Visiting the Andalucia region of Spain is the quintessential Spanish experience. Everything from the charm of the white hill towns, to the flamboyant Flamenco dancers, to bull fighting matadors, to tasty tapas feels like a page right out of a travel magazine. Also in this region you’ll find the Alhambra in Granada and the Mezquita in Cordoba that melds Europe and Islamic architecture into a mesmerizing experience. The nearby Costa del Sol is a perfect place to slow down and soak up some Spanish sun.
The large cities of Andalucia - Seville, Cordoba, Granada - are becoming increasingly connected with the rest of Spain as the AVE high speed train connects them to each other and Madrid. However, you might consider renting a car or hiring a driver in this region for the convenience of wandering off the beaten path and exploring the small nearby hill towns. The distances between cities are short, no more than a couple of hours. Or, if you’re looking for a central home base, consider Marbella along the Costa del Sol.
Seville is the capital of this region and the 4th largest city in Spain and yet, the city itself is intimate and very walkable. By staying in the city center it is quick walk to the top sights of the Alcazar, Cathedral, and Barrio Santa Cruz - Seville’s Jewish Quarter.
The Alcazar, or Palace Fortress, is still in use today, making it one of the oldest royal family homes in Europe. Advance tickets or entry with a guide is recommend as entry lines can get long. The Admiral’s Hall is where Spain conducted is world-wide exploration endeavors with visits and reports from explorers like Columbus, Magellan, and Vespucci. The courtyard and throne room of the Palace at the Alcazar are interesting with their tiles and geometric designs - but it is just a tease of what you’ll experiences at the Alhambra. You’ll also want to pay a visit to the main Cathedral, an impressive Gothic structure.
Flamenco dance is energetic and passionate and should be on your must experience list while in Seville. Venues are plentiful around town and there might even be a small concert in the lobby of your hotel. Sit back and enjoy the beautiful music and talented dancers.
Spaniards tend to start dinner and evening activities late in the evening. In summer it’s not unusual for a family to sit down for dinner at 10:00 p.m. Perhaps this is because of the intense heat during the day, or the still practiced traditional siesta during the afternoon. Or perhaps it’s that Spain operates on the same time zone as most of Western Europe, but should really be running an hour earlier on Greenwich mean time.
The next stop of your journey through Southern Spain should be Cordoba. Cordoba was once the Islamic capitol of the world and rivaled cities like Constantinople and Baghdad. The main attraction is the Mezquita, a 10th century mosque converted to a Christian church in the 16th century. The building is massive. You are greeted by a courtyard of orange trees before entering the church. Upon entering the church, the first thing one notices is the extensiveness of the building. The building is support by a forest of columns with striped stone work throughout all the arches. It’s visually stunning. It’s not hard to imagine a throng of people coming here to worship.
After your visit to the Mezquita take some time to wander the tight, narrow streets of the nearby neighborhood. Don’t be afraid to get lost. You can tell there wasn’t a master plan as some of the streets randomly dead end, so you might have to double back. The charming white-washed buildings are decorated with blue ceramic pots filled with geraniums. Of historical importance is the nearby Jewish neighborhood. The Synagogue was built in the 14th century. This Jewish community existed harmoniously with its Islamic neighbors. You’ll notice the heavy Islamic architectural influences in the design.
In a couple of hours you’ll arrive to Granada. The Alhambra is what attracts most people to Granada, but you won’t want to over look the vibrant downtown or wander the old Moorish quarter. Plan ahead and purchase tickets on-line to the Alhambra weeks before visiting, the number of visitors is limited each day. Hiring a guide for this will make your time at the Alhambra well-rounded with lessons in history, architecture, and botany. The Alhambra complex consists of several areas: The Generalife Gardens, Alcazaba Fort, Charles V’s Palace, and the Palacios Nazaries, which is the highlight of the visit. Pay attention to you timed entry to the Palacios Nazaries as it is strictly enforced. The Palace is decorate from top to bottom with ceramic tiles, carved wood ceilings, molded plaster walls, and other intricate designs. You’ll want to spend a minimum of 3 hours visiting the sights at the Alhambra.
After all the sightseeing you’ve been enjoying in Andalusia it’s time to slow things down and soak up the sun on the Costa del Sol. There are several cities you could choose to stay and relax, but I would suggest Marbella. It’s convenient to the region and has the best collection of world-class resorts in the area. You might even consider using Marbella as your home base and taking day trips to some of the sights in the area, although that could make for some long days. However, a very short drive from Marbella are the white hill towns of the region, specifically Ronda. You’ll feel like you’re stepping right into a post card when you enter the small town of Ronda. Famous for its white washed homes set on the top of a deep gorge and for the its bull fighting history, Ronda is a worthwhile stop.
The best time to visit the Andalusia region of Spain is in the spring and fall. Temperatures in the summer can be stifling hot. Even visiting this region in the winter you are likely to have many sunny days as the Costa del Sol see over 300 sunny days a year. If you haven’t already, you should consider southern Spain for your next European destination.
All the best,
Morris Murdock Travel - Salt Lake City