Andalucia has got it all. Over 1,000 kilometres of beautiful coastline stretching from the Costa de Almeria on the Mediterranean Sea right round to the Costa de la Luz on the Atlantic Ocean. Dozens of picturesque small towns and villages nestled in the mountains where life continues as it has for hundreds of years. Not to mention walking trails to suit all abilities, from mountain hikes in the Sierra Nevada to coastal strolls along the Senda Litoral de Malaga.
I originally published this in June 2020 when it seemed likely that normal service would resume fairly quickly – if only we knew!
My plan was to make the most of this paradise on my doorstep and have a Spanish staycation. I figured that, with so many countries not open to tourists, why bother going anywhere else with all the associated risks when I could be a tourist in my own beautiful backyard?
I planned a mixture of day trips, weekend breaks and a road trip or two, intending to revisit some old favourites as well as discover somewhere new.
None of this happened! Although restrictions were eased during the summer months the situation changed frequently (and still does). Even now we can’t leave our municipality so although I’m carrying over my staycation plans, who knows when I’ll get to enjoy them. However, compared to the lockdown we experienced at the start of the pandemic at least now we can leave home and go for walks so, if nothing else, I’ll know Sotogrande like the back of my hand!
When I can travel around Andalucia again here’s what I’ve got planned.
Uncover the history of the Moors
From the Alhambra Palace in Granada to the Real Alcazar in Seville, Andalucia is steeped in history.
On my last trip to Granada the Alhambra was teeming with people (not surprising as it’s the most visited tourist attraction in Spain with over 2 million visitors a year) but, when it reopened in June 2020, the capacity was limited to 50% (which is still 4,250 tickets available each day). I’m looking forward to visiting without the crowds – fewer people is always a bonus in my book!
Booking in advance is, as always, recommended with a choice of tickets covering Alhambra, Nasrid Palace and Generalife gardens.
Summer isn’t the ideal time to visit Granada as temperatures inland soar, but I’ll take my trusty ‘abanico’ and be ready to have frequent refreshment breaks. One of the perks of a trip to Granada is that, in almost all bars, you get a free tapa with your drink.
Explore the famed white towns
One of my favourite ways to spend a weekend is wandering around one of Andalucia’s ‘pueblos blancos’. From the small but perfectly formed Castellar de la Frontera, to the more well-known Ronda, there’s a white town to suit everyone. A return visit to Ronda is on the cards, as well as a first time visit to Setenil de la Bodegas, set in the side of a cliff and with some houses even built into the rock face.
Did you know there’s also a blue town in Andalucia? Juzcar nestled in the Valle del Genal in the Serrania de Ronda was painted blue in 2011 for the premiere of the Smurfs movie, transforming this usually white town into a Smurf village. A visit to meet Papa Smurf is definitely on the wish list. We even spotted an escapee from the village earlier this year when we were in Getares.
Discover some new delicacies
One of my favourite things to do when I travel anywhere is to sample the local cuisine and, travelling around Spain, it’s no different. Each part of Andalucia has its own culinary speciality and, from espetos in Malaga to tortillitas de camarones in Cadiz, there’s something to tickle most taste buds.
Tourist businesses have been hard hit by the pandemic so, although I usually just go with the flow foodwise when I visit somewhere new, I’m planning to book a food tour (or two) this time.
I’m also looking forward to wine tasting in Ronda to see if the quality of the drink matches that of the food. The Sherry Marathon, which didn’t take place in 2020, is due to take place in April so I’ve also got my annual visit to Jerez to look forward to.
Stay somewhere different
While some places can be visited easily in a day, I do love a hotel stay and it’ll be interesting to see what these are like in the ‘new normal’.
I fear that the breakfast buffet of which I’m particularly fond will be no more. However, the thought of a typical Spanish breakfast of pan con tomate in a pavement café (not to mention my favourite Spanish breakfast tradition of churros with a café con leche) will be enough to get me out of bed.
Andalucia has accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets from a simple casa rural to a luxury parador. You can even stay in a cave if that takes your fancy.
Check out the wildlife
I’ve been dolphin spotting in Gibraltar and last summer I did manage to complete one thing on my staycation list by heading out further into the Straits to go whale watching from Tarifa.
Andalucia is also renowned for its bird life – I don’t have to venture far from home to spot parakeets (that are considered a pest but are good fun to watch as they feed in front of my apartment), eagles, storks and vultures. We even have flamingos and seeing them here is high on my wish list.
Step out of my comfort zone
I love walking. I hate heights. However, this year I’m determined to tackle the Caminito del Rey. As long as I don’t look down I’m sure I’ll be fine (she says optimistically!).
Here in Andalucia, there’s always something new to try. I live within a stone’s throw of the Rio Guadiaro where you can paddleboard and kayak. I’ve been sea kayaking once before on Magnetic Island in Queensland. It wasn’t a great success (my co-ordination leaves a lot to be desired and I ran aground on a rock at one point) but it was great fun and, to be honest, a gentle paddle up a river is probably a lot easier than out on the open ocean.
Relax on the beach
Andalucia has a multitude of fantastic beaches from the long sandy stretches on the Costa de la Luz to the hidden coves of Nerja.
Last summer the Andalucian government put strict measures in place and employed beach monitors to control access to the beaches so that numbers stayed under the prescribed maximum capacity and social distancing was respected. I’m sure that something similar will happen again this year although, fortunately, where I live there are long stretches of beach which never get crowded.
Here in Spain the situation is changing frequently. At the moment, bars, restaurants, and all non-essential shops are closed in my region and, nationwide, we have to wear masks at all times whenever we leave the house (or face a hefty fine). However, the vaccine rollout has started and, although I’ll be pretty far down the list to receive it, it’s a glimmer of hope in what has been a tough year for everyone.