Visiting the Alhambra

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

What combines history, a walking tour, one of the most incredible buildings in the world, and travel tips?'s Alhambra Tour!

We've interviewed Chris Cook at Noambit, and I am very impressed with his extraordinary downloadable audio tours. I learned so much about the audio tours!  Each audio tour comes with a printable PDF map to accompany the tour. At the end of this article, we've got a special Coupon Code for Wandering Educators.

Now we'd like to spotlight one of his tours - the Alhambra Tour, for the Alhambra Fortress, Grenada, Spain. We have a few excerpts, and were lucky enough to sit down and chat with Chris a little bit more, this time about his Alhambra Tour - here's what he had to say...

"The Alhambra has always been a magical place for me, but I knew it was going to be a big undertaking.  Still, a few months later we have the only tour aside from the stale walkie-talkie type tours from the ticket sales office at the Alhambra.  It’s probably my favorite tour yet, since we get to see everything from the ruined fortress area through each room of the Nasrid Palace, complete with legends and tales of Arabic life, and on to the Generalife or summer palace of the kings.  I love the fact that people who listen to our tours are getting information on historical and architectural nuances that others are just walking past."

Alhambra Court of Lions

Alhambra Court of Lions

WE:  What is so special/magical abt the Alhambra?
CC:  I've been to many German Castles and Roman Ruins but the Alhambra stands out as a unique conglomerate of architectures and nature.  It's hilltop location, long history, multitudes of uses and variety of tenants have shaped the fortress into a site like no other.  The Moorish use of open spaces, water and eastern inspired architecture conjure feelings of some sort of enchanted bubble that has protected the Alhambra for centuries.
Whether you read it before or after your visit, Washington Irving's "Tales of the Alhambra" (which he wrote during his long stay in the fortress itself) really draws you into the life that actually went on in the Nasrid Palace and the fanciful, magical legends that originated from the very spots you can visit.

First and foremost, I decided to write this tour because of these reasons and to inspire others to experience this place which is not always on one's itinerary.  The Alhambra and Granada are both wonderful and worth it.  Secondly, the only other audio tour I know of is the one you can purchase at the site. While not bad, it is one of those handheld walki-talki type things for one person.  With our tours you can share them with friends and use your own (you know how clean they are) headphones.  Thirdly, I knew I could be more entertaining and offer more nuanced information then on the available tour. 

Alhambra, Grenada, Spain


"To help pass the time on the hike and historically orient oneself to the magnificent art and architecture we’re about to step into, we’ll highlight some key points in the history of Spain and the people who are referred to as Moors. From there you’ll step back in time as you enter the walls of the Alhambra and begin touring each distinct section including; the ornately decorated Nasrid Palace, the fortified Alcazaba, Charles V Palace that stands as a juxtaposition to all around it and the royal summer retreat known as the Generallife. Each of these has a history of its own and we’ll leave our visit with a thorough understanding of each and if you’re anything like me, a vow to return someday to this magical piece of land. "

WE: How do you do your extensive research?

CC: For all my tours, I write about what I know.  I've visited the Alhambra several times, taken lots of pictures and notes, listened to the existing tour and walked the walk so to speak.  Once I get home, I essentially start from where I would if I were there and research each location, site, story, history of art and architecture so as to bring our listeners the most accurate and entertaining experience possible. 

For the Alhambra, for example, I spent days researching what the honeycomb type decoration was (Mocárabes), where it originated from and what function it served. Likewise I had to research and understand the lineage of Moorish Sultans and Spanish Kings in order to set down a timeline of construction throughout the fortress. I get a thrill out of making these tours because quite frankly I essentially get to visit them again from home and when I go back I know so much more about them.  Like the entirety of, my motivation is not to make money (we offer the most inexpensive tours out there), but to help others get just as excited about and involved in their travel as I am.

I guess it would be my dream job to start producing these types of tours with College students either as projects they can experience and put together for others or for study abroad department offerings to their participants.


Alhambra, Grenada, Spain

On the Alhambra MP3 tour, you’ll see and hear about:   
• Purchasing tickets to the Alhambra and how to get there
• A history of the Islamic rule of Spain
• Who was a “Moor”
• The ruins of the Upper Alhambra
• The Palace of Charles V
• The Wine Gate and Square of Cisterns
• The Alcazaba
• Dungeon Silos
• Every courtyard, patio, hall and room of the Nasrid Palacealhambra_tour1
• The Court of Lions
• The blood stained fountain in the Hall of Abencerrajes
• Washington Irving’s stay at the Alhambra
• Arab Baths
• The Tower Walk
• The Generalife or summer retreat of the Sultan
• And much much more including; what the Arabic inscriptions mean throughout the palace and who exactly was this Charles V who built a palace right in the middle of the Alhambra.

Alhambra, Grenada, Spain

The Alhambra tour should last about 3.5 hours, although the audio guide is 90 minutes. The audio tour is narrated by Chris Cook and Ryan Sexton. It is eminently listenable and extremely enjoyable. It is the perfect mix of being able to learn from someone knowledgeable (and funny), and going at your own pace. The tour is packed with history but is never boring, with little snippets of humor worked is something you'll listen to more than once. It's also poignant - just wait until you get to the part with the bloody fountain. History repeats itself - and it is good to honor what has happened before, and to learn as much as we can about the past.

We just love Noabmit Audio Tours (check out their whole website - it is a treasure), and highly recommend the Alhambra Tour.

Photos courtesy and copyright of Noambit




Comments (5)

  • Kerry Dexter

    14 years 9 months ago

    Before or after a visit to the Alhambra, a fine musical companion to this tour would be Loreena McKennitt's dvd and cd set Nights at the Alhambra. more here:

    Kerry Dexter

    Music Editor,

  • Dr. Jessie Voigts

    14 years 9 months ago

    WOW, kerry - excellent recommendation. thanks!


    Jessie Voigts, PhD


  • Chris Cook

    14 years 9 months ago

      Thanks for the comment Kerry!  I agree.  During my research the Nights at the Alhambra music set came up again and again on webpages like youtube.  It really does set a mood.

  • pen4hire

    14 years 9 months ago

    The Alhambra ranks as one of my all time favorite spots in the world. I always recommend that people go on BOTH the night time and day time tours, but this audio tour sounds like (no pun intended) it would be wonderful for both. And I strongly second the recommendation of Irving' s Tales of the Alhambra, which I wrote about at A Traveler's Library.

    Vera Marie Badertscher

  • Chris Cook

    14 years 9 months ago

    I agree Vera, night time at the Alhambra is magical.  We cover how to get tickets in the tour so if thats your choice we can help.  Although the entire complex is not open at night.  The biggest problem I have with heading up to the complex at night is that the city of Granada is just so much fun in the evening!!  Then again, Granada is awesome no matter what minute of the hour it is.

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