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Andalucia Spain Travel Guide


Andalucia Spain

Andalucia Spain

Andalucia Spain Beach Destinations

Marbella Spain

Marbella Spain

Tourism on the Costa del Sol took off back in the 1960s. This coastline, along with the Costa Blanca, are Spain’s most developed areas, in terms of tourism. Even so, many people return happily to the beach resorts on the Costa del Sol, as they offer a convenient sun holiday option.

Flights from the UK and Ireland take a little over two hours, with lots of cheap flights and package holiday offerings. Many tourists are happy to soak up the sun, on the sandy Mediterranean beaches, finishing the beach day by sipping sangria in a local beach bar.

However others choose to pick and mix, by spending some time at the beach and other days exploring wonderful cities, architecture, culture or natural parks, that lie within relatively easy reach of their chosen beach resort.

Costa del Sol Beach Resorts

Malaga Spain Costa del Sol beach resorts

Malaga, Costa del Sol

Flying into Málaga Airport, there are plenty of beach resorts that you can choose from, whether you decide on a package holiday or not. This guide introduces you to these options, along with lots of useful information about Andalucia’s cities and cultural highlights. A personal favourite of mine, a place that I chose to live for a few years, is Nerja. For me, this blends the best of beaches and beauty, with gorgeous streets full of eateries and bijou shops.

Talking of eating …..One of the great secrets of the Mediterranean diet is olive oil and the largest worldwide producer is Spain. Historically, Andalusia produces approximately half of the olive oil produced in our country. If you would like to travel off the beaten track and learn about how extra virgin olive oil is produced, be sure to check out this wonderful olive oil route in Western Granada: 

An Idyllic Olive Oil Route In Western Granada, Spain

Malaga and the western Costa del Sol

These coastal resorts are organised from Málaga, heading south-west along the Costa del Sol and then the second group are travelling north-east from Málaga.

1. Málaga city: buzzy art area, cultural re-birth & good beaches

Once upon a time, Málaga was a shabby port city, but like the frog that became a handsome prince, these days, Málaga is a vibrant city with exciting places to see, eat and drink.

For culture vultures who would prefer to mix a beach holiday, while being in a wonderful city, Málaga is a good choice. The city has quite a few beaches, such as Malagueta, which can be reached by strolling for around ten minutes, at the port’s east side, wandering along its lovely promenade. This fine sandy beach is around half a mile long. If you go a little further east, you will find Playa Caleta, which has the reputation of being Málaga’s best kept beach. Here is a full list of Málaga beaches.

Malaga Spain Panoramic view of Málaga from Gibralfaro

Panoramic view of Málaga from Gibralfaro

Photo by KibanOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Málaga is home to a lovely marina with plenty of shops, bars and restaurants to choose from. Málaga experienced a cultural re-birth, in 2003, when the Picasso Museum opened its doors. Additionally Málaga boasts plenty of wonderful architecture, over thirty museums and a bohemian, buzzy art area, SOHO, which has an open-air art gallery. The pedestrianised city centre is awash with beautiful buildings, super shops, eateries and bars.

Malaga Top Attractions

Málaga What To See

1. Alcazaba of Málaga

Don’t miss this spectacular, hilltop Medieval Moorish palace and fortress, which affords marvellous sea views. Wanders around its stunning, lush gardens, full of fountains.

2. Málaga Cathedral

An iconic sight, which opened in 1782, is the Renaissance style Cathedral of Málaga, with a Baroque façade.

Spain travel guide Malaga cathedral

Málaga Cathedral Choir

By HajotthuOwn work, CC BY 3.0, Link

3. The Picasso Museum

Set in a 16th century restored palace, you can enjoy over two-hundred works of the great Pablo Picasso, in the city where this creative genius was born. /

4. Centre Pompidou

The city’s Centre Pompidou is a branch of the Parisian art museum, with contemporary art shows, in a modern setting.  

Spain travel guide Málaga Centre Pompidou

Centre Pompidou

By EpizentrumOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Málaga in the media

Málaga attractions, itineraries, restaurants, nightlife and more in the Telegraph 

Málaga holiday guide: what to see plus the best bars, hotels and restaurants in the Guardian 

Málaga travel tips: where to go and what to see in 48 hours in the Independent

Features about Málaga in Condé Nast Traveller

Interesting routes from Málaga Spain:

Best stops from Málaga to the old town of Ronda

The Great Malaga Path – GR 249 

Spain travel guide Ronda

Ronda

Torremolinos Spain

2. Torremolinos, Costa del Sol

8km from Málaga Airport

Although it is a bit of a concrete jungle in parts, Torremolinos has cleaned up its act in recent years and is now known for its clean, sandy beaches.

Spain travel guide Playamar,_Torremolinos

Playamar Beach Torremolinos

By Hans Olav LienOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

This town has a hectic nightlife, so it especially attracts the younger crowds, especially in the summer season. It is the gay capital of the Costa del Sol. It offers a cheap and cheerful sun holiday option.

Torremolinos in the media

Fodor’s Torremolinos travel guide

Lonely Planet Torremolinos and Benalmádena

Benalmadena Spain

3. Benalmadena, Costa del Sol

10km from Málaga Airport

Benalmádena is quite similar to Torremolinos, in terms of the type of holiday you can expect. The main differences are that it is home to a port, which was designed as if it is a homage to Anton Gaudí.

Spain holidays Benalmadena port

Benalmadena Marina

The resort part of Benalmádena is actually Benalmádena Costa (coast) but if you head around 7 km inland, you can visit Benalmádena Pueblo (town), which is relatively unspoiled.

Benalmadena in the media

Fodor’s guide to Benalmadena

Fuengirola Spain

4. Fuengirola, Costa del Sol

27km from Málaga Airport

Boasting seven kilometres of sandy beaches, Fuengirola is a very popular choice with holidaymakers on the Costa del Sol.

Fuengirola Costa del Sol Andalucia Spain travel holidays

Fuengirola sandy beach

Although it is another very developed coastal town, it does have ares that retain more authentic Spanish charm, along with a 10th century Moorish castle. It has a massive expat community.

Fuengirola in the media

The Lonely Planet Guide to Fuengirola 

Marbella Spain

5. Marbella, Costa del Sol

51km from Málaga Airport

Famous as the playground for the rich and famous ever since the 1950s, Marbella’s main blessings are its striking natural backdrop, its old quarter and its promenade.

The modern part of the town has high rise buildings, and doesn’t have any special charm about it. As a foreigner, mostly you’ll notice the high-end shops and the luxury marina.

Marbella Spain travel holiday guide

Marbella at night from the sea

Puerto Banus is where to go if you want to spot lots of super yachts, and guys driving their prized cars around the marina, to show off.

I especially like Plaza de los Naranjos, in Marbella’s old town, where we spent many a pleasant evening, in one of the many restaurants there.

Marbella in the media

The Ultimate Marbella Travel Guide: 39 Things to do

Fodor’s Guide to Marbella

Marbella in the Telegraph, which includes many expert hotel reviews

Frommer’s Guide about Marbella

San Pedro de Alcantara Spain

6. San Pedro de Alcantara, Costa del Sol

61km from Málaga Airport

Only 13 km west from Marbella, is the charming seaside town of San Pedro de Alcantara, which is part of the municipality of Marbella.

Spain travel San Pedro de Alcantara Costa del Sol

San Pedro de Alcantara

By Klaus Graf – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, Link

San Pedro de Alcántara has a lovely, sandy beach, within walking distance of the town centre, complete with a life size sculpture of an elephant. This blue flag beach, which is large enough so that it never seems busy, is backed by a palm-lined promenade.

The town centre itself has many charming streets, plenty of lovely shops, bars and restaurants. It is a wonderful place of an evening also, with a buzz, yet a safe feeling

San Pedro de Alcantara in the media

San Pedro de Alcantara travel guide 

Estepona Spain

7. Estepona, Costa del Sol

80km from Málaga Airport

The old town of Estepona is lovely, oozing charm in its pedestrianised streets. Although much of the main town is quite developed, it still retains a nice feeling.

Estepona Spain old tow

Estepona old town

Estepona is home to a fine Puerto Deportivo (Sports Port), so expect great water sports and fun nightlife there, plus it has some nice beaches. The Telegraph newspaper selected Estepona’s El Cristo beach as one of their chosen best beaches in Spain.

Estepona in the media

Estepona: my kind of town – a great article by Liz Vercoe, in the Telegraph 

Top 10 things to see and do in Estepona – by the Culture Trip 

Sotogrande Spain

8. Sotogrande (Province of Cadiz)

105km from Málaga Airport

A golf hotspot, as well as one of the most upmarket towns in the south of Spain; Sotogrande has a beautiful marina, which is at the heart of everyday life in the town.

Sotogrande Spain travel guide

Sotogrande aerial view

By Sotogrande S.A. – Sotogrande S.A., GFDL, Link

The marina hosts grand regattas and is also a great place to book a wonderful whale watching trip. For polo lovers, Sotogrande is home to the Santa Maria Polo Club, which is where our first dog was born! Sotogrande is stylish and exclusive.

Sotogrande in the media

Sotogrande travel guide 

North-Eastern Costa del Sol Spain

Eastern Costa del Sol

1. Velez-Málaga

50km from Málaga Airport

A hidden gem, Velez Malaga is located 4 km from the coastal town, Torre del Mar.

The bustling market town remains an authentic Spanish town, where visitors can experience real life, untouched by the tourist industry. It has an abundance of great architecture, including some ancient palaces.

Velez Malaga Spain holiday guide

Velez Malaga

Photo credit: The Blue Colour of the Sky

The town is best-known for its rich agricultural production, which includes vegetables, fruits, olives, sugar cane and vines. Try to go there on a Thursday, which is market day.

Velez-Málaga in the media

What to do in Velez-Malaga 

Torre del Mar Spain

2. Torre del Mar

48km from Málaga Airport

Torre del Mar boasts four kilometres of beaches, but is one of the most touristic areas on the coast. Its sandy beaches are flanked with plenty of bars, restaurants and apartments.

Spain travel guide Torre del Mar

Torre del Mar beach

Wander along the promenade to the Marina of Caleta de Vélez, where you can choose from a number of watersports, or just choose to hang out in one of the marina’s restaurants or cafés.

The town is a good choice for those of you who like developed coastal places, where everything is on hand.

Torre del Mar in the media

…awaiting media

Nerja Spain

3. Nerja

79km from Málaga Airport

We lived in Nerja for around three years, and loved it! Granted because of its charm, it can get very busy in the height of the season.

Nerja Spain Travel Guide

Nerja view from Balcony of Europe

It is home to some wonderful beaches and coves, gorgeous views from the Balcony of Europe and numerous other vantage points, beautiful narrow cobbled streets, packed with a superb range of restaurants, cafés and shops.

Read the full Nerja Travel Guide

Andalucia What To See

Andalucia Top Attractions

1. Alhambra, Granada

An incredible example of Moorish architecture, dating back to the 9th century, the Alhambra is situated in the wonderful city of Granada, in Andalucia. The last time I was in Granada, many bars were still offering free tapas with drinks. The name Alhambra means The Red One.

Spain Alhambra Andalucia travel guide

Alhambra

Listed as a UNESCO site, ts history can be traced back to 889, when a small fortress was constructed, on the site where there had been some Roman fortifications remains.

However, the Alhambra was ignored up until the middle of the 13th century, when the Emirate of Granada, Nasrid emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar, had the palace and walls you can see today, re-built.

Spain Alhambra Generalife Andalucia travel guide

Alhambra Generalife

Its design was themed around the mountainous site, and it has been described as a “pearl set in emeralds” by Moorish poets. Its beautiful park, the Alameda de la Alhambra, was planted with myrtles, oranges and roses.

In my experience, this is possibly Spain’s busiest attraction, so you need to book in advance and still be prepared for queues.

2. Alcázar of Seville, Seville

Another UNESCO site, the Alcázar of Seville was also built by Moorish Muslim kings and is considered to be one of the most beautiful palaces in the country and an incredible example of Mudéjar architecture.

Spain travel guide Seville Alcazar

Seville Alcazar

The Alcázar blends various sections which are attributed to different architectural eras; 11th-12th century Moorish, 13th century Gothic, 14th century Mudéjar and 15th-16th century Renaissance styles. You also need to pre-book your visit online.

3. Cathedral & Giralda, Seville

In 1987, the Giralda was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its construction began in 1184, as a Moorish minaret.

Seville Cathedral Spain holidays

Seville Cathedral

Today it is symbolic of the city, with its remarkable architecture and height, with spectacular views over Seville. Giralda is the bell tower of Seville’s striking Cathedral.

The awe-inspiring Cathedral also has UNESCO status. Seville’s Cathedral is actually the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world. Constructed between 1434 and 1517, inside lies the tomb of Christopher Colombus.

4. Plaza de España, Seville

Another impressive sight in Seville is the Plaza de España, constructed in the Renaissance-neo Moorish style, with some Art Deco elements, which was completed entirely in 1928.

Plaza de Espana Seville Spain

Plaza de Espana Seville

You may recognise it from the Simply Red video of Something Got Me Started. These days the building is mainly home to government buildings.

5. Mosque of Córdoba-Mezquita

An incredibly beautiful structure, the Mezquita of Córdoba is one of the most impressive works of Islamic architecture in the world. The Mosque, along with the rest of the historic centre of Córdoba is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Spain travel guide Cordoba mezquita interior

Cordoba mezquita interior

By Berthold Werner, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The Mezquita has two distinctive areas, which are the praying hall (haram) and the courtyard (arcade sahn). In the Mosque’s interior, there is a wonderful forest of columns, in striking red and white. The five phases of expansions divide the Mosque’s interior into five different areas.

6. Alcazaba of Málaga

Don’t miss this spectacular, hilltop Medieval Moorish palace and fortress, which affords marvellous sea views. Wanders around its stunning, lush gardens, full of fountains.

Alcazaba of Malaga

Alcazaba of Malaga

By Hedwig StorchOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

7. Málaga Cathedral

An iconic sight, which opened in 1782, is the Renaissance style Cathedral of Málaga, with a Baroque façade.

Malaga Cathedral by night

Malaga Cathedral by night

Spain Andalucia most beautiful cities

Andalucia Beautiful Cities

1. Cadiz

Surrounded by water, Cadiz has beaches that seem to go on endlessly. With heaps to trigger all of your senses, Cadiz is filled with intriguing sights and is thought to be the place in Europe that has been continuously inhabited, for the longest time. Full of beauty and character, sea port taverns will ignite your curiosity and delicious, freshly caught seafood will delight your palate.

Cadiz Spain top tourist attractions
  • Cadiz Cathedral
  • Torre de Poniente
  • The Roman Theatre
  • Peña Flamenca La Perla (Friday nights flamenco)

Cadiz Spain beautiful cities Andalucia

Cadiz

Cadiz in the media

Unsung cities: Cadiz – a light less ordinary: The Guardian

Cádiz and the Costa de la Luz: where to stay, eat, drink and more: The Guardian

The world’s 20 oldest cities: The Telegraph

Cadiz travel tips: where to go and what to see in 48 hours: The Independent

Travel guide to Cadiz: CN Traveller

2. Córdoba

Famous for its beautiful patios, filled with wonderful vibrant flowers, Córdoba has been running its Patio Contest, since 1921. In fact, the contest is now UNESCO Heritage of Humanity, and can be enjoyed for around twelve days, in early May. This Córdoban custom began to keep the locals’ homes and patios cooler, in the extremely hot summer weather. It’s a city with an intimate feel that dedicates itself to fun, flowers and flamenco.

With a growing, exciting gastonomic scene, Córdoba is an enchanting city, located on the river Guadalquivir, is dotted with tantalising tapas bars. Many of Córdoba’s most important sights can be explored within walking distance of each other, while you listen to someone playing the Spanish guitar along the way.

Spain travel guide Cordoba Andalucia beautiful cities

Cordoba

Córdoba Spain top tourist attractions
  • Córdoba historic centre (UNESCO)
  • http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/313
  • Córdoba Mezquita
  • Jewish Quarter
  • Alcazar
Córdoba in the media

36 hours in Córdoba: The Telegraph

Córdoba travel tips: where to go and what to see in 48 hours: The Independent

3. Granada

Granada is a beautiful city, buzzing with students and people cramming the bars, every evening to have tapas and drinks. It is still one of the places in Spain, where you are offered tapas for free, when you buy drinks. The more you drink, the better tapas you get!! Of course, it is famous for its UNESCO listed Alhambra, which shouldn’t be missed, but needs to be booked in advance.

Granada is quite possibly the place in Spain where you can most tangibly feel the blend of Spanish and Moorish cultures. Brimming over with culture, this superb city is set against the wonderful mountainous backdrop of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada, where you can go skiing in winter.

Spain travel Granada Spain views

Granada

Granada Spain top tourist attractions
  • Alhambra
  • El Bañuelo
  • Royal Chapel of Granada
  • Parque de las Ciencias (Science Park)
  • Gate of Elvira
  • Casa de Zafra
  • Sacromonte Abbey
  • Museo de Bellas Artes de Granada (Fine Art Museum)
Granada in the media

Travel guide to Granada: CN Traveller

Lorca’s Granada: following in the footsteps of Spain’s murdered poet: The Independent

Why your next city break should be to Granada: The Telegraph

4. Jerez de la Frontera

Quintessentially Andalusian, Jerez de la Frontera is home to flamenco, sherry, beautiful horses and wonderful food and culture. Oozing with history of over three thousand years, the city’s old centre is considered to be a National site of artistic and historic importance. Architecturally, Jerez de la Frontera boasts lovely Andalusian houses and some fine noble palaces. One of its highlights is its Alcazar.

Visiting the city’s wine cellars is a must while there, to understand this part of Jerez de la Frontera’s heritage and the sherry making process. Or if you want to take it to a higher level, you could go along to a sherry cooking class. Your teacher will be Javier Muñoz, the top chef of La Carboná

Jerez Alcazar Spain's most beautiful cities

Alcazar of Jerez de la Frontera

If you are someone who happily travels out of the main season, the city’s Flamenco Festival is normally on in late February.

Jerez de la Frontera Spain top tourist attractions
  • Plaza del Arenal
  • Alcazar de Jerez
  • Circuito de Jerez
  • Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art
Jerez de la Frontera in the media

Jerez: what to see, plus the best music, hotels, restaurants and tapas bars: The Guardian

In Spain’s Jerez de la Frontera, flamenco zambombas make a comeback: El Pais

Best hotels in Jerez de la Frontera: The Telegraph

5. Málaga : See the Málaga Travel Overview
6. Seville

Although I have no desire to live in a city, as I’m much happier surrounded by olive trees and animals, if I had to choose one, it could easily be Seville; the capital of Andalucia. For me, it was love at first sight, when I visited for the first time, in 2002, in November. I remember the aroma of oranges wafting through the air, and a climate that even at that time of year, was quite different to my hometown of Dublin. The Sevillanos are all about fiestas, flamenco and horses. The city is steeped in magnificent architecture; it is arguably the heart of Andalucia, although there are other city dwellers who may claim this title for their city.

Seville Spain's most beautiful cities

Seville

I adore the old quarter of Seville, for me it is like wow, as I turn around another corner, with its remarkable highlights; the Cathedral, Giralda and Alcazar. On top of this, it has such a friendly, safe feeling, with a great atmosphere. Seville is colourful, stylish and vibrant; a place where smart business people are spotted one moment, and the next a funky bohemian. Seville has some super shopping, as well….verging on the dangerous, in my humble opinion!

However, if you don’t like it too hot, Seville is best avoided in July and August. To see Easter Week in Seville is something else, or alternatively, two weeks after Easter, another good time to visit, with often pleasant temperatures and the Seville Fair is taking place. For me, Seville is wonderful any time of year, with the exception of July and August, when even a sun-worshipper like myself, is not enjoying dripping with sweat in the forty plus celsius degrees.

Seville Spain top tourist attractions
  • Alcázar of Seville
  • Cathedral & Giralda
  • Plaza de España
  • Maria Luisa Park
  • Maestranza
  • Casa de Pilators
  • Metropol Parasol
  • General Archive of the Indies
  • Palace of the Countess of Lebrija
  • La Alameda
  • Flamenco Dance Museum
Seville in the media

A weekend break in…Seville: The Telegraph

Seville city guide: what to do plus the best hotels, restaurants and bars

Seville city guide: What to do on a weekend break to the Andalusian capital: The Independent

Spain Andalucia most beautiful cities

Andalucia National Parks

1. Sierra Nevada National Park

I have fond memories of my very sad skiing attempts in the Sierra Nevada! What is absolutely amazing about the Sierra Nevada, is that you could be staying somewhere on the Costa del Sol and head there for a day-trip as I did, and come back later to see people on the beach. I was living in Nerja when I went to the Sierra Nevada, and this was such an amazing experience.

spain travel sierra nevada andalucia

Sierra Nevada National Park

The Sierra Nevada is blessed with gorgeous valleys, amazing peaks and fabulous hiking. The park covers an area of 850 km2 going south of Granada and into Almeria, making it Spain’s largest National Park. It was declared a National Park on 14th January 1999.

The range of scenery is spectacular, with pine forests and lush valleys that at times melt into barren mountain-scapes. The light in itself is superb, and on a clear day you may even be able to spot Morocco. If you happen to visit on a Thursday, head to Órgiva, where there’s a fun hippy market.

The flora and fauna are especially interesting as during the last Ice Age, numerous species moved south to avoid the colder climes. The Ibex goat can be spotted around the Sierra Nevada, as can wildcats, wild boars, badgers and martens. Birds native to the park include Golden Eagles, Bonelli’s Eagles, Eurasian Owl Eagles, Little Owls. Common Kestrels, Ortolans and Red-legged Partridges. Over 2100 plant species have been documented in the park. 

Sierra Nevada ibex

Sierra Nevada ibex

2. Doñana National Park

The Doñana National Park runs between the provinces of Huelva and Seville, covering a total area of 543 km2. It has a great diversity of biotypes, such as mobile and fixed dunes, lagoons, and marshlands. It became a National Park in 1969, and was subsequently enlarged in 1978. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The park has two major ecosystems; vast salt marshes and Mediterranean scrub-land and pine forests. The landscape consists of beautiful flat lands and has 38 km of beautiful beaches.

Spain travel Donana national park wetlands

Donana national park wetlands

CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

In terms of flora and fauna, there are some special treats in store for you here, one of my personal favourites being the Iberian Lynx. It is a last refuge for a range of endangered bird species, as well as being a crucial crossroads for their migration, on the routes that run between Europe and Africa. In the park, there are around three-hundred different species. Of these around one-hundred and thirty breed regularly in the Doñana National park. Keep your eyes open to spot Iberian lynx, amphibians, reptiles, freshwater fish and invertebrates.

This definitive Spain travel and holidays guide is
….brought to you by top bloggers, tour guides & the author, Jackie De Burca

How this guide was written

The Travel Inspires Spain collaborative travel and holidays guide has been co-ordinated and partially written by Jackie De Burca, author of Salvador Dalí at Home, who has been living in Spain since 2003.

Guadalest Spain Gorgeous Views

Guadalest Spain

She has collaborated with lots of great travel bloggers and tour guides to bring you the most comprehensive, lively information, packed with super tips from these talented creatives. Some of these writers are also living in Spain, so they bring you wonderful insider information, whereas others are savvy bloggers, with the knack of sniffing out some of the best places to go! And the tour guides, as you can imagine, know these places like the back of their hands.

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