With so many countries not open to tourists yet, I’m going to make the most of this paradise on my doorstep and have a Spanish staycation this summer. After all, why bother going anywhere else with all the associated risks when I can be a tourist in my own beautiful backyard?
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’m planning a mixture of day trips, weekend breaks and a road trip or two, revisiting some old favourites as well as finding something new. Here’s what’s on my wish list.
Uncover the history of the Moors
From the Alhambra Palace in Granada to the Real Alcazar in Seville, Andalucia is steeped in history.
Although the major tourist sites have now opened throughout Andalucia, entry is restricted which means it will be less crowded and that, in my book, is always a bonus.
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 since it reopened on 17 June, the capacity has been limited to 50% (which is still 4,250 tickets available each day). Booking in advance is, as always, recommended with a choice of tickets covering Alhambra Palace, Nasrid Palace and Generalife gardens.
The timing isn’t ideal as it’ll be the height of summer when 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, postponed from April, is now scheduled for September 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 y tomate in a pavement café (not to mention my favourite Spanish breakfast tradition of churros with a café con leche) will surely 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.
Check out the wildlife
I’ve been dolphin spotting in Gibraltar but this summer I’m looking forward to heading out further into the Straits and going 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 summer 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.
The Andalucian government has put strict measures in place for the summer, and has employed beach monitors to control access to beach so that numbers stay under the prescribed maximum capacity and that social distancing is respected.
After the strict lockdown that we went through here it’s going to be such a treat to get out and start living. Yes, we’ll have to wear masks and we still need to keep our distance but it’s going to be so good to put the past few months behind us, as best as we can, and start making new memories for 2020.
What are your summer staycation plans? I’d love to hear what you’re going to be up to so leave a comment below and, if you’ve enjoyed reading this, please feel free to share it.