If you're looking for diversity in your next holiday destination, then you've found it! With no less than seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 600 miles of coastline, eight provinces, and a fifth of the landscape protected – the list of things to do is as vast and varied as Spain's infamous tapas menu. So whether you're a sand-seeker, culture vulture, history hunter or nature lover, Andalucia won't fail to impress.
From relics of Moorish rule to arid deserts that roll into golden sands and turquoise seas, Andalucia is the ultimate playground for adventure addicts. A medley of must-sees are just a three-hour plane ride away, so max out your bucket list with these itinerary additions…
If you're on the hunt for a treasure trove of cultural creations, look no further than Andalucia's 'golden triangle'. Drawn up between a trio of 24-carat cities – Seville, Granada and Cordoba have been stealing hearts for centuries. Feast your eyes on UNESCO-approved palaces and World Heritage Sites, wander through fabulously ornamented Alcázars and marvel at mesmerising mosques. Snatch glimpses of shady courtyards through old-world archways and get lost in a legacy of Moorish tradition. From postcard-perfect plazas to marvellous monuments, the historic heavyweights are all first-class divas in the design stakes – and nothing if not attention seeking!
Cordoba is at the heart of Andalucia's ancient centre and Europe's poster child for culture and learning. Best known for the must-see Mezquita, the 10th Century mosque is one of the city's most unmissable attractions – literally. Jewel of the skyline and topping most traveller's to-do list, the landmark building is breathtaking from all angles. Whether you're drinking in the views from the dazzling bell tower or gazing though the grand arches of the mosques interior, the structure alone is reason to visit Cordoba.
Not to be outdone, Granada pulls no punches with its alluring Alhambra. One of Spain's most visited sites, the Citadel itself is a stunning assortment of palaces, gardens, patios, fountains, soaring towers and fortified walls. Named for its reddish brickwork, the immaculately preserved complex is a backstage pass to Moorish culture.
Proving that all good things come in threes, Andalucia's capital will have you smitten in seconds. Sun-baked streets and intricate multi-coloured motifs are trademarks of Seville's intense heritage, where a timeless echo still reverberates through the winding medieval lanes. From the Plaza de España to the Giralda bell-tower, architecture enthusiasts and culture vultures are truly spoilt in this Spanish city. Housing three UNESCO-listed locations, the icing on the already irresistible cake belongs to the amazing Alcázar. Still in use by the royal family, the palace complex doubles as Dorne's water gardens in Game of Thrones. Where the exotic designs and ornate details could easily belong to a fictitious fantasy land.
Dramatic backdrop to Granada, home to the Mainland's highest peak and largest natural park in all of Spain – these majestic mountains need little introduction. A no-filter-necessary natural playground, outdoor enthusiasts are in for an unforgettable day of discovery. Lace up those hiking boots and put your best foot forward! Peppered with pueblos blancos, pinch-me perfect view points and enough footpaths to last a lifetime – this is the spot to make your jaw drop. Explore deep valleys, glacier-fed lakes, luscious forests and soaring summits courtesy of the countless biking trails. Get your adrenaline fix with a bout of rock climbing and off-roading, or enjoy the best view in the house from the comfort of a hot air balloon. And if all that sounds too intense… take things back to basics with a walk on the wild side in one of the family-friendly hiking spots.
Andalucia's ancient landscapes are home to a string of sleepy settlements that are deep-rooted in the region's DNA. Dreamy whitewashed villages are perched on foothills, rugged ridges and mountainsides, and these peaceful pockets of unique and unspoilt real-estate capture the essence of Southern Spain. Here you'll get a glimpse behind the curtain, with locals going about their daily routine and family-run cafes sitting pretty between historic sights. Oozing timeless charm and boasting some of the most achingly beautiful views in all of Andalucia – be sure to explore the classic villages.
`If your itinerary is already jam-packed, there's a few pueblos blancos that should take priority! The rustic town of Ronda rests above the El Tajo Gorge and treats its travellers to dramatic panoramas of Spanish plains and wind-buckled mountain peaks. Visitors beeline for the famous Puente Nuevo Bridge that straddles the ravine, separating the old town from new. Sunsets here are second-to-none, so be sure to stick around for the sky's big finale.
Mijas is a miniscule 30km from Malaga and stone's throw from Marbella. Overflowing with an authentic atmosphere and maze of sugar cube residences, the town's proximity to the Costa del Sol's coveted coast is its super power. If you're staying east of Malaga, the fairy tale town of Frigiliana is a beloved beauty spot. A photographer's paradise, the pristine village is a medley of meticulously maintained houses, pastel-coloured front doors and quaint cobbled streets. Besides the whitewash paint jobs, feast your eyes on a sea of red roofs, a canvas of cerulean sky and a carpet of bougainvillea blooms.
The stunning aforementioned Sierra Nevada has more than earnt its stripes as a nature-lovers playground. Not one to rest on the job, Andalucia has a whole host of other easy-to-access natural parks vying for your affections too. A tapestry of coastal dunes, beaches, deserts, forests, mountains, saltmarshes and underwater worlds await for the intrepid explorer. Take your pick of high-adrenaline activities that bring you to new heights and heart rates or slow things down with wildlife watching or a walk through pretty plains. Paragliding, skydiving and bungee jumping are ideal for a thrill-fix, while 4X4 tours, zip-lining and horse riding are a match made in heaven for easy-going excursions.
Discover the underground utopia of Las Cuevas de Nerja, a cave system comprising of some of the world's oldest Neanderthal artwork. Networks of tunnels showcase more than man-made masterpieces though, with Mother Nature crafting the most striking feature of all. Deep within the Cataclysm Hall lies a 33 metre tall stalactite. Another world-first, this record breaking beast is worth the visit alone!
If you prefer to keep your head in the clouds, adventure to Malaga's mountains and conquer Caminito del Rey. Revamped in 2015, a concrete catwalk and wooden boardwalk collectively scale the rock face of El Chorro Gorge. Up to 400m high and 3km in length, the attraction is notorious amongst mountain climbers and avid hikers. Chock-a-block with glass viewing platforms and culminating with a hanging suspension bridge that crosses the Balconcillo de los Gaitanes – this one's not for the faint hearted!
Over 600 miles of first-class coastline sprawls out across Andalucia's southern borders. From the Costa del Sol's civilisation-savvy stretches of sand to the beautiful beaches beyond the big resorts, there's plenty of places to top up your tan. Whether you're bewitched by the wilds in the west, longing for luxury facilities in the central provinces, or craving the tropical Costas in the east – beach-bums are spoilt for choice!
Nerja's shores are graced with quiet coves, tourist hubs and cliff-flanked bays. Renowned for crystal-clear waters and an award-winning snorkelling scene, a total of 12 beaches bless the paradisiacal province. Closer to the heart of the action, Marbella's golden mile comprises fine white sands and a multitude of amenities. Lapped by turquoise waves and flying their Blue Flags proudly, this collection of playas are the place to see and be seen…
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