Andalusia, nestled in Southern Spain is a land known for its Mediterranean coast & beaches, quaint captivating villages, cities dripping with history, a culture of music, dance, bullfighting and some of the best food in the world. And if that wasn’t enough, the icing on the cake is the beautiful sunny weather these Andalusia destinations receive all year round.
The name is literally Al-Andalus (Arabic for “land of the west”), as given by the Moors who ruled the region for almost 800 years. In fact, two of the region’s most iconic UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the Alhambra and the Mezquita – date from Moorish times.
I spent some time travelling around Spain, and my time through the cities and towns of Andalusia were my favourite part of the trip. I loved every minute of exploring the tiny white alleys in these towns, experiencing the drama of Flamenco and Bull Fighting, giving in to the easy siesta-style life on the beaches and exploring the superb food of the region.
Blue Seas At Marbella
I started my trip from Barcelona and flew down to Malaga, picked up a car, and the first stop was Marbella, Costa de Dol. Marbella is a resort town where the rich & famous park their yachts, own villas and live up their lifestyle. It has got one of the most pristine beaches, and what stood out for me the most was the crystal-clear water with its distinct blue colour – I just couldn’t take my eyes off it.
We spent most of our time on the beach of our resort, sipping some cocktails and just soaking in the sun. While we could never get enough of the beach, we did visit the Old Town of Marbella and discover its gems, along with its world-class shopping strip, and enjoyed some of the best food in Marbella’s many fine-dining restaurants.
The Fairy-Tale White Villages
The next part of the trip was all about the unique pueblos blancos (White Villages) in the region. While most people who go to Spain stick to bigger cities, for me this part was the real, authentic, Spanish experience. The interiors of Andalusia can be explored by following the Route of the White Hill Towns (Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos). This route is spotted with fairy-tale towns, which, as the name suggests, are entirely white.
As I steered through bare hills in the region, suddenly a white patch of a town would pop up. Each of these towns is located on a hilltop and offer some of the most astounding views. Just walking through the tiny whitewashed lanes and beautiful squares of these towns took me to another time and age. While I didn’t have time, I highly suggest staying in Arcos de la Frontera or any other town just to really experience how life would be living there.
Also on the route, perched on a plateau is Ronda – one of the oldest and prettiest towns in the region. Many famous people like Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles decided to make this town their home for its picturesque beauty, laid-back life, and beautiful weather. If like me, you’re looking for a place still unspoilt by tourism, this is the place to go to. It is most famous for the Puente Nuevo Bridge, a beautiful site with gorgeous views of the cliff and the pueblos blancos.
This town is also the hub of the bullfighting culture of Spain and is home to its oldest bullfighting arena. Located in the middle of the town it’s still in use. Unfortunately for us, there was no fight at the time we visited, however, we still got to go to the grand ring and could almost imagine the lone figure of the matador in the bullring, cape and sword in hand beneath the burning afternoon sun.
A Stop at Seville
The last stop on our Andalusian road trip was Seville (or Sevilla). It’s the region’s most visited city and is a melting pot of music, flamenco dancing, bullfighting, great tapas bars, lots of street life, and a beautiful live-it-up vibe. It sometimes goes unnoticed but the city is enveloped in beautiful aroma of oranges from the many orange trees all around.
If you are a Game of Thrones fan, Sevilla’s Royal Alcazar was used as Dorne, sans the snakes and overstated opulence, but to me, it was much more beautiful in real life than on the show. There’s lots to do in Seville, but my top experiences were: watching a live flamenco show, for which I think I just sat with my mouth open for a whole hour, as well as eating and drinking in the many tapas bars in small streets, and exploring the Moorish history still embedded in the homes and everyday life of the city.
Andalusia is a place that thrives with life, colour, and romance; a place where past and present co-exist in its culture, architecture, and way of life; a place stuck in my memory, and a place I definitely wish to go back to. Even Spain on a budget offers so much to see and do.