Marbella Old Town
In the beautiful and charming old town you can make shopping, enjoy dinner in a cosy restaurant, have a drink in a music bar, or just walk admiring the beauty of the streets!!
Sevilla lies on the banks of the Guadalquivir, is the administrative capital of Andalucía and is one of the largest historical centres in Europe. It has the minaret of La Giralda, the cathedral, and the Alcázar Palace. Part of its treasure include Casa de Pilatos, Torre del Oro, the Town Hall, Archive of the Indies, the Fine Arts Museum (the second largest picture gallery in Spain), plus convents, parish churches and palaces.
The quarter of Triana on the other side of the river, La Macarena, Santa Cruz and San Bartolomé, the street of Las Sierpes, plus La Maestranza bullring, María Luisa park and the riverside walks are all representative images of Sevilla.
For all its important monuments and fascinating history, Sevilla is universally famous for being a joyous town. While the Sevillians are known for their wit and sparkle, the city itself is striking for its vitality. It is the largest town in Southern Spain, the city of Carmen, Don Juan and Figaro.
The Sevillians are great actors and put on an extraordinary performance at their annual Fería de Abril, a week-long party of drink, food and dance which takes place day and night in more than a thousand especially mounted tents. But above all it allows the men to parade on their fine horses and the women to dance in brilliantly coloured gypsy dresses.
Immediately before that is Holy Week, Semana Santa, a religious festival where hooded penitents march In long processions followed by huge baroque floats on which sit Images of the Virgin or Christ, surrounded by cheerful crowds. Both Spring events are well worth experiencing.
Photo: Jessica Gardner
Despite being Andalucía's fastest-growing town - Ronda retains much of its historic charm, particularly its old town. It is famous worldwide for its dramatic escarpments and views, and for the deep El Tajo gorge that carries the rio Guadalevín through its centre. Visitors make a beeline for the 18th century Puente Nuevo 'new' bridge, which straddles the 100m chasm below, for its unparalleled views out over the Serranía de Ronda mountains.
Across the bridge, where an elegant cloistered 16th century convent is now an art museum, old Ronda, La Ciudad, sidewinds off into cobbled streets hemmed by handsome town mansions, some still occupied by Ronda's titled families. The Casa de Don Bosco is one such, its interior patio long ago roofed in glass against Ronda's harsh winters. Its small, almost folly-like gardens lose out, however, to the true star, a few minutes' walk to the furthest end of the Ciudad, the Palacio Mondragón. Clumsily modernised in parts during the 1960s, this still has working vestiges of the exquisite miniature water gardens dating from its time as a Moorish palace during Ronda's brief reign as a minor Caliphate under Córdoba in the 12th century.
The cobbled alley to the Mondragón leads naturally on to Ronda's loveliest public space, the leafy Plaza Duquesa de Parcent, which boasts a convent, two churches, including the toytown belltower of the iglesia Santa Maria de Mayor, and the handsome arched ayuntamiento (council) building. Nearby calle Armiñan leads down to the spacious plaza of the traditional workers' barrio, San Francisco, with excellent bars and restaurants. Back from the Mondragón, the Plaza del Campillo overlooks steps that zigzag down to a dramatic eye-level through the Puente Nuevo. The town's pedestrianised 'high street', calle Espinel, opposite the bullring, is nicknamed 'La Bola' and is where Rondeños go for virtually everything.
It is easy to understand why Malaga City is dubbed the Capital of the Costa del Sol. Once considered the poor cousin of Andalusia’s Capital city, Seville, it now competes successfully for attention, thanks to its profusion of quirky museums, pedestrianised shopping centre, innovative restaurants and stylish hotels, many featuring trendy rooftop terraces with bar, pool and stunning views.
Malaga has more museums than any other city in Andalucia; over 30 at last count - and there are new ones opening all the time. Learn more about Malaga through its wine, at the Wine Museum; its social history and customs, from the collection of 19th-century paintings at the new Carmen Thyssen museum; and its famous local personalities, such as the painter Felix Revello del Toro. For more art and design delights, you can visit museums of contemporary art, archaeology or glass…
As well as homage to the great Picasso, other great historic monuments include the imposing Baroque Cathedral, popularly known as 'La Manquita' (One Armed Woman), and the newly restored Roman theatre. High on the hill above the city is the Parador (state-run hotel), which is situated in the Gibralfaro, a Moorish castle of great historical importance.
Although there has been a certain amount of destruction in Malaga over the centuries, especially during the Spanish Civil War, there is still plenty of proof of the Moorish occupation. Today you can visit the Moorish Alcazaba fortress, dating back to 1065, which also now features a very interesting archaeological museum.
There are also many churches of great architectural and historic interest in and around the centre, which are well worth visiting.
The white villages
Photo: Africa Mayi Reyes
The whitewashed villages of Andalucia are impressive historical monuments in themselves, and their people still live according to age-old traditions, inherited from their Iberian, Roman and Moorish forefathers.
Many of the villages near the coast have become fashionable resorts, while still conserving their ancient charm, whereas others, lost in the highlands of Andalucia, remain rough and ready olive-farming towns, with a special appeal for the adventurous travellers.
Most Andalucian towns began as fortresses, which stood along the ever-fluctuating frontier between the Christian and Moorish realms, as is apparent in the names of such towns as "Jerez de la Frontera", "Arcos de la Frontera", "Morón de la Frontera"... Over the centuries, many have developed into thriving agricultural centres producing olive oil, fruit and vegetables and goat's milk.
Granada was first settled by native tribes in the prehistoric period, and was known as Ilbyr. When the Romans colonised southern Spain, they built their own city here and called it Illibris. The Arabs, invading the peninsula in the 8th century, gave it its current name of Granada. It was the last Muslim city to fall to the Christians in 1492, at the hands of Queen Isabel of Castile and her husband Ferdinand of Aragon.
One of the most brilliant jewels of universal architecture is the Alhambra, a series of palaces and gardens built under the Nazari Dynasty in the 14th C. At the centre of the Alhambra stands the massive Palace of Charles V, an outstanding example of Spanish Renaissance architecture. Other major Christian monuments found in the city are the Cathedral, including the Royal Chapel where Isabel and Ferdinand lie buried, the Monastery of La Cartuja and many churches built by Moorish craftsmen after the Reconquest, in Granada's unique "mudéjar" style.
The hill facing the Alhambra is the old Moorish casbah or "medina", called the Albaicin, a fascinating labyrinth of narrow streets and whitewashed houses with secluded inner gardens, known as "cármenes". The Plaza de San Nicolas, at the highest point of the Albaicin, is famous for its magnificent view of the Moorish palace.
San Lucar de Barrameda
Situated at the northern tip of the sherry triangle, 8 km from Chipiona, the delightful small town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda is flanked by the Guadalquivir estuary. The speciality tipple here is the distinctive manzanilla wine, which acquires its dry, slightly salty tang from the seaside environment and the moist poniente wind. The town is equally famed for its excellent seafood, for which manzanilla is (coincidentally!) the ideal accompaniment. The Sanlúcar beaches are also magnificent and stretch several kilometres to the south-west, while the former port and fishing quarter, the Bajo de Guía is unsurprisingly where some of the best seafood restaurants can be found.
The heart of the old town is Plaza del Cabildo, a delightful, palm-fringed square lined with bars and restaurants. Just north is the Plaza de San Roque where the daily market is held. Nearby is the 15th century Iglesia de la Trinidad with its magnificent Mudéjar ceiling. Carry on uphill and you reach the neo-Mudejár Palacio de Orleáns y Borbón, now the ayuntamiento with its flamboyant neo-Mudéjar architecture and public library in the gardens. In the same area is the exquisite Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la O, in the small Plaza de la Paz. Adjoining the church is the gracious Palacio de los Duques de Medina Sidonia, the former home of the aristocratic family who once owned the majority of Spain!
Sanlúcar is also noted for its horse racing which dates back to 1845 and takes place along a 2,000 stretch of beach at the mouth of the Río Guadalquivir during the month of August, daily from 6.00 pm, on the 2nd and 4th weekends of the month (Thursday to Saturday). This is a thrilling spectacle where real racehorses thunder across the sand watched by a large noisy crowd of spectators.
This small town of some six thousand inhabitants was transformed some years ago by the creation of an 'embalse', or reservoir, below the promontory on which Iznajar sits in the River Genil valley. Today, to all intents and purposes, Iznajar now has a waterfront, overlooking an inland sea some thirty kilometres long, and containing an estimated 900 million cubic metres of water destined for domestic consumption.
Iznajar itself escaped the submersion that often visits towns and villages in the region of Andalucía's controversial programme to construct more and more dams and reservoirs to serve this increasingly thirsty region. If anything, the lake below has given further resonance to its unofficial title as the Mirador (viewpoint) del Genil. Surrounding countryside and communications have been radically altered, not least by a bridge built across the reservoir near Iznajar in order to continue to carry traffic on the Archidona/Priego de Córdoba road. In effect, Iznajar now offers the perfect setting for anyone wanting to live in the (cheaper) interior but still retain a 'sea' view.
Iznajar is situated near the southerly border of Córdoba province, and serves as a natural entrance to the Sierra Subeticas Natural Park. From the south, it is best reached from Junction 175 on the3 A92 Sevilla-Granada careterra, and is only 20km from the turnoff. Town and embalse - named after it - are north of Archidona on the map. The town of Rute is to the north-west and, beyond that, Lucena. Priego de Córdoba lies to the north-east, Jáen beyond it. There you have to visit the castle, the Barrio del Coso and Ermita de la Antigua.
Ten kilometres of white sandy beaches, unspoilt countryside and some of the best windsurfing conditions in Europe have established Tarifa as a true surfers paradise. Just 11 km across the Straits of Gibraltar at its narrowest point, this southern-most tip of Europe where the Med meets the Atlantic Ocean, enjoys spectacular views of the Rif mountains of Africa across the water.
Tarifa's wild coastline attracts surfers and nature-lovers alike. Just as famous for its birdwatching as its surfing, there are endless opportunities to explore the rolling countryside. Horse-riding, hang-gliding, kite-surfing, rock-climbing and diving to name but a few.
In Tarifa town you can see for example the Jerez Gate, Church of San Mateo in calle de los azogues, Castle of Guzman the Bueno, The Municipal Museum, Miramar Gardens, La Alameda.
Next to the Alameda is the old fishing port. It has never been developed but is interesting for a stroll. To the west walk or drive (take care the wind blown sand is sometimes deep) down the causeway called Muelle de Rivera towards the island, Isla de las Palomas. You are now at the south west tip of Spain and only a few feet separate the sea and ocean. The modern castle here is now a military base.
There are plenty of little tapas bars in the old town just to the east of the Alameda. Outside the Jerez Gate on the main street called Batalla del Salado (leading north out of the town) you'll find the surf shops and trendy clothes shops.
Medina Sidonia is an unspoilt, little known ancient hill-top town despite its important history. The town was one of Spain's most important ducal seats in the 15th century; producing an admiral who led the Armada against England. The title of Duque de Medina Sidonia was bestowed upon the family of Guzmán El Bueno for his valiant role in taking the town, a line which continues and is currently led by the controversial socialist, Duchess of Medina Sidonia. The village has a fascinating multifaceted character; with medieval walls and tidy narrow cobbled streets flanked by rows of reja-fronted houses.
There you have to visit : Plaza de España - Elegant rectangular plaza with plenty of public seating, surrounded by handsome three storey buildings - The Town Hall - A 17th century building reflecting Baroque and Neo-classical architecture with a magnificent Renaissance façade - Santa Maria la Coronado Church - Built on the foundations of the original castle and later a mosque, this church is a fine example of Andalusian Gothic architecture. Medina Sidonia also has three Moorish gates including the magnificent Arco de la Pastora, close to the Jerez road.