Whilst for us spending a week with old Spanish-Sri Lankan friends from Sydney and seeing them grow into a family, this time round was by far our highlight of Andalucia, even without that this most diverse and sun-kissed region in Southern Spain is a fabulous hodgepodge of anything a traveller’s heart could wish for. Here’s only a few reasons of why to go.
1. It’s beautiful
From UNESCO heritage sites, over splendid nature in all its shapes and forms, the few English settlements on the Costa de Sol aside, there’s not a spot on this land that anyone could call anything but breath-takingly beautiful. If you like picturesque cities, from Granada and Sevilla over Cordoba or smaller towns like Ronda and Jimena de la Frontera – there is a more than abundant premium selection to pick from. If you are a beach lover, you can chose from the English pub and fiesta beaches by the Costa de Sol, to more beautiful scenery further East or West. If you like it colder, head up one of the many mountains and national parks covered in lush forests and green pastures.
Driving south from Madrid, past castles and Manchego factories in Castillo la Mancha, we first pass olive tree fields as far as the eyes can reach, then stop for lunch in one of historians world mekkas, Granada, from where winding roads through lush mountains finally land us by the endless beaches. We couldn’t have asked for more variety in two days of travelling from Madrid to the Southern coasts.
2. It’s dry
This might sound irrelevant to non-sailors. But all those who’ve lived on a boat for any amount of time, who now the litres of mildew sticking even to the smallest items the moment night falls, who have experienced skin blisters and bruises not healing for the constant humid environment, and understand what it means not getting that humid salty air out of any of their clothes, blankies and cushions – all those will appreciate like us, the beautiful warm, dry Andalucian air like nothing else.
3. People are most laid-back and friendly
Spaniards in general are hard to dislike with their happy, open and chilled-out attitude. Southerners take it to the next level. Siesta is a must. Stress unknown territory. Talking about savoir-vivre, they’ve got it!
4. Kids are welcome
When one of the littlies starts giving their best karaoke in the middle of a restaurant without stop, instead of grumpy looks its more likely to blend in with the generally loud and joyous atmosphere of Spanish life. At most, the waiter or grand-ma from the next table will come and start playing or hugging your kid. Nothing for touch-averse people, but a paradise for curious and flexible travelling families.
This, unfortunately does not include many accommodation options which tend to charge extra for each child. Make sure you check in advance whether there is extra charges for extra beds, cots and/or breakfast.
5. Tapas are delicious and generous
Often with neither ordering nor having to pay for them, beverages are accompanied by the most delicious snacks. We are not talking greasy packaged chips here. Tapas can be anything from tortilla de patatas, over some egg variation, little sandwich with local ham, cheese, seafood and other local specialties. An unwritten rule tends to be that the further into the rounds of cerveza you head, the more elaborate the tapas get. For instance, while the first one might get you a few delicious local olives, the tenth round might see you and your mates dipping into oysters or scallops.
6. There are many off-the-beaten tracks to discover
Although tourism is well developed in the coastal areas, cities and some mountain towns, there are still many areas like national park tracks, small mountain villages not mentioned in the latest Lonely Planet. Even just the hinterland of more developed coastal towns sometimes awaits with delicious local-ness and a magic touch.
7. For those who like it loud…
Of course there are the LA/Gold Coast remixes as Marbella and the like. You don’t need to look hard to find them and honestly, get your Lonely Planet for this as I won’t be able to tell you any secrets about that scene anymore. I’m a mum! Nostalgia, nostalgia, nostalgia… the past is the past, jaja.
8. Arabic culture in European environment
If Africa feels a bit scary, but you are still curious to discover some of its culture at first hand, Andalucía is the place to be. With hundreds of years of Moor influence, many of the places like Granada and the famous white villages in its surroundings, show at least as much Arabic influence as Christian or Jewish. The further south you head, the more common hammams, more abundant Morroccon cuisine, and more omnipresent moor architecture become.
9. Uncountable national parks
Just from a general map I counted over 14. Many of them unknown even to my well-tracked Spanish friends. From hippie havens inviting for handycraft stops in quain villages (Alpujarras), over abandoned railway tracks offering miles of walks or bike rides through tunnels and stunning scenery (Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema) to mountain hikes past rivers and Roman ruins for all levels. Andalucia has got it all.
10. Uncountable beaches
Given it’s miles and miles of coastline, it doesn’t come as a surprise. Most of Spain’s southern coasts have made a name for themselves and once again you can chose between party zones, remote beaches, big, small, developed and chilled.
A little extra handy characteristic for adventurous travelling nomads like us: Africa is just ½ hr ferry ride away. And that’s where we are heading for as I send off this post.