Luxury villas in Andalucía

 Andalucía is a land of Flamenco, opera, Moorish architecture, hilltop villages and historic cities such as Seville and Granada.

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Andalucia holiday guide

The southern region of Andalucía (often spelled ‘Andalusia’ in English) dominates folkloric images of Spain. The land that was Al-Andalus during the Moors’ Medieval rule has given the world the staccato rhythms of flamenco; the operatic figures of Carmen, Don Juan, and Picasso; and a Moorish architectural legacy that includes the Alhambra, Great Mosque, and whitewashed hilltop villages such as Comares and Ronda. Under a searing sun on an Andalucía holiday you will find historic cities like Seville and Granada; sandy beaches both populous and deserted; and Spain’s most gregarious people.

Cities

Three of Spain’s great cities—Seville, Granada, and Córdoba—form a triangle of monumental, Moorish Spain. Andalucía is also home to Ronda, perched on the precipice of a magnificent gorge; Málaga, birthplace of Picasso and gateway to some of Europe’s best-known beaches on the Costa del Sol; and Jaen, Úbeda, and Baeza, three small cities with nuclei of Renaissance architecture that are among the finest examples in Spain.  

Ronda, Spain, a landscape with the Tajo Gorge.

Countryside

The Andalusian countryside is famed for its pueblos blancos (white villages), undulating olive groves, and intense summer heat. The best way to experience it is a relaxed driving tour, stopping off in Arcos de la Frontera, Casares, Comares, and other peaceful towns. For relief from the sun, head to the green valleys of La Alpujarra de Granada or the marshlands of Donaña National Park, a refuge for migrating birds.

Donana National Park in Spain in summer landscape

Eating and drinking in Andalucia

Do like Andalusians do and beat the heat with gazpacho (chilled tomato soup), thin slices ofjamón serrano (cured ham), and chilled aperitif wines. Fresh seafood graces tables along the coast, and fried fish (pescaíto frito) is served in bars everywhere. A tapas crawl—bouncing among taverns in search of small bites, quick drinks, and animated conversation—is practically a religion in southern Spain. Wine in Andalucía dates back three thousand years to the Phoenicians; the local fortified wines (sherries of all stripes, including bone-dry) will surprise and delight your tastebuds.

Cured meats for sale at a small shop in Andalucia

Coast

The sun seems to shine perennially on Spain’s eight hundred kilometre southern coast, and has attracted northern Europeans for much longer than Spain has been a member of the EU. Say ‘beach resort’ to someone heading to Spain, and they will most likely think Costa del Sol: west of Málaga are the most crowded Mediterranean beaches, towns with charming old quarters, and glitzy marinas and seaside clubs in Marbellaand Puerto Banús. The Atlantic-facing, unspoiled Costa de la Luz is authentically Spanish; it stretches west from windswept Tarifa to Huelvawith soft sands and ideal conditions for windsurfers.

Beach in Benalmadena. Malaga province, Costa del Sol

History in Andalucia

The region’s history can be traced to 1100 BC, when the Phoenicians founded Cádiz, the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe. The best-known period is the nearly eight hundred years of dominance under the Moors, North Africans who assumed control of most of Spain beginning in 711 AD. Visit Granada’s Alhambra, the Great Mosque in Córdoba, and the opulent palace of Medina Azahara for a vivid sense of that civilization’s achievements. Or go back farther, to the prehistoric caves in Nerja or Roman ruins at Itálica.

Olvera town, considered the gate of white towns route in the province of Cadiz

Arts and culture in Andalucia

Granada’s Alhambra, a monumental red palace-fortress, is an architectural masterpiece and the icon of Muslim Spain. The Mezquita(‘Great Mosque’) in Córdoba is the most potent example of the Christian and Islamic faiths first colliding, and then learning to coexist. Andalucía’s favourite literary son, Federico García Lorca, has left a mark not just with words but his childhood home in Granada. Málaga’s Museo Picasso and the artist’s birth home should not be missed by 20th-century art fans.

Interior of The Cathedral and former Great Mosque of Cordoba

Nightlife and Entertainment

The birthplace of flamenco, Andalucía struts to a deeply felt rhythm all of its own. The music-and-dance spectacle at a tablao (flamenco club) makes for an unforgettable evening, especially in Seville and Granada’s Sacromonte district of cave clubs. Little beats a tapas-and-sherry crawl, when Andalusians are at their boisterous best. For more solemn but equally striking pageantry, visit Seville for Easter and April Fair festivities. Although a bullfight is not for everyone, Ronda’s bullring, the oldest in Spain, is an architectural marvel worth seeing.

Feet of flamenco dancers, performing on a wooden stage in summer city festival

Relaxation

Most visitors make a beeline for Andalucía’s stretch of southern beaches to relax. But there are other ways to slow down, something Andalusians have made into an art. Peek into private patios overflowing with flowers at Córdoba’s May Patio Festival; stroll with families and couples along the promenade in Málaga; or retreat to the green urban oasis of Seville’s Parque María Luisa. Golf can be played year-round in southern Spain—nicknamed the ‘Costa del Golf’ by some—and the Sierra Nevada Nature Park’s wilderness is made for hikers and skiers.

Vista over Sierra Nevada National Park