Andalucía; crossroads of ancient cultures, land of sunshine and mountains where life is lived slowly and passion reigns supreme

Andalucía offers everything from whitewashed villages snoozing in the summer heat to vibrant cities and secret stretches of pristine beach, head inland to escape the crowds and discover what its hidden corners have to offer.

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© Karan Jain

Arcos de la Frontera

Considered by many to be the quintessential white village, Arcos de la Frontera is perched atop a limestone plateau with incredible views into the valley. The charming old town was declared a national historic-artistic monument over 50 years ago and remains a traffic free, tangled warren of cobbled streets with Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Moorish influences. For the best views try a drink on the terrace of the Parador.

Setenil de las Bodegas

An unusual village with houses cut right into the rock. There are numerous bars and restaurants where you can find authentic local cuisine. Former home to a flourishing wine trade (hence ‘bodega’), the cave like buildings once made excellent cellars. The locals are extremely welcoming and don’t seem to suffer from tourist fatigue. Setenil is about 8km from the former city of Acinipo (Ronda la Vieja) which is truly incredible.

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© Samu

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© Expect Grain


With views from the aptly named Castillo del Aguila towards the mountains of Morocco and the Rock of Gibraltar, Gaucin has long been a favourite on the tourist trail. Gateway to the Serranía de Ronda from the Costa del Sol, only half an hour from the coast, Gaucin has a thriving artists’ community, sculptors, painters, photographers and printmakers, many of whom have open studios throughout much of the summer and restaurants with terraces overlooking the River Genal valley. The ruined castle is nonetheless impressive and the views are breathtaking.


Famed for its amazing birdlife, especially raptors, Grazalema is gateway to the Grazalema National Park. A whitewashed village with a lovely square surrounded by bars, restaurants and cafés. Sabores de Grazalema is a fabulous delicatessen not to be missed.

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© Turismo Cádiz

Zahara de la Sierra

One of the most picturesque of the white villages, with a C13th Nasrid castle and sublime views over an insanely turquoise reservoir where you can indulge in a spot of wild swimming. The famous fiesta of Corpus Christi sees the entire village decorated with greenery and has been decalred of National Tourist Interest.


Ronda la Vieja, the old Roman city, lies a few miles north of Ronda, once a city for retired soldiers of Ceasar’s army, the remains of the city itself amount to an eerie host of rubble mounds but the theatre is remarkably intact and visitors can see the circular seating, high walls and parts of the underground system and take turns to re-enact that scene from Gladiator. It is hard to believe that the theatre dates from the first century A.D. Walk beyond the top of the theatre seats for incredible, far reaching 360 degree views that are well worth the climb.

La Cueva de la Pileta

If the neoclassical bridge, Nasrid baths, medieval walls, and C1st A.D. ampitheatre are all a bit too modern for you, head towards Benoajan where you will find a series of caves with fantastically preserved Paleolithic cave paintings. La Cueva de la Pileta is completely uncommercialised: You turn up and wait for the group to grow large enough before heading into the caves for an hour long, guided, torchlight tour.

Playa de Bolonia

Spain’s most beautiful beach is just over 2 hours away on the Costa de la Luz, it sits within El Parque Natural del Estrecho. Planning and construction laws have been rigorously introduced and enforced, this is a far cry from the high rise stretches of the Costa del Sol. Miles of fine white sand and views to Morocco.

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© Quino Al

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© Malcolm Browne


Capital of Andalucia and birthplace of that fabulous Spanish creation - Tapas – Seville is an exuberant city with so much to offer, a day will barely do justice to its wonderfully eclectic sights. From the beautiful gardens of the Alcázar to the dreamy Maria Luisa Park, the Cathedral with its Giralda bell tower and the Torre del Orro on the banks of the Guadalquivir, the winding streets of Santa Cruz’s Jewish quarter to the contemporary Metropol Parasol – Seville positively bewitches.


Famous in equal measure for its wines, horses and flamenco tradition, Jerez is a noble city of palm lined plazas, aristocratic palaces, cobbled alleys, baroque churches and of course, wine cellars. Try sherry in the sherry capital itself where you can sample some of the finest fortified wines the independent makers have to offer then head to Jerez’s gastronomic golden mile. If you are visiting in late February to early March don’t miss the world famous Jerez Flamenco Festival.


Less visited than formidable Granada or joyous Sevilla, Córdoba may not be top of everyone’s list but this only adds to its special appeal. Former capital of Moorish Al–Andalus, Córdoba has a fantastic, UNESCO protected, historic centre that houses one of the finest Islamic structures in the world: The architectural gem that is La Mezquita, a stunning Mosque turned Cathedral that took over 200 years to complete. The 16 arched Puente Romano that leads to the old town is Córdoba’s other best known landmark (made globally recognisable by its appearance in Game of Thrones) and the streets facing the river are packed with bars and restaurants. Atmospheric and authentic, Córdoba’s Jewish and Muslim quarters spread from the Mezquita and are a network of narrow, twisting streets and whitewashed courtyards. For those with a keen interest in Islamic architecture or history, 8km from Córdoba lies the stunning Medina Azahara.


Nestling at the foot of the Sierra de las Nieves, Granada is a city of contradictions: Rich in Arabic history yet stamped with the hallmarks of the Reconquista, a fusion of the ancient and the modern, from the abbey and flamenco bars of the Sacromonte to Granada’s Science Park. This complex city has both the gritty street art of El Niño de las Pinturas in the jewish quarter of the Realejo and the romantically rambling Moorish district of the Albaicín with its delightful walled gardens, or Carmens, looking towards the regal architecture of Granada’s crowning glory. The Alhambra and Generalife never cease to enthrall, the Nasrid Architecture is stunning and the plasterwork and cool pools hypnotic.

Sanlúcar de Barrameda

Famous for its production of a unique fino sherry, manzanilla, Sanlúcar sits on the edge of the Atlantic at the mouth of the Rio Guadalquivir and is home to one of Spain’s oldest horse races which sees thousands of visitors gather every August to witness the sunset races on the sand. The biodiversity hotspot, the Doñana National Park which sits opposite the town, is a labyrinth of salt marshes and sand dunes, (somewhat like France’s Carmargue, with which it is twinned) and is home to the Iberian Lynx, Imperial eagle, fallow and red deer, wild boars and Egyptian mongooses. Grab some lunch in Sanlúcar’s famous square, Plaza del Cabildo, then try some manzanilla at Barbadillo, La Gitana or Delgado Zuleta, spend a few hours on the beach or take a private tour of the Doñana National Park before heading back into town for some of the best seafood Andalucia has to offer.


Forget everything you think you know about the Costa del Sol’s capital and head straight for its historic centre. With a fabulous cathedral, the ‘one armed lady’, a well-preserved Roman theatre and Moorish Alcazaba, Malaga has plenty to offer history lovers. If shopping is your thing, Málaga cannot compete with the bling of Marbella but it has an elegant shopping street, Calle Larios, with a fabulous ice cream shop and lots of the big brands you would expect to see in a provincial capital. From Calle Larios set off to explore the winding alleyways with their funky little cafés serving coffee to appease the keenest hipster and spend a few hours appreciating the art in the Picasso Museum and Centro de Arte Contemporáneo (CAC). By night Málaga’s historic centre is a-buzz with students and young folk enjoying a tapa in one of the many bars. By day the beaches are bursting in high season so if peace and quiet is what you seek, head to the beautiful botanic gardens to enjoy the vast acres filled with Mediterranean, sub-tropical and exotic species.

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© Kristoffer Trolle