The province of Andalusia in Spain (also called Andalucia) is a fascinating land, with a tumultuous but flourishing past. Its identity is rooted in its history. Thus, since the early 19th century, Andalusia has attracted many travelers and intellectuals, fascinated by the country’s oriental atmosphere and architecture, such as the Alhambra.
Here are 10 tips to help you understand the Al Andalus personality. This travel guide to Andalucia will help you make the most out of your trip.
1. Visit Andalusia and discover its glorious past
The invasion of the Iberian Peninsula by the Moors in 711 led to a deep transformation of culture, architecture, gastronomy and of a certain lifestyle that characterizes Andalusia today. Similarly, the re-conquest of the territory by the Christian Kings marked a cultural break whose fabulous heritage can be seen in major cities in this part of Spain.
Many guides will help you better understand the past influence on the current daily life, including the Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving. This book presents many sketches of the Alhambra Palace as it was discovered in the 18th century. It also describes how it was rescued from abandonment by the author, a diplomat and a traveler of the early 19th century. These tales are really fascinating and will enrich your visit of Andalusia.
2. Book well in advance
Many visitors coming from around the world visit Andalusia, the attractive region in the South of Spain. Lodging and many visits must be anticipated and booked several weeks in advance, especially if you want to stay in the historical heart of major cities. Same precaution is required for the visit of the Alhambra (Nasrid Palace), magnificent Moorish fortress of Granada. There are several types of tours (guided, personal, special) but because so many people come here, the available places are often exhausted several weeks before the tour date. What’s the use to travel to Andalucia if you can’t visit the Alhambra? !
Consult our tip to get a ticket to the Alhambra when everything seems hopeless.
3. Prepare to be amazed by the architectural heritage
The architectural wealth of many cities and of some villages explains Andalusia’s past splendor through ages. While visiting Andalusia, you will discover many fortresses, churches and cathedrals, palaces and other buildings:
– on the footsteps of the Almohades : the Alhambra and the Generalife in Granada, the Giralda and Alcazar of Seville, the Medina Azahara of Cordoba.
– on the footsteps of the Catholic Kings : the Seville Cathedral, the largest gothic building in the world, the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, the beautiful Royal Chapel of Granada.
– And so many others…All these places to visit are really worth a trip to Andalucia.
4. Stroll in the popular districts
The Andalusian cities should be discovered on foot, without no specific route, to better feel the atmosphere and enjoy the quaint charm of the streets. Andalusia was deeply marked by different populations that occupied the Iberian Peninsula. Muslims, Jews and Christians have built historic districts. For example, lose yourself in the picturesque alleys of the Albayzin, former Muslim district of Granada, in the Santa Cruz district of Seville or in the Jewish Quarter of Cordoba.
5. Taste the tapas
Visit Andalusia and treat yourself with delicious cuisine. It is famous for its typical Mediterranean dishes accompanied by one of the best olive oils in the world. In addition, the Spanish like to go to bars and drink a glass of andalusian wines (sherry, manzanilla). They eat tapas, these appetizers the size of a dish. They are often composed of smoked meat slices, olives, tomatoes, grilled vegetables, shrimps, ox tail and shared among the guests. “Tapear” (drink in a bar), is a typical way of life that need to be discovered during a trip to Andalucia. Check out the small cafe-bars, frequented by locals.
6. Attend a flamenco show
Music, dance and guitar are part of Andalusian identity. Hence, a visit to Andalucia should include attending a flamenco show, and dive into the Andalusian atmosthere. They are offered everywhere in the South of Spain, especially in Seville. Ask the Tourist Board of the town you visit to recommend a good tablao, the place where flamenco shows are performed.
We went to the renowned “tablao”, Los Gallos, in Seville, after having bought our tickets directly on site the same day.
7. Celebrate and dance !
Nothing is better than to celebrate and share emotions during your trip. This is great because the cultural and festive calendar of the Andalusian cities is very busy. Religious holidays (Easter), music festivals, horse shows, bullfights, the festival in the patios of Cordoba are all eagerly expected by the locals. The people here do not turn in at nightfall !
8. Discover the white villages
Visit Andalusia and get out of the cities! These charming villages, are places to visit and enjoy. In the heart of exceptional natural sites, they are perched on hillsides. Their architecture reveals their Muslim origin: houses traditionally whitewashed, narrow winding streets, patios and flowered balconies, red-tiled roofs. The villages also have beautiful churches and fortresses dating back to the Moorish period, as Zuheros. This beautiful white village is located in the foothills of the Sierras Subbeticas Natural Park.
9. Explore the profound nature of natural parks
Due to the geographical position of Andalusia and to its climate, the parks of this region are truly sumptuous. They offer an exceptional flora and fauna, breathtaking landscapes and attract all nature lovers and hikers. This region is home of the notorious Sierra Nevada National Park and also of many nature parks.
We hiked in the Sierras Subbeticas Natural Park, on the banks of the Canyon de Bailon, a wonderful off the beaten path trail. Potholing lovers can see natural caves, some of which are home to paintings dating from the Neolithic period.
10. Freshen up in Summer
In July and August temperatures in Andalucia can be scorching, often reaching 104 F°. But the region offers nearly 400 miles of coastline, including many beautiful beaches. Prefer small creeks off the beaten track, often located in protected natural parks.
A trip to Andalusia is a great adventure. Live like Andalusians do !