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Andalucia, Southern Spain

David Cross (DavidX) from England

Slow Travel Google Map - Andalucia, Spain

I have taken to making notes on places when I come back from a holiday. I was still working when I went to Andalucia six years in a row in the week immediately preceding Christmas, so parts of these notes may well be out of date. Because most will start at Malaga Airport, I have put access from the Airport to the city first. The main entry for Malaga is a bit later in the West section.

From Malaga Airport

At exit take lift or stairs up one floor and go out. Turn right and follow pavement then footpath across bridge past carpark to the train station. The train from the airport to the town is frequent and cheap. For the train or the bus station get out at Malaga Renfe, although the train goes one station further. If you leave the train station by the exit on the opposite platform to where you come in and turn left, you are almost at the bus station. Taxis have been known to make a half hour drive out of it! The bar on the far side of the road does good sandwiches.

February 2004 update. I missed a train and almost missed a bus because extensive work at the station has altered the situation – temporarily perhaps? On emerging from the airport train turn left (twice) for the bus station or right for RENFE. Allow a good ten minutes for either. There is no short cut between RENFE and the buses (i.e. you have to pass the airport train’s station en route.)

Andalucia (East)

Cordoba

This is my favorite of the big cities (but see note on Alhambra under Granada). It is friendly. There are plenty of quite cheap places to stay. It is a lovely place to just wander about and see what you see. The only absolute musts are the Mezquita (Mosque) and the area around the bridge, although the small (very) ruined Synagogue is worth a look and the Alcazar of the Christian Kings (not to be confused with the Alcazar in Sevilla) is OK if not of top order.

I have not been yet to Medina Azahara - the partially reconstructed remains of a splendid Moorish city a few kilometers out - but my friends who have been rant about it and I should certainly like to.

February 2004 update. I have been now and it is indeed splendid. There is a tourist bus every day except Monday at 11.00am, which gives an hour and a half at the site for €5.

Also highly recommended:

  • Museo Arqueológico
  • Jardin Botánico and its museums
  • Palacio del Marqués de Viana

Jaen

I have not done justice to Jaen, having only been when I was tired and seen a couple of really miserable rooms at hotels. If I was going to move on I had to get a bus fast - so I did. I think it is probably a perfectly good place to stay for a night and certainly I feel sorry not to have seen the Parador/Castle closer up. It is set on a hill above the city and the view must be wonderful.

Baeza

There are two things potentially wrong with December away from the coast. There is a danger that good buildings can be covered up for repairs and it can be excruciatingly cold. Both were true of my only visit here but it is a lovely little town well worth a night. The Pensio Adriano is a beautiful building, and cheap, but it was like the inside of a freezer.

Ubeda

This is so well written up on other sites and in books that I was a bit disappointed by it. I found a couple of hours waiting for a change of bus was long enough to see its sights and there is nothing else to do. If there had been less hype I would no doubt have hailed it as a discovery!

Cazorla

This was the opposite of Ubeda. I expected to like the Sierra de Cazorla but thought the town's pleasures would be quickly exhausted. Actually I stayed three nights out of a week total and was sorry to leave. The Pensio Taxi was cheap and friendly. They were full for the third night so I stayed in the Hostal Guadalquivir and I think the small additional amount paid was well worth while for some warmth. It is a really stunning little town with good walking opportunities and a bus into the Sierra which can give a wonderful day out if you get up EARLY and then get a fair move on.

One walk goes first to the Monasterio de Monte Sion and then up Gilillio from where there are various possibilities. To get to the monastery go behind the fountain in Plaza Santa Maria and keep on the road for about a third of a mile then take the mule track to the left which skirts the far side of the hill with the ruined upper castle at the top. When the track forks, keep left.

For another walk take the first early morning bus into the Sierra, having checked return time in the afternoon. Get off at Torre de Vinagre. Cross the Guadalquivir and follow the road until you reach a marked footpath to your right through a gorge. Continue on the road when the track rejoins it until it ends at a pump house. A path goes up steeply and leads through a sort of tunnel - worth taking a torch but possible without. The path then leads on to lakes and beyond and turns into a broader track. I did not get much further because of time but the walk as far as the lakes is well worth while.

Granada

I do not like most of the city; I dislike the cathedral quite intensely. Most of what is worth seeing can be seen in one evening and I have never wanted to stay more than one night. However I should be willing to go back and do that many times in order to visit the Alhambra which is one of the best sites in Europe. No description does it justice; just go - but the best area of all will not admit more than a set number of visitors at any time so your entry time is governed by the ticket. This makes it well worth while to book in advance if possible. The bus and train stations are in opposite directions a bus ride away. Both have very long queues at times.

Las Alpujarras

The Western side is easily reached by bus from Granada but the East (I have not been) buses are less frequent. Some of the scenery is fine but the walks are a bit long for winter on the whole. I prefer the more beautiful (though perhaps less grand and stark) scenery of the Sierra de Cazorla or the Sierra de Ronda/Grazalema covered in the notes on the Andalucia West section. However in the Alpujarras even the cheaper hostels have some room heating in the evening and night in winter. BUT do not underestimate the steepness and distance of even the apparently shorter walks - nearly every view seems to be foreshortened!

Lanjaron

Even more frequent buses from Granada. Lanjaron is on the edge of the Alpujarras. Very pleasant walk up the river valley but if you cross the bridge a few miles up, and then go left, as you are drawn by the terrain, there does not seem an obvious route down and you have to use your wits. The town is pleasant enough but nothing special.

Capileira

The top place in its valley perched over a STEEP gorge. Very pleasant all round and easy to find accommodation in winter. It is possible to get up to the top of the first peak by going straight up from the town and look out at the road winding up into the heights - and on to Granada. A walk up the valley is very good but you fairly soon reach a point where you either have to go on and up a mighty long way or turn back. Maps are available from the next town down the road and it looks like an easy walk across the valley - up - left and back by the next bridge. It took us about two and a half hours longer than we expected!

Andalucia (West)

Sevilla

This is a grand city and the main sights are pretty close together. If restricted for time the musts are the Giralda, the Alcazar and the Cathedral, but it is lovely to just wander around the narrow streets of the old town and the river area is good.

Carmona

A small town only a short (and potentially crowded) busride from Sevilla - leave time to find the bus stop which is in a street quite near but not at the bus station. It is on a hill and the walk round the old part at the top is fine - good for a night's stay.

Arcos de la Frontiera

Another quite small hill town with fine old buildings in the upper parts and terrific views but - unlike Ronda - it is just out of the mountain areas.

Cadiz

This is warm even in winter and still contains many interesting buildings as well as a good coastline and very pleasant garden areas. Much better than expected. Do not be put off by the horrendous outskirts of the city.

Jerez de la Frontiera

I have only been through here on a bus and thus it may not have appeared to advantage but I can only say that I felt no desire to get off and I have no desire to go back - and I love a good fino!

Gibraltar

Well worth seeing - once. It is so peculiar and the water storage is most interesting. I am glad I went but do not find it necessary to go again.

Algeciras

Good for reaching the train line inwards towards Ronda finding a ferry to Morocco or a bus to Gibraltar. One of these things should be done as quickly as possible!

Malaga

I have been robbed in Barcelona and Madrid but I have been lucky in Malaga. I have taken the advice of landladies not to be out too late and to avoid being alone in back streets but, given a bit of caution, it has seemed OK. The Alcazaba is well worth seeing. If going by train try to sit on the left hand side facing the engine for the best view of the El Chorro gorge. If going by bus to Ronda there were three routes of which the Ferron-Coin is finest followed by Los Amarillos.

Hostal Palma, c/Martinez, adequate for a night and cheap. To get to airport cross the Alameda and turn right to find terminus of airport railway.

Market good for lastminute purchases.

Feb 2004 update on Malaga. Generally Malaga seems considerably sprucer than when I was last there. Two particular places were new to me, the first because it really is new:

  • Museo Picasso
  • Jardin Botánico de la Concepción. Bus 2 from market side of the Alameda – outstandingly good.

Alora

A small town on train line from Malaga northwards. The town is well up from the station and it was not easy to get a taxi when I was there. Some buses from Ronda pass through the town. Very pleasant to wander round though nothing special. Good for last night for a moderately early flight.

Antequera

A moderate sized town reasonably near Malaga - also reasonable for last night but at least two nights required to do the trip up to the Torcal. There was no bus when I was there but it is well worth a taxi up and then both colour coded trails and the walk down can easily be done well before sunset - highly recommended but it is probably a bit more commercialised than when I was there.

There are also three good dolmens very near the town and a stroll up to the top of the town to the old castle site is good.

The Pensio opposite the market is good - they had one twin en-suite room when I was last there - otherwise shared showers and toilets. They also provide a good cheap meal.

It is generally a very happy friendly town with excellent bus links to Malaga - and a station.

Ronda

Worth at least one night in anybody's book and would make a good centre for longer stay with trips out but it may be preferred to stay in one of the smaller places after the first night. A wander over the old bridge and through the old town and a walk down into the gorge are called for.

Facing the tourist office there is a sort of alleyway in front of you to the right going through to the bullring. On the left of it is Huespedes la Española - a cheap place to stay with shared toilets and a shower room (key from reception) and a balcony with a superb aspect on the first floor. There are plenty of other places if wanted but this is a good situation. It is worth getting at least a drink from one of the places overlooking the gorge near the bridge. It is advisable to buy a "military map" in the bookshop on the pedestrian shopping street for any of the walks in the next three entries.

Cueva de Pileta

A cave on a hillside easily visited from Ronda or anywhere else on the railway line to Algeciras from Benaoján-Montejaque station. Go up through the town to the road above it and turn left. The track to the cave on the right is clear when you reach it. There may be nobody about if you are "out of season" but a brief wait will probably be rewarded by the site of a man coming up from the next village on the road you left. The ancient paintings to be seen in the cave more than justify the admission cost. On leaving it is quite easy to continue on the same road and cut down to the next station where there is a conveniently placed bar while you wait.

Grazalema

On the bus route from Ronda to Ubrique - only two buses a day each way and not very convenient for doing the very good walks. Anyway it is a lovely place to stay. Some walks require a permit from the natural park office in the village. Two really good ones are:

  • Through the woods where a special type of pine grows which is hardly found outside this area to an even smaller village whose name I forget but it starts with a B. To find the start walk uphill on the road from Grazalema and fork right towards Zahara. The start of the walk is a very short distance on your left - goes up steeply but not that far. You can either walk back by road or phone for a taxi from Grazalema. The walk is very scenic among limestone mountains.
  • Up from Grazalema and out to the left then either on to the Goatherd's Leap (Salta de Cabrero?) or left again and steeply up and over the ridge back to Grazalema. The walk given from Zahara below could easily be done from Grazalema if you have a car with you or with a considerable road walk uphill.

There is a very good looking hostel on the bus route in but I stayed in a cheaper place just up from the bus stop (which is also the taxi base.)

Zahara

Quite a small village off the Sevilla road from Ronda further on than the Grazalema road but with three hostels. Very pleasant walk (stroll) up to the top of the village. Excellent walks through the Garganta Verde off the road to Grazalema. I was a bit under the weather and just went a short way along and back up but it's terrific, and the ubiquitous buzzards add to it - but there are severe restrictions on access during the nesting season.

Ubrique

Beyond Grazalema and the bus terminal. Buses also run to Arcos and that makes it a good place for a night if you want to go there or on to Cadiz. At first sight it seems disappointing after a beautiful ride but:

  • It specialises in leather and very good leather articles can be purchased not exactly cheaply but for far less than their price elsewhere. There is also a factory shop where some bargains are available.
  • Turning left from the bus station get up to the high part of the town and it is little old streets full of flowers with access to the boundary of the town and the mountains above - but there is a hunting area up there so a bit of care is needed.

There is an excellent place to stay - cheap and unmarked - I can only give rough directions. Turn left from the bus station and soon? go left again up a sort of road with a few steps in it and a (good) pub on the left. Almost opposite are some steep but short steps which go up to a big square with orange trees. There is a church to your right. Take the road to the right beyond and it is number 3 on the left. Shared toilets and showers but very pleasant and comfortable. Does lunches but neither evening meals nor breakfasts. I found the Cafe Cristina in the main street provided a good do in tapas quite cheaply.

Gaucin

I did not go here – sadly, as it is said to be great. This is just a warning that the town is about 13 to 15 kilometers UP from the train station! Better reached by bus. It is actually very cheap to eat and stay near the station if you want.

Jimena de la Frontiera

The first place worth staying on the line up from Algeciras towards Ronda if you have been to Gibraltar. The station is a couple of kilometres from the village and provides very cheap accommodation with meals in the pub also cheap. On the other hand there is a fabulous looking hostel actually in the village and it is an easy walk - but I imagine a bit dearer. The views from the extensive remains of the old castle at the top of the town are fine. The railway between here and Ronda is fine and I very much enjoyed visiting the Cueva de la Pilot from here.

This at last concludes the section based around Ronda!

Update Feb 2004 on Provincía de Huelva

El Rocío and Doñana

The Doñana National Park is world class as a reserve for water birds but February is a bit early to see it at its best – don't leave it until the water has dried up though. Access to most of the northern park is only possible on the guided tours in four-wheel drive vehicles. In February I only added to my bird count at the centre where the bus starts but I have never seen so many wild boar and the deer were fairly prolific. Four and a half hours for €20 would be worth while for the amazing scenery alone.

El Rocío is a village on the very edge of Doñana, famed for its Romería (pilgrimage). It's a great place to stay except at Romería time, when rooms are well above £200.

Sierra de Aracena

Accessible by bus from Sevilla or by bus or train from Huelva, this is pretty country with relatively low mountains, mostly covered in largely deciduous forest. Where tops of bare of trees there is often a historic building towering above a village. My favourite was Almonaster La Real and I also enjoyed Aracena and Cortegana, at the latter seeing an imperial eagle.

Resources

Trip Report 1094: Valencia and 'around': Spring 2005, by DavidX. I wanted to go somewhere new in March and Jet2.com had recently introduced cheap flights from the North of England to Valencia. I devised a stay of a few days taking in other places I wanted to see. I admit that describing them as 'around' Valencia is pushing words to their limits.

www.andalucia.com: Travel information

www.andalucia.org: Travel information

www.andalucia.com/travel/bus/: Bus schedules

www.renfe.es: Train schedules

www.alsinagraells.es/agsur/: Bus schedules


David Cross was born in Plymouth but is now a "happily naturalized" Yorkshireman. He has grand-children in Wales and Scotland. David is a moderator on the World Travel Experience forums - groups.yahoo.com/group/worldtravelexp/. See David's Slow Travel Member page.

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