The south of Spain is the consummate destination for nearly all the iconic representations of this sunny, warm and wonderful country. White-washed buildings, flamenco music and dance, stunning views, the laid-back vibe and some of the finest sherry you’ll ever sip can all be found in the Spanish region of Andalucia. It’s astonishing that such a wealth of experiences should come from this singular expanse along the Mediterranean.
Life in Andalucia is un-rushed, but not without its own special energy. Cultural influences of the Romans, the Visigoths and the Moors are seen in everything from science and education to art and architecture. Of course the food and drink of Andalucia show evidence of each culture. The unique beauty of the present-day ambience of the South of Spain is found in the blending of these cultures.
Beaches and Natural Beauty
Andalucia welcomes more than 30 million visitors annually. It’s the top beach destination for many throughout Europe and the world, and has been for decades. The popularity of Spain’s Costa del Sol, the province of Malaga, and surrounding beach towns rose to new heights in the 1950s and ‘60s when the glitterati of the day enjoyed the carefree lifestyle of southern Spain.
While the sun-drenched coastline is absolutely a must-see, this diverse region also offers snow-capped mountains. Granada is home to Sierra Nevada, the highest peak in the Iberian Peninsula. This is a popular haven for skiers and snowboarders.
Andalucia is known for the beautiful national parks. Sierra de Cazorla and Grazalema are fine examples. The sheer loveliness and rugged beauty of rural Spain is at once dramatic and warmly welcoming.
So Much History
Of course one would not expect to come to such a treasure trove of sites and experiences and not see the historical buildings and showplaces. The iconic white villages or “pueblos blancos” are truly remarkable. The centuries-old Moorish architecture that remains intact is a marvel. One of the most-visited monuments in Andalucia, Alhambra Palace in Granada, is an excellent example of the architectural talents of the Moors.
Cordoba provides the ideal venue for those who like to stroll and experience the local flavor of both past and present. The Mezquita Cathedral (mosque cathedral), also known as the Great Mosque of Cordoba, was constructed as a mosque in 785 AD. At the time Cordoba was the capital of the muslim-controlled region. Five centuries later Christian forces overtook the area and the mosque was repurposed as a church/cathedral. It remains a Catholic Church today but is also regarded as one of the more outstanding examples of Islamic architecture.
Today’s Cordoba is a charming city. The white-washed Juderia (Jewish region), churches, palaces and patios overflowing with fragrant orange blossoms make this walkable town worthy of a visit.
Music and Passion
Flamenco is recognized as a celebrated Spanish dance. But, did you know it’s actually a complete form of art? The Spanish people are known for their passion and this is quite the passionate genre! The singing, the musical performance and the dance convey an excitement and a desire for more.
Andalucia, specifically Seville, is the birthplace of Flamenco. It’s been said that you really never experience true Flamenco until you experience the Andalusian representation of this sensual craft.
And what Flamenco performance is complete without the Spanish Guitar. Developed as a gritty, livelier version of the classical guitar, this Andalucian toque instrument. Made of Spanish cypress, rosewood or sycamore (which accounts for the deeper cooler of the Spanish guitar) the instrument is crafted to be lighter and thinner providing the unique, more percussive sound for which Flamenco music is recognized.
Gazpacho, that luscious, cold and refreshing summertime soup, comes from Andalucia. As one of Spain’s most popular dishes Gazpacho was cobbled together by prudent commoners who used whatever was available to satisfy their hunger while providing a cool, light bit of refreshment. Water, vinegar, stale bread, olive oil and garlic set the tone for this delicious dish. Later, with the discovery of America, tomatoes and cucumbers were added to the mix. Today you’ll find Gazpacho served throughout the region.
Sherry, that aristocratic quaff of the noblemen, is made in Andalucia. The city of Jerez, which has been long-recognized for its winemaking, is recognized as the birthplace of this fortified wine. As this delicious wine grew in popularity many sought to produce their own version of sherry leading Spanish producers to register the names Sherry, Jerez and Xérés.
The fortified product of Andalucia is often thought of as simply a sweet sip, enjoyed after the meal. But Sherry is so much more than a “sweet” wine. The designation of Sherry runs the gamut from dry to sweet and is a full-bodied wine, fortified with brandy, which is enjoyed any time you like. Sherry’s flavor palettes are described as nutty, fruity, dark, with tones of citrus and apple. The acidity is very well-balanced.
As you can see a visit to the region of Andalucia is jam-packed with Spanish culture and more. These are just a few of the experiences you’ll enjoy in Andalucia.