Every year, millions of people travel to Andalucia, the southern region of Spain to spend their summer holidays, basking in the sun and relaxing. But did you know Andalucia is more than beaches and holidaymakers? In my personal opinion, I think Andalucia is a perfect travel destination for all kinds of travelers. From families to solo backpackers, adventure seekers, and sun lovers alike. Here are my 11 very persuasive reasons to visit Andalucia Spain this year!
This is a guest post by Norwegian Linn Haglund. She currently calls the region of Andalucia home and is an expert on all things Andalucia.
I paid for everything in full myself. I was not paid or sponsored. All my opinions and experiences are my own.
Probe around the Globe does use affiliate links. If you decide to follow one of my links and make a purchase, I’ll earn a small commission. This is at no extra cost to you.
Do you even need a few reasons to visit Andalucia?
If you are wondering if it is worth visiting Spain’s southern region on your next vacation, this post is for you. Whether you visit in summer, spring, fall, or winter, you will find an array of varied things to do. The region has been influenced by different cultures over centuries. Something you can feel in its vibrant and colorful culture, from the fiestas to the food.
The refined Moorish architecture still stands strong with major landmarks like the Alhambra and the Real Alcazar. And you can head deep into the warren of narrow streets in old Jewish, Gypsy, and Moorish neighborhoods in the old cities.
As you can tell, there is so much more to Andalucia than just beaches and cheap drinks.
Vast national and natural parks also invite you to strap on your hiking boots to uncover the region beyond the obvious. Read on to uncover the most compelling reasons to visit Andalucia, Spain.
1. Experience Semana Santa in Seville
Spain is recognized for its vigorous celebrations and Easter Week is no exception.
Especially in Seville, this week’s celebration is particularly special.
Throughout the day and the night during 10 days you can experience precessions by 60 different brotherhoods.
Accompanied by deeply sad live music, “nazarenos” (people dressed in religious robes with pointy hats covering their faces) carry large candles or crosses. Devotees carry large floats with religious figures depicting happenings from the days around Jesus’ crucifixion.
Especially powerful are the night processions. You will feel the vibe as the floats come by. The crowded streets will be all silent while they clap enthusiastically as the float carriers do a little “jump” to the float.
As you can imagine, Semana Santa is the busiest time to visit Seville. Book your accommodation as far ahead in advance as possible. Select the best Seville hotels here.
2. Hike the highest peak in mainland Spain
Andalucia is also home to several of the 3000-meter peaks in Spain and the highest peak in mainland Spain, Mulhacén. (The highest is Mount Teide on Tenerife.)
While the peak is at an altitude of 3.479 meters above sea level (11.414 ft), you can actually hike it in a day.
In the summer months, you can get a shuttle bus to the highest point it can go. Keep in mind that private vehicles cannot go that far.
It will pick you up exactly 6 hours after drop off. This gives you enough time to walk the fairly easy trail to the top. You can take plenty of pictures, and have a nice lunch break.
Due to the changing weather conditions at such an altitude, you must make sure you bring layers of clothes.
You might have extreme heat and there is no hiding from the elements up there. So be aware of what to wear hiking in hot weather. And at the same time, bring what you would wear on a winter hike.
It can change quickly.
Also, bring enough water and snacks. And make sure you wear good footwear. Although the trail is in good shape, this is a high mountain area and should be treated that way.
Book your Sierra Nevada summit hiking tour (incl. transport and guide) here
3. Take a day trip to Gibraltar
Connected to Andalucia, there is a small British territory you can visit, Gibraltar.
There, you can also meet the only wild monkeys in Europe. It is easy to go on a day trip to Gibraltar from Malaga and the rest of the Costa del Sol.
Besides the iconic Rock of Gibraltar with views of Africa on one side and Spain on the other, where you also find the Ape’s Den where the wild monkeys hang out, there are lots of things to see in a day.
Get underground to discover the incredible St. Michael’s Cave, visit the Moorish Fortress, and the Great Siege Tunnels.
Make sure you bring your passport when crossing the border. And if you need a visa for the UK, there is a big chance you will need a visa for Gibraltar.
4. Experience the Patio Festival in Cordoba
If picturesque patios draped with colorful flowers, pot plants, and pretty, centered fountains sound like your kinda thing, the place to be is Cordoba Patio Festival during the first two weeks of May.
This is a tradition that dates back to 1921. The city wanted to reward the neighbors of old Moorish patios for maintaining them and keeping them pretty.
The monetary prizes still stand. And while only a handful of private patios are open all year round, the festival is a fantastic time to see over 50 courtyards opened to the public – free of charge.
Most of these are private courtyards. The inhabitants work all year long to maintain the wonderful heritage and make them pretty for when they open their doors to the public for two weeks.
The vibrant scene you will find in Cordoba during this time is like no other. You’ll experience live concerts and Flamenco-dressed women singing and dancing the Sevillanas in the streets and inside the different patios.
If you want to really embrace the ambiance of Cordoba’s cultural heritage, this is an amazing experience.
Book your accommodation in Cordoba ahead of time. Select the best hotels here.
5. Wander the Alhambra in Granada
One of the most prominent landmarks, not only in Andalucia, but in Spain, is the Alhambra Fortress, Palace, and Generalife Gardens.
It is one of the best-preserved Moorish palaces in the country.
What first served as a pure military structure, became a Royal residence during the Nasrid Kingdom as well as the court of Granada. After the Christian reconquest, the Christian court took place there.
As you can see, the layers of history taking place in the Alhambra complex are incredible. And visiting this site on a guided tour will give you a new understanding of Andalucia’s history.
Make sure you book your tickets early as they sell out quickly, sometimes months in advance.
If you are wondering where to stay in Granada, why not stay in the Alhambra itself?
The unique Parador de Granada, located inside the walls of the Alhambra is a 15th-century restored convent.
It is still a great location for exploring the rest of Granada.
6. Tour the Pueblos Blancos
One of the best reasons to visit Andalucia is without a doubt to explore the white villages that are dotted across the region, nestled in deep valleys and balancing on steep hilltops.
A road trip through the region is a great way to see as many as possible.
Among the most popular whitewashed villages is the route of the mountains of Malaga and Cadiz. Here you’ll find the towns like Casares, Ronda, Zahara de la Sierra, and the village built in rock, Setenil de las Bodegas.
In the province of Granada, you can tour the Alpujarras and experience towns like Capileira, Trevelez.
Don’t forget the witch village of Soportújar. Here you can walk a “spooky” witch trail to take pictures of all the statues of spooky imaginary things like dragons, witches, the Hansel and Gretel House with legs, and other cool things.
If you travel in spring, you will be mesmerized by the patios and gardens across the Cordoba province. Here, towns like Priego de Cordoba, Zuheros, and Iznájar enchant travelers with their colorful patios and wonderful, natural surroundings and local feel.
7. Relax at the beaches
Ok, so Andalucia has a wealth of cultural and historical sites to it. But that does not leave out the fact that there is an incredibly beautiful coastline lining the region from Almeria in the east to Huelva in the west bordering Portugal.
You find every kind of beach so you just have to point out your beach style.
In Costa del Sol you are spoiled by beaches with beach bars, complete lists of amenities, and restaurants and bars on the beaches. This is also the case in cities and large beach towns in other provinces.
However, get out of the cities in the Almeria, Cadiz, and Huelva provinces and you will find a wealth of remote beaches. Sand dunes cascade down to the beach, where you do not find any facilities, and sometimes have to hike to get there.
There are also several nudist beaches or beaches where clothing is optional. These are popular among both naturalists and other people alike everyone respecting each other.
These beaches are usually harder to reach. But in places like Cabo de Gata Natural Park in Almeria, you will notice that all beaches, but the urban beaches have optional clothing. And dogs run freely around the beach when it is illegal anywhere else in Spain. People are generally more laid back.
If you prefer freshwater, Andalucia is home to picturesque lakes. Some of them, like El Chorro Lakes, Iznájar Lake, and Zahara de la Sierra Lake all have dedicated beaches. They have a few amenities like sunbeds for rent and paddleboards and kayaks for rent.
8. Go dolphin and whale watching in Tarifa
Situated in the Strait of Gibraltar, Tarifa is an excellent place for dolphin-watching and whale-watching.
Due to its location, there are a lot of different whales coming by this area. And you can even witness the beautiful Killer Whales during the summer months, especially in August.
Tarifa is a wonderful town to stay in with fantastic surf and is popular among kite surfers and windsurfers.
There are plenty of bars and restaurants serving healthy food. Tarifa has enough other attractions to keep you busy for a few days in case the boat tour is canceled due to the wind.
There are lots of companies offering dolphin watching and whale watching so you can usually book at one of the tour operators in town.
However, the summer months get truly busy, and booking in advance can be an advantage.
Book your dolphin-watching trip from Tarifa via this link
9. Eat lots of tapas!
If you have not found any reasons to visit Andalucia yet that convince you, I am sure you do not want to miss out on the fabulous tapas scene you find in southern Spain.
Wherever you go, you will find these small affordable dishes.
Due to their small size, they are perfect for tasting as much Andalusian food as possible and they have a whole lot to savor!
From meatballs, Montaditos (mini baguettes) to Salmorejo, a cold tomato and garlic soup, which is thicker than Gazpacho, and is traditionally served in a glass to drink.
In the more traditional areas of Andalucia, you will still get a free tapa when you order a drink. This means: three beers and you had a free meal. If you think the beers will be more expensive, think twice.
Book the best Sevilla Food Tour here
10. Go skiing
If you think you are going to a summer destination just because there are more than 320 days of sun in the year, you just forgot the 3000-meter peaks in Sierra Nevada National Park.
Home to the southernmost ski resort in Europe, this is a fantastic place to strap on your snowboard or skis and slide down the slopes of the second-highest mountain in the national park, Pico Veleta.
There are lifts taking you almost up to the top of the peak, powder slopes, and smaller slopes for beginners.
If you want to learn how to ski, the Sierra Nevada ski resort offers lessons for kids and adults alike and it is hard to find a prettier place.
The season is also one of the longest in the continent. It starts as soon as the snow falls in November and lasts until April/May when the snow melts away.
11. Visit some Roman Ruins and Ancient History
As a Roman ruins lover, I was really very surprised to find out that the region of Andalucia has so many ancient ruins to discover.
Not just the super famous city of Italica near Seville, but also 6 other, very interesting ruins sights. Ranging from a Roman theater in Malaga or Cadiz to the sunswept sight of Baelo Claudia with stunning sea views.
Walk amongst the ruins, and learn about Roman times. And dust off your history knowledge with a visit to any (or all) of these amazing historic sights in Andalucia.
Is Andalucia worth visiting? Final thoughts
If you are not convinced that Andalucia is worth visiting by now, I do not know what will.
With such a variety of nature, culture, historic places, and vigorous celebrations that only the Andalusians know how to perform, this is such a colorful corner of the world.
You can easily spend months uncovering new places, tastes, scents, and activities in the region that will surprise you with a new Fiesta around every corner.
Because traveling around Andalucia will most likely make you experience some kind of celebration you did not expect even when visiting a small village.
A Romeria, Feria, or carnival is just around the corner, so what are you waiting for?