, waterfalls and passageways that hide meanings related to mythology, cosmology and masonry. The most special secret is a 27-metre-deep well that runs through a spiral staircase to its depths, communicating with a system of tunnels. As if it were a mysterious inverted tower, it was devised by Augusto Carvalho Monteiro, the first owner of this palace.

https://geo.dailymotion.com/player/xdspr.html?video=x83vxzk

El portentoso Palacio da Pena

5 / 15

THE PORTENTOUS PALACE IS WORTH IT

In the highest part of the hills, built on a huge rock that had previously been a monastery, is the Pena Palace, the main icon of the park. The colors of its anarchic towers and the extensive gardens that surround it give meaning to this story of wild nature thanks to plant species from all over the world that get lost in viewpoints like the High Cross or discover jewels like the Chalet of the Countess of Edla, a house ordered to be built in 1864 by King Ferdinand II and his second wife, Elise Hensler, following the style of European alpine chalets.

shutterstock 781731022. Las mil y una 'penas'
FOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK6 / 15

THE THOUSAND AND ONE ‘SORROWS’

In the Pena Palace the visitor will be immersed in The Thousand and One Nights, especially when the mist of the mountains covers it giving it a more enigmatic halo if possible and erasing at times the panoramic views of the valley and the ocean that it enjoys. Its construction was the greatest example of Portuguese romanticism in the 19th century. Access is not possible by private vehicle, so to get there you will have to do it on foot, by bus or taxi from the center of Sintra.

iStock-1207911688 (1). El desconocido Monserrate
FOTO: ISTOCK7 / 15

THE UNKNOWN MONSERRATE

Four kilometres from the centre of Sintra, the Monterrate Palace is another ode to romantic architecture. Poetry full of symmetries that move towards exotic gardens, the richest in international botany of the country. This visit is usually less crowded, proclaiming itself as a true haven of peace within the oasis that is already Sintra. The place was a mandatory stop for English travellers, conquering Lord Byron himself in 1809 or silencing the merchant and art collector Sir Francis Cook to the point of making it his summer residence.

iStock-869961248. Un castillo en la espesura
FOTO: ISTOCK8 / 15

A CASTLE IN THE HILL

Another building that dominates the perspectives of the park and the sea merging is the Castle of the Moors, a fortress that zigzags on top of one of the mountains of Sintra and was built during the Arab rule, between the 8th and 9th centuries.

iStock-1137119708. Los otros secretos de Sintra
FOTO: ISTOCK9 / 15

THE OTHER SECRETS OF SINTRA

Bordered by the Sierra de Sintra, the park protects other more unknown and solitary wonders such as the Sanctuary of Peninha, the Blue Lake, from which part a long network of trails, or the Convent of the Capuchs. The latter, inaugurated in 1560 and surrounded by primitive forest, stands out for its austerity as opposed to the luxurious buildings of the hills, thus representing the ideal of the Order of Saint Francis of Assisi. Entrances camouflaged among rocks are opening unexpected towards cork cells that fill with sobriety the most mystical chapters of the park made count.

iStock-1214473659. El punto más occidental de Europa
FOTO: ISTOCK10 / 15

THE WESTERNMOST POINT IN EUROPE


At 18 kilometers from Sintra the mountains converge on cliffs up to 140 meters high before those who break furious waves. They are those of the windy Cabo de Roca, responsible for guarding the last sunset of the European continent before being lit by one of the oldest lighthouses in Portugal. Very close to the tower of light, with white tiles and red roof, the geographical coordinates of the place are engraved next to the words of the Portuguese poet Luís Vaz de Camões “Aqui… onde a terra se acaba e mar começa”. Words that push you to get a certificate that guarantees that you have visited the westernmost point of continental Europe. Just five minutes by car it is possible to continue enjoying the views of the coast in Moinho Dom Quixote, a café where the decoration plays with the illusion between colorful pictures, plants and lamps of different design.

GettyImages-1063878468. Un pueblo, un acantilado y una piscina natural
FOTO: GETTY IMAGES11 / 15

UN PUEBLO, UN ACANTILADO Y UNA PISCINA NATURAL A VILLAGE, A CLIFT AND A NATURAL POOL

Besides Sintra, in the park there are other villages that deserve a stop. Colares, on the slopes of the Sintra mountain range, surrounded by vineyards from which comes the popular wine of Colares. Azenhas do Mar, a small white village carved on the cliff. At its feet, a natural pool delights the holidaymakers next to a restaurant and a bar bohemian style.

iStock-507006871. Los imprescindibles de Cascais
FOTO: ISTOCK12 / 15

THE ESSENTIALS OF CASCAIS

In Cascáis, a tour of the old town, with the medieval fortress of Nuestra Señora de la Luz and the citadel, will be a good start to end up becoming absorbed with the Boca del Infierno, on the outskirts of the city, where a polished arch on the steep rock allows you to enjoy the Atlantic penetrating through it.

iStock-696474642. Un safari de playas
PRAIA DO GUINCHO. FOTO: ISTOCK13 / 15

WILD BEACHES

The best way to explore the rugged coastline, and stop at its wild beaches, is to do so through the bike path provided next to it. The kites take flight while some surfers jump in to overcome their energetic waves: Guincho Beach, the most extensive and popular beach located next to a sophisticated beach bar; Maças beach with fine sand; Ursa beach, known for its rock in the sea shaped like a bear that discovers small pools at low tide or Adraga beach, close to which there is a huge and deep natural well that communicates with the sea. Another of the busiest beaches during the Portuguese summers is Playa Grande, famous for having a total of 66 dinosaur tracks that are approximately 110 million years old.nto al mar, jugar al golf en uno de los mejores campos de Portugal con 18 hoyos y vistas al Atlántico, practicar surf o paddle surf, montar a caballo e incluso subirse a un helicóptero para capturar las mejores imágenes aéreas de Sintra.

The ultimate Algarve itineraries for your next trip to Portugal

The ultimate Algarve itineraries for your next trip to Portugal

e Algarve is justly famed for its beaches and reliably good weather (300 sunny days per year!). And while visitors can’t be faulted for wanting to bask on captivating shorelines, there’s much more to Portugal’s southernmost region than sun and sand. 

Cobblestone village centers, Roman ruins and nature reserves packed with unique plant and animal life are among the Algarve’s many attractions. Beyond the beach, you can walk clifftop trails, wander through medieval castles or get off the beaten track in tiny mountain hamlets in the interior. Of course, there’s plenty to do on and off the water, from kayaking amid dramatic coastal formations to wreck-diving across artificial reefs. Here are a few different itineraries to help you make the most of your trip to the Algarve.  

Ready to start planning? Sign up for our weekly newsletter and get 20% off your next guidebook.

Essential Algarve on a 3-day getaway 

The Algarve’s relatively small size means you can pack a lot into a condensed trip. On a long weekend, you can bask on some of the Algarve’s prettiest beaches, see hidden grottoes on a boat trip and dine at some outstanding traditional restaurants. 

Day 1: Explore Faro’s old center, then spend the day on an island

Make the most of your time by flying into Faro, which has direct flights to the UK, Ireland, Germany and France, plus frequent daily connections to Lisbon. On day one, take a morning stroll along the cobblestone streets of the Old Town, stopping for a peek inside the city’s grand cathedral. Nearby, you can have a coffee on the terrace of O Castelo overlooking the waterfront. Later that day, catch a ferry out to Ilha da Barreta, a sand-covered island just off the coast. Book ahead for a meal at environmentally friendly Estaminé, the best (and only!) restaurant on the island. 

Day 2: Go beach-hopping west of Faro

You can make the drive from Faro to Lagos in about an hour, but it’s well worth stretching out the journey for a leisurely day of visiting the beaches and seaside communities along the way. West of Albufeira, you can take the steps down to Praia da Marinha, a lovely stretch of sand backed by dramatic cliffs. Further west, find the tunnel leading you down to Praia do Carvalho, a scenic cove once used by smugglers. Arrive in Lagos before sundown and have dinner at A Forja, a traditional tavern serving up deliciously authentic fare. 

Day 3: Get out on the water in Lagos  

Rise early for a boating and dolphin-watching excursion with outfitters like Bom Dia. They’ll take you out to grottoes and coastal rock formations accessible only by sea. Afterward, enjoy a bit of downtime at one of the small, secluded beaches near Lagos such as Praia da Balança. On your last evening, celebrate the trip over drinks on the rooftop of Bon Vivant, which serves up some of the best cocktails in the Algarve. 

Surfers holding surfboards walk on a footbridge from a rocky, cliff-lined beach in the Algarve region

Land and sea adventures on a 5-day trip 

The Algarve’s sun-kissed beaches make a fine backdrop to a wide array of outdoor activities. With five days to spare, you can undertake some lovely coastal walks, go kayaking or surfing, and sneak in a bit of wildlife watching. 

Day 1: Ride the waves off Carrapateira   

The northern coast of the Algarve just above Sagres has some of Portugal’s best waves. Located on the headlands overlooking the beach, the small community of Carrapateira makes a great base for visiting the region. Spend the day playing in the water – you can hire boards, take lessons or even bunk for the night at Amado, one of several recommended surf camps in the area.  

Day 2: Go from summit to sea on a mountain bike ride near Praia da Luz

Around 25km (15.5mi) southeast of Carrapateira, you’ll find the small seaside community of Praia da Luz. Here you can connect with Mountain Bike Adventure, which leads various excursions in the rugged terrain nearby. You can ride the gravel paths on the cliffs above the crashing waves, race along a single track through the Barao Valleys or make the 40km (25mi) summit-to-sea descent going from highland terrain to the edge of the Atlantic. For DIY adventures, you can hire high-performance bicycles at Bica Bikes next door.   

Day 3: Paddle your way through grottoes near Lagos 

Just east of Praia da Luz, Lagos is the epicenter for all manner of first-rate aquatic activities, including kayaking. You can head off on a memorable half-day paddling trip with Kayak Adventures, which will take you to remote beaches, grottoes and striking rock formations along the coast. The easy-going trip begins and ends at Batata Beach, a short stroll from the old center of Lagos. Afterward, enjoy some downtime (or more action in the water) at nearby Meia Praia, a long sandy beachfront reachable on foot or by small ferry from Lagos.  

Day 4: Walk the sea cliff trail near Carvoeiro 

Take a break from the water on your fourth day, with a scenic walk along the Seven Hanging Valleys. This 6km (3.7mi) one-way trail follows the shoreline, sometimes taking you up to cliffs with lofty viewpoints, and at other times leading you right down to the water’s edge. Begin the trail at Praia do Vale de Centeanes, located about 35km (22mi) east of Lagos. At the end of the walk, you can enjoy a refreshing swim off Praia da Marinha, ranked one of Portugal’s prettiest beaches. 

Day 5: Immerse yourself in undersea wonders on a diving trip off Albufeira

The Algarve is home to some of Europe’s best diving with a range of destinations, from shallow water (5m/16ft) for novices to deeper sites (40m/131ft) for those with more experience. Highlights include natural reefs, wall dives, wrecks, and artificial reefs, including the marine sanctuary of Ocean Revival Park. While you’ll find operators all along the coast, Easy Divers earns high marks for its well-run dives, and you can also take certification courses or book a snorkeling trip if you prefer not to plunge into the deep end. You’ll find them and Indigo Divers – another recommended outfitter – in Albufeira, around 60km (37mi) east of Lagos. 

Nature, history and culture on a 7-day journey across the Algarve

On a longer trip, you can get a deeper appreciation of the Algarve’s many unique facets, from cinematic clifftops high above the crashing waves to hidden historical treasures dating back to the ancient Romans. 

Day 1: Look for wildlife in the Algarve’s west coast nature reserve 

The best way to approach the area is to hire a car from Lisbon and make the drive down the coast. Less than three hours after departing the Portuguese capital, you’ll arrive at the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina, a nature reserve that protects the west coast of the Alentejo and the Algarve. Here you can connect to Portugal’s wild side on coastal walks like the 11km (6.8mi) loop hike of Pontal do Carrapateira. Keep an eye out for otters, foxes and some 200 bird species, including Portugal’s last remaining osprey population. Access the hike and some photogenic beaches in the village of Carrapateira. The Casa Bamboo makes an ideal overnight base for exploring. 

Visitors look at a large compass rose etched into the ground at the Fortaleza de Sagres
Wander the 15th-century Fortaleza de Sagres for a dose of Algarves history © Paul Biris/Getty Images

Day 2: Peer off the edge of the world at Cabo de São Vicente

Keep motoring southwest and you’ll run out of road at Cabo de São Vicente. There’s a barren, end-of-the-world feel amid the cliff-top views from Europe’s southwesternmost point. The nearby village of Sagres is equally fascinating. You can explore Portuguese history at the Fortaleza de Sagres, a 15th-century fortress atop a rocky promontory, where according to legend, Prince Henry the Navigator headquartered his maritime academy. Afterward, stop in Three Little Birds for creative cooking and craft beers.

Day 3: See a little-visited town going strong for over 2000 years

From Sagres, drive 55km (34mi) east to reach Portimão, which has been a commercial center since well before the Romans arrived. You can learn about Portugal’s fishing industry at the Museu de Portimão, a former cannery transformed into an interactive museum. You can also take boat trips up the Rio Arade or down the coast (keep an eye out for dolphins). Though Portimão lacks ocean views, you can enjoy some beach time at nearby Praia da Rocha, a wide swath of seafront backed by ochre-red cliffs. 

Day 4: Enjoy the lofty views from the mountain village of Monchique

Algarve’s coastline gets all the attention, but there’s a fascinating world just inland. From Portimão, head 25km (15.5mi) straight north to Monchique. Surrounded by forested slopes, this tiny mountain hamlet with its quaint guesthouses and rustic taverns makes a stark contrast to the Algarve’s sunbaked resort towns. You can take some rugged walks, including a 10km (6.2mi) circuit through the hills above town. After all that exertion, go for a soak in the hot springs of Caldas de Monchique. 

Day 5: Drive the back lanes of the Serra do Caldeirão 

Continue your tour of the hinterlands, with a scenic drive through the Serra do Caldeirão, a region of hills, cork trees and undulating forests. Stop in the picturesque village of Alte for a stroll past fountains and cafes dotting the cobblestone lanes. On hot days, join locals at their favorite swimming hole, a pond beneath the Queda do Vigário waterfall on the edge of town. Before heading back to the coast, visit Silves, which is home to the best-preserved castle in the Algarve. Unique lodging options make for a memorable overnight. Get your fill of the countryside at the organic farm and guesthouse Quinta da Figuerinha. You can also eat well at wine-loving spots like O Barradas.  

An ochre-colored cliff sits above the Atlantic at the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa
Spend some time at the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa to see the amazing bird life and impressive Roman ruins © Marcin Krzyzak / Shutterstock

Day 6: Look for rare birds and Roman mosaics near Faro

Whether you come down from Alte or Silves, it’s less than an hour’s drive back to Faro near the coast. Head out early for a trip through the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa, a swath of protected wetlands and a vital habitat for white storks, rare purple gallinules and numerous other bird species. Eco-minded Formosamar runs some of the best boat trips. In the afternoon, take in the impressive Roman ruins at Milreu, a sprawling 1st century CE villa located 10km (6.2mi) north of town. 

Day 7: Explore the Algarve’s most photogenic streetscapes in Tavira  

A further 40km (25mi) east along the coast and you’ll reach riverside Tavira, one of the Algarve’s loveliest towns. Take in the historic architecture around the old quarter and the views from the ruined castle above the town, then treat yourself to a meal of Algarvian classics (like the chargrilled octopus) at Ti Maria. If time allows, squeeze in a trip out to Ilha de Tavira, a sandy island reached by ferry from Quatro Águas, just outside of Tavira.   

1 day in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (Canary Islands)

1 day in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (Canary Islands)

If you’re spending a few days on the island of Gran Canaria and you want to see everything it has to offer, it’s a great idea to spend a day exploring its capital: Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. This is a major city which, in addition to beaches, has plenty of interesting culture, lovely areas for strolling around, and leisure activities to keep you occupied all day.

 

MORNING

 

Exploring the historic quarter

First we’ll visit the oldest and most picturesque part: the Vegueta district. It’s full of narrow cobbled streets and houses in the traditional architectural style of the Canary Islands. Stroll around streets like Los Balcones or Espíritu Santo until you reach Plaza de Santa Ana and the Cathedral of Santa Ana.

Left: Cathedral de Santa Ana / Right: Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Island of Gran Canaria

You really get to know a city by mingling with its people, and you have a fantastic chance to do that at Vegueta Market. It’s very close to the Cathedral, and always busy and bustling in the mornings. It’s a great place to buy some traditional local products, such as cheese.If you want to learn something about the earliest inhabitants of the Canary Islands, the Museum of the Canary Islands is close by. Other interesting buildings in the area are the Episcopal Palace, the Casas Consistoriales, Casa de Colón and the chapel of San Antonio Abad.

 

The shopping and tapas area

This is a good moment to visit one of the main shopping areas: Calle Mayor de Triana and its surrounding area, with plenty of Art Nouveau buildings. There are shops of every kind, including interesting local crafts, and major fashion designers. The area is also full of outdoor cafés where you can enjoy a few tapas and even have lunch.Among the many delicious Canary Island recipes worth trying are the papas arrugadas (baby potatoes boiled in their skins) with mojo (a spicy sauce), and sancocho (poached fish). If you try the restaurants in the area around Plaza de Hurtado de Mendoza and Plaza del Cairasco, you’re sure to have a good meal.

 

AFTERNOON

You can’t visit the city of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria without having a good stroll around town and also having a dip at the famous beach Las Canteras.
Quiet moments
After lunch, you’re sure to feel like relaxing for an hour or so and enjoying the good weather which is such a constant feature of the city. You can choose between a terrace in the Marina, surrounded by yachts and sea; or the Pueblo Canario leisure and culture centre in Parque Doramas, where you can enjoy a coffee in a typical Canary Island courtyard.

A trip to the beach in the heart of the city

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is always a relaxing holiday destination, especially when you find yourself on Las Canteras beach. It is the city’s main beach and its promenade is over three kilometres long. It’s practically obligatory to have a dip in these transparent waters and watch the fish swim around you. The sea is often so calm it feels like a swimming pool, making it a very safe place to swim.
After a dip, let’s look for a pavement café on Paseo de Las Canteras for a drink or a snack next to the beach. The scene is so delightful, almost always with a gentle temperate climate, you’ll probably want to walk a bit more, maybe down to the end of the beach and the Alfredo Kraus Auditorium. From here, there is a lovely view of the whole beach.

 

EVENING

It’s time to hit the city for a hearty dinner and some good music. Here we tell you where to find both of these.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria has the island’s most active nightlife, and you’re sure to find what you’re looking for.
If you want to relax after a day’s sightseeing, you can enjoy a concert at the Alfredo Kraus auditorium or go to the Pérez Galdós theatre. For dinner or drinks in an easy-going atmosphere, Vegueta has plenty of restaurants, bars and pavement cafés to choose from. In the area next to the Triana district there are places with live music, or where you can dance to salsa and the latest hits.

Granada Al-Andalus: Muslim Spain Last Kingdom

Granada Al-Andalus: Muslim Spain Last Kingdom

It was the moment which set Spain on a course to become the greatest power in early modern Europe. On January 2, 1492 Abdallah Muhammad bin Ali, or Muhammad XII, known as Boabdil, the last Moorish sultan of Granada and head of the Nasrid dynasty, surrendered his city and handed over the keys of the Alhambra to the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. The Christian rulers had approached Granada accompanied by the cardinal of Spain, Francisco Cisneros, and a brilliant retinue of courtiers and noblemen, among whom was Christopher Colombus.

All the Christian royalty and knighthood wore Moorish dress, brocade and silk tunics and the waist sash or marlota, in a gesture of apparent respect, a visual statement to placate, reassure and suggest commonality. In reality, it was more an act of insolent appropriation and absorption of what was Moorish by the enemy. It was a gesture that epitomized the aggressively hostile ethos of the Reconquest, which manifested itself in a latent desire to usurp and eliminate that culture and religion. That desire finally became a reality in 1609, when all Moriscos or converted Muslims were expelled from Spain.

Boabdil rode out to meet them, departing from the Gate of Seven Floors at the Alhambra, down steep slopes offering magnificent views of the city he was about to leave forever. At this official, public surrender of Granada to the Christian enemy, Boabdil handed the keys of his city to Ferdinand, and was recorded as saying in Arabic: “God loves you greatly. Sir, these are the keys of this paradise. I and those inside it are yours.”

Struggle and diplomacy

This moment of surrender has captured the imagination of writers and artists up to the present day – initially as one of supreme conquest and later because of the extreme poignancy of that ceremony of transition and loss. It marked a crucial encounter in a centuries-old clash between two great religions and cultures and symbolized the epoch-changing transition of the kingdom of Granada from Islamic state to Christian territory.

In the ten years before 1492, the kingdom of Granada was the theater of one of the most significant wars in European history. The Nasrid sultan’s territory was the last Spanish stronghold of a great Muslim empire which had originally stretched to the Pyrenees and beyond, and had included northern Spanish cities such as Barcelona and Pamplona. The fall of Granada was the culmination of that ancient battle between two major and opposing civilizations, which not only settled the cultural fate of a large part of Europe but also established the basis for the discovery of the Americas.

 

The departure of Boabdil’s Family from the Alhambra (1492). Manuel Gómez-Moreno (1880)

In that last decade of Muslim rule in Spain from 1482-92, sultan Boabdil – a raw youth of 20 who had barely left the confines of the Alhambra palace and had no experience of the world outside his dysfunctional family – rose to the throne as the 23rd of the Nasrid dynasty of Granada. In the ensuing ten years, he fended off the attacks of the indomitable Christian army with courage, bearing the inescapable loss of his Islamic kingdom and his consequent exile from Spain with dignity. Boabdil broke the mould of previous Muslim rulers in preferring negotiation over violence, peace with the Christians over war, and strove to find a way for the Muslims of his kingdom to maintain their religion and customs alongside their Christian counterparts.

As I have discussed in a recent book on the subject, the last Muslim sultan in Spain has become a potent symbol of resistance against repression, and of the forces of rebellion – a moral hero in his own right whose life matters today because he sought to save his kingdom and way of life through the path of negotiation and diplomacy.

End of days

The year 1492 is generally seen as a beginning, whether of modern Spain or the discovery of the New World. But what had ended was equally significant. For nearly 800 years, since 711, the Spanish peninsula had been home to a group of people who came as invaders and stayed to create a unique and sophisticated civilization which bequeathed to Spain a lasting cultural heritage. One thing that was lost was the fertile cross-cultural creativity and renewal born out of the Muslim conquest.

 

 

 

 

 

Expulsion of the Moriscos at the port of Dénia. Vincente Mostre (1613)

The sometimes uneasy coexistence of Christians, Muslims and Jews which had been such a significant part of medieval Spanish life was replaced by the serious confrontations and conflicts leading to the expulsion of the Moriscos in 1609. Instead of a society where members of three different religions lived together, Spain after 1492 became a society with a sole religion and language, a closed, suspicious place that repressed and eliminated difference.

The story of Boabdil and the fall of Granada represents a last stand against religious intolerance, fanatical power and cultural ignorance, in which issues of violence, tension and prejudice between Muslims and Christians were as pressing then as they are now.

Source: Islamicity