A Definitive Guide to Andalusia, Spain
Travel & Living

A Guide to Andalucía, Spain's Picture Perfect Vacation Destination

Forget the South of France, the South of Spain is where you should be traveling next for the best in food, architecture, and fashion.
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The idea of traveling to Spain likely conjures images of the bustling metropolis of Madrid or the colorful, seaside architecture of Barcelona. But along the southern coast of Spain, Andalucía offers travelers a lush countryside full of natural wonders. The coast is bookended by beautiful, historic cities like Granada, and populated by the friendliest people in the world. The roving hills reflect a unique blend of European flare and culture, while the city's architecture is still heavily influenced by Muslim and Arabic ancestors, who have resided in the land centuries prior to the Spanish Inquisition. The region has so much to offer for those traveling through the Spanish southern coast, from ancient Moorish ruins to fashion and culture staples, this is our ultimate guide to experience Spain’s best kept secret. 

Where to Stay

Palacio De Santa Paula

Built from what was formerly a convent of nuns, this hotel recreates a Spanish traditional design on the inside, while modernizing the exterior and guest rooms with contemporary finishes and amenities. The courtyard features epitaphs of the former tenants, etched into stone markers, and scattered around a central fountain. The guest rooms are spacious with tall ceilings, intricate details of wood beams, and breezy windows overlooking the courtyard and vaulted roof.

Hotel La Fuente De La Higuera

Nestled in the countryside’s rolling hills outside Rhonda, this charming bed and breakfast goes above and beyond to cater any needs. Breakfast and dinner are prepared daily by the owners’s son, and rival that of any meal in Rhonda with exceptionally creative culinary prowess. Each room is unique and features a fireplace as well as a spacious bathroom. The hotel is also located nearby groves of olive trees, perfect for a morning walk or a bike ride.

Hotel Alfonso XIII

Seville may be the largest city in the region, and this hotel represents just the level of opulence the city has to offer. Everything from the lobby to the corridors on each level reflect an immaculate level of detail and design. Inside, rooms provide luxe linens and bedding that make every return a welcomed rest.

What to Eat

Jamón Ibérico

Sliced thinner than copy paper and served flat on a platter, Jamón Ibérico is one of the region’s best culinary offerings. The black pigs that roam the country fields yield some of the most succulent, delicious meat ever tasted, and the dish is offered on most restaurant menus, listed only as “jamón” with the ibérico dropped. Each slice is laid flat on the plate and served about the size of a business card. Walking through any of the fresh markets in the region, vendors are likely to have large legs of “cerdo negro” set in a brace and ready to slice fresh for any hungry customer.

Olive Oil

While olive oil may bring about thoughts of Greece or Italy, Spain is actually the world’s largest purveyor of olive oil. Of the nation’s production, 75% is produced in the Andalucía region. Olive trees grow all over the area, from backyards of half-acre plots to a horizon-reaching fields ready for harvest. Before becoming the olives most travelers know (those which come jarred in the supermarket), they must be brined in water for 40 days, meaning no plucking or eating. Eaten raw, olives are extremely bitter. Produced into olive oil though, Spaniards incorporate the liquid gold into every meal possible and every restaurant has a bottle on the table.

Tapas

Signature staples of the Spanish diet, tapas are a must for any meal. For many restaurants, the sheer range in tapas available means that they will certainly be the meal — the real question is merely which tapas to order. Though, it's a blessing in disguise. The process allows for chefs to express the widest range of their talent with multiple, eclectic dishes as opposed to a single entrée or appetizer. Tapas range from a simple egg and potato pie, to more delicately crafted works of art like the paella. 

What to Drink

Wine

Andalucía is home to some incredible small-batch vineyards. The region features a microclimate that creates perfect conditions for a number of different grapes. Just outside the Rhonda city walls, (Yes, there are still walls from the Moorish rule.) vineyards like that of Dezcalos Viejos grow grapes drenched in sunlight and harvest them into some of the best vintages in the world. Winemakers in the region though are not in the business for profits. These labels are grown in small batches and shared amongst the region. While each bottle is special to the creators, they are meant to be consumed and celebrated, rather than to sit in a wine cellar locked away.

Cocktails

In cities like Seville, cocktail culture still finds new, creative outlets. El Pintón is a light, airy atmosphere with wonderful tapas and drinks. Located in Andalucía's most modern city, the restaurant and bar offer a welcomed, nuanced take in an area that’s surrounded by history. The cocktails offered are fun, inventive, and play not only to spirits and cordials produced in Spain, but other playful flavors like Mexican vanilla or cumquats to enrich any concoction.

Where to Shop

Street Bazaars in Granada

Granada is more than a college town in Spain. It’s also a city rooted in centuries of history from the Muslim era to the Christian rule, to today. The reality of all that history is that certain streets can be dotted with touristy shops in bazaars. While it’s obvious to look past the dangling scarves and refrigerator magnets, one of the tchotchkes that these stores sell is native to the area. Small wooden boxes that feature a design of wooden tiles are typically sold in shops, and are handcrafted by locals as artwork. Each box is made by cutting and dying the wood with the utmost of precision, and makes a beautiful place to keep anything from spare change to eyeglasses in.

La Importadora

This Seville shop offers a range of local fashion designers wares at perfectly affordable prices. While bigger cities in Spain like Seville and Madrid offer larger stores, smaller boutiques like this one are the perfect place to find something that’s not available to anyone with an internet connection. Whether it’s a perfect pair of espadrilles or a sundress to last you all through the summer, this tiny shop is full of hidden treasures.

Loewe

For those looking for luxury, Loewe offers unique Spanish designs using the finest materials. That Bob Dylan song, "Boots Of Spanish Leather," about bringing home boots from abroad, likely has something to do with Loewe. The brand has garnered international appeal for its high quality (and price tag) that has become synonymous with luxury the way fashion fans may consider Thom Browne or Gucci.

What to Do

Parque Natural de la Sierra de Grazalema

The land around Andalucía, close to Rhonda, is a beautiful range of mountains surrounded by green national park space. The land is home to wild asparagus and dates that can be eaten right off the plant for those who know where to look. Guided tours are best for these rockier terrains. The best touring company for the region is The Acorn Road, a touring company specifically for the Andalucía area, led by a couple named James and Isa Boyd. James grew up just outside Rhonda and with his wide knowledge of the terrain and locals has basically become the unofficial mayor for the area. The duo’s company schedules guided trips where they manage everything from hotel and restaurant reservations to scheduling bike tours of the area too. They’re the perfect assets for anyone coming to the countryside and needing a little help to make arrangements. They home is just off the national park lands, and know every secret of the mountain passes from the best lookout vantages to the locales of gushing waterfalls.

Bullfights

Bullfights are certainly not for everybody. Despite being deeply rooted in Spanish history, many Spaniards believe that it has become a bit of an outdated process and ritual. Nevertheless, bullfights still occur around the country, with one of the most prestigious rings located in Rhonda. Like so many places across Andalucía, Hemingway was said to be a frequent spectator at the bullfights. For those not interested in witnessing the performance, most bullfighting rings also offer an interesting tour of the grounds and in certain rings, a museum of matador history.

Flamenco

Flamenco is a huge part of Spanish culture. The passion and soul of singers, dancers, and guitarist are maybe the best distillation of emotions the Andalusian people carry with them throughout their lives. Between the rhythmic foot stomping, crooning voices, and fingers dancing up and down guitar strings, the music speaks with a humbled message of pain, love, sorrow, and bliss. Flamenco shows can be found all over the region, though the one of the best ones is CasaLa Teatro, an intimate theatre within local food market Mercado de Triana. It's a perfect setting for intimate shows audiences can experience.

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