We spent exactly eight weeks in Andalucia, six of those we were based in a town on Costa del Sol, called Torremolinos, near Malaga. From our base here we traveled to Malaga, Mijas, Fuengirola, Gibraltar, Cordoba, Ronda, and Granada. We split the remaining two weeks between Jerez de la Frontera and Tarifa. From Jerez, we visited Sevilla and Cadiz on day trips. So, one thing we had for sure: time and flexibility. Well, that makes two.
For a grand loop like this, you would need two weeks proper. If you have less time, that’s why possibly you are reading this post, here are my quick tips to help you decide:
- Walk in the pages of a fairy tale in Granada (minimum 2 days, better 3)
- Discover the Tomb of Christopher Columbus in Sevilla (1 day for major attractions sufficient)
- Trace the footsteps of Hemingway in Ronda (half-day with an overnight stay)
Nice to visit
- Discover Mecca (Cordoba) in Spain (a half or a full day without overnight)
- Indulge yourself in Sherry wine, tapas, and flamenco in Jerez de la Frontera (1 day with overnight)
- Swim in the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean on the same day in Tarifa (as long as you can).
- Take a step into history in Gibraltar, UK (a minimum of 4 hours)
- Mijas and other white villages
- Malaga & Costa del Sol
- Bullfighting shows
- Horse dance show at the Royal Riding School, Jerez de la Frontera
- Bear in mind that Andalucia is always busy. Weatherwise, the best season would be between March – June, and September – November.
- Buy tickets online ahead of time. We bought Alhambra tickets 10 days prior to our visit in November 2019. The line for Alcazar in Sevilla was quick-moving and Cathedral had no waiting time though.
Don’t forget to check out the calendar of festivals and carnivals before you go. Some of the highlights are:
April – Feria de Abril in Sevilla
May – Fiesta Los Patios in Cordoba
February – Cadiz Carnival in Cadiz
June – Music and Dance Festival in Granada (at the Alhamra Palace)
December – Zambombas in Jerez de la Frontera
The most beautiful city in Andalucia is in our humble opinion, Granada. The city has a captivating charm, set aside the stunning Alhambra. Visiting Granada is like walking in the pages of a fairy tale, a dream!
|Granada literally means “pomegranate” in Spanish, and is the symbol of the city.|
Although we liked Jerez de la Frontera more than Sevilla, we understand it’s probably just us. Sevilla is a nice European city, and if you base yourself here you could visit Cordoba and Ronda on day trips easily, and then still enjoy the nightlife of Sevilla.
We couldn’t visit all the white villages in Andalucia, but Ronda is a must. We recommend coming in the late afternoon, staying overnight, and leaving by lunch the next day before the day-trippers arrive. By spending a romantic night in Ronda, you can best enjoy the town and avoid the day-trippers. It is a charming town with plenty to offer for a day.
If you are short on time and debating to skip a place, this could be Cordoba. Though nice, the aforementioned cities are nicer. Cordoba has the Mezquita (Mosque-Cathedral), but I was personally underwhelmed.
Jerez de la Frontera
For an authentic Andalucian experience, head over to Jerez de la Frontera and indulge yourself in Sherry wine, tapas, and flamenco. Jerez is easily reachable from Sevilla by train (55 mins, about 10 EUR pp/way), so it makes for a great day trip (or a base as in our case).
Tarifa is the southernmost point of continental Europe where you can see the mountains and city lights across the water in Morocco. Tarifa is not overdeveloped as the resort towns on the Costa del Sol. No high-rise buildings, no beachfront souvenir shops, bars, or restaurants side by side, but instead pure nature. A haven for outdoor sports and nature lovers with plenty of activities on offer, such as kite surfing, windsurfing, hiking, mountain biking, scuba diving, horse riding, skateboarding, whale watching.
Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory, is really interesting and worthwhile if you have no visa issues. You’ll need 4-6 hours to visit ‘the Rock’ of Gibraltar. While you can take the cable car or a taxi from the town to the summit of the Rock, the best way to explore the Upper Rock Nature Reserve is on foot. It’s easy to find the pedestrian path. You’ll walk past all the attractions like the WWII Tunnels, and the wild apes of Gibraltar: Barbary macaques. Be aware: they are cheeky!
We visited Cadiz en route to Tarifa coming from Jerez. Nothing special here in Europe’s oldest city. Jerez is much more authentic. Cadiz is famous for its Carnaval, which might make a stop worthwhile, but otherwise, don’t waste your time.
Mijas had no wow effect on us, but still, it was a nice day out with the white sea of houses, on one hand, the blue sea of Mediterranean on the other, a maze of cute little streets, opportunity to rock climb, and the last remaining donkey taxis complete with a number plate.
Malaga & Costa del Sol
We spent most of our time in this region of Andalucia, but if you’re a first-timer, rest assured you won’t miss much by skipping this area.
|Andalucia is home to cork oak trees and you’ll find everywhere souvenirs made out of cork.|
Of course, there is a lot more to Andalucia than mentioned above. Did you know you can even go skiing in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Andalucia? Such an insanely diverse region it is. So, depending on your time and interests you may want to allot more time for a place. Are you a rock climber? Then you would want to visit Mijas and Ronda and possibly spend more time in the natural parks. Are you a wind-/kite surfer? Tarifa is your place. Whatever your preferences are, don’t try to cover too much ground much too thinly and end up seeing next-to-nothing.
Please bear in mind that by no means I am an expert on the aforementioned places, but I am a seasoned traveler who has set foot on six continents and visited countless cities, palaces, world wonders, whatsoever. Your personal preferences might be different than mine, so take my advice with caution and feel free to shoot any questions you might have.