For my birthday, I asked for one thing: a trip. Jacob granted me my wish: a weekend anywhere I wanted (within reason). I had visited Spain during my first backpacking trip years ago and regretted not leaving Seville to see more of Andalucia. Luckily, Jacob had never been to Spain before and it was easy to sell him on tapas and Rioja. More tips for a road trip in Andalucia and the best places to visit in Andalucia Spain!
Reasons to visit Andalucia
- Gorgeous beaches
- Unspoiled white towns in the mountains
- Incredible mountains
- Historic cities and palaces
- Scenic drives through small, charming Spanish towns
- Great hiking (and via ferrata) in unspoiled landscapes with minimal tourists
If you’re also obsessed with tapas, Rioja, and the natural beauty, I recommend seeing Andalucia. It’s just as charming as its big sister cities (Madrid and Barcelona) although it’s much calmer withstanding the busy Costa del Sol.
You can fly into either Seville or Malaga for a low price using a number of budget airlines from within the EU: Transavia (from the Netherlands), Easyjet (EU), Ryanair (EU), Vueling (major cities EU), and Wizzair (Eastern Europe). Outside of the EU, it might be cheaper to fly into Southern Spain via Barcelona, Lisbon, or another European hub.
Getting to Andalucia
Malaga is much more urban than I expected and reminded me more of Madrid with its great museums, many cities, and fantastic tapas bars. It didn’t feel touristy, even in the most central points of the city, which was a nice change from Amsterdam.
We didn’t spend too much time there, however if you can wander into a nice plaza, it’s really relaxing to sit outside snacking on patatas bravas while drinking fresh-made sangria. It is where Picasso is from, so you can visit the museum there if you’re a modern art lover.
Although a lot of people tend to go car-less or simply stick to the Costa Del Sol, I highly recommend renting a car…and hiding your valuables (more about this later). The major cities of Andalucia aren’t that far apart (maybe 1-2 hours) and the drive is stunning.
Some parts remind me more of Texas than Spain due to the dryness of the landscape although I loved all the incredible/strange rock formations. (Shown: La Peña de
We first drove to Granada. When I was in Seville, I had visited the Alcázar and I had heard about how incredible the Alhambra in Granada was. However, I had been sick as well as tired from constantly walking in 100F degree heat in August, so I never got there. This time, I did, which only made me appreciate it more, partially due to Jacob’s explanation about the 13 forms of symmetry (more on Baez’s blog) that you will find in the walls of the Alhambra, which has been an inspiration for many mathematicians and M.C. Escher himself.
Parking and driving in Granada
We stayed in a cozy studio with an incredible view of the Alhambra on Calle Horno del Oro where we had a great studio to ourselves.
For visiting the Alhambra, book as soon as possible. Only a limited number of people can see the Palacios Nazaríes daily and you must commit to a time. I was not one of these people although the Alhambra is still exquisite. I loved the Water Stairwell, the incredibly delicate handiwork of the buildings, and the beautiful gardens. It’s a gigantic complex worth exploring.
Enough of the Alhambra! After we wandered around the Arab quarter, which is full of delicious snack and hookah, before ending up at my favorite place in Granada: a little tapas bar close to Plaza Larga that we had passed earlier.
This place (La Fragua @ 16 Calle Panderos) had a special: a drink and a tapa of your choice for 2 euros. Unlike some of the other places, it was full of locals and I asked for what was the best thing to eat to the bartender in my passable. She recommended the paella, which wasn’t on the menu, which is what everyone else was having. It was fantastic and I had probably 3 more plates of it, to the point where the cook came out to ask how much we liked it. After this point, we hit another tapas bar for more sangria and people watching before heading back to our apartment.
El Torcal National Park
Antequera is a cute small town and I had traditional Spanish
We came to do via
Theft/car break-ins are apparently quite common in Andalucia and it’s good to be careful about not leaving anything you want
I tried to not let this get to me although we needed to drive back to Malaga before replacing the car and driving to El Gastor, a tiny white town in the mountains. Our bed and breakfast
We spent the next morning taking in the town and the views. This region of Spain is famous for its natural beauty and its adorable white towns in the mountains (pueblos
We next drove to Ronda,
If you have your own gear, you can do via
Via Ferrata in Ronda
If you’ve never tried via
The most important thing is to remain calm, focus on your movements (and being clipped in!), and to stop when the adrenaline bothers you. This via
After this, we just took it easy, enjoying the natural beauty of the region, the twisty mountain roads, the view of the beaches/Mediterranean Sea from the Coastal highway, and the tapas bars in Malaga.
Other places to visit in Andalucia
- Taking the ferry to Tangier, Morocco
- Visiting the strange Guadalquivir Marshlands(the subject of a fantastic movie called Marshland)
- Trying out the formerly dangerous Camino del Rey (needs to be booked months in advance for non-summer)
- Spending time in the Sierra Nevada mountains
- Visiting Seville or Cadiz