Andalusia is the vast region which makes up southern Spain, incorporating the provinces of Huelva, Cádiz, Sevilla, Málaga, Córdoba, Jaén, Granada, and Almería. With such a huge swathe of beautiful countryside to choose from, the only difficulty in making a list like this one is having to leave out so many wonderful places to visit and things to do. This region was occupied by the Moors for a period of about 700 years, and their legacy lives on in many of the towns and cities of this beautifully diverse part of Spain. We have managed to pick out six must-see destinations, but visitors to Andalusia will be amply rewarded no matter where they choose to spend their time.
No trip to the city of Granada is complete without paying a visit to the Alhambra: one of Spain’s most visited tourist attractions. Make sure to book your ticket in advance so that you can be sure you will make it inside this awe-inspiring Moorish palace. The rest of Granada is certainly worth exploring as well. Touring the local tapas bars will give you an opportunity to sample the unique fusion of Arabic and Andalusian food. Try to make time to take in a Flamenco show in one of the atmospheric caves in the Sacromonte district as it is a truly memorable show in unique surroundings.
Costa del Sol
Southern Spain is a paradise for sun-lovers, as temperatures during the summer months regularly exceed 30 degrees Celsius and there are more than 300 sunny days a year. During the months of July and August the inland cities can become unbearably stifling, and so most people prefer to decamp to the coast. The Costa del Sol is the most popular tourist destination in summer, particularly with visitors from chillier Northern European climes. While much of the Costa has become over-crowded and over-developed, there are still jewels to discover. The lovely town of Estepona near Marbella retains old world charm whilst welcoming tourists to its picturesque streets. Further north along the coast, Nerja is a lovely town full of beaches and with spectacular views over the sea from the ‘Balcony of Europe’.
Costa de la Luz
The Costa de la Luz (‘Coast of the Lights’) is on the western seaboard of Andalusia and has a distinctly more Spanish feel than the Costa del Sol on the Mediterranean coast. The tourist towns on this side are still full but are populated largely with Spanish visitors from the Northern and central towns and cities. Highlights include the beautiful beach at Bolonia, the coastal town of Tarifa with its surfer vibe and the lovely port town of Huelva near the Portuguese border. If you want to visit more authentic Spanish towns then choose one of these rather than the traditional options like Fuengirola, Marbella and Torremolinos.
The city of Seville enjoys – or maybe ‘endures’ is a better word – temperatures north of 40 degrees Celsius in the height of summer, so perhaps Christmas is the best time of year to visit this cosy little city. Seville’s ‘Feria del Belén’ (festival of cribs) is one of the biggest nativity markets in Spain and you can pick up some unique souvenirs. Christmas markets usually take place under the famous ‘mushroom’ Parasols, with lots of delicious local treats to enjoy. And of course, Christmas in Spain would not be complete without taking part in the gigantic Spanish Christmas Lottery (called ‘El Gordo’ or ‘The Big One’) which grips the whole nation leading up to the draw on the 22nd of December.
Sierra Nevada Natural Park
Too many people overlook the scenic natural parks and mountains of Spain in favour of coastal resorts, but they are missing out on a real treat. The Sierra Nevada mountain range is one of the most popular ski and snowboarding destinations in Spain, but this region is well worth exploring in summer-time as well. Botanical gardens, nature trails and the spectacular Los Cahorros gorge all make for great ways to take in some fresh air and explore the countryside – although as always, avoid too much exertion in the hot summer months.
Ronda is a town in the mountains of Malaga which has to be seen to be believed. The town is built on two sides of a huge ravine, and the bridge which spans the old and new halves is like something out of Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. The views from all around this ancient city are nothing short of spectacular and staying for a couple of nights will allow you to experience this unique place in all its glory. The Arabic baths are some of the best preserved of their kind in all of Spain, and the bullring is one of the oldest and most beautiful in the country, even if the sport itself is not to your taste.
As we mentioned at the beginning, trying to compose a list made up of just six places to visit in Andalusia is an almost impossible task. Notable omissions from our recommendations include the beautiful cities of Cadiz, Cordoba and Malaga. The famous Caminito del Rey is another famous attraction that doesn’t make the cut, and we could pick out any number of white-washed mountain villages which offer an atmospheric slice of Andalusian life. Hopefully this list will serve at least as a starting place from which to explore this fabulous part of Spain.