Andalucia

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ANDALUCIA – WHY GO?
Moorish Andalucia is home to some of Spain's
most celebrated cities. Its dazzling white villages, bullfighting traditions and flamboyant flamenco lend the region a character all of its own.

Every city has its plaza de toros (bull ring) where the bullfighting season kicks off at Easter. Whatever your views on the sport, it’s an evocative reminder of how deep tradition strikes at Andalucia’s heart. Night time is flamenco hour – and the clack of castanets against sultry guitar chords heralds yet another deep-rooted tradition that’s very much alive and well here.


MUST SEE, MUST DO
Seville
Don't miss Seville's Gothic glories: the spired cathedral is home to priceless Goyas as well as the tomb of Christopher Columbus. Then there's the Alcazar palace, home to royal families since the ninth century, and the Real Fabrica de Tabacos – famous as the setting for Bizet's opera Carmen.

A walk through the winding alleys of Seville's old Jewish quarter – Barrio Santa Cruz – is unmissable, while leafy Maria Luisa park is made for late afternoon wanders. Do make time for a foray into the Museo de Bellas Artes – a fabulous art collection – and the bullfighting museum.

Ronda
Split into two by its dramatic gorge, Ronda has a perfect postcard setting. Barely an hour from the Costa del Sol, it's also Spain’s most visited city – so try to go early evening when the sightseeing crowds have melted away. Gasp at the city's famous gorge-spanning bridge and gaze down the sheer sides of the gorge – best enjoyed over a pre-sunset drink at one of the little cafes perched on the edge.

Take a look at the bull ring (one of Spain's oldest), leafy Plaza Duquesa de Parcent and the cobbled streets of the old town, with its wealth of leather and shoe shops.

The sierras
See some of Andalucia’s famous “white villages” in the Parque Natural de la Sierra de Grazalema, where you can go hiking and spot eagles, deer and buzzards. Thrill seekers can try paragliding, caving, hot-air balloon rides, mountain bike riding or a 4x4 safari.

Cordoba
Set among the splendours of its powerful past , Cordoba is rich in historic sights. La Mezquita – the great mosque – dates back more than a thousand years, while other great landmarks include the Roman bridge spanning the Guadalquivir river and Puerta del Puente. Cordoba's old city boasts one of Europe's biggest medieval quarters. – a maze of whitewashed alleys, pretty courtyards and high Moorish doors.

Granada
Come to Granada for the haunting Moorish beauty of the Alhambra, one of Spain's great fortified palaces. Don't miss the gardens and whitewashed houses of the old city, set against the backdrop of Spain's tallest mountain. It's also worth making a stop in the lovely villages of Las Alpujarras to the south.

Jerez
This is the city synonymous with sherry, and touring one of the atmospheric old bodegas of Gonzalez Byass is a must. Casks have been signed by old Hollywood greats like Orson Wells, and you'll learn the difference between fino, amontillado and oloroso sherries in a tasting session.

Cadiz
Jutting into the Atlantic, old Cadiz is a jewel - a whitewashed quarter bleached by sun and spray that has a crumbling and distinctive beauty of its own. It also boasts a golden-domed Baroque cathedral.

Marbella
Heaving with expensive seafront apartments, wealthy Marbella has become one of Europe's top wintering bolt-holes. It's also a fun party town, with plenty of action for the clubbing set. The cobbled streets and squares of the city's old town make shopping a must and al fresco dining a delight. You're only minutes from the city's golden palm-lined beaches with their promenades, parasols, hammocks and bars, and a short ride from glitzy Puerto Banus, with its gleaming yachts.

MAKE A DATE
Easter
Semana Santa. This is the biggest event in Seville's calendar – with parades, flamenco and a huge fair. Riogordo celebrates Easter with the El Paso passion play.

April
Feria de Abril. Seville's bullfighting season kicks off two weeks after Easter. Tented stands line the streets and the city is a riot of costume, horses and dancers.

May
Feria del Caballo. Come to Jerez for a terrific day of horses, sherry and flamenco.

July-September
Nikki Beach. Marbella's top private beach celebrates summer with a line-up of parties, fashion shows and champagne showers.

September
Feria Goyesca de Pedro Romero. Ronda’s best known festival kicks off with a bullfight and a procession of horse-drawn carriages.

Fiestas de Otono. Jerez's three-week sherry festival involves horses, flamenco and of course a copa or two.

ANDALUCIA ROMANCE
Dine al fresco in one of the tapas bars in Marbella's old town, followed by a starlit walk along the beach.











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