Andalusia: the province in the south of Spain with beautiful cities such as Granada, Seville, Málaga and Cordoba and highlights and sights such as the Alhambra and the Alcazar palace in Andalucia.
Andalucia is the southern region of Spain consisting of 8 provinces: Malaga, Cadíz, Córdoba, Huelva, Jaén, Granada, Seville and Almería. In the region of Andalusia you can find many memories of the period of Moorish rule. Andalusia is one of the most popular regions for a holiday in Spain. Beautiful cities for a city trip, beautiful beaches with a warm climate or a tour of the many sights of Andalusia. In this article a description of the 20 most beautiful attractions in Andalusia:
Top 20 Sights - What to do in Andalusia?
- Alhambra & Granada
- White villages
- El Caminito del Rey
- Jerez de la Frontera
- Caves of Nerja
- Trip to Gibraltar
- Sleep in the castle of Jaén
- Baeza and Úbeda
- Sierra Nevada
- (Parador de) Carmona
- National Park 'El Torcal'
- Archaeological site of Itálica
1. Alhambra and Granada
The medieval fortress and Moorish palace Alhambra is Andalusia's most famous landmark. The Nashriden Palace dates back to the period of Moorish rule and is strategically located on a hill near Granada. The many Moorish decorations and details make the palace complex so special and you can stroll in the green gardens around the Generalife summer palace. Important: Keep in mind that the Alhambra is so popular that it often sells out weeks in advance, so make sure you arrange tickets in advance.
After visiting the Alhambra, make sure to visit the city of Granada itself. Be sure to walk through the Arab district of El Albaicin, this district is a maze of streets and squares. Higher up is the Sacromonte district, the old gypsy quarter known for its cave houses and flamenco.
2. Mezquita in Córdoba
The highlight in Cordoba is the immense Mezquita; originally a Moorish mosque, it was later converted into a cathedral. The red-striped arches give the mosque-cathedral its distinctive appearance. After visiting the Mezquita, also take a stroll through the old center of Cordoba; stroll the narrow streets of the Jewish Quarter, discover beautiful flower-filled patios and take a look at the Roman bridge. If you got time, you can also visit the Alcazar Palace of Cordoba, but it is not as impressive as the Alcazar of Seville.
3. RondaRonda with the bridge over the gorge
The hilltop town of Ronda is one of the oldest cities in Spain and is located on a plateau surrounded by city walls. The small town breathes tranquility, offers a magnificent panorama of the mountainous surroundings from the city walls and is best known for the hundred meter deep 'El Tajo gorge' with the Guadelevín river, which splits the old and new part of the city of Ronda. You can cross this gorge via an impressive bridge.
4. White villages in Andalusia
A road trip along the many white villages of Andalusia should not be missed. These 'Pueblos Blancos' are a result of the Moorish rule in Andalusia. The whitewashed, flat-roofed houses were often built against the steep slopes, making them difficult to attack. The white color was to reflect the warm rays of the sun and the houses are whitewashed almost every year. There are too many white villages all over Andalusia to mention, but most can be found in the provinces of Cádiz and Sierra de Grazalema. Frequently visited white villages are Frigiliana, Arcos de la Frontera, Vejer de la Frontera, Mijas (near the Costa del Sol) and the aforementioned Ronda. Where most white villages were built on protective cliffs, Setenil de las Bodegas is special; the city grew out of a network of caves, in the cliffs above the Rio Trejo.
5. El Caminito del ReyThe special hiking trail 'Caminito del Rey'
Almost 60 kilometers from Malaga are the beautiful hiking trails of the 'Caminito del Rey' (the 'King's Path'), which can be walked again since 2015 after a thorough renovation. Over 3 kilometers of walkways and bridges have been built against the sheer cliffs of the Gaitanes gorge. The total walking route of El Caminito del Rey is over 7 kilometers through a breathtaking landscape. If you are in the area and like to hike, I absolutely recommend this beautiful walk with beautiful views. Not for people with a fear of heights.
The famous city of Málaga on the Costa del Sol is a versatile city. Hip Malaga is popular with tourists for shopping in the car-free center, relaxing at the harbor or on the beach, enjoying culinary delights or visiting historical highlights such as the Moorish Alcazaba Palace and Gibralfaro Fortress on the hill of Malaga. Málaga has all the components for a successful city trip.
7. CádizPort city of Cadiz
The old port city of Cádiz has an eventful history. Due to its location on a peninsula, Cádiz played an important role in the 18th century in trade with the New World. This can still be seen in the atmospheric historic city center with its cathedral, fortifications, narrow streets, cozy squares and a sea promenade. All this combined with the cheerful residents of Cádiz. The city is nicknamed 'little Havana' because of its historical connection and resemblance to the Cuban city.
8. Jerez de la FronteraCathedral of Jerez de la Frontera
The city of Jerez de la Frontera in the Cadiz region is known for its sherry, horse riding and as the capital of flamenco. Be sure to visit a tour and tasting in one of the bodegas to taste the different types of sherry. The location near the Atlantic Ocean, combined with the calcareous soil and the Palomino grape create the conditions for the perfect sherry. For Andalusian shows of horseback riding you have to go to the Real Escuela Andaluza Del Arte Ecuestre and if you are in Jerez at the beginning of May you will get plenty of tradition during the festival week 'Feria de Jerez'.
9. Caves of NerjaThe beach of Nerja
The seaside town of Nerja is located in the eastern part of the Costa del sol. Originally a charming fishing village, nowadays a lively beach holiday destination. Nerja's most famous attraction are the 'Caves of Nerja'; thousands of years ago the caves were the home of cavemen. In the huge caves you can view beautiful stalactites. You can also enjoy a magnificent view of the sheltered beaches from the 'Balcony of Europe'. These beaches are also worth a visit, which, unlike the rest of the Costa del Sol, are surrounded by beautiful cliffs.
No, Gibraltar is indeed not part of Andalusia. Still, I added Gibraltar as the 20th attraction, as this British overseas territory is often added as a stopover on a tour of Andalusia. Gibraltar is often easily accessible from the towns on the Costa del Sol and the city has a number of interesting sights, such as the strategic Rock of Gibraltar which you can ascend by cable car and where you will find a colony of cheeky Barbary macaques on top. You can also visit the caves of Saint Michael's Cave and the Great Siege Tunnels or enjoy tax-free shopping here. Nice to visit for a day (but not longer).
11. Sleep in the castle of Jaén
In Jaén, the 18th-century castle of Santa Catalina is located on the top of the hill with stunning views over the city and the olive groves. This castle has been beautifully renovated and converted into a parador where you can spend the night in a unique way. Paradores are Spanish state hotels often in unique locations and in historic buildings. Personally I think this is one of the most beautiful paradores in Spain (more info and reservations from the Parador de Jaén). Besides the castle, the old center of Jaén is also worth a visit; especially the enormous cathedral will impress you. A nice city to spend the night during your tour.
12. Baeza and Úbeda
The historical monuments of Baeze and Úbeda (not far from the city of Jaén) are together on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Both cities flourished in the 16th century with the result that in these cities you can find beautiful Renaissance buildings, mainly designed by the Spanish architect Andrés de Vandelvira. Baeza has a fairly compact center that looks almost medieval and where you will have seen most of the sights in half a day, such as the cathedral, university, Plaza del Pópulo, the Moorish city gate and Plaza de España.
The city of Úbeda flourished also in the 16th century after the area was conquered by the Catholics from the Moors. Most of Úbeda's attractions are located in the old center (surrounded by city walls), such as the chapel "Capilla del Salvador" and the 16th century "Palacio del Deán Ortega". Another landmark is the Church of Santa María de los Reales Alcázares. Take a walk through the old center and enjoy the beautiful façades in Renaissance style.
13. Sierra Nevada & Las Alpujarras
Sierra Nevada, located near Granada, means 'snowy mountain range' in Spanish. After the Alps, this is the highest mountain range in Europe, with a total of 16 peaks above 3000 meters (the highest mountain is Mulhacén at 3482 m). The Sierra Nevada is popular for skiing in winter, an ideal hiking area in the National Park in summer. In the southern part lies the region 'Las Alpujarras' with the characteristic white villages; these villages contain typical whitewashed Moorish houses with flat roofs.
14. (Parador de) Carmona
Carmona is a medieval town surrounded by ramparts to the east of Seville with many beautiful monuments, churches and monasteries in the city. At the most beautiful location in Carmona, in a former 14th century fortress with stunning views, the Spanish government has built a Parador ('state hotel'). The building is an example of Moorish architecture, has beautiful interior gardens and spectacular views of the countryside and the River Corbones. A unique experience to spend the night (more info and reservations Parador de Carmona) in a city that is not yet overrun by tourists.
15. National Park 'El Torcal'National Park El Torcal
About 45 kilometers north of Málaga near the village of Villanueva de la Concepción lies National Park 'El Torcal'. Striking in this Torcal de Antequera nature park are the uniquely shaped limestone cliffs; the result of millions of years of erosion of wind and water. Besides the special rock formations, the park has an extensive flora and fauna. A walk through this prehistoric-looking area is an unforgettable experience for young and old.
16. Almería & Tabernas desert
Almería is best known as a beach destination, but there is still plenty to do in Almería and the surrounding area. In the city center there are a number of sights such as the cathedral, but the most interesting sights are outside the city. For example, view the gray and arid landscape of the Tabernas desert (the only real desert in Europe) or visit the beautiful beaches of the Cabo de Cata-Níjar Natural Park.
17. TarifaPort city of Tarifa in Andalusia
Surfing paradise Tarifa is the southernmost city in Spain, just 14 kilometers from Morocco. In good weather you can see Morocco on the other side of the strait from Gibraltar. In recent years, the town has grown from a peaceful fishing town to a hip meeting place for wind and kite surfers. Tarifa's location in the strait of Gibraltar means there is almost a constant wind on the extensive beaches. The old town still exudes a Moorish atmosphere with the whitewashed houses, narrow streets and the city walls.
18. JuzcarSmurfs Village Juzcar
Juzcar, also known as the Smurf Village, is a village with only 240 inhabitants in the Sierra de Ronda. To promote the smurf film, this village was painted completely blue at the time. After a legal battle over the rights of Smurf items, this village is officially no longer a Smurf village since 2017; however the blue painted houses, church and town hall give the village a striking appearance.
19. Harbor of MarbellaPuerto Banús harbor of Marbella
Once a cute white fishing village on the Costa del Sol, nowadays the most luxurious seaside resort in Spain. Marbella is the meeting place of the jet set, celebrities and millionaires. A nice town to walk through the old center, along the boulevard or to view yachts in the famous marina Puerto Banús.
20. Archaeological site of Itálica
The archaeological park ('Conjunto Arqueológico de Itálica') is a site with excavations from Roman times. The archaeological park is not located in the municipality of Santiponce, ten kilometres from the centre of Seville. During a walk through the excavations of Itálica you will get a good impression of what this city 'Colonia Aelia Augusta Italicensium' once looked like with the amphitheatre (25,000 spectators), aquaducts, temples, thermal baths and houses with beautiful mosaic floors. It was the first Roman city in Spain, founded in 206 B.C.