The easternmost Andalusian capital dominates a coastline dotted with almost virgin beaches and an interior marked by peculiar semideserted ecosystems. Formerly one of the most important ports in the Caliphate of Cordoba, Almería reveals its Alcazaba (citadel) and its cathedral, on the shores of the Mediterranean. Narrow streets with whitewashed façades are elements of its picturesque historic quarter. In addition to history and culture, Almería offers beaches, mountain and coastal nature reserves and a gastronomy that will make this journey unforgettable.
Almería originated with the need for a better defence system that the Arab towns in the area had. It was Abd-al-Rahman III who founded the Alcazaba (the Citadel), which gave this city its name: Al-Mariy-yat (the Watchtower). It is the biggest fortress ever built by the Arabs in Spain and it housed —within its triple wall— palaces and mosques.
You must try the heavenly delicacies of the cuisine of Almeria. The city’s major crop is grapes, although you will also be able to try «ajo colorao» (a stew with potatoes, red bell peppers, egg, sausages, cod, garlic and olive oil), breca a la uva (Pandora fish with grapes), rape a la barraca (monkfish with leek and mushrooms), etc. Worthy of special mention is the seafood from Garucha and the sponge cake with dates.
Founded 3,000 years ago by the Phoenicians, Cádiz is the oldest city in Western Europe. The different people who settled here left an important cultural imprint, whose influence still remains in the character of the city’s people. This peninsula, right on the Andalusian Atlantic coast, has been able to preserve an important historical legacy – the result of its commercial importance – together with excellent beaches and an exquisite regional cuisine. The Costa de la Luz, divided between the provinces of Huelva and Cádiz, also offers a multitude of destinations combining culture and leisure. And, for nature lovers, there is nothing better than touring the Doñana National Park, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The former Phoenician Gades and Roman Gadir experienced its most splendid period when, in the 17th Century, it had the Ultramar (Spanish overseas empire) trade monopoly. This rise attracted attacks by pirates, which made the city fortify itself, constructing defensive bastions, castles and watchtowers on each flat roof. These are some of the characteristics of the city, in which the balcony railings are also outstanding.
The capital brings together the wealth of the whole province and offers us langoustines from Sanlúcar, sole from San Fernando, wines from Jerez (sherry) and Cádiz «turrón» (a kind of nougat). Cold meats include Iberian ham, always from the mountains of the interior.
Cadiz is a good starting point for doing the White Villages Route. This way you will discover Serranía de Ronda – the natural parks of Grazalema and Los Alcornocales – as well as places with impeccable white houses like Arcos de la Frontera, Medina Sidonia or Vejer de la Frontera.
Cordoba is situated in the interior of Andalusia where past and modernity blend in together. This thousand-year-old city, which has the World Heritage designation, is a living legacy of the different cultures that settled here throughout its history. Not many places in the world can say they have been the capital of Hispania Ulterior (Further Spain) under the Roman Empire, and capital of the Umayyad Caliphate. This splendour can also be seen because of the intellectualism of this city of knowledge, where figures like Seneca, Averroes or Maimonides were born. If you walk round the old quarter you will discover a beautiful network of alleyways, squares and white-washed courtyards surrounding the Great Mosque-Cathedral, which reflects the importance of the city in the Middle Ages, and is the symbol of the city.
Cordoba is also synonymous with art, culture and leisure, thanks to a myriad of cultural events that are organized here throughout the year: Flamenco festivals, concerts, ballet and other activities that are complemented by a number of museums and an exciting nightlife.
Meanwhile, the province is home to important buildings of the Andalusian heritage, whose highest expression is the Medina Azahara, located on the outskirts of the city
At the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, between the rivers Darro and Genil, lies one of the most interesting cities in Eastern Andalusia. As well as its impressive Al-Andalus heritage, there are Renaissance architectural gems and the most modern facilities, fit for the 21st century.
Granada has an unmistakable Moorish essence, due to the fact that it was the last city to be reconquered by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492. The gastronomy, craftwork and urban planning are influenced by its glorious past. Fountains, viewpoints and «Cármenes», houses surrounded by typical gardens of this city, create unforgettable corners in the city. It is no surprise that one of its old neighbourhoods, the Albaicín, has been awarded the World Heritage designation, together with the Alhambra and Generalife. It was an important cultural centre for many centuries, under the Moors and the Christians too, and nowadays it boasts a broad cultural and leisure programme. Film, music or theatre festivals are complemented with permanent or travelling exhibitions on all fields of knowledge. Old Renaissance palaces hold seminars, conferences and discussions, while the most innovative infrastructures are prepared for great events.
Because of its great communications, its marvellous climate, its beaches, and its snowy mountains, Granada is a unique destination for cultural, adventure and business travel.
At the mouth of the River Odiel stands Huelva, an Andalusian city with an ancient mining tradition and witness to historical events as important events as important as the discovery of America.
More than 2,500 years ago, Huelva – the most westerly Andalusian capital – was the centre of the Tartessan civilisation and an important commercial enclave which maintained intensive trade with other ports in the eastern Mediterranean. Centuries later it became a base for Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Romans, although it was the latter who began to exploit the area’s enormous mineral resources, an activity which has continued throughout the centuries. With the Roman presence in the area, the city, known as Onuba Aesturia and set in the region of Beturia, took on great importance and even minted its own coins. The arrival of the Arabs in Huelva in around 713 meant a new era for the city, which came to be called Welba. During this new period, the city came to be, for a time, an independent Taifa kingdom under the Bekries dynasty.
However, it was not until the second half of the 13th century when Huelva and its surroundings were conquered by the Christian King Alfonso X el Sabio (the Wise). In the middle of the 15th century the whole area came to belong to the ducal lordship of Medina-Sidonia, a situation that continued until the middle of the 19th century. But the historical event that has undoubtedly left the greatest mark on the people of Huelva was the discovery of America, as, in 1492 Christopher Columbus undertook the first of his voyages to the New World from these lands.
The best-known product from the province’s cuisine is Huelva ham, recognised with its own Denomination of Origin. Inland, excellent quality sausages are also produced. On the coast, fish and shellfish are typical. They are the basis for tuna with tomato or onions,clams with rice, sea bass with rice or «chocos» (cuttlefish) with rice and broad beans. Strawberries and citrus fruit are produced on the coast, while pastries include the delicious «coca de Isla Cristina» (made with egg, almonds and candied pumpkins strands) or «hornazos» and «pastelillos de Mogeur».The county Condado de Huelva gives its name to the Denomination of Origin under which this province’s wines are labelled.
The capital of the province with the largest number of protected areas in Spain is in a landscape surrounded by olive trees. Its origin as a centre for Arab caravans, its importance as a strongpoint on the Castilian-Muslim frontier during the Reconquest and its current dedication to producing olive oil makes it a must for visitors.
The oldest part of Jaén is dominated by the Arab fortress that stands on Santa Catalina hill. From this height you can enjoy one of the best views of the city and the Guadalquivir valley. The Castle of Santa Catalina currently houses the Parador de Turismo. At its feet, the oldest districts of the Andalusian city unfolds, spread around the churches of La Magdalena, San Juan and San Ildefonso. But the core of this historic quarter is Santa Iglesia Cathedral. It is a monumental Renaissance building from the 16th century, which contrasts with the popular-style white houses surrounding it.
Olive Oil. The streets next to the church are the best for getting to know the area’s cuisine. Olive oil with the Sierra Mágina Denomination of Origin accompanies Jaén cooking, one way or another. «Pipirrana» salad (with peppers, tomatoes and garlic), «gazpacho cachorreño» (cold soup made with bread, chorizo sausage, oil, vinegar and salt) or «alboronía» (a vegetable stew whose main features are broad beans, onions and aubergines), make up the starters. As a second course, kid with garlic, cod stew or pie stuffed with vegetables are recommended. To round off the meal you only have to try sweet tarts filled with walnuts or «tocinos de cielo» (custard made only with egg yolk and sugar) with figs.
The Gibralfaro castle casts a watchful eye over this warm-hearted and lively city full of attractive sites such as the Alameda Principal avenue and the La Farola seafront promenade. Its status as the capital of the Costa del Sol has made it one of Spain’s foremost holiday destinations, thanks to its mild climate, its beaches and its outstanding offer of golf courses.
Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans… over 2,000 years ago the most important Mediterranean civilizations found in Malaga an exceptional place in which to establish trade routes, thanks to the strategic location of its port. The Alcazaba (8-11th century) is one of the symbols of the city, and one of the largest Arab fortresses in Andalusia. This building is today the site of the Archaeological Museum, containing valuable pieces dating from Phoenician and Roman times.
The Gibralfaro castle (14th century) is linked to the Alcazaba by a section of wall and offers outstanding views over the city, which is open to the sea through its port and the La Farola seafront promenade, one of the city’s main leisure areas. At the foot of the Gibralfaro stands the Roman theatre, the bullring, (known as La Malagueta) and the historic quarter of the city.
In the centre stands the Cathedral (16-18th century), also known as ‘La Manquita’ (‘the one-armed’) thanks to its unfinished right tower. This beautiful Renaissance building is home to an interesting series of chapels containing fine examples of Andalusian imagery.
The area around Malaga reveals a province marked by extreme contrasts between its inland villages and the coast. The Costa del Sol is dotted with towns and villages with a long-standing tourist tradition such as Benalmádena, Torremolinos, Fuengirola, Marbella and Estepona.
This town in the Málaga region sits on either side of the Tajo del Ronda, a narrow gorge more than 150 meters deep. Its old town has been declared Property of Cultural Interest. Celts, Phoenicians, Romans and Arabs all inhabited these lands, which were reconquered by the Catholic Monarchs. The historic quarter, reminiscent of the Arab age and with a medieval layout is scattered to the south of the Guadalevín, while more modern Ronda, the part which sprang up after the 16th century, unfolds to the north of the course of this river. Several bridges unite the two halves of one of the most interesting towns on the route of the Whitewashed Villages, in the heart of the the Ronda hills, only a few kilometres from the Costa del Sol.
The so-called “city of the castles” stands on a natural vantage point defended at its most accessible point by a citadel. It still preserves its walls and the most important gates which gave access to the city. The Almocábar Gate (13th century) provided access to the south side of the town, the Carlos I Gate dates from the 16th century, while the Exijara Gate led to the Jewish quarter
The Arab, Old and New Bridges: Three bridges span the ravine measuring more than 100 meters in depth and lead to the other side of the city. The Arab bridge was built in the 14th century and gave access to the Old Outskirts. The so-called old bridge is comprised of a single arch measuring some 10 metres across. But most emblematic of all is the New Bridge, a colossal feat of engineering which joins the neighbourhoods of Mercadillo and Ciudad. It dates from the 18th century and its foundations sit on the bottom of the ravine, at some points reaching 98 metres in height and 70 in length.
The old City Hall, now the Parador de Turismo, stands on top of the cliff and is an exceptional place to relax and take in the views. Its chef prepares tasty local recipes such as stewed partridge, roast kid and almond soup. Among the desserts, Ronda’s «yemas», honey pancakes and almond cheese are some of the suggestions.
Situated on the banks of the Guadalquivir River, Seville has a rich Moorish heritage, and used to be a prosperous port that carried out trade with the Americas. The streets and squares in the historic quarter of the capital of Andalusia are lively and busy. They treasure many constructions that have the World Heritage designation, and many districts are full of traditional culture, like Triana and La Macarena.
Museums and art centres, theme parks, cinemas, theatres and clubs are some of the many leisure options that a great city like Seville holds. Without forgetting, of course, the numerous terraces, inns and bars where visitors can practise one of the most deeply-rooted and tasty traditions in the city: «Going out for tapas».
Another good excuse to come to the Sevillian capital are the festivals. The celebrations of Easter Week and Feria de Abril (the April Fair), which have been declared of National Tourist Interest, reflect the devotion and folklore of the people of Seville, always open and friendly to visitors.
But Seville’s appeal does not end there, as the city is also the starting point for the many cultural routes the province offers, such as the Roman Bética Route or the Washington Irving route. The visitor will also discover the immense natural wealth of this region, which sits halfway between two continents, in natural treasures such as the Doñana Nature Reserve, declared a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, and the Sierra Norte Nature Reserve. They will be the ideal setting for practising outdoor sports, including hiking, horse riding, and cycling routes.
Marbella is, without a doubt, one of the Costa del Sol’s major tourist centres, thanks to the high quality of the facilities and services it provides. Puerto Banús, one of the main focal points for tourists in the town, houses an exclusive leisure area inside the excellent facilities of its marina. But Marbella is also a paradise for golf lovers. A dozen magnificent courses allow the golfer to play the sport before the unusual backdrop provided by the sea and the mountains. The historic part of town, sitting on a beautiful bay, shelters lovely corners of a typically Andalusian flavour, with whitewashed houses and orange trees adorning the streets and squares. An ideal setting for sampling any one of the tasty recipes of the local cuisine.
Marbella is deservedly one of the Costa del Sol’s prime destinations. Its excellent climate, beaches, natural surroundings and its major sports complexes are just some of the countless attractions which this town on the Málaga coast offers. Clear proof of the high quality of its infrastructure is Puerto Banús, one of the most emblematic spots in Marbella. Surrounded by exclusive housing developments, this famous marina each year welcomes some of the biggest and most luxurious yachts in the world. Its facilities also offer a select leisure area made up of restaurants, business premises and shops selling the big international designer labels and luxury items.
Fried fish, «ajoblanco» (cold soup with almonds, oil and garlic) or «gazpacho» are some of the tasty suggestions from Marbella’s cuisine. Under the Designation of Origin Málaga standard, excellent sweet dessert wines are produced.