Sea, nature, architecture and so much more. Andalusia is so varied in its history, its food and its traditions. It's the perfect place to spend a week or two thanks to the relaxed way of life in southern Spain as well as the myriad things to see and do there. I spent two weeks exploring this wonderful area, starting in Seville and ending in Granada. These are my Top Ten Things to do in Andalusia.
1. Stay at Corral del Rey, Seville
First up on the trip was Seville - the "Golden City" - famous for the majestic Réal Alcazar and the historic Cathedral & Giralda Bell Tower. To visit and enjoy all this city has to offer I decided to stay in a boutique hotel situated in the heart of the town. The Corral del Rey is so beautiful, so full of character and the service is exceptional. This was my favourite hotel out of all the places we stayed in Andalusia and it's the ideal spot to make yourself at home in for a few days in Seville.
2. Go riding in Jerez de la Frontera
From Seville I moved to Jerez de la Frontera, an inland city renowned for exquisite sherry, fascinating Flamenco dance tradition and fine horses. Riding surrounded by nature is definitely the best way to admire the magnificent Mediterranean landscape that characterises this territory. Located in the Jerez countryside, AlcantarA Ecuestre offers exclusive horseback riding for an unforgettable experience on perfectly-schooled horses. You can try out a traditional Spanish saddle while you meander through the sunflower fields in the cool early morning breeze.
3. See a Flamenco show in Granada
When you say Andalusia, one of the first things you think about is Flamenco. Seeing a Flamenco show in Granada is an unmissable experience. Why? Because Flamenco is not only about dance but a harmonious combination of music, colours and traditions that show you a window into Andalusia's soul. Don't be put off by the swathes of tourists who frequent the Sacromonte (the main place to find Flamenco in Granada); the shows are excellent and the atmosphere still unforgettable.
4. Eat vegetarian food in Tarifa
Tarifa is a small coastal town from where you can see Morocco on a clear day. It is extremely windy, which, if you're into water sports, means that this is a must-see for you. If you're not (like me) there is still plenty to see including the exquisite Roman ruins close by. The highlight for me, however, was stumbling upon Tarifa Eco Center, where we ate the best meal we ate in the whole of Andalusia. Everything there is vegetarian and organic, but so well-executed and revitalising too. I have to say that as a vegetarian I found the food choices in Andalusia a little difficult - they are huge fans of meat and fish - so finding this place where the food was just the right amount of healthy as well as utterly delicious was extremely well-received.
5. Visit the restaurants of Vejer de la Frontera
Vejer de la Frontera has to be the prettiest puebla blanca (white village) in the whole of Andalusia. Every single corner you turn is like the set of a film, and all of the cafes and restaurants we tried were excellent. Such places are a never secret though, and getting a table at the restaurants or a bed at a hotel is extremely hard work. They get booked up extremely quickly and the restaurants prefer long bookings of several days over those for one of two nights. Having said that, we arrived sooner than anticipated and managed to get a room at Casa del Califa for three nights (I admit that we had to change rooms each day), and we also managed to dine at its restaurant twice as well as several others. If you can book early, but don't be put off if not. You will find something and the whole place is like living in a dream world.
Dinner at Casa del Califa
Wearing the Audrey skirt in Vejer
6. Dine overlooking the Ronda ravine
Ronda is a serene town located not far from Granada and was our penultimate stop. There is a fascinating bullring accompanied by a museum, and the ravine itself is worth a visit alone. One or two nights is all you need but make sure you have dinner at Albacara, a restaurant positioned over the ravine itself. The food is good and the view is out of this world. Don't forget your camera and your sunglasses.
7. Find a secluded section of the beach at Punta Paloma
This spot is just down the road from Tarifa, and if you follow the signs all the way to the end of the road you'll find a deserted head of land with virtually nobody around. You'll have to do a bit of walking to get there, but having the clear blue waters and perfect beaches to yourself makes it all worthwhile.
Wearing the linen Rita trousers
8. Visit the Alhambra of Granada as well as the secret museum just next door
The Alhambra is simply magical and lives up to all expectations. Make sure that you book beforehand because numbers are extremely limited, which means that getting tickets on the door is nigh on impossible. An undiscovered gem that we learned about from Fernando at the wonderful antiques shop Ruiz Linares (another must-see) was the Fundación Rodrigues Acosta, which is located just a few minutes from the Alhambra. There are virtually no visitors here so we managed to have a private viewing of the whole museum (formally the artist's place of work and inspiration) as well as the gorgeous gardens with have a view to die for. This visit was a real highlight for me and I urge anyone visiting Granada to take a couple of hours out of their schedule to make the visit.
Wearing the Audrey skirt in the Alhambra
9. Enjoy a traditional Spanish festival in Arcos de la Frontera
Arcos de la Frontera is up there competing with Vejer as the prettiest puebla blanca. Even though it isn't quite so picture-perfect as Vejer (and that really is only because Vejer is toy-town perfect), this only adds to its charm. We stayed in the charming La Casa Grande, which is utterly mesmerising (and so affordable); we even had a balcony overlooking the cliff. Have a look at the many Spanish holidays and try and time your visit to coincide with one; the village really comes alive with people singing and dancing.
10. Climb the Metropol Parasol viewing platform in Seville
The picture says everything for me, really. The architecture of this viewing platform is intricate and a joy to navigate. It's a great place to take photographs and you feel as though you're nestled in the belly of the city: bliss.