As part of a vast territory called Hispania, modern-day Spain was once one of the most prosperous parts of the Roman Empire. Many well-preserved ruins from this fascinating era are still with us, especially in the sun-baked region of Andalusia.
The Romans’ domination of Spain began in 206 BC with victory at the Battle of Ilipa, near present-day Seville. Thanks to virtuoso strategy from general Scipio Africanus, Roman forces ended the Carthaginian occupation of Spain and went on to rule the land for 700 years. Below, Culture Trip takes you on a tour of the most impressive Roman ruins in the southern region of Andalusia, from amphitheatres and temples to factories that produced some of the Empire’s most prized delicacies.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Antequera – called Antikaria by its Roman inhabitants – is a beautiful town located 53km (33mi) north of Málaga. Here, you can marvel at the well-preserved remains of the Santa Maria baths: discovered in 1988, they date from the 1st century AD and were in use until the 5th century. Clearly visible are the separate bathing rooms – which offered cold, warm and hot waters – and the dressing rooms, as well as some beautiful mosaics. The best overall view of the structure is from the Mirador Plaza de Santa María, from where you can also admire structures from Antequera’s Moorish and Christian epochs. On the other side of town, down by the train station, the remains of a Roman mansion discovered in 1998 are still being excavated.
Situated on Granada’s coastline, Almuñécar prospered during the 1st century AD, when its salted fish was in demand all over the Roman Empire. The small, circular vats in which fillets of sturgeon and tuna were layered originally date from the 4th century BC, but were refined and extended centuries later. Their well-preserved remains can be seen in Majuelo Park. This factory also produced garum, a pungent Roman delicacy made with fish waste and intestines. Also of interest is Almuñécar’s Aqueduct, which was constructed in the 1st century BC and extended north of Torrecuevas. There are some remains in the centre, but the most impressive section is found in the Verde Valley, accessible via a circular walk from the town.
In around 70 BC, Lucius Cornelius Balbus “The Elder”, a close friend of Julius Caesar’s, decided to expand Gades, as the Romans called modern-day Cádiz. The centrepiece of his ambitious project was one of the Empire’s largest theatres, with seating for around 10,000 spectators – a structure that was subsequently used as the site for a fortress when the Moors arrived in 711. The Moorish Alcazaba was then reconstructed by Christian King Alfonso X “The Wise” when he reconquered Cádiz in 1262. Despite being discovered some 40 years ago, significant portions of the theatre are still buried under nearby houses, raising the tantalising prospect of further discoveries.
This splendid ruin is situated 14.5km (9mi) north of Tarifa in Cádiz province. The Roman town of Baelo Claudia’s central Forum dates from the end of the 2nd century BC, but the city complex was only completed under its namesake Claudius, who reigned from AD 41–54. Due to its location on the Strait of Gibraltar, Baelo Claudia was crucial to trade with nearby North Africa and generated most of its wealth from tuna fishing, fish salting and the production of garum. Its decline began with an earthquake in the mid-2nd century AD and was hastened thereafter by pirates’ occupation and looting. By 7 AD, the city was completely abandoned; nonetheless, magnificently preserved today are the remains of its temple, market, fish-salting facilities and theatre.
One of the best-preserved Roman theatres in Spain is found on a hilltop 19 kilometres (12 miles) northeast of Ronda, where a prosperous Roman settlement called Acinipo once stood. With a population of around 5,000, Acinipo thrived in the 1st century AD due to its proximity to Seville, Córdoba and the coast. Pass through the entrance gate, head up the hill and you’ll soon come to the impressive remains of a 2,000-capacity teatro, including tiered seats, a stage and the actors’ changing rooms. Also visible are remains of houses – some built with stones brought from the limestone wonderland of El Torcal, 100km (60mi) to the east – and the recently excavated baths. Evidence of Bronze Age settlements can also be seen on the same site.
The remains of Italica, a city founded for Africanus’s conquering soldiers in AD 206, are located a 20-minute drive north of Seville. Italica is said to have been the birthplace of three Roman Emperors: Trajan, Hadrian and, according to some sources, Theodosius. Despite only having a population of about 8,000, the city boasted the the third-largest amphitheatre in the Empire, with seating for 25,000 spectators. Clearly visible today are the seating, the stage and, in the centre, a pit where animals such as bears and boars were kept for gladiatorial combat. Also well-preserved are cobbled streets, several large houses decorated with beautiful mosaics and a few arches of what was once a 40km-long (25mi) aqueduct. Scenes of Game of Thrones were filmed in Italica in 2016.
The remains of the Roman town of Ocuri are located deep in Cádiz’s Sierra de la Grazalema natural park, near the whitewashed village of Ubrique. They were discovered at the close of the 18th century by a local farmer, who subsequently performed much of the excavation himself. Although some recovered materials date the settlement to the 6th century BC, Ocuri is thought to have thrived as a strategically placed defensive city in the 2nd century AD. Its mausoleum is possibly the best-preserved such structure in Andalusia, boasting an intact ceiling, walls and niches for urns. Also of note are the ruins of the baths and the Forum, from which you can enjoy spectacular mountain views. Visits are only possible with guided tours, which run three times per day.
This vast complex of roads spanned the length and breadth of Hispania. It was built between the 2nd and 8th centuries BC under Emperor Augustus, who ordered the renovation of a network dating from the Roman Republic, and it stretched from Cádiz to Rome. During the 10th century, it was used by the Moors, who called it al-Racif. Today, much of the Vía Augusta is overlaid by motorways, but there are still stunning remains in Andalusia, where it follows the weaving course of the Guadalquivir. Especially well-preserved are the ruins of Cástulo in the province of Jaen and the stretch from Seville to Carmona, where you’ll find the magnificent Puerta de Sevilla, dating from 220BC, and a necropolis.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.