Five things to do in southern Spain


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1. Visit: Alhambra, Granada

Visit the astonishing fortified Alhambra palace, with its royal apartments, cooling gardens in quadrangles, fountains and pools.

The Alhambra, built in AD889 and added to by the sultans of the Nasrid dynasty in the 13th century, is Spain's most visited monument.

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The number of tickets is limited so book well in advance. Opt for a guided tour to hear about the history of the Islamic masterpiece and the time when the Moors ruled Spain. Dedicate an entire day to visit the gardens of the Generalife outside the fortress as well.

2. Chill out: Hammam Al Andalus

After all the fabulous sightseeing in Granada, head to the old town and soak in the hammams (thermal baths), with their unique subterranean design and mesmerising Arabian decor.

Immerse yourself in the hot, warm and cold baths surrounded by candlelit walkways, and inhale the scented aromas of the steam room while sipping fresh mint tea. Massages and body scrubs are available.

3. Taste: Heladeria Los Italianos

A speciality of this grand ice-cream parlour in Granada is cassata served in a cone. But the selection of flavours is so wonderful you'll want to try them all.

4. Tour: Mosque of Cordoba

Admire the sprawling, arcaded hall of 856 columns that support striped, veined marble double arches.

The Mezquita consists of a renaissance Catholic cathedral in the middle of an Islamic prayer hall. Escape the day crowds and book a night tour: while the cathedral is roped off during the day, those on the night tour are granted access.

5. Discover: Palacio de Viana

Southern Spain's cities are known for their beautiful open courtyards full of pools and potted flowering plants. Cordoba's Viana Palace, dating back to the 14th century, is a "monument" patio, offering 12 patios ranging in style from medieval to renaissance, baroque and romantic.

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A passionate traveller, Isabel Vaughan, took the opportunity to explore countries in Europe while she was on a university exchange in Germany.