Andalucia is the grandmother of Spain. Sleepy whitewashed towns emerge from the rocks. Cobbles adorn the spindly streets through every city and town. The personalities of each location are distinct; seductive Seville, daring Ronda and sophisticated Malaga. To travel around Andalucia is to experience the soul of Spain, the heights of summer and the lows of the rivers at the edge of the desert. The contrast of gothic churches and bustling bar-filled plazas is at the heart of its history.
Cast about the foot of the Sierra Nevada, Granada is a brawny mix of Islamic architecture and Spanish street art. The Alhambra is the gem that glitters brightest in the city, with grand landscaped gardens, Islamic buildings and a view from the Mirador that could probably convince you to propose. Get the train, bus or drive from Malaga or Barajas Airport.
The winding cobbled streets of Cádiz are steeped in thousands of years of history. Scrubbed white plazas house cheerful taverns full of fried fish and white wine, and the weathered buildings are beaten by waves that nearly surround the entire city. Buses run daily between neighbouring Seville and Malaga.
Gerardo Diego called Ronda his place of light with no day of rest. A province of Malaga, Ronda is perched on the El Tajo Gorge, astride a gash in the mountains. The largest of Andalucia’s white towns, Ronda’s history is a dramatic clash of bandits and guerrillas, rebels and outlaws. To get there take the train from Malaga or Marbella.
Nerja, at the top of the Costa del Sol, has 10 whole miles of powdery sand beaches. The soft, calm sway of the Mediterranean Sea swells into its renowned caves full of stalactites and artefacts that are tens of thousands of years old. Malaga airport is just 78km from Nerja, between which there are daily trains, buses and taxis.
Gothic architecture and rustic antique charm leads visitors on a dance through the city that must end at the tiny winding Barrio Santa Cruz, Seville. Baroque churches harmonise with the cante flamenco as medieval lanes house crowded tapas bars. Again, there are regular buses to Granada, Cordoba, Malaga and Cádiz, and two airports in Madrid and Barcelona.
Malaga has the electric buzz of a city at the centre of Andalucia. Spaniards and visitors gravitate here for galleries, restaurants and sleepless nightlife. Despite its Roman relics, Malaga has reinvented itself as a city for the here and now. Buses from the local airport will take you to the centre, and buses out of Malaga will take you all over Andalucia.