I did a road trip to the south of Spain in December 2016 for 2 weeks. Driving around Spain was easy as the road signs were in English and parking was not as difficult as Sicily and the roads were slightly wider. Google maps is a life saver.
My first stop was Seville, because it was December the streets of Seville come alive at night with Big Brass Bands marching down the square and everyone behind them. The town of Seville is big but easy to walk around but you’ll need a map, or google maps is good too. I arrived late at night and I felt safe walking around looking for food and taking in the night scene. Found a Jazz bar called Naima near my apartment and it was very good live music and the crowd was pretty cool too! The bass player was particularly cute. Here, it’s like open mike, the people that play don’t get paid but are based on tips so you buy your drink and then you tip them based on how much you like their music.
I had my dinner at a very nice cosy restaurant away from the old town recommended by my Airbnb hosts and it was great. (If you want $50 off your first Airbnb stay, click here!) I ordered 3 dishes and it didn’t disappoint. Tapas in Spain is generally very good. In Andalusia, they love slow cooking things so everything is delicious especially in the cool autumn nights.
For the sights, you cannot miss Seville cathedral. The queue is long but it’s worth it because it’s huge. It’s iconic because Christopher’s Columbus, yes the man who found the world-Columbus body is here. It’s a very elaborate coffin inside and it’s really a sight to behold. Do get the audio guide as it’s worth it. The ticket also comes with a sister cathedral entry and that was a beautiful cathedral too.
The Real Alcazar is the royal palace and the gardens is huge and beautiful to spend the afternoon in. The palace design is moorish and the gardens are splendid to stroll on a nice warm day.
I enjoyed myself strolling along Maria Luisa park because there are many beautiful trees, fountains and also ducks, geese, birds and horse drawn carriages. The park also leads you to Plaza de Espana and it’s a huge place for you to wander around, soak up some sun and there’s always a constant rainbow in the evening by the large fountain.
I went to the bullring at Seville and there is a nice museum and guided tour almost every hour. The guided tour was informative and good and the museum was rather extensive. Thereafter, head to the maritime museum a short walk away.
For a wonderful sunset, head to the maritime museum. Scale to the top and see the city and the magnificent sunset. You won’t be alone though, this is an open secret for sunset watching. Alternatively, eat at the restaurants by the waters.
Flamenco is also the flavor of the night in Seville. Do watch one of the shows to see how passionate the dancers are and how it was when the gypsies celebrated song and dance. The singing was very good too at the place I watched.
Seville was covered in 3 days as it’s a huge town.
A short drive away and a good day trip is Carmona. Carmona was small and quaint and has a fortress and old medieval walls you can scale. The whole town I covered in 4 hours. The people there are really nice and the residents enjoy sitting by the square and having a chat by the fountains.
I spent 2 nights in Jerez. Jerez is the birthplace of sherry. The sweet, thick wine of Spain has recently became more popular. Tio Pepe has the largest sherry amusement park you can visit. Amusement park because it’s really huge and has a lot of things to do for kids too. I didn’t head there. Instead, I headed to a smaller sherry producer called Bodegas Tradicion and they produce my favorite Pedro Ximenez. I know of PX because My favorite Single malt by Laphroig uses the PX cask. The taste of the sherry then transfers to the Whisky and the result is a smiley yet sweet aftertaste. Pure heaven. The tour needs to be pre booked in advance and starts at 10am. So taste your sherry early and you get cheese and crackers too. It’s a great way to spend the morning! The owner has a very good art collection and you have religious and modern art all housed in one place. Pretty worth the entry price.
Because Jerez is a place for good alcohol, of course the food is good. There are Michelin rated restaurants and I went to Reinodeleón twice for dinner because it was really good! It’s not expensive either because it’s tapas style, so you get variety for your buck. There’s also wine pairing menus. I usually google viamichelin.com for recommended restaurants and they’re usually quite spot on with their recommendations.
Next up, I headed to the seaside city of Cadiz. Cadiz has large beautiful cathedrals, nice salty air and a beautiful garden. The highlight for me was the very big fish market. I love markets and this one has so many types of seafood that I’ve not seen before. Of course it also has a section of cooked food and the fried squid and the seafood pancake was delicious. Do walk along the sea promenade as you will see many interesting buildings and also, Parc Genoves.
I then drove to the city of Ronda and I stayed 2 nights there. Ronda was a picturesque old town with a magnificent bridge that is so high you wouldn’t know Ronda is built on a hill till you’ve seen it. Ronda is such a beautiful old town that writers like Ernest Hemingway wrote about it and spent a lot of time here. It’s very easy to see why. The sunset is very amazing here. You can also hike down to have a beautiful view of the entire bridge. There is also a bull ring and very good restaurants. I’ve had dinner twice at Entrevinos and it was really good and affordable with a lot of wine from Spain. I stayed near the shopping stretch and because it was Xmas period, it felt very festive every night! Driving and parking is a nightmare so make sure you find a room with free or secure parking instead of street parking coz you will never seem to find it.
On my way to Estepona from Ronda, I made stops at Gaucin and Cesares. The drive to these quaint towns was very scenic. You get to see other hilltop towns while you drive so remember to make stops and admire it and take it all in. Gaucin and Cesares are very cute quaint white washed towns and because it was Xmas day and almost everything was closed, I’m glad I had some nuts and fruits with me. The fort at the top and the old town was so nice to stroll along when it’s warm.
Estepona was a beach town and I think I met more English people here than anywhere else. At the Plan B cafe where I was seated, everyone around me spoke English. The owner was Indian and he made fantastic curries. I ate here both days when i was there. I stayed at at Casa Simba, which is a beautiful house owned by a German and English couple who have 4 dogs and there were amazing people. At the house, I saw a beautiful sunset.
Walking along the beaches of Estepona was amazing. The lighthouse was very pretty, there was also a zoo around the house I stayed but I didn’t go there. I could hear the lions roar in the mornings though. Do not miss the walk in the old town because it is really cute and white and has many small treasures that you can find.
I made a quick stop at Marbella beach as I wanted to see how the rich and famous spend their time. Apparently they’re at this beach house and port. I saw quite a few super cars and the beach front cafes and restaurants are certainly expensive, but the beach is very clean and beautiful.
Antequera was a very special place for me. I stayed atop a hotel that was above a bar called — and they made the best Breakfast ever! It’s full house every morning. On my last day, he didn’t charge me for my breakfast. Very nice people there, I also had dinner there and it was simple home made tapas. Antequera was a small town with a nice cathedral but the reason I stayed there was because I wanted to visit the Alcantara natural park. It’s made of fossils during the Jurassic times and it’s a beautiful place to hike. I spent 5 hours hiking slowly there because I was in awe of how awesome this place is. Even if you don’t hike, I suggest you come to the visitor center because you can already get a birds eye view of the place and it’s already majestic. The drive up there is also very scenic and you can see mountain goats.
The Spanish people are very adventurous with their children. I see a dad carrying their child during a hike and a mom holding her toddlers hand while hiking on the shorter route. You can bring food and drinks and have a picnic at the many rest stops here but please don’t litter so it stays pristine and clean. The only toilets are at the rest stop and information center. You have been warned 😂
From Antequera, I headed to Córdoba. Córdoba was everything you imagined it to be. The Mesquita was beautiful inside and out, the Jardines del Alcazar was a beautiful stroll and there’s you can witness history as King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella agreed to let Christopher Columbus roam the world on their royal money 😄.
Make sure you walk the roman and other bridges during the sunset because it was one of the most beautiful I’ve seen in Andalusia.
The next day, I went to Medina Azahara which is the ruins of how great Córdoba used to be. It’s a huge place and it’s a good stroll and it’s pretty majestic if you can imagine how it would be if it wasn’t in ruins. It’s on the hilltops so after you park your car, you have to take the mandatory bus up as there’s only allowance for that one bus on the narrow road. .
Granada is THE place to be in Andalusia as everyone knows about the Alhambra and Generalife (pronounced Hen Ner Ra Leaf Fe) do make sure you book your entrance tickets in advance as they only allow 8000 people daily and you have to make sure you arrive on the hour that you book else you will be denied entry. It’s a huge place so give yourself 3 hours at least to walk the grounds. Once you’re in, you can stay as long as you want. I didn’t realize it was he most visited attraction in Spain so I didn’t buy my ticket in advance and had to book a day tour as they had tickets. It was good as the guide pretty much explains everything in this super crowded attraction. The Generalife is the gardens and certain parts you can stroll without a ticket so if you forgot to get your ticket or missed your time, still do walk the park as it is huge and pretty
Within Granada, do walk the large town. You can get a very great view of Alhambra against Sierra Nevada in the Albaicin quarter. A must do is the Hamans for you to soak after a tired day and you spend an hour in it going into the different hot pools. Do remember to bring your bathing suits.
A good day trip from Granada is Sierra Nevada National Park. You can already see the snow capped peaks from the Alhambra. It is also the reason why Granda is cold at night. The breeze comes from the cold mountains. If you ski, you will love this place. If you don’t, you can learn or just marvel at the magnificence of this place. The drive up there was pretty amazing and you will make stops to see how beautiful it is. There is also a beautiful lake somewhere in the middle so keep your eyes on the roads and sideways too.
I made a 2 hours drive to Parque Natural del Cabo De Gata and it didn’t disappoint. It is a huge nature park with beautiful beaches and you can drive through this vast piece of park. Ridley Scott filmed one of his movies there and certain spots of it does look like a movie set. Playa de Genovesis was very beautiful and you’ll have to walk a bit and the sunset there is beautiful too.
Another day trip I did from Granada was the drive up to the 3 hilltop towns of Bubion, Travelez and Pampaneira. Stop at each quaint toennfor beautiful sights. The drive up and down is very scenic and I made many stops along the way. The sunset while I drove was also great.
In Granada, I stayed 7 nights because I could make many drive trips around. I booked Mikhel’s apartment through Airbnb as he had a garage for my car and although Alhambra was 30 minutes walk away and the town a 15 minutes walk away, I didn’t mind as the hotels in town didn’t offer free parking and parking is scarce in Granada.
On my drive to Malaga, which marks the end of my Andalusia trip, I made a stop at cute Nerja. Nerja is a cute seaside town that is small and has a tiny cathedral and the beaches are clean and pretty.
Malaga has a beautiful beach called Playa Malagueta, walk further and you’ll see Puerto Malaga which is a new seafront promenade and has a lot of restaurants and an amusement park. Walk away from the sea and you’ll see the Centro Historico which is the old town has nice restaurants and beautiful old buildings and churches. There is also an open air market near Centro Historico.
Malaga was a traffic heavy place and it’s hard to find parking. I found mine at the underground parking parks. Thankfully I stayed a bit out of town, near the fort in the hills and had free parking for the night. I spent only one night there before I flew to Barcelona. The view from the fort is amazing!
Andalusia is a beautiful place to drive in, I guess you can do trains and buses but then you won’t be able to explore the hills, quaint towns and valleys as much
Happy exploring like Christopher Columbus!