Andalucía. The very word conjures up images in our minds of orange blossom-lined streets, vibrant flamenco dresses and men donning black sombreros – and these images aren’t a far stretch from reality. You could also say the region of Andalucía is a cultural marinade of Christianity and Islamic influences where fiesta-loving locals, bustling tapas bars and some of the most striking religious architecture in the country reside. So, in the spirit of celebrating everything quintessentially Spanish in this region, we’ve rounded up our top 5 favourite things you must see and do when travelling through Andalucía.
Watch an authentic Flamenco show in Granada
Legend has it the hypnotic steps of flamenco originated from the Roma people in the lower Guadalquivir Valley of western Andalucía around the turn of the 19th century. Since, this artistic expression flourished it is very much embedded deep in the culture of the Andalucían region, from the magical city of Seville and Jerez de la Frontera to the turquoise shores of Cádiz and Granada. But to get that true goosebump experience and the powerful emotion flamenco aficionados call “duende”, you can’t just see it on the screen, you need to watch this passionate story unfold in person.
On our Authentic Andalucía trip, you can grab the opportunity to see a local flamenco show for yourself, in the Sacromonte Caves of Granada. Just uphill from its charming historic quarter, this spot offers a unique backdrop to watch this impassioned explosion of colour and emotion as the bailaora (female dancer), cantor (male singer) and tocaor (male guitarist) work the floor. Found right around the corner from the famous Alhambra, this hidden gem is a great way to round off a busy day of sightseeing.
Take a bite out of Cádiz’s happening tapas scene
Ahh tapas. The concept, the word and the melt-in your-mouth-recipes are all proudly 100% Spanish. And with Andalucía being the birthplace of the “tapa”, it remains one of the few regions where tapas traditions are still authentically preserved.
One of the famous myths surrounding the world’s first “tapa” comes from King Alphonso XIII official visit to the province of Cádiz. During his time there, he stopped in Ventorrillo El Chato, (a local tavern that’s still open for business to this day located in between Cádiz and San Fernando) and ordered a glass of red wine. The bar owner served the tipple complete with a slice of ham on top of it. The “tapa” (“cover”) he argued, was to prevent sand spray ruining the wine. Safe to say, the king loved the idea, and the rest is history.
Enjoy exploring some of our favourite tapas eateries in Cádiz during our Self-Guided Cycling in Andalucia: Seville to Cádiz trip. You haven’t heard it here first, but you can’t leave Cádiz without trying the ludicrously crunchy flamenquines. The literal translation of this tapas is “small flamenco dancer” and is a keen speciality among the restaurant-lined streets of Cádiz. They may look like fluffy croquetas, but the recipe and taste are altogether different. Flamenquines are typically roulades stuffed with pork loin, jamón, and melted goat cheese that are deep-fried until they’re a lovely shade of golden brown. You can find other specialities like chicharrones de Cádiz (razor thin, fat-marbled pork) and paprika-laden chorizon with mussels too, a perfect snack after a day on the bike, washed down with some well-deserved pints of Cruzcampo.
Hit the tiles in Cordoba
One thing that leaves a lasting impression is the architectural wonders dotted across Spain – and the Andalucían region doesn’t disappoint. From the enchanting Alcazar in Seville to Grenada’s spectacular mountain-topped Alhambra, there are plenty of spectacular sights to choose from, but if you had to pick just one to see, we’d have to go with the intricate archways of Cordoba’s stunning Mezquita.
Although not quintessentially Spanish in origin, the lustrous decoration of the half Mezquita half Catedral is a perfect blend of Islamic, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque influences, and highlights a unique moment in time, when Muslims, Jews and Christians lived side by side in Cordoba.
Hailed by many as one of the most interesting pieces of Islamic architecture on the planet, this breath-taking complex is dominated by the intricate Abd ar-Rahman I’s mosque, from AD 784. What makes this mosque different from others around the world is its Christian cathedral that stands proudly at the heart of this space, added in the 16th century. On your free day to explore Cordoba during our Authentic Andalucía trip, we’d recommend taking your time to enjoy the serene courtyards, towering columns and famous archways. The best time to visit is just before sunset, when you can climb to the top of the Bell tower to watch the beautiful pink light show descend onto these ancient buildings.
Celebrate the Feria in Seville
One of the most Spanish things about Andalucía has to be the processions that commence on Feria de Abril – it is Spain personified in one week. Think proud men donning black sombreros, vibrant flamenco dancers shimmying down Calle de Infierno, hooded penitents dutifully following the golden Virgin Mary statues and stocky matadors unfurling their glittering scarlet capes.
With this colourful religious festival descending on Seville in April, it’s the perfect time to see the fairgrounds ceremoniously lighting up on Monday night and watch on as the town’s most avid Sevillians indulge in their favourite pastime activities, which involve; eating, drinking and dancing until dawn.
Timeless white-washed Moorish Villages
While Alhambra may draw all the attention and praise for its spectacular Islamic architecture, it is the humble white villages which truly capture our hearts – captivating travellers with their timeless beauty. Rooted in a blend of Moorish and Spanish influences, these villages are oft found perched atop rugged hill tops, buildings adorned with vibrant bougainvillaea and criss-crossed by a network of narrow streets – the perfect compliment to the panoramic vistas of rolling hills, mountains and olive groves.
Wandering the Rio Trevelez Valley on our Sierra Nevada & Granada we’re greeted with incredible views of Taha villages. The area of La Taha is a unique place, boasting a collection of Moorish villages hidden in a deep gorge. The ideal place to be transported back in time and to imagine the traditional way of Andalucian life.