“The real Spain.” That’s what Antonio Martin Machuca, international marketing director, Andalucia Tourism Board, says comes to travelers and travel agents’ minds when they think of Andalucia (Andalusia).“Spain’s region of Andalucia is composed of eight provinces, stretching from the southeast to the southwest of the country, each one named for its capital city: Cadiz, Cordoba, Jaen, Huelva, Almeria, Malaga, Granada and Seville,” points out Machuca. It features “sandy beaches, beautiful countryside, spectacular mountain ranges, fabulous monuments and high-spirited people who live life to the fullest and are well known for their exuberance, warmth and hospitality,” continues Machuca. “Andalucia is also the home of flamenco and bullfighting, which can be best enjoyed at the region’s countless ferias and romerias, but perhaps the most unique feature of this enchanting region are the remnants of its Moorish past. Each of these Andalucian capitals boasts spectacular remains of their monuments, the most unforgettable of which is, undoubtedly, Granada’s Alhambra palace.” Adds Avanti Destinations’ president and founder Harry Dalgaard, “Andalucia is Spain’s most popular destination for many reasons—food, flamenco, landscape and history. The cultural fusion of Moorish past and Spanish present gives the region a richness and exotic appeal. High-speed rail gets you from Madrid to Seville in just 2.5 hours.”
The Andalucia Tourism Board recently launched a new marketing campaign, “Your Best You,” referring to the fact that once you step foot in Andalucia, you leave part of yourself behind and you become your best you. It highlights the fact that within this many-layered region there’s something that’s going to captivate the traveler and bring out “your best you.” And, in fact, from the region’s white villages to the world-famous Mezquita in Cordoba’s capital city, Andalucia offers a world of enchantments. Picasso fans will be like a kid in a candy store in Malaga, where they’ll find around 200 works by the Malaga painter on permanent display in the Palacio de los Condes de Buenavista, and where they can visit his birthplace, also displaying some of his art pieces. Granada, of course, is where travelers come face-to-face with the fascinating Alhambra, known round the world, and in Jaen, one can stare in awe at the 13th century Santa Catalina Castle, a former Islamic fortress. In this region, where it is so easy to step back in time, one can also head to Cadiz to visit the excavated Roman Theater, or visit Almeria’s Alcazaba Castle, throwing its hefty shadow over the city. Andalucia, points out Machuca, “is conscious of the need to modernize and move forward with the times, but it is also careful to take care of its roots and maintain its important cultural heritage and monuments.”
Complementing the region’s heritage is a natural playground—18 percent of its territory is included within a broad network of more than 80 natural areas comprising 24 natural parks. Here, travelers will find an “array of environments that go from the Guadalquivir River valley through to luxuriant mid-mountain areas, volcanic landscapes such as the Tabernas Desert, and the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada,” says Machuca.
where to stay
Machuca says that the region’s paradores—accommodations in castles, palaces, convents, monasteries, fortresses and other historic buildings—are a great option, “but we also have a wide range of four- and five-star boutique hotels.” That includes the Hotel Alfonso XIII, a Luxury Collection Hotel, in Seville, a 1929 landmark that was renovated in 2012 and offers 151 rooms, as well as the Barcelo La Bobadilla, a Leading Hotels of the World property located about 45 miles from Granada. The latter was built in the style of a traditional Mediterranean village and is made up of a cluster of white-washed houses, courtyards and sitting areas under brick-vaulted arches; this is an eco-tourist’s wonderland, ideal for bikers and hikers. Meanwhile, the 290-room Iberostar Andalucia Playa is an all-inclusive option in Cadiz facing La Barrosa Beach.
According to Machuca, one of the region’s most unique attractions is the Caminito de Rey, an air path built into the walls of the Gaitanes Gorge of Spain. “It’s located in the center of the province of Malaga, between the towns of Alora, Antequera and Ardales, and it is one of the most spectacular landscapes in the Malaga mountains,” says Machuca.
And becauase you can’t think of Andalucia without thinking of flamenco, here’s a sprinkling of flamenco celebrations:
- Ciudad de Almeria Flamenco Festival: Held during the last week of August
- Los Jueves Flamenco (in Cadiz): Every Thursday from mid-July to the end of August
- La Noche Blanca del Flamenco: Saturday, last week in June
- Albaicin Flamenco Festival (Granada): Throughout September
- Festival de Cante Flamenco de Moguer (Huelva): A flamenco singing competition every second Saturday in July
- Pepe Polluelas Flamenco Festival: Oct. 12, coinciding with the festivities in honor of St. Lucas
- Malaga Bienal Flamenco Festival: Held every two years; the next edition will take place this September
- Mairena del Alcor: Festival de Cante Jondo de Mairena (Seville): A flamenco singing competition held the first half of September
Avanti’s Andalusian Offerings
Avanti Destinations, which sells direct to travel agents, is offering seven new sightseeing tours/activities in the region that can be combined with hotels, shared or private transfers, and rental car, rail or air travel to other destinations within Spain or the rest of Europe for a completely customized FIT vacation. The tours include Seville: Walking Tapas Tour with Wine Tasting (from $145 pp), a small group (max 12 people), 2-hour walking tour that includes stops to nibble on tapas and sample Spanish wine; Ronda: Private Walking Tour with Bullring, which starts at $185 pp; the 2.5-hour Granada: Private Alhambra Palace Walking Tour, which starts at $204 pp; and the 2-hour Cordoba: Private Walking Tour with Great Mosque that explores the Mezquita, the Jewish quarter and more (from $199 pp). (800) 422-5053; avantidestinations.com
Archived related articles (available on recommend.com/magazine/issue-archive): Culturally Immersive Family Tours (September 2014)
Andalucia Tourism Board: andalucia.org
Barcelo La Bobadilla: barcelo.com
Hotel Alfonso XIII, a Luxury Collection Hotel: hotel-alfonsoxiii-seville.com
Iberostar Andalucia Playa: iberostar.com