Soñando Sunday: Andalucía
Andalucía is located in the south of Spain and associated with many of the “most stereotypically Spanish” things you can think of—polka dotted sevillana dresses, flamenco music, picturesque white villages overlooking the water, and a fair share of ferias. Of course, there is much more to Andalucía than what the stereotypes define; still, all of these aspects paint a pretty good picture of the sunny, more laid-back lifestyle you’re likely to find in this region. Andalucía is also important historically and maintains many of the most important landmarks of the Moorish rule in Spain (al-Ándalus, 711-1492).
How to get there: Plane, bus, train, or car
While Andalucía is rather well-connected by bus and, between some cities, by train (currently excluding, for example, Granada as it the train station has been under construction for years), it can often be difficult to find direct, quick, and economical transport to other regions or abroad. Andalucia.com lists six airports in Andalucía, but Sevilla and Málaga are honestly the most useful in terms of availability of cost-effective flights. Renting a car is not a bad idea if you want to cover a lot of ground in this region, especially along the coast where bus rides can get long and sticky.
Three Cities to See:
1. Sevilla: As the capital of the region, it would be a pity to miss this beautiful city on the river. Be sure to check out the Cathedral and its famous Giralda tower, the Plaza de España and its beautifully tiled walls that pay homage to every province of Spain, and the mushroom-shaped Metropol Parasol. If you like the quaint winding roads of a small town paired with a plethora of sightseeing and entertainment options, this is the city for you!
2. Málaga: Often overlooked as simply a place to fly in or out of, Málaga actually has a lot to offer and you can easily fill your days visiting the art museums (the city was Picasso’s childhood home), exploring history in the Fortress and Castle of Gibralfaro, or kicking back on the beach. The city is also well-connected with bus and train lines to many other beach towns along the Costa del Sol and would serve as a good “home base” for day trips.
3. Granada: I promise we’re not just biased, Granada truly is one of the places you just have to visit to understand the charm of! Not only will you be enchanted by the palaces of the Alhambra and Generalife gardens but all of the simple wonders of the city, from the Paseo de los Tristes to getting lost in the Albaicín neighborhood, are sure to take your breath away. If you have a little extra time, explore the caves of Sacromonte and see an authentic flamenco performance.
Two things to do in nature
1. The mountains: There’s nothing quite like the beautiful juxtaposition of the snow-covered mountains and sunny beaches that you can find in Andalucía! In the winter time, you can enjoy skiing, snowboarding, and sledding in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Granada and throughout the rest of the year you can explore the many hiking and biking trails. Some of my favorites include those in the Alpujarras (near Granada), Cazorla National Park (northeast of Jaén), and the Caminito del Rey route (near Málaga). Be mindful of the very hot weather in the summer in this region—the heart of the summer might not be the best time for some of these options.
2. The beaches: The Costa del Sol region that includes places like Málaga, Marbella, and Nerja is considered to be the most popular touristic area of Spain and you can find evidence of this in the cities that cater to its English-speaking crowd. For a less crowded (and perhaps more authentically Spanish) experience don’t be afraid to branch out into some of the beautiful beaches you can find along the coast of Almería.
One thing to eat: Tapas
The tapas culture you can find in this region is excellent! These small plates of food allow you to taste-test a wider range of delicious Spanish dishes and is special treat in Andalucía where many towns/cities, most notably Granada, will provide free tapas. Of course, the counterargument that these tapas aren’t ‘free’ as you may be paying a bit more for your beverage in Granada than Ronda, for example, may be true but there’s something victorious about being able to expect to eat without having to order off the menu. Still, in places that do not offer free tapas you can easily fill your tummy on a limited budget ordering tapas.
One thing to drink: Gazpacho andaluz
Granted, you would probably (properly) consider this tomato-based dish to be a soup. However, in the hot summer when gazpacho is most popular, it is often served in a cup as a first course of a menu lunch or as a mid-afternoon snack. I know the presentation should not change the experience so much, but I was definitely caught off-guard the first time I had gazpacho served to me like a beverage! However, I highly recommend you try this enjoyably refreshing option.