9 places where one can breathe the essence of being Andalusian

How to explain the essence of being Andalusian? Trying to catch the essence of Andalusia is like trying to catch the wind with a butterfly catcher. A feeling is light, air, the scent of orange blossom in the spring, the sound of water in the courtyards of the Alhambra, palms and heels coloring the atmosphere, the evening light that falls on the mosque of Córdoba… There are places that awaken feelings and help to hear the heartbeat of a land that throbs in the veins of its inhabitants.

The Alhambra in Granada

To think of Granada without thinking of the Alhambra is impossible for anyone who has walked its cobblestones. Not only travelers who arrive for the first time before its gates fall under its influence. With its spell coexist day by day the people of Granada who treasure in their streets this jewel of history, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. The Alhambra is a reflection of the historical evolution. Its first mention dates from the ninth century, although it did not become a royal residence until the eleventh century, with the arrival of the first Nasrid monarch Mohammed I. It is the beginning of a period of enormous splendor for this location on the hill Al-Sabika, opposite the neighborhoods of the Albaicin and the Alcazaba.


Close-up of the mythical fountain that gives its name to the Patio de los Leones, inside the Alhambra. | Shutterstock

Time and the passage of various monarchs added walls, buildings, fountains and gardens. Later, its takeover by the Castilian kings, meant the demolition of some areas. But the restoration begun in the 19th century meant the revaluation of a space full of magic. Walking among flowers, with the fountains as background music, is priceless. Discover the Patio de los Leones, the richness of the gardens of the Generalife, or imagine how many times the sun has rested on the stained glass windows of the Torre de Comares… The possibilities are endless.

Cape Gata

Andalusia is an overwhelming nature that is written with capital letters in cartographies and maps. In Almeria, a coastal path draws a geographical feature with its own name, Cabo de Gata. A land of “lizards and stones“, in the words of Goytisolo, declared a natural park in 1987 to give special protection to this place of wild nature.

Cabo de Gata

Monsul beach, Cabo de Gata. | Shutterstock

Some 28,000 hectares of a marine and terrestrial ecosystem characterized by a unique climate in Europe. There, every day the coastline is reborn anew. The sea breaks tirelessly against the land along a Coastal Path that, from Agua Amarga, runs through different coves and viewpoints, such as La Amatista. Leaving behind the best known sandy areas, Genoveses and Monsul, the volcanic walls of Barronal, a basalt palace built from the ocean, force us to stop. There, in the blue, extensive posidonia meadows guard a natural reserve of incredible beauty. A mantle of peace protects, day and night, sea, sky and land.

White villages, between Cadiz and Malaga

Between Cadiz and Malaga, the Andalusian landscape is washed with white. The colors are the protagonists of the whole, capturing the attention wherever you look. The brown of the mountains, the grass of an intense green, and heading the poster, the whitewashed houses. Little pieces of clouds falling from the heights of a blue sky. The Andalusian essence can be found in its white villages.


Panoramic view of the village of Olvera, highlighting the church of Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación and the castle. | Shutterstock

The route of the white villages is a route of history and nature. A walk through the entrails that goes step by step into a past Al-Andalus. A time that was imprisoned in the amber of many of the names that the traveler can find along the way. Zahara, the fortress of endless beaches and eternal sunsets. Benamahoma, the house of the prophet, framed in the spectacular scenery of the Sierra de Grazalema. Or Algar, the cave, a vestige of the Neolithic represented in its grotto of the Dehesilla.

The compass of the Andalusian feeling points north, to the Sierra de Cadiz. There are two unforgettable places, the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park and the Alcornocales Natural Park. Beyond, the road continues, wrapped in the wind of the mountains, until it reaches Malaga. In the distance, a white dove flies over the Plaza de la Merced, perhaps imagined by a painter.



Doñana. | Shutterstock

Just a glance at the clean horizon of Doñana means falling surrendered at the feet of this unique landscape, capable of taking your breath away. Different paths intersect in a natural puzzle that connects the provinces of Seville, Huelva and Cadiz. Here water is the protagonist. Its strength has written on a canvas of almost 123,000 hectares, marshes, lakes, beaches and incredible places, following the dictates of nature. The most important wetland of the European continent is home to more than 120 species of birds. Little bitterns, imperial eagles and black storks coexist in harmony with neighboring mammals or reptiles that advance, year after year, slowly but surely. Among them, the black-headed turtle, which celebrates a century of life, keeping during all that time Doñana as one of his home.

Ash trees, honeysuckles, poplars and ferns frame paths and lagoon spaces with their own name. El Lucio del Cangrejo, La Gallega or Bonanza give refuge to thousands of seasonal birds. Among the aquatic spaces there are elevated formations of dunes. Among the heights stands out the cliff of Asperillo, a formation subjected to the oxidation of the natural liquid that floods everything in Doñana. Just as the memory of the sunset in the marshes floods forever the memory of those who are lucky enough to visit them. One can breathe the essence of being Andalusian in this natural surrounding.

Basilica of the Macarena

The words Semana Santa (Holy Week) are intimately linked to Andalusia. Sewn with stitches of faith, art, ritual and devotion come together at number 1 of Calle Becquer, in the Barrio de San Gil. From there, the image of the Macarena goes out in procession every Good Friday morning, since 1949. Year in which the temple was blessed by the Cardinal Archbishop of Seville Don Pedro Segura.

Inside rests all year a Virgin of Hope, dating from the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century, of unknown authorship. An image that, for some time, has become an icon of the city of Seville. Not in vain its procession is one of the most followed of Holy Week. The brotherhood leaves at one o’clock in the morning of Good Friday and travels the streets Resolana, Feria, Alameda and Trajano, to the expectation of a devoted public, faithful to the appointment year after year. At times, faith comes alive in a voice that intones a song for the Virgin from one of the balconies that flank the passage. The dawn gives way to dawn, but the memory remains forever. Monuments like this, full of history, are an important part of the Andalusian essence.

Basilica de la Macarena

Frontal picture of the Basilica de la Macarena, Seville. | Shutterstock

Ronda, Málaga

The name of Ronda sounds like literature, bandits and adventures. It evokes big screens, chases on horseback, movie stars. From Juan Ramón Jiménez to Rilke, through Goytisolo, many have fallen for the charm of this balcony open to the Tagus. Celts, Romans and Arabs inhabited this mountain range until its conquest by the Catholic Monarchs in the 15th century. At the end of the 18th century, the construction of the New Bridge brought with it new times for Ronda, and the union of the city, which the Tagus divided into two halves. In the same way that it was later the protagonist of movies, it first starred in episodes of resistance against the French revolution.


Ronda, Málaga. | Shutterstock

History has built Ronda, forming layers that were submerged between stones and cobblestones. Arab vestiges, a Roman theater, the neighborhood of San Francisco and the Mercadillo separated by time and walls, all that is Ronda. Pilgrimages, fairs, festivals and a brave and romantic past come together in this location with privileged views, where nature and art walk hand in hand. The beautiful, tiny towns form the Andalusian essence.

Real Maestranza de la Caballería de Sevilla, Royal Cavalry of Seville

On the Baratillo hill, in Seville, stands the longest bullfighting ring in Spain, and one of the most visited tourist monuments in the city. It began to be built in 1749, finishing the Prince’s Box (made for the infant Felipe de Borbón, son of Felipe V). After various vicissitudes, including the stopping of the works by Charles V, the first circular plaza was completed in its entirety in 1881. From 1914 to 1915 various improvements were undertaken, commissioned to Aníbal González.

Plaza de la Maestranza

Plaza de la Maestranza, in Seville. | Shutterstock

It is considered an Asset of Cultural Interest, and in 1984 it was declared a Monument. But for Sevillians it is much more. Its name is linked to the Feria de Abril with an indelible glue of tradition and pride. The bullfights of this festival take place there, when elm, orange and palm trees announce the arrival of spring. Seville sums up perfectly the Andalusian essence.

The Cadiz coast

Cadiz is inland, carnival and chirigota. It is Bay, humid and marine wind, and a line of beaches that extends along 140 kilometers. Virgin sand, clear waters that filter the sunlight and sunsets that extend into nights full of stars. The coast of Cádiz speaks face to face with the sea, from end to end. And in Zahara de los atunes, this dialogue of ocean and sand becomes an infinite horizon.

Zahara de los Atunes

Zahara de los Atunes | Shutterstock

The route along the coast is full of treasures to discover for those who seek to taste the taste of saltpetre of a calm sea. La Cala de Arroyo Cañuelo is one of those natural sites still untouched, protected in the geography of the Natural Park of the Strait. Already in Tarifa, Los Alemanes beach appears by surprise, safe from the sea wind, framed between a lighthouse and an old military bunker. A multitude of beach bars, bars and restaurants offer the opportunity to taste the products of the area, but also the opportunity to see, in first person, what Andalusia tastes like. The Andalusian essence is found in many beaches.

Sierra de Cazorla Natural Park

The Natural Park of Sierra de Cazorla, Segura and Las Villas is one of the most impressive natural sites in Andalusia. A mosaic of civilizations that have left their mark in a thousand ways. Prehistoric sites, Roman villas, ancient traditions and bonfires that continue to illuminate, every summer, the firmament of the Sierra.

Sierra de Cazorla

Borosa River path in the Sierra de Cazorla, Jaén. | Shutterstock

The region of Cazorla is a universe full of surprises. Villages with legendary castles, such as La Iruela, watchful, since the Middle Ages, on its rocky promontory. Mountains that hide secrets, cave paintings and water caves. The whole area is a call to forget maps and phones. You just have to keep walking, letting yourself be carried away by the contours of the mountains.

A trip to the essence of Andalusia involves inhaling aromas, perceiving textures on the skin. It means chewing traditions, getting intoxicated with flavors, experiencing sunsets, nights and sunrises. Walking through the changing seasons, leaning out over cliffs, resting in geranium-colored courtyards, arriving at the right ports to understand. The heart must travel through geographies, places that, when traveled, transmit a unique energy. In the background you can hear the fluttering of a guitar and on the lips, the salt of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. An Andalusian essence among the purest nature.

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