Just across the Strait of Gibraltar from Morocco, Andalucia is simply one of the most beautiful and unspoilt corners of Europe.
The terrain varies from extensive coastal plains, barely above sea level, to the peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Within 50 km you can travel from the subtropical coast of the Granada province to the snowy peaks of Mulhacén; its coastline varies from wide sandy beaches on the Atlantic coast to dramatic cliffs on the Mediterranean side.
We will visit the capitals of some of the key provinces in Andalucia, discovering beautiful cities steeped in history and with a culture heavily influenced by the legacy left by Roman and Moorish rulers over the centuries.
Our holiday includes visits to Cordoba, Granada (including the Alhambra Palace) and Seville, with an optional extra excursion to Ronda available to book in resort. For your convenience you can fly to Malaga from a number of regional airports, and we have chosen a superb hotel on the outskirts of the city of Antequera as the base for your holiday. Antequera is known as ‘the heart of Andalucia’ because of its conveniently central location for travel to other more well-known cities, yet has a wealth of historical and cultural delights in its own right.
Cordoba was founded by the Romans and due to its location as the highest navigable point of the Guadalquivir River, it developed into a port city of great importance for shipping Spanish olive oil, wine and wheat back to Ancient Rome. The Roman Bridge (El Puente Romano) and many other well-preserved Roman remains can still be seen in the city.
In the Middle Ages Cordoba became the capital of an Islamic caliphate, and the Great Mosque of Cordoba (Mezquita) stands proudly as an important symbol of this time in the city’s history. When the city was re-conquered by the Christians in 1236, the new rulers were so impressed by its beauty that they built their cathedral inside it, creating the extraordinary church-mosque which stands today. Cordoba’s medieval quarter, once the home of the Jewish community, is called ‘La Juderia’ (The Jewry) and is an intriguing network of winding, narrow streets, shady flower-filled courtyards and picturesque squares. Contemporary Cordoba is famous for flamenco and bullfighting, and is one of the most stunning places to visit in Southern Spain.
Granada sits at the confluences of the Darro and Genil rivers and at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Shaped by the surrounding hills, the old districts of the city around the Alhambra and the area known as the Albaicin are famous for their Moorish architecture and steep, narrow streets with beautiful nooks and crannies and marvellous views over the landscape. The newer part of the city is situated on the plain, where the busy streets around the beautiful Renaissance cathedral are found.
The Alhambra Palace, a Moorish citadel and palace, is the most renowned building of the Islamic historical legacy in Andalucia. Constructed and added to during the 13th and mid 14th centuries by the Moorish rulers of the time, it was an ‘alcazaba’ (fortress), an ‘alcazar’ (palace) and a small ‘medina’ (city) all in one. In the 15th and 16th centuries, after the Reconquista (the re-conquest of the region by the Christians), there were some additions to the Alhambra in the Mudéjar style (western elements reinterpreted into Islamic forms), and also some further development of the gardens and grounds.
In Seville, the region’s capital and largest city, the Andalucian way of life is distilled into its purest and most intense form. It is the home of flamenco and bullfighting, and its heritage of art and architecture (Roman, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque) is without rival in Southern Spain.
Highlights of Seville’s many attractions include the immense Gothic cathedral, officially the biggest in the world, standing on the site of the great 12th century Almohad mosque, with
the mosque’s minaret (the Giralda) now incorporated into the cathedral design. The Real Alcazár (Royal Palace), occupied 700 years ago by King Peter the Cruel is Seville’s answer to the Alhambra and is an intriguing mix of architectural styles from Mudéjar to Gothic. As well as magnificent buildings, Seville’s beautiful Plaza de España offers a little peace and relaxation in the midst of the city, located in the beautiful Parque de María Luisa.
Optional excursion to
Despite being Andalucia’s fastest-growing city, Ronda retains much of its historic charm, particularly in its old town where winding cobbled streets are lined by handsome townhouses. The pretty streets lead to leafy Plazas with delightful churches and excellent bars and restaurants. It is probably best known for the impressive 18th century Puente Nuevo (New Bridge) which spans the 100 metres deep gorge dividing the old and new quarters of the town, and from where there are unparalleled views out over the Serrania de Ronda mountains.
Ronda has the world’s oldest bullring, dating back to 1785, and is famous for being the birthplace of modern bullfighting. Legendary Rondeno bullfighter Pedro Romero broke away from the prevailing Jerez style of horseback bullfighting in the 18th century to found the style in which matadors compete against the bull on foot.
American authors Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles spent many summers in Ronda and have both written about its beauty and bullfighting traditions; indeed their writings have contributed to Ronda’s popularity over time. In Hemingway’s novel ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’, for example, he describes how the prisoners were executed – simply by being thrown off the bridge for which this town is so famous!
The excursion includes a guided walk followed by free time in the centre near the famous gorge.
Price: €25 per person, to be booked locally in resort.
Please note; the operation of this excursion is subject to minimum numbers.
This tour is organised and operated by Omega Holidays plc ABTA V4782 ATOL 6081