Andalucía is so much more than just sunshine and beach resorts. It has an extraordinary history, beautiful landscapes and stunning architecture, all of which are now easy to experience with the modernisation of Spain’s infrastructure. The list is endless but here are some of our favorite places that you can visit on a short trip from the San Pedro Apartments.
Just a 1 hour drive on the road that leads directly inland from San Pedro de Alcántara, is the beautiful historic town of Ronda, one of the oldest towns in Spain. Ronda’s cultural heritage dates back most notably to the Moorish occupation, and this is reflected in its buildings and monuments.
The town is easily explored on foot with the first stop normally being the 18th century Puente Nuevo (New Bridge) which sits across the 100 m chasm of the El Tajo Gorge where the Rio Gaudelvin runs below.
Ronda is also famously the birthplace of modern bullfighting and has the oldest bullring in Spain, a site well worth visiting, even if you don’t want to actually see a bullfight.
Other attractions include the Casa de Don Bosco, a handsome town mansion owned by one of Ronda’s titled families and the restored Arab Baths said to be the best preserved in Europe.
Andalucía is famous for its pretty hilltop white villages, but Casares is one of the most breathtaking to visit. Its views across the countryside over the Mediterranean and on to Gibraltar are a photographers dream.
Situated about 1 hours drive away from San Pedro, the ‘hanging village’ as it is known, is built onto a hillside just below a ruined fortress and dates back to the Roman era. The village is reached by a picturesque road that leads up from the coast between Estepona and Manilva. The area is a real treat for anyone who loves their food, with some outstanding restaurants both on the road up to Casares, and in the village itself.
The surrounding countryside is a protected wildlife area, so it’s very popular with hikers and birdwatchers.
Although known for its wealth and glamour, Marbella is actually a very historic Spanish town and its old quarter is really worth a visit. Just a 10 minute drive from San Pedro, the old part of the town centers around Orange Square, where the beautiful fountain, built by the first Christian mayor in Marbella, dates back to 1504. The tiny lanes leading off the square lead you to the Chapel of Santiago and the 16th century Bazan Palace that now houses the Museum for Contemporary Spanish Engravings. Further on you will find the Chapel of San Juan de Dios and the Castle ruins.
The small port of Marbella, just a few minutes walk from the old quarter, with its long promenade and countless restaurants, makes for a very easy, relaxing day out.
Whilst there is plenty to see and do in Malaga, many visitors go straight past it from the airport, on their way to the popular resorts of the Costa del Sol.
Malaga is a city steeped in more than 3,000 years of history. Excavations have discovered evidence of the Carthaginians, the Romans and the Moors. Some of the most stunning sites to visit are the cathedral, the Alcazaba (a fifteenth century Moorish fort), the castle (which stands on a hillside overlooking the city) and the Picasso Museum.
If you want a taste of real Spanish culture, head to Malaga during one of its festivals, most notably the Easter Parade and the massive Feria held in August.
Costa de la Luz
If you travel around the bottom corner of Spain, past Gibraltar, you come to Spain’s southern most tip, a town called Tarifa. Here the coastline changes completely, with the Atlantic Ocean pounding its shores.
Tarifa is a pretty walled town with a warren of cobbled alleyways. The walls were built to protect it from the wind, which in winter can be almost constant. In the summer however, this makes it the best place in Europe for surfing, kitesurfing and windsurfing enthusiasts. It also has some stunning white sand beaches and some excellent places to eat, which brings visitors from all walks of life, not just the surfers!!
Time did stop a little on the Costa de la Luz. There are almost no high rises here, in fact most of the beaches are protected, so its development has been slow. However some areas like the outskirts of Tarifa town, are catching up, so get down there while you can! If you travel further up the coast road towards Cadiz, you can still be rewarded by some almost deserted beaches and great areas for camping – Boloña, Punta Paloma and Los Caños de Meca to name but a few.
Often considered the traditional heart of Andalusian culture, Seville is a city that everyone should visit if they love anything about Spain. It is the home of bullfighting, flamenco music, sherry and Seville oranges! It is located to the west of Andalucia, about 3 hours drive from the apartments.
There is a wealth of sights to see in Seville including the Parque Maria Luisa – a vast parkland right in the centre, Seville Cathedral, the Giralda tower, the Alcázar fortress-palace as well as museums, art galleries and the majestic Plaza de Toros de la Maestranzas bullring. The region of Santa Cruz on the eastern side of the city centre is probably the most picturesque part of Seville. In April each year, the city throws a week-long party and one million people show up! During the day, parades of horses and decorated carriages wind their way through the city and fairground. This equestrian display is accompanied by strolling singers who play traditional “Sevillana” songs. From around nine at night until six or seven the following morning the city parties – dancing Sevillanas, drinking Jerez sherry, or manzanilla wine, and eating tapas.
We would advise avoiding visiting Seville in the height of summer though, as it has been known to reach 50°C in August!!
Cordoba is about 2 hours north of Malaga City, at the most 3 hours drive from San Pedro. It is probably most famous for the Mezquita (mosque) which is one of the largest in Europe. The Mezquita dates back to the 10th century when Córdoba reached its zenith under a new emir, Abd ar-Rahman 111 who was one of the great rulers of Islamic history. An architectural wonder, the mosque has more than 850 marble pillars inside and the effect, with sunlight streaming through and thousands of small oil lights lighting the cavernous hall, is incredible.
A lesser known time to visit Cordoba is in May when the city is covered in flowers!! The Cruces de Mayo Festival is a series of events starting with a long procession of flower-covered floats and women dressed in traditional gypsy dresses throwing flowers into the crowd, followed by the covering of religious crosses with flowers and then finally the battle of the patios, when local residents compete to make the best displays.
In the foothills behind the Sierra Nevada mountain range is the city of Granada – about 3 hours drive from San Pedro. With a fascinating history dating back to native tribes in the prehistoric period, Granada was first colonised by the Romans, then the Arabs in the 8th century and it finally fell to the Christian hands of Queen Isabel of Castile and her husband Ferdinand of Aragon in 1492.
Granada is home to the Alhambra, one of the most visited sites in Spain. It is a huge compound of Moorish buildings and includes the summer palace Generalife, which has beautiful fountains and gardens.
The Sacromonte hill in Granada overlooks the city from the North and is famous for its cave dwellings which were once the home of Granada’s large gypsy community.
From Granada you can take a half hour drive up into the mountains of the Sierra Nevada. In the summer months there are some stunning hiking trails, and in the winter you can ski. In fact you can ski in the morning and be back on the beach in the afternoon!!