Spain has no shortage of destinations that quickly delight visitors. Few though have so many exciting elements so neatly bundled together like the southern region of Andalusia. It’s incredibly easy to quickly draw up an itinerary for Andalusia thanks to its wealth of destinations. Visit Andalusia and you’ll find places with ancient history, vibrant infectious culture, and jaw-dropping beauty. No matter your interests or travel style, you’re sure to head home feeling fulfilled. To ensure you get the absolute most from the experience, we’ve compiled an informative list of tips for traveling to Andalusia, both for planning your trip and for once you’re there.
1. Andalusia is Bigger Than You Think
The most immediate point to address in any list of Andalusia travel tips is just how large the region is. Planning a trip there, the last thing you want to do is underestimate the size. People often make this mistake with much of Europe and wind up regretting it when things don’t go as smoothly as they’d expected.
As the second biggest region in Spain, Andalusia isn’t the kind of place you can run through in a few short days. You’d have no problem filling ten or more days in this entertaining region of Spain. Even ignoring the fact that many of the major destinations deserve several days, it’s going to take some time to get from one destination to the next. Simply driving from one side of Andalusia to the other can take as long as five hours.
For some perspective, Andalusia is in fact the only region in all of Europe that touches both the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Ultimately, you need to plan accordingly if you really want to explore this region and everything it has to offer.
2. Experience Flamenco Up Close and Personal
Getting to know a place’s culture is always one of the more rewarding parts of traveling and flamenco is a great in-road to Andalusian culture. A cultural phenomenon of the region, flamenco is an artform that combines song, dance, guitar, and body percussion. The communal art has been performed in Andalusia for centuries and has many variations and complexities to it.
Depending on your level of interest in flamenco, there’s different experiences you can partake in Andalusia to enjoy it. One way is to simply head to a flamenco bar, also known as a tablao, to watch a performance live and up close. There are also flamenco museums where you can explore the art’s origins and intricate makeup. Of course, for real enthusiasts, flamenco classes and workshops are the way to go.
3. The Food is Worth the Wait
Discovering the food of a destination is always part of the fun of travel, but this travel tip for Andalusia has less to do with what or where to eat, than when to eat. Andalusian cuisine is a joy to experience, whether its bite-sized tapas, the abundant seafood, or delicacies like gazpacho; cold Andalusian soup. The real trick here is adjusting to the later mealtimes of the Spaniards.
In Andalusia, and across Spain, both lunch and dinner are eaten considerably later than in other parts of the world. Lunch is usually had around 2pm, while people don’t eat dinner until 9 or 10pm, even though some restaurants may open up as early as 8pm. For visitors, those first few days in Andalusia can be pretty tough adjusting to the schedule, but it’s best to try to fall into the local routine as quickly as possible, perhaps setting aside snacks to tide you over until dinner.
4. Beaches and the Costa del Sol
Many tourists come to Spain for the sun and the sand. Andalusia is a place where there’s a never ending list of beaches to enjoy, especially since it’s home to the famed Costa del Sol. The big name on the Costa del Sol is Malaga, a city that not only offers culture and sightseeing, but also beachfront. Other popular vacation spots here include towns like Marbella and Nerja, although they offer a little less variety in terms of things to do.
The one drawback to somewhere like the Costa del Sol is that it has been a popular tourist destination for decades. With that kind of longevity, some of its originality has worn away as it tries to cater to foreign tourists. But beyond the Costa del Sol, Andalusia has plenty of other coastline, some of which still retains its untouched feel. To get a taste of this, you can head down past Gibraltar to the small surf town of Tarifa, or venture the other way to the beautiful shores near Almeria.
5. See the Major Cities and Towns
When planning a trip to Andalusia, chances are you’re going to start by looking at the cities there. Besides the beaches, these are the destinations the region is best known for, and with good reason. History, culture, and fun abound in Andalusia’s cities, making them a great place to really immerse yourself in everything that makes this region special during your first trip to Andalusia.
Places like Seville, Malaga, and Granada are perfect examples of this, offering visitors plenty of different things to do. No matter your interests, finding something that captures your attention won’t be hard. Whether it’s the enchanting beauty of the Alhambra in Granada, the ancient castles of Malaga, or the lively bar scene in Seville; you surely won’t grow bored.
But even outside the big cities, smaller cities and major towns still keep things interesting. Visit Cordoba, Cadiz, or Ronda and you may be surprised just how much these smaller places have to offer.
6. Explore the Region’s Many Landscapes
So much focus is spent looking to Andalusia’s coastline that people don’t realize all of the region’s other spellbinding landscapes. I think it’d be fair to say that the countryside of Andalusia may be one of its most overlooked and underappreciated attributes. That’s why exploring this side of the region is one of our most valuable travel tips for visiting Andalusia.
A side of Andalusia that doesn’t get its fair dues is the region’s fantastic mountains and hilly countryside. You just have to look at the mountains of the Sierra Nevada outside Granada or the Sierra de Grazalema near Ronda to see why. Home to national parks, these areas are made for hiking and full of postcard perfect views. But the landscapes of Andalusia are also quite diverse, with the deep caves of Nerja and the surprising Tabernas Desert outside of Almeria.
7. Don’t Underestimate The Siesta
The siesta is one of the Spanish cultural traditions most people know of before arriving. After a big lunch, people in Spain traditionally take an afternoon nap – siesta – to pass the hottest part of the day. But it’s a little hard to fully imagine how it the siesta affects life until you experience it firsthand. The siesta is more than just a nap, most shops and businesses shut down for much of the afternoon. Even though siestas have become less common in some parts of Spain, tourists need to keep this in mind when planning their days.
Generally you can count on businesses and shops like supermarkets to close in the early afternoon, often from 2pm to 4-5pm. Restaurants are still open then as this is when people have lunch before their siesta, they then close from 4pm to about 8 or 9pm. That’s why you won’t find restaurants open for dinner until late. Exploring around 2pm can be quite nice as the streets are much quieter at this time of the day.
8. Avoid Summer If You Can
Europe in summer isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, especially in parts of Spain such as Andalusia. Sure, you may get blue skies great for sightseeing and sitting outside at bars and restaurants. But those perks comes with scorching hot weather, the kind of weather that make you want to limit your time away from shade or air-conditioning.
Ignoring the weather for a just a moment, there’s another reason summer isn’t an ideal time to visit. The month of August is commonly when local Andalusians choose to take their own summer holidays. In cities like Seville there’s a noticeable shift when the locals leave. Suddenly the number of tourists in town becomes much more obvious as the ratio between locals and tourists changes. Meanwhile, it’s going to be ever harder to have meaningful interactions with local Andalusians as they simply aren’t there.
If you can shift your trip just a little to either side of summer, that’s when Andalusia really hits its mark. Shoulder season is always a great alternative to high season because fewer tourists means better prices and more availability. Months like May and September have excellent weather for all sorts of activities and are a little less crazy.
9. Don’t Feel Like You Need a Car
Visitors to Andalusia really are in luck when it comes to public transport. It can be remarkably easy and affordable to get both between and around destinations in this part of Spain. Even Andalusia, as big as it is, isn’t a hassle to get around. The major cities and destinations in this region lie on a well worn tourist trail, meaning there’s plenty of information on how to get from A to B.
The availability of buses and trains in Andalusia mean that you can painlessly get from one city or town to the next without needing a car. Plus, when you’re in the cities, driving isn’t very desirable or all that necessary. Some places like Cordoba and Ronda are easy enough to explore on foot, while bigger cities have local buses, and even a metro in the case of Seville.
I will say though, there are some advantages to having your own car in Andalusia, besides having the freedom to personalize your itinerary as you see fit, there are places which are genuinely fun to drive through, such as the Sierra de las Nieves mountains en route to beautiful Ronda.
If you intend to rent a car, make sure to use Rentalcars.com to get the best price on your rental.
10. Go, Just Go
In the end the very best of any traveling tips for Andalusia is the most simple – go. A truly engrossing region full of food, culture and beauty, there’s no way you’ll regret making the choice to travel to Andalusia. If Spain wasn’t already a favorite place of yours, then spending time in one of its best parts is sure to make it one.