On February the 28th, the beautiful region of southern Spain celebrated its dia del Andalucía. Each year, Andalucía lures thousands of tourists with its traditional tapas bars, picturesque beaches and idyllic mountain villages, and with low budget airlines offering insane deals it has become one of the most affordable places in Europe for a quick weekend-break and road-tripping shenanigans. If you’re looking to rent a car and tour Andalucía for a long weekend, you should do so via these top five destinations!
Photo Credit : Nick Kenrick
Visiting Andalusia without exploring the historic city of Granada would be a crime. Surrounded by the Sierra Nevada Mountains, you can experience the best of both worlds here: spend the day hiking or skiing down the mountain, and reserve the evenings for soaking up the city’s bohemian flair and its history. As a university city, Granada is a cheap place to live and vacation in, with most bars offering free tapas with every drink you order. Just make sure you don’t fill up too much ahead of visiting the Alhambra de Granada – there’s still a lot of walking ahead! The Alhambra de Granada is an eye-catching palace and fortress complex overlooking the city, and is one of the “12 Treasures of Spain”. The main sites include the Court of the Myrtles, the Hall of Ambassadors, the Royal Complex, Palacio Generalife, Court of the Lions, the Royal Complex and many other exciting features such as the vaulted sepulchres and the mirror labyrinth. If you’re going to be staying in Granada for the night be sure to book yourself into a traditional cave-house to round off the authentic experience!
Some of the greatest writers and poets of our time regularly flocked to this dramatic mountain city to find new inspiration to eternalize in their writings, including Orson Welles and Ernst Hemingway. Once you have spent a day strolling the cobble-stone streets of Ronda and soaking in the breath-taking views from the world-famous El Tajo Bridge you’ll understand what kept them coming back for more. An excellent time to tour Andalucía and truly experience this region’s rich traditions, is during the Ronda Romantica festivities, which will take place between May 24th – 28th this year. The festivities offer re-enactments of Ronda’s romantic era in which the bandoleros (bandits) reigned, and sees locals dressed in beautiful handmade, traditional costume. The city comes to life with markets, parades, music and dance, offering an incredible atmosphere in a fairy-tale like setting. But don’t worry if you can’t make it in May; any time of the year is a good time to visit this Andalucían gem, and there’s fun news for all those looking for a romantic winter-getaway: it snows in Ronda!
Now that you’ve gotten a taste of traditional Andalucía, it’s time to head towards the coast via a lovely mountain route from Ronda (a little side note here: if you’re sensitive to motion sickness, you might want to pack some tablets!). Marbella is known as a place of luxury and decadence. It’s famous for housing the villas of Hollywood actors, top football players and models who hide behind floppy hats and big sunglasses while wealthy ex-pats and jet-setting tourists strut down the Golden Mile promenade as if it were a catwalk. For the best people-watching opportunities, yacht, and Lamborghini sightings, a visit to Puerto Banus is an absolute must. This is where you’ll find the most exquisite little boutiques and all the top designer shops including Versace, Karen Millen and Gucci. You can’t consider yourself a stylish traveller unless you make a stop in Puerto Banus!
Just a short, twenty minute drive from Marbella, you’ll find the lovely sea-side town Estepona. As you tour Andalucía, this is the place to stop for a day of leisure, good food and even better vibes. If you’d rather stick around the less crowded beaches of Estepona, an evening lounging around and listening to good tunes at the “environmentally funky” Sonora Beach bar is definitely in order. But the beaches in town don’t usually get too crazy either and there is plenty to do if you’re in need of a break from the Andalucían heat – at least during the summer months. This is when you’ll find live music in authentic little plazas, book markets along the promenade and concerts on the beach; the winter months are a tad sleepy around here, but with so many awesome bars and restaurants to test you won’t get bored. Treat yourself to a creatively scrumptious lunch at Bar Toque, before kicking back at the Tolone bar for mouth-wateringly delicious, homemade desserts and smoothies. If you can still move after all that feasting, make your way to the striking piece of architectural genius that is Estepona’s own orchid house. The interiors boast 5000 plants and 1. 300 species arranged in a beautiful design, with a 17 metre high intermittent waterfall acting as its centrepiece.
If there’s one thing you absolutely do not want to miss as you tour Andalucía, it’s the view from Punta de Tarifa, which also happens to be the southernmost point of continental Europe. From here, you can see Morocco’s coastline on a clear day, and if it takes your fancy, you can head over there by ferry via Algeciras or Tarifa. This is where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic ocean, so you’ll note a drop in temperature in the water, but that won’t bother you as long as you manage to stay atop your surf board. With strong winds hailing from Africa, Tarifa is a (kite) surfer’s paradise and the whole town seems to be dedicated to this sport – there is no shortage of equipment rentals around here, so if you don’t feel like lugging around your own gear, it’s all good. But you don’t have to be a surfer to enjoy Tarifa – this is a place that tickles the senses no matter where you are. Whether you’re sat in the sand dunes of Punta Paloma at sunset, investigating the ruins of Baelo Claudia in Bolonia, or hiking through the Los Arconocales Natural Park, you will relish every minute of it.