Andalucia (or Andalusia) is a massive region in the south of Spain known for sprawling mountain regions, beaches and stunning Moorish architecture. It’s one of the best regions to visit in Spain if you love easy road trips and beautiful, picture-perfect weather. Most locations in Andalucia are only a 2-4 hour drive apart, which makes it easy to hop from town to town over a course of 2 to 3 weeks.
Wandering what to do in Andalucia? I’ve teamed up with some incredible fellow bloggers to put together a list of must-see southern Spain destinations – read on for 8 of the best places to see in Andalucia!
How to get around Andalucia
The best way to get around the region of Andalucia is by car, but you’ll find that you can get around within cities easily on foot. Expect to pay anywhere from 10-20 Euros for overnight parking, or 1-3 Euros per hour, and in our experience there was minimal highway tolls and plenty of gas stations along the way.
We picked up our car from Europcar in Madrid and drove down to Granada before venturing onwards, and would recommend that you pay close attention that you aren’t overcharged. Unfortunately, we did not have a great pick up experience with Europcar at the Madrid Airport and their staff tried to charge an additional few hundred Euros because we picked the car up 1 hour earlier than the registered pick-up time.
They then claimed that the extra fee was the “one-way fee” (we were dropping the car off in Portugal), even though the quote was inclusive of the one-way fee. Long story short, make sure you understand all of the fees you are being charged.
Looking for the best prices for rental car companies around the world? Click here to book your rental car ahead of your trip. Bookings can be cancelled or amended if your plans change!
8 of the best places to see in Andalucia
Wondering where to go in Andalucia? Here are some places you can’t miss on your Andalucia itinerary!
Most people get off the plane at Málaga airport and head for the beaches of the Costa del Sol giving Málaga a miss but this cultural and authentic Andalucian city deserves better. From its modernised port and nearby beaches to the alleyways and atmosphere of the old town Málaga is quite a revelation.
For spectacular views of Málaga from above and to get an orientation of the city take a wander along the rugged ramparts of Castillo de Gibralfaro before heading into the city to explore. Málaga’s cathedral has never actually been finished but don’t let that stop you paying a visit to this beauty.
Looming within the city walls the cathedral is surrounded by a network of pretty alleyways and small squares busy with orange trees and cafes. Make sure you go inside as the interior rivals that of both Granada and Seville.
Nearby is the museum of Pablo Picasso which resides in a renovated 16th-century mansion in the city’s oldest quarter called Palacio de Buenavista. The mansion is built on the ruins of a Nasrid palace and houses over 200 pieces of his work. Visit the Atarazanas food market for lunch on a Saturday. It’s where the locals go for the freshest of sardines and seafood. The 19th century iron-clad building incorporates the original Moorish gate which used to connect the city with the port.
The port is one of Spain’s oldest continually working ports but has been completely modernised. Take a stroll through the sculpture filled gardens and stop for chocolate and churros at one of the cafes or bars. If you want some beach time you’ll find it nearby.
Contributed by Suzanne Jones of The Travelbunny
Where to stay in Malaga: Hotels in the historic centre of Málaga are ideal if you want to easily reach the attractions in the city. Click here to see current rates and availability at top rated hotels in Malaga!
Cadiz on the southern tip of Spain has beaches, castles, flamenco and great food but the unique thing about this city is hidden from most travellers – unless they look up – and even then it’s not obvious!
Cadiz was founded on trade. Merchant houses with grand balconies line the narrow streets but the surprise is up on the rooftops. Many of the houses were built with watchtowers on their roof terraces so that the traders and the ship owners could keep a close eye on the coastline and the port.
They would sit and wait in their little watchtowers armed with binoculars or telescopes, watching for their ships loaded with goods from overseas to return. They would communicate with the ships via a system of flags and would dispatch men to the docks to unload the valuable goods into their warehouses.
129 towers still remain in the old part of Cadiz and one of them is open to the public. In this tower you can climb to the top floor of the old house for a 360 degree view of the city and the port below – first look out via the ‘camera oscura’ and then go outside onto the roof terrace.
The view could be like any other view of a seaside town if it were not for the white towers which stand proud across the cityscape, yet they are largely invisible from the streets below.
Contributed by Jane Clements of Scarlet Jones Travels
Where to stay in Cadiz: There are many wonderful hotel options in the Old Town of Cadiz. Click here to see current rates and availability at top rated hotels in Cadiz!
Granada is perhaps one of the most well-known cities in Andalucia, and is famous for its UNESCO-listed Alhambra complex consisting of palaces, gardens and military fortresses. The Alhambra towers over the city high up on a hill, and the views across Granada are simply put, breathtaking. Visiting the Alhambra is one of the best things to do in Andalucia.
It’s thought that the Alhambra dates back to the 9th century, and was extended to the complex it is today throughout the next four to five centuries; it reached its pinnacle when the first king of the Nasrid dynasty built his royal residence in the castle of the Alhambra in the 13th century.
Wandering through the Alhambra can only be described as a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience that transports you back to a regal and flourishing age in Andalucia, but trying to plan your visit to the Alhambra and secure tickets can be a real headache (it’s one of the most popular places to visit in Spain) so make sure you read my guide to the Alhambra in Granada.
When you are in Granada, make sure you also check out the Cathedral Granada, Calle Caldereria Nueva (a narrow street famous for dozens of teahouses), and Mirador San Nicolas, a free sunset view point that takes approximately 20 minutes to get to on foot from the historic centre – don’t skip this incredible city during your Andalucia trip!
Where to stay in Granada: If you are visiting Granada, the best place to stay is in the historic center of the city. We chose to stay at a fabulous boutique hotel, Hotel Párraga Siete. The hotel’s design is warm and welcoming, and the staff were no exception – extremely helpful and friendly. There are plenty of restaurants nearby and the rooms are spacious and very comfortable. Click here to check current rates for Hotel Párraga Siete or click here to see other highly rated hotel options in Granada!
If you are driving you need to give your license plate details to the hotel as non-registered cars are not allowed in the historic center. There is a secure parking lot across the street from the hotel (20 Euros per day).
Ronda is without a doubt, a hidden gem in Andalucia and one of the best places to visit in southern Spain. The small yet charming hilltop city is home to the spectacular Puente Nuevo, a stone bridge offering stunning views, and an old and new part of town covered in cobblestone streets. We stayed in Ronda for 3 nights and found myself wanting to stay a few more nights to enjoy the views for just a smidge longer.
You can hike down to the bottom of the gorge at Puente Nuevo, and it will take you no more than 20 minutes or so. The stairs down to the El Tajo Gorge can be found at Plaza de María Auxiliadora.
Though the Puente Nuevo is the most famous of Ronda’s bridges, Puente Viejo and Puente Arabe are also well worth checking out, as is the Mondragon Palace, a small Moorish palace with gardens, a museum and traditional courtyards. The incredible views and cultural treasures makes it one of the best cities to visit in Andalucia.
Ronda also offers a number of strategic viewpoints throughout the city, including the views from the Alameda del Tajo park, the Mirador de Ronda and the Mirador de Aldehuela, though you can’t really go wrong anywhere in the city because it is so high up!
For easy day trips from Ronda, head to the little-known Acinipo ruins, located about 20 KM or so from Ronda. The ruins include a beautifully preserved Roman theatre dating all the way back to the 1st century AD and amazing panoramic views across the countryside of Andalucia.
Also make sure that you don’t skip the Cueva del Gato (the “Cat’s cave”) for an icy refreshing dip in the cave’s turquoise coloured pools. This watering hole is a favorite for locals in the region, and is a perfect summer day trip from Ronda. It will take you just 15 minutes or so to drive out here.
Where to stay in Ronda: We stayed in an amazing apartment located right next to the Alameda del Tajo park. The Ático Exclusivo en Ronda had 2 bathrooms, 1 bedroom, a kitchen and massive terrace. It is close to all of the sights and has a private underground parking lot next to the apartment building which will cost you just 10 Euros a day. I can’t recommend Ático Exclusivo en Ronda highly enough – click here to check rates and availability of the Ático Exclusivo en Ronda apartment or click here for more highly rated accommodation options in Ronda!
Nerja is a seaside town on the Costa del Sol about an hour from Malaga, and also easily accessible from Granada. The most striking thing about Nerja is the outlook from the promenade and Balcón de Europa. The views of the mountains framing the white-washed houses leading to the rocky coastline of the Mediterranean are nothing short of spectacular, especially at sunset.
At any other time of day there’s plenty to do in Nerja, with several different beaches to choose from if you want to relax, or boutique shops and restaurants to keep you entertained. If you have the time, then you could also take short trips to nearby destinations like Frigiliana, a white-washed village in the hills just behind Nerja, Cueva de Nerja, a nearby cave with paleolithic paintings, or further afield to the Alpujarras.
While Nerja is on the ever-popular Costa del Sol and therefore a favourite of many holiday makers, it’s worth a visit for the stunning views alone.
Contributed by Sonja Erin of Migrating Miss
Where to stay in Nerja: Looking for a beach vacation in Andalucia? Click here to see current rates and availability at top rated hotels in Nerja!
If you didn’t know that Frigiliana was in Spain, you’d think that it was in Greece as the whitewashed buildings are reminiscent of the hilltop structures in Santorini! Frigiliana is one of the famous white villages of Andalucia and its historic center is full of cobblestone steps, charming coloured doorways and houses covered in beautiful bougainvillea.
It’s an easy day trip destination from Nerja or even Ronda, where you can spend the day lounging on terraces and wandering through its narrow alleyways. Public parking is available at the entrance of the town – we paid just 3 Euros for 3 hours of parking!
Where to stay in Frigiliana: In my opinion, it’s not necessary to stay overnight in Frigiliana as it is easily reachable from bigger surrounding cities. However, you can click here to see highly rated hotel and accommodation options in Frigiliana if you’d prefer to stay in this quiet little hilltop city!
Córdoba is a gem in the heart of Andalucia with mysterious little lanes and corners of striking architecture. Once one of the most important cities in Western Europe, it was the capital of Roman Spain before being taken over by the Arabs, and then the Christians. This colourful history has left a fascinating mark on the city.
The highlight of any visit is the magnificent Mesquita, a UNESCO World Heritage site which is a unique mosque-cathedral. Once you’ve spent some time marvelling at its striped arches and intricate ceilings, go get lost in the old town – a highlight would be to visit in May when the annual Fiesta de los Patios sees locals decorate their patios with elaborate flower arrangements.
When hunger strikes, find your way to Casa Pepe de la Juderia, a Córdoba institution serving honest, hearty fare in beautiful surroundings. If you’re in the mood for casual bites, head to Mercado Victoria, where an old fairground pavilion has been transformed into a food-lover’s haven. I would grab a glass of wine and graze on the wide selection of stalls, but a must order is the salmorejo, a local speciality of cold tomato and bread soup topped with ham and cheese!
Contributed by Connie of Connie Consumes
Where to stay in Cordoba: Stay in the historic centre of Córdoba if you prefer to explore the city on foot. Click here to see top rated hotels in Cordoba!
The drive towards Seville from Ronda is one of the most stunning you will ever see – it is home to hundreds (thousands?) of acres of bright yellow sunflower fields during the summer months! Click here to see some photos of the breathtaking sunflower fields of Andalucia.
You can’t go on an Andalucia road trip without stopping in Seville, its capital city. The city is home to the famous Real Alcázar de Sevilla where many scenes of Game of Thrones was filmed, or stop by the gigantic Cathedral where Christopher Columbus is buried and climb to the top of the spiraling Torre Giralda.
Torre del Oro, the “Tower of Gold”, is located on the river bank and houses a maritime museum detailing the history of Seville as a port city. You can climb to the top for just 3 Euros.
Don’t miss the photogenic Plaza de Espana and its beautiful tile panels and canal. Its corridors offer sweet shade on those sweltering hot days that Seville is known for. Don’t skip the underrated Palacio de las Dueñas, a small 15th century palace complete with traditional courtyards, gardens and bundles of bougainvillea. Wander over to the old quarter of Seville to see the Metropol Parasol, a wooden structure in the form of giant mushrooms.
Read more: Click here to read my Seville city guide!
Seville also offers absolutely delicious Spanish fare, head to Maravilla Social Club for some of the best tapas you’ll taste in Spain (go early, the queue starts to form as soon as it opens!) or La Linterna Ciega, a small restaurant with delectable tapas and plenty of craft beer options.
Where to stay in Seville: Unfortunately we didn’t have a great experience with the hotel in Seville, so can’t recommend it. The Apartamentos Sevilla Palace, though centrally located, wasn’t as clean as we would have liked (the washing machine was full of stale, mouldy water) and the key pick-up process was a hassle. Click here to see other highly rated hotels in Seville instead.
You might also enjoy these reads:
- Ready to plan your once-in-a-lifetime road trip through Spain’s Andalucia? Click here to see top rated hotels and accommodation options in the region
- Check out this 1 week Andalucia road trip itinerary to help plan your trip
- Here is my guide to exploring Seville
- And don’t miss out on wandering through the Alhambra palace and gardens in Granada
- Or check out this 3 day Ronda itinerary – a totally underrated city in Spain
Make sure you add Andalucia to your Southern Spain itinerary if you’re looking for a mixture of beach, mountains, archaeological ruins, palaces and much much more!
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