Andalucia - Warmth, Colour and Culture
If you find yourself in need of a change of scenery, new experiences and an enjoyable, relaxing break, you can jump on a short flight from the UK to Southern Spain. A whole new dimension of the country awaits you there: Andalucía, a region thriving with culture and history. Arriving at Malaga Airport, an entire tour of the region can take you from one Parador to another, one fascinating city to the next.
Situated on the tip of Southern Spain, Malaga is undoubtedly one of Andalucía’s most prominent coastal cities. Its gastronomy has been greatly impacted by its proximity to the Mediterranean and the availability of fresh seafood. Similarly, the city makes the most of the richness of its natural environment and is bordered by several nature reserves in which the abundant flora and fauna of the region can prosper. One of the oldest cities in Europe, Malaga’s numerous historical monuments also enhance the beauty of its landscape. The Alcazaba, a fortress built on a small hill in the 11th century, seems to dominate the entire city and some of the best views in Malaga can be admired from the terraces of this stunning historical landmark. The city also owes its reputation to the Picasso Museum honouring the accomplished artist who was born there in 1881.
Places of Interest:
• Gibralfaro Castle
• Natural Park Montes de Malaga
• Plaza de la Merced
• Cervantes Theatre
• Museum Casa Natal de Picasso
Malaga is home to two different Paradors, strategically placed across the city. The Parador de Malaga Gibralfaro is the closest to the centre and therefore allows an easy access to Malaga’s best-known historical monuments, while the Parador de Malaga Golf is closer to the airport and some of the city’s beautiful beaches. From there, we would recommend working your way inland which provides a different, but equally thrilling travel experience.
Only an hour’s drive away from Malaga, Antequera (nicknamed ‘the heart of Andalusia’) stands at a crossing point between all the major cities of the region and embodies some of the most fascinating features of Spanish culture. With its numerous churches and convents, the city displays a few of the best samples of religious architecture the region can offer. El Carmen church is especially outstanding due to the combined Baroque and Mannerist style of its interior. Folkloric dances are an important aspect of Antequera’s cultural heritage, and are usually paired with traditional songs. The Blues Festival which takes place in the summer months demonstrates the harmony between the tradition and modernity which echoes in the city. For adventurous travellers in search of a unique connection with Andalucía’s natural environment, the Lobo Park or ‘Wolf Park’ allows daring visitors to have a close look at Timber, European, Iberian and Polar wolves.
Places of interest:
• Church Real Colegiata de Santa María la Mayor
• Palace of Najera
• The Alcazaba Fortress
• El Torcal de Antequera Nature Reserve
You can also admire the vibrant landscape surrounding Antequera from one its Parador's multiple terraces. The four-star hotel, with its practical location between the region’s endless plains and the city centre, is undoubtedly among the best accommodation Antequera has to offer. To continue the tour of Andalucía’s most iconic cities, a stop at Granada also seems unavoidable.
As a place particularly marked by its tumultuous history, today Granada hosts a variety of different monuments, the most emblematic of which being the Alhambra, a ‘palace city’ declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. The Alhambra is without doubt one of the most visited landmarks in Spain. It displays a perfect blend of different architectural styles, conforming to its evolution over several centuries, and boasts an ingenuous use of light and water as decorative elements. In addition to visiting this legendary monument, it is worth walking through the picturesque maze of narrow streets composing Granada’s historical neighbourhoods. From witnessing a Flamenco performance in the caves of the Sacromonte district to enjoying a refreshing drink on the welcoming terraces of Albayzin, the old Arab Quarter, Granada provides an array of different cultural activities which will make your stay simply unforgettable.
Places of interest:
• Alhambra and Generalife Gardens
• The cathedral of Granada
• Granada Science Park
• The Plaza Nueva
• Banuelo Arab Baths
And what would be better to fully enjoy the charm of this fascinating city than to stay at the Parador de Granada which enables travellers to experience the city to the full by giving them an opportunity to stay within the grounds of the Alhambra Palace. The unique experience of a night spent inside one of Spain’s most famous historical monument could be the high point of your journey through Andalucía. The region however has many more enticing aspects to show, so let’s change direction and go further north to explore yet another beautiful city, Cordoba.
The city of Cordoba, with its remarkable historic and artistic legacy, is one of Spain’s most treasured secrets. The Old Town, which entered the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1994, is filled with impressive architectural monuments and charming cobbled streets. With numerous restaurants serving delicious local cuisine and a plethora of museums at hand, Cordoba delights every traveller and provides an exceptional cultural experience. The Guadalquivir River is also central to Cordoba and contributes greatly to its stunning architectural landscape, with several magnificent bridges connecting the different parts of the city. Several parks adorned with flowers and fountains also participate in Cordoba’s undeniable charm. The city’s welcoming atmosphere is particularly vivid in May, when three different festivals take place in the course of the month, each involving regional food, traditional music and floral decoration contests.
Places of interest:
• The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba
• The gardens in the Alcazar de los Reynes Cristianos
• The Madinat Al Zahara Museum
• The Roman Bridge over the Guadalquivir River
• Calleja de las Flores (“The Flower Street”)
The Parador de Cordoba, with its luxury facilities and green surroundings, provides an excellent resting place in between two cities, or is in itself a very enjoyable resort in which to spend a couple of days.
Only 140 kilometres away from Cordoba is Sevilla, the next stop on our tour of the ever-inspiring region of Andalucía.
The largest city in Southern Spain, Sevilla is a vibrant city with an incredibly rich history. The Old Town alone contains three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and architectural wonders seem to appear at every corner of every street. Whether one decides to row a boat on the impressive Plaza de España and admire the mixture of styles composing it, or wander through one of the city’s multiple museums, there always seems to be cultural artefacts to discover in Sevilla. Renowned to be one of the hottest cities in Europe, with temperatures soaring up to an average of 35 degree in the summer, Sevilla also provides the traveller with a number of parks in which to find some shade and rest. One of the key features to explore in Sevilla remains its gastronomy, and especially the traditional tapas which originated in the region. Made with a variety of ingredients, tapas can satisfy everyone’s tastes and gather both family and friends for an evening of pure Spanish delight.
Places of interest:
• The Royal Alcazar
• The Cathedral of Seville
• The Archives of the Indies
• The Museum of Arts and Tradition
• The Parque de Maria Luisa
Whilst there are no Paradors in Sevilla itself, the Parador de Carmona is only a thirty minutes’ drive away from the city. Set in an ancient medieval fortress, including this Parador in your route will add an extra touch of charm and history to your journey across Southern Spain. From Sevilla, you can then travel down to Cadiz for a refreshing breeze of Atlantic air.
Almost entirely surrounded by water, Cadiz is the definition of a perfect coastal city. It stands dramatically on the tip of a peninsula, and due to this extraordinary location, Cadiz’s maritime tradition prevails throughout the city and manifests itself in both the gastronomy and architecture. The most prominent architectural landmark would probably be the Cathedral Nueva which seems to dominate the entire city with its dome of golden tiles, reflecting the burning Andalusian sun. Cadiz is home to several galleries celebrating the multifaceted artistic heritage of the region. The Museum of Cadiz however remains one of the main cultural attractions: this institution resulted from a merger of the Provincial Museum of Fine Arts with the Provincial Museum of Archaeology. For those travellers who enjoy the heat of sandy beaches, Cadiz is bordered by a beautiful sea shore from which to observe the boundless horizon.
Places of interest:
• Plaza de San Francisco and its Church
• Playa de la Victoria
• The Casa del Almirante (The Admiral’s House)
• The exhibitions inside Castillo de Santa Catalina
• The Roman Theatre
Located on the peninsula, in the Old Quarter, the Parador de Cadiz distinguishes itself by its modernity and the breath-taking views of the Atlantic.
The Parador de Ronda, which is only 150 kilometres away from Cadiz, also boasts spectacular views of a different genre, opening its windows on the green scenery of inland Spain.
Overlooking a 100 meter high canyon named El Tajo, Ronda is known for the unusual geography and the landscapes surrounding the city. Three bridges over the canyon participate in Ronda’s architectural peculiarity, and connect the different parts of this city which seems to float above ground. The oldest bullfighting ring of Spain, Plaza de Toros de Ronda, is a must-see for any visitors interested in a full immersion into Spanish traditions. Once a year, it hosts the Corrida Goyesca, an ageless type of corrida in which the torero wears specific historical costumes. Famous writers and intellectuals including the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles and Rainer Maria Rilke have stayed in Ronda and praised the city’s unique beauty, which contributed greatly to Ronda’s international reputation.
Places of interest:
• The Puente Nuevo (The New Bridge)
• The Church of Santa Maria la Mayor
• La Ciudad, the old Moorish Citadel
• The Paseo de Blas Infante, connecting the Paseo Welles to the Paseo Hemingway
Only an hour and half’s drive will take you back from Ronda to Malaga Airport, where you can embark on a direct flight to the UK almost daily. Thus closes our tour of Andalucía, an impressive region full of charm, culture, history, colour and the undeniable warmth of both Spanish weather and local population.
Malaga: "Da Gibralfaro" by Kiban - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Da_Gibralfaro.jpg#/media/File:Da_Gibralfaro.jpg
Antequera: "Antequera View" by Ingo Mehling - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Antequera_View.jpg#/media/File:Antequera_View.jpg
Granada: "Alhambra evening panorama Mirador San Nicolas sRGB-1" by Slaunger - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Alhambra_evening_panorama_Mirador_San_Nicolas_sRGB-1.jpg#/media/File:Alhambra_evening_panorama_Mirador_San_Nicolas_sRGB-1.jpg
Cordoba: "Roman Bridge, Córdoba, Espana" by James (Jim) Gordon - originally posted to Flickr as Roman Bridge, Córdoba, Espana. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Roman_Bridge,_C%C3%B3rdoba,_Espana.jpg#/media/File:Roman_Bridge,_C%C3%B3rdoba,_Espana.jpg