You might wanna get some popcorn, too. And a drink. Ready? Alright, the best things to do in Andalusia… I should probably start this post by talking about beaches and bull fights. Paella and flamenco dancers. Julio Iglesias and 75 year old German couples in matching outfits who want to get away from the cold of their home country in winter (*).
Instead, let me tell you what Andalusia is to me.
MY OLDEST TRAVEL MEMORY…
I remember driving down the winding mountain road from Torre del Mar to Granada in our Fiat Panda. It was 1988 and the highway hadn’t been constructed yet. I was 6 years old and on my first trip outside of Belgium and its neighboring countries. The car was so tiny that even at that age my sister and I barely fit in the back seat. But we laughed our buts off.
Life was simple. We added -os to every Dutch word and BAM, we spoke Spanish. We were fearless, and everything was possible. Sorry mom and dad, for that time I ‘just went for a stroll’ on that overcrowded beach and you had to look for me for fuck knows how long, thinking I’d drowned or something 😉
23, OK nobody’s gonna believe that anyway 29 years later, things have turned out to be a little bit more complicated, but driving down that same mountain road, after a year of burnouts, breakups, leaving my job, selling my house and about 7 million ups and downs (**), something hits me. I realize I have NO memory of my visit to the majestic Alhambra on that same day in 1988. But I remember the good times in the car with my family, and realize simple things are all I need.
Let’s play a game! Think about your oldest travel memory, try to remember how it made you feel, and hold that thought while reading! Oh, and of course, tell me all about it in the comments!
(*) I obviously have NOTHING against old German people in matching outfits, there just happen to be a lot of them. I MIGHT have something against Julio Iglesias – and don’t even get me started on Enrique – and I DEFINITELY have something against bull fights, but anyway, lemmie try and stick to the subject.
(**) I’ve been working on a post about this since – like – October 2016. I promise, someday I’ll get it right and publish it.
Anyway, without further ado… here it is, in no particular order…
My list of the 50 best things to do in Andalucia
From diving head first into the well-known cities, over alternative ways to see them, to places you might not even have heard of – this part of Spain has something for everyone. Let’s go!
 GO ON A ROAD TRIP. ‘Cause you’re not gonna see all the beauty if you count on public transportation. Of course there’s buses, but at € 330 for a 6-week car rental including full excess free insurance, I honestly wouldn’t bother. (This was off-season).
Andalusia is breathtaking, and the best moments are when you just drive and stop wherever you want. Have a stroll, sit down, and get back on the road when YOU’re ready – not the bus driver. The small roads, that is btw, ’cause you ain’t gonna find views like this along the highway…
Stay tuned, ’cause I have a separate post about the best scenic drives in Andalusia coming up. In the mean time, you can start booking your rental car by clicking on the banner below.
 STROLL THROUGH CORDOBA. The Jewish Quarter, the Mezquita and the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos are only a few of the highlights of this beautiful city.
 ADMIRE THE PATIOS OF CÓRDOBA during the patio festival that takes place at the start of May. Every year, around 50 home owners compete with each other for the title of ‘most beautiful patio’. All of them are open to the public during the contest.
 FIND YOUR OWN LITTLE SUNSET SPOT. There’s so many of them where you can catch the last rays of sun without having to share them with anybody else. Just drive close to the shore or through the mountains until you find the picture perfect spot. My personal favorites? Here they are!
- In the Alpujarras, the southern part of the Sierra Nevada, Granada province. Take one of the roads going north from the A-4132, either towards Capileira or Trevelez and find a place where you can stop along the road.
- At the lighthouse of Chipiona, Cádiz province. Watch the sun sink into the sea and the waves trying to wash away the reflection of the lighthouse in the sand.
- More or less at the crossing of the A-7075 and the MA-3403 in Villanueva de la Concepción, 15 minutes west of Colmenar, Málaga province. Just follow the A-7075 until you find a quite large area where you can easily park your car.
- Inside the Alhambra, in the Alcazaba overlooking the Torre de la Vela and the western part of the Albaicín. You can basically only catch this one between 15th March (when closing time changes from 6pm to 8pm) and the start of daylight savings time on the last Sunday of March (on all the other days of the year, sunset takes place after closing time), but if you’re lucky to visit during this period, it’s worth it!
- The parking lot at the junction of the C-334 and the CA-5034 in Arcos de la Frontera, Cádiz province.
- And finally, my number one – probably ’cause it was relatively close to my apartment and I could go there whenever I wanted– just off the N-340 driving from Maro to La Herradura, Málaga province. In your GPS, typ ‘Calas Torre del Pino’ to find it.
 DRINK SANGRIA. Get your daily dose of
alcohol fruit over a refreshing pitcher glass of sangria.
 DISCOVER THE WHITE VILLAGES OF CADIZ. Of course there’s white villages all over Andalusia, but let’s start with the ‘pueblos blancos’ of Cádiz. Perfect for a day of road tripping from one to the other. And worth their own article, so stay tuned for that one.
 EAT TAPAS. Easier to find inland than on the coast – where, obviously, it’s fish, fish, fish and then some more fish, unless you’re a vegetarian, then it’s tortilla, tortilla, tortilla and then some if-I-have-to-eat-one-more-tortilla-I’m-gonna-die. I should really learn how to stick to my subject… Anyway, tapas! I had one of the best experiences EVER in Utrera, a small village near Sevilla – big thanks to my friend José for taking me here! – at Besana tapas. The tapas are divine, and the deserts… Where’s my drooling emoji??
Insider tip: get the Torrija con crema de azahar, rosas y helado de naranja amarga.
 EXPLORE SEVILLE BY BIKE. Now that you’re close to Seville having tapas, you might as well drop by for a visit. I’ll be honest with you, it’s a bit too crowded for my taste, but it’s too beautiful to miss it. You can obviously just walk, but a bike tour is the perfect way to get a good first impression.
 SPEND A FEW HOURS IN CARMONA. Or a night, in which case I absolutely recommend El Rincón de las Descalzas for very nice rooms at affordable prices. Only a 30 minute drive from Seville, Carmona offers a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
 GO FLAMINGO SPOTTING AT DOÑANA NATIONAL PARK. Then try to not go home crying ’cause you didn’t see any, like me… #Boohooooooooooooooooo
 GO TO CÁDIZ. It’s easy to combine your Doñana tour with a morning or afternoon visit to Cádiz, and it’s the perfect place to get your dose of color after all that white.
 GO SURFING IN TARIFA. The southernmost point of continental Europe is one of the most popular places for all kinds of wind sports in the world.
 STAY AWAY FROM THE MONKEYS OF GIBRALTAR. After getting my camera filter stolen during my last encounter with a bunch of monkeys, this seemed like the smartest thing to do… If you’re not into photography, it might be worth a visit though 😉
 IMPROVE YOUR SPANISH. There is no such thing as learning a language – especially a language with such complicated grammar – JUST by speaking it, but if, like me, you’ve been studying Spanish for a while and want to work on your fluency, there’s no better place to do it than Spain itself! Hardly anybody speaks English anyway, even in the tourist spots, and don’t even think about having a chat with the locals of the villages (aka the best part, keep reading, I’m getting there) in anything else but Spanish. And, as the people from Andalusia say themselves, ‘we speak so fast that once you understand Spanish in Andalusia, you’ll understand it anywhere else in the world as well‘! Oléééé!!
 WATCH SOME #BRIDGEPORN IN RONDA. I don’t know where my love for bridges comes from, but I definitely had a bad case of it as soon as I arrived in Ronda. I used this guide to where to find the best views of Ronda, and I recommend you give it a read as well to make sure not to miss anything!
 HIKE THE CAMINITO DEL REY. Although the renovations that were made to the trail in 2015 have totally taken away the
suicidal adventurous aspect, the Caminito del Rey is definitely still worth a visit for the views.
And the helmets. #BringingSexyBack #MeAndMyDad
 BUY ONE OF THESE. Don’t worry, you won’t need to search Google for a post about ‘where to find the most taste
lessful presents in Andalusia’ to find them. And I sure ain’t writing you one! Hahaha!
 GO SHOPPING AT ONE OF THE MARKETS. Fruits, vegetables, flowers, souvenirs, … I love a good market. And with the most delicious strawberries costing only € 1.50 per kilo, I can only say one thing… ‘dos kilos por favor!’
 SPEND 2 DAYS PICKING FRUIT WITH A COMPLETE STRANGER NAMED JESUS #IKidYouNot OK if you’re a minor, you should probably stop reading right now, ’cause this is about how you should ALWAYS talk to strangers… So, close to the end of my trip I meet this guy named Jesús in Málaga. He’s my age and super cool, doesn’t speak more than 10 words of English, and turns out to be a fruit farmer just north of Murcía – which isn’t actually in Andalusia, but who cares, right?! Long story short, I’m litterally like… in luuuuuuuv with the idea of hanging around in a fruit yard (I know… ;)) and a few days later I end up in Murcía, for two days of visiting fruit yards, picking fruits and driving around the area with my own local tour guide. Ah-ma-zing!
The bad news, is that I don’t think Jesús has many ambitions of launching himself into the fruit yard guide business, so you’re gonna have to find your own. #He’sMine
 EAT PAELLA. Period.
Picture: delicious fresh vegetarian paella at Méson Don Fernando in Arcos de la Frontera.
 RELAX IN ONE OF THE ARABIAN BATHS. Take a guided tour, get a massage, and just enjoy a bit of me-time! To get an idea about tours and prices, click on one of the options below.
 VAMOS A LA PLAYA O-O-O-WEE-O. Hit the beach baby! With about 700 kms of coast line, from the Portuguese border near Huelva in the west, to Playa Calypso in the east, the Costa de la Luz and the Costa del Sol have something to offer for everyone. You can drive pretty close to it the whole time to find your perfect spot. I personally prefer the beaches between – give or take – Cádiz and Algeciras, or those between Nerja and Motril, as they’re quieter and less obviously touristic.
 DRIVE THROUGH THE SIERRA DE CAZORLA and spend the night in Segura de la Sierra. WARNING: once you arrive, you might never want to go home again. A detailed post about this highlight of my trip is coming soon!
 DRIVE THROUGH ACRES OF OLIVE FIELDS. You can find them all over Andalusia, but the province of Jaén is basically olive tree heaven. Delicious olive oil is for sale everywhere at very reasonable prices. You can even visit some olive farms or go on an olive oil tasting tour.
 SPEND A DAY IN ÚBEDA, BAEZA AND JAEN. Easy to combine in one day as Úbeda is only 45 minutes from Jaén and Baeza lies on the way, these lovely cities are worth a stop. I just strolled around the streets surrounding the Plaza de Vazquez de Molina in Úbeda, the city center of Baeza, and drove up to the Castle of Santa Catalina in Jaén, where you get amazing 360° views over the city.
 FALL IN LOVE WITH THE PEOPLE. From 84-year old Ernesto who gave me an improvised private tour in Cútar after I asked him about a place to eat, to Maria who invited me into her house in Comares for coffee. From the old lady who told me all about her life after she found me photographing her cat in the streets of Segura de la Sierra to those two old guys who literally stopped their car for a chat while I was talking pictures on the side of the road. I wrote this list in no particular order, but I’d pick my number one in less than a second. So learn some Spanish, get out of the tourist areas, and get ready to be swept of your feet.
 GO OUT WITH CARLOS, JOSE, ANTONIO
OR AND MIGUEL. #SpanishGuysAreHot Probably best NOT to fall in love with these, though – hahaha! Still looking for that drooling emoji…
 ADAPT TO THE SPANISH RHYTHM. Lunch at 2 pm, a little siesta, a snack at 6 pm, and by 9 pm you can start thinking about what you’re gonna make for dinner. Don’t ask me how a working Spanish person survives between the time they get up and their first meal at 2 pm. I solved the problem by getting up at 10 am every morning hahaha.
 SPEND A DAY OR 2 IN ALMERÍA. Beaches, churches, forteresses, tunnels dating back to the Spanish civil war and so much more. Almería is worth a bit of your time.
 EAT MANCHEGO CHEESE. Just spicy enough to slightly tickle your tongue, delicious all by itself or simply with some bread, you’ll often get some as a little appetizer on the house.
 HEAD TO THE SIERRA NEVADA AND THE ALPUJARRAS. Hundreds of miles of hiking paths are waiting to be discovered.
 DRIVE THROUGH THE ALPUJARRAS. The Alpujarras are the region south of the Sierra Nevada, with lots of cute little villages, and scenic drives to get from one to another. My favorites are Trevélez and Capileira.
 VISIT THE ALHAMBRA AND ALBAICIN OF GRANADA. I might not remember visiting the Alhambra at age 6, but I do remember visiting it at age 17. And although I really wanted to go back – if you’re impressed by a building at age 17, it must be pretty awesome, right? – I was also scared it might not be the same. To be left with the feeling of ‘it looked a lot bigger when I was younger’. I wasn’t. Not even for a second.
Don’t let the thousands of tourists hold you back. Sure, I’d also prefer to have the place to myself, but if you’re gonna do just one famous site in Andalusia, pick the Alhambra. Seriously! You can check out this post, Alhambra Granada – UNESCO World Heritage Site, by my friends from CoupleRTW for impressions and practical information.
You can spot it from inside the Alhambra, but the Albaicín district of Granada is definitely worth a closer look as well!
 CHECK OUT THE CAVE HOUSES IN GUADIX. Little houses built into the rocks are the main attraction of the city. Stroll around and try to get invited by one of the inhabitants to have a look around. Or check in to one of the cave houses that were transformed into a hotel.
 DRIVE FROM GRANADA TO ALHAMA DE GRANADA AND ON TO VÉLEZ-MÁLAGA. Stunning views and nobody else in sight. What else do you want? Alhama de Granada is cuuuu-hute as well, so get out of your car and walk around!
 SPEND A DAY IN THE WHITE VILLAGES OF MÁLAGA. Cútar, Comares, Colmenar, Frigiliana, … The towns are stunning, and the road in between nothing less than jaw-dropping. Definitely one of the highlights of my trip, click here for a full detailed post.
 VISIT EL TORCAL NATURAL RESERVE NEAR ANTEQUERA. Impressive karst formations define this place. You can chose between hikes of different lengths that will lead you along the most impressive viewpoints.
 STOP IN ANTEQUERA ON YOUR WAY BACK. Roman baths, Morish castles, churches and convents – Antequera has it all.
 HAVE DINNER AT RESTAURANTE VINTASH IN TORRE DEL MAR. Probably the best food I’ve ever had in Andalusia. Everything I’ve tasted was delicious, but my favorite are probably the ‘croquettes’, with all kinds of interesting fillings. The amazing service and the cutest decorations make the experience complete.
 GO TO MÁLAGA TO CELEBRATE. There always seems to be something going on in Málaga, so keep an eye on the city’s calender.
I personally went to see the processions for Semana Santa / Holy week and spent New Year’s Eve in Málaga, wearing red underwear and eating 12 red grapes at midnight. The grapes are a tradition in most of Andalusia and are supposed to bring luck for the next year. The red underwear… myeaaaah… I’m still wondering if the guy who told me wasn’t just hoping to get to see mine – hahahaha! If anybody can confirm that it truly IS a tradition as well… I’d feel a lot better. Thank you!
 DISCOVER MÁLAGA BY SEGWAY once you’ve finished celebrating. Perfect for a first introduction to the city’s sights and past. Check prices and availability here.
 WINE. Because… wine. #EnoughSaid
 VISIT ONE OF THE FERIA. From small town to big city, pretty much every place in Andalusia has its own feria. Flamenco shows, market stalls, the possibility to taste everything that’s good in Andalusia, … I don’t see any excuse not to go! Other than the occasional bullfight, of course. But nowadays most cities don’t organize them anymore, and if they do, please please please don’t go! So if you’re visiting between April and October, check out the dates here.d
 Speaking of flamenco… TAKE FLAMENCO LESSONS. One of the few things on this list I didn’t actually do myself, I got kinda busy studying Spanish, but definitely number one on my list for next time! Check out the link below for a list of courses, or shows for those of you with less flexible hips. (careful, the list is for all of Spain, as I can’t filter it further)
 EAT DESSERT. Natillas, fresas con nata (strawberries with whipped cream), anything with meringue – and by that I mean ONLY meringue, … JUMMY!!!
 PLUNGE INTO THE NIGHT LIFE. No matter where you are, every single city offers a night life that is so diverse I can’t even begin to describe it here. Make some local friends and ask them to show you all the good spots!
 THROW A SPANISH PARTY IN YOUR CAR. Every. Single. Time.
Unfortunately, this is also where the downside of learning Spanish comes in… ’cause once you start understanding the lyrics… Enrique, ‘we’re gonna bring the moon and the sun together‘?!? Seriously?!?
 DISCOVER IZNÁJAR, THE SIERRA SUBBETICA AND ZUHEROS. Even the locals I spoke to near my apartment in Torre del Mar, which is only 100km from Iznájar, told me they’d never even visited the place, but the (few) pictures I saw of it looked stunning, so I knew I had to go. Stay tuned for a full post with more information and pictures!
 EAT TORTILLAS. I know I said the amount of tortillas I had to eat drove me nuts, but well, the fact is that they ARE delicious, and you can’t go to Spain without having at least a few.
 GO BACK. Before my latest trip, it had been more than 15 years since my last visit to Andalusia and I think I’d kinda forgotten how absolutely beautiful it is. Or maybe I didn’t fully realize it back then, I was 17, on a school trip and probably more interested in that handsome guy from my class than in Spanish history. After having spent 6 more weeks exploring the area, I can only say one thing: some places loose a bit of their charm every time you visit. The taller YOU get, the smaller and less impressive THEY seem. But not Andalusia. This place only gets better, and I can’t wait to go back.
HASTA LUEGO ANDALUCÍA, I’M SURE WE’LL MEET AGAIN SOON!
Alright, time to share those travel memories, and all the things you’d add to this list as well! See you in the comment section!
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