Andalucia (sometimes spelt Andalusia) is one of the six autonomous regions of Spain. It is in the south of the peninsula with an extensive Mediterranean coastline. The dramatic beauty and fascinating culture of this region make it an ideal holiday destination. Andalucia is a treasure trove of historical sites, fascinating cities, and rural tranquility.
There is something here to suit all tastes. For a beach holiday with sand, sea, and sun there is a choice of coast lines including the Costa del Sol, the Costa Tropical, the Costa de la Luz, and the Costa Almeria. If you prefer more cultural and historical tones to your holiday then a visit to one of Andalucia’s great historical cities is an experience you will always remember. Seville, Cordoba, Granada, and Malaga are exemplary of Spain’s engrossing cultural heritage from Islamic times. Architecturally there is much to enjoy, plus a vibrant nightlife of eating out or attending a flamenco performance, the theatre, or just strolling through the city.
Andalucia presents the visitor with a great diversity of landscapes to choose from for a holiday. In addition to the coastline, in the east, north of Almeria and situated between the mountain ranges of the Sierra Nevada, the Gador, the Alhamilla, and the Filabres, is Europe’s only official semi-desert. This is also Spaghetti Western country, used for filming western’s because of its desert landscape similar to that of the American Wild West. You can still see the sets there and if you fancy you can even get dressed up as a cowboy/girl. There is shooting at noon. The area is known as the Desert of Tabernas.
Rural Andalucia: Mountains and villages
A visit up into the mountains will take you into a different world. The Alpujarra mountain range is easily accessible by car or bus and forms the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. This range is covered in snow until mid-Spring and has ski slopes. The snow is essential to agriculture lower down in the Alpujarra. As it melts, the water supplies the villages via an irrigation scheme introduced by the Romans and perfected by the Arabs. Mules are still a common site here and are used for ploughing the land which is naturally very steep.
The traditional Andalucian white village is full of charm and the locals are very friendly especially if you try to speak their language. There are plenty of stunning views of the mountains and the Mediterranean from this height as well. The main crops on the land are grapes, almonds, and olives. Local produce is sold at various outlets, try the Soplillos, meringues filled with almonds, or fig jam, and olive bread.
The mountains are close enough to spend a morning on the beach and an afternoon in the mountains.
Cities of Andalucia
In Cordoba the medieval city walls are still intact. There is a wealth of ancient monuments and walking through the cobbled streets takes you back in time to when people of the three faiths, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, lived and worked together in peace. The same can be said of Seville which is larger than Cordoba. Visit the mosque in Cordoba, once known for its splendor and compared with the mosques of Baghdad and do not miss the Alhambra in Granada, the palace fort of the Kingdom of Granada with its beautiful Islamic decoration, fountains, and gardens. In Seville see the Royal Palace, Real Alcazar, built by King Peter I in the 14th century in Islamic style. There are so many places of cultural, historical, and architectural value that it is best to buy a good guide book before you go. The history of Andalucia, evident in the cities, goes as far back as the Carthaginians. Beside Roman remains there is a magnificent Islamic heritage to enjoy and absorb.
The Mediterranean diet is well known for being healthy with many fruits and vegetables and the use of virgin olive oil. There is also an abundant variety of fish and seafood. The serving of tapas with drinks is a Spanish custom that is special in Andalucia because it is served free with the drink. Tapas is a small portion of food that ranges from the simple to the more sophisticated but is always delicious. Paella is the national dish, with rice and various seafood served in a large, round, cast-iron dish for several people.
Andalucia has three airports the largest being Malaga. You can also fly to the much smaller airports of Almeria and Granada. The airport in Granada is very convenient if you want to visit the three cities of Granada, Cordoba, and Seville. Bus and train connections are good.