Andalucía is one of Spain’s most popular regions to visit. Travelers love it because it is beautiful, has many sites, and just so Spanish. It is no wonder that I have handcrafted many Andalucía travel itineraries for my clients. Since Andalucía is so large and there is so much there, it is hard to pick just a few highlights. Luckily, I am an expert. Andalucia really is my favorite region to explore in Spain, and I’ve explored it in-depth both off and on the beaten path.
Here are six of my handpicked Andalucía travel highlights both on and off the beaten path.
Seville, or in Spanish Sevilla, is the capital of the Andalucía region as well as its largest city. Sevilla is worthy of a few days on your Andalucia itinerary. Spain’s largest cathedral is in the center of the city – make sure to climb the bell tower for beautiful views of Sevilla. Nearby, the Alcázar showcases some of the country’s best tile work and Mudéjar style architecture. It was built by the Catholic monarch, but to mimic Moorish style architecture. You can take a virtual trip all around Spain at Plaza de España, built for the Ibero-American Exposition, this plaza is lined with benches that pay homage to each individual region of Spain. For something different head across the river to the Triana neighborhood and visit the ceramics shops and market. A great spot for tapas and nightlife is the Alameda de Hércules, lined with cafes, bars, and restaurants. For a great (and off the beaten path) Sevilla day trip, you might want to consider renting a car and heading to the Sierra de Aracena.
The short coastline in Granada province is called the Costa Tropical. And for good reason. Parts of that area look like they could be in Hawaii. Less popular than Costa del Sol, the beach towns of the Costa Tropical are best visited in offseason, but when it is still warm. The beaches can be very pleasant until late October in certain years. Nerja is the standout of the Costa Tropical. From there, you can take a bus up to Frigiliana, one of Spain’s most beautiful whitewashed pueblos. If you have a car, you can get off the beaten path and explore the hidden beaches on the Costa Tropical.
Los Pueblos Blancos
The whitewashed villages are spread out in the provinces of Cádiz and Málaga. Ronda is the most popular, with its “new” bridge (Puente Nuevo) and stunning views down the gorge. But towns such as Grazalema, Olvera, Setenil de las Bodegas, and Gaucín all deserve a stop as well. Make sure to sample the local Payoyo cheese, which comes from sheep in the Sierra de Grazalema. If you do rent a car, the town of Grazalema makes for a charming overnight stop if you have a few days to explore the area. The town’s Gastrobar La Maroma has some of the best food I’ve ever had in all of Spain. There are basic day trips to Ronda with short stops in some of the other pueblos from Sevilla. But I highly recommend renting a car and exploring this area on your own.
Often simply a quick stopover as it’s on the way from Madrid to Seville, Córdoba deserves at least an overnight stop at minimum. The city’s highlight is the Mezquita (mosque), built by the Moors, but taken over by the Catholics, the Islamic style arches are breathtaking. A climb to the top of the bell tower is also worth it. Córdoba is a pleasant town for a stroll. In fact, the entire center is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Wander around and get lost in the streets of the Judería. You will quickly fall in love with Córdoba’s charm. Every May, Córdoba hosts la Fiesta de los Patios (the festival of patios), where locals open the patios in their homes for the public to see. There is even a contest for the best patio. It’s my favorite festival in all of Spain. If you are as obsessed with Moorish architecture as I am, you have to go!
One of Andalucia’s lesser-known provinces, Jaén is most famous for its olive oil. The postcard picture of the capital city, Jaén is just that. A beautiful cathedral with the backdrop of olive trees. Aside from being the World Capital of Olive Oil (yes, really), Jaén has some of Spain’s best nature. The Sierra de Cazorla area is a natural park great for hiking. It is the largest protected area in Spain. And if small towns are your jam as they are mine, you can’t skip Úbeda and Baeza, two towns with impressive Renaissance architecture. There are fairly regular buses to and from Granada, but a car gives you the chance to really explore the province in-depth.
It is no secret that I am obsessed with Granada. When my personal friends and family come to visit me in Spain for the first time, it is where I take all of them. Off the beaten path, it is not. But Granada is as marvelous as everyone says it is. It 100% should be included on your Andalucía itinerary (and for much more than a day trip). Of course, there is the Alhambra, which always tops the list of best Islamic architecture in the whole world. Seeing the Alhambra requires planning in advance, and there are so many strategies for getting the most out of it that I share with my clients. But Granada is so much more than the Alhambra. Take time to get lost in the streets, stress-free in the old Moorish neighborhood, the Albaizyn. Go cozy up next to locals in a crowded tapas bar on Calle Nevas any night of the week (psst- Granada is famous for its free tapas which are the most generous free tapas in Spain. You can even tour the childhood home of famous Spanish poet Francisco García Lorca. Set in the mountains, many agree that Granada is Spain’s most beautiful city. It is a must for your Andalucia travels.
Here is my insider guide for a perfect Granada itinerary in three days.
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Let me help put your perfect Andalucía travel itinerary together. Based in Madrid and with nearly 20 years in the professional travel industry, my passion is handcrafting Spain itineraries for travelers who want to discover Spain off the beaten path. Please use the form on this page to contact me.
My name is Karen & travel is not only my passion but also my profession.