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8 Reasons Why Andalucía is One of the World’s Most Popular Destinations

Spain is divided into 17 regions which, in their own distinctive way, encapsulates the rich diversity of the nation and its people. If the spotlight were to be shone on one region that brings all that diversity together in one universal microcosm of Spain, it would – arguably – be Andalucía.

Extending from modern Mediterranean coast to rustic hinterland, with the largest regional population in Spain, Andalucía is a melting pot of local-born residents living side by side with a vast dispora of Spaniards from other regions – plus millions of national tourists who regularly spend their summers and other holidays in southern Spain.

They are widely dispersed around Andalucía’s provinces, each with its own cultural identity and lifestyle. Eight provinces in all – and eight reasons why Spanish and international tourists place Andalucía at or near the top of their must-visit destinations.

Sevilla

One of three landlocked Andalucian provinces (with Córdoba and Jaén), Sevilla is best known internationally for its capital city and a history spanning several different civilisations. The cathedral bell tower Giralda was once the tallest tallest tower in the world (at 97.5 metres), with work on its oldest (Muslim) part having started in 1184 under the orders of Abu Yaqub Yusuf.

These enchanting links with the past have turned Sevilla into a modern-day international movie set. Films such as Lawrence of Arabia, Kingdom of Heaven, The Dictator and Knight and Day have been filmed in the city. More recently, the Plaza de España and Real Alcázar were transformed into the "Palace of the Kingdom of Naboo" from Star Wars, and the "Palace of the Kingdom of Dorne" from Game of Thrones.

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Málaga

Endowed with just as impressive a cultural legacy as Sevilla, plus the added attraction of being on the coast, Málaga province is more popularly known as the Costa del Sol. Extending along 150 kilometres of Mediterranean coastline, the Costa is one of Europe’s main tourism hubs, a favourite with everyone from families wanting to spend a fun week on the beach to golfing groups keen to test their skills on numerous international-level championship courses.

For a little more sophisticated enrichment of the soul,  Málaga capital city is renowned for its many first-class cultural attractions. The Picasso Museum was created to honour the Málaga-born artist who gave it his name, and other top galleries include the Contemporary Art Centre, Pompidou Centre, St Petersburg Collection Russian Museum and Carmen Thyssen Museum. Another famous local son, Antonio Banderas, has just inaugurated his dream project, the Soho Theatre.

In addition, the city is dotted with dozens of other smaller museums, art galleries and cultural establishments, and is in the throes of an ongoing redevelopment project around the port area – a key Mediterranean stopover for cruise ships and their passengers.

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Granada

Mention Granada and most people will immediately visualise the Alhambra. Indeed, when then US First Lady Michelle Obama and her and Barack’s younger daughter Sasha travelled to Spain on summer holidays in 2010, they limited their visit to a five-star hotel resort in Marbella and a day  trip to the Alhambra (plus lunch in Mallorca with the Spanish royal family on the way back to Washington).

The palace was originally constructed as a small fortress in AD 889 on the remains of Roman fortifications. Its ruins were rebuilt in the mid-13th century by the first Nasrid dynasty ruler of the Emirate of Granada, the Sultan of Granada converted it into a royal palace the following century, and in 1492 the site became the Royal Court of the Spanish Monarchs Fernando and Isabel.

During winter, Granada is popular for sporting rather than cultural reasons.  Sierra Nevada , just a few kilometres outside the city, is one of Europe’s most southerly ski resorts, with the highest peak in mainland Spain (Mulhacén – 3,479 metres above sea level). Over the years, it has been the venue for several top international skiing and snowboarding competitions.

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Cádiz

As one of the oldest inhabited cities in eastern Europe, founded by the Phoenicians, Cádiz has a wealth of stunning historical landmarks, as well as parklands with flourishing exotic plants – including giant trees reportedly brought back to Spain from the New World by Christopher Columbus. During the “Age of Exploration”, Columbus used Cádiz as the departure port for his second and fourth journeys.

Cádiz capital is not actually the largest city in the province, by population; that honour is held by Jerez de la Frontera (around 100,000 more people), the home of sherry, dancing horses, flamenco and motor racing.

Away from these two urban centres, the Cádiz coastline, Costa de la Luz , has some of Spain’s most attractive beaches, all the way to Tarifa, a surfing paradise known as the wind capital of Europe, on the Atlantic side of the Straits of Gibraltar.

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Córdoba

A city renowned, during its Muslim period, as a leading global centre of education and learning, Córdoba was previously a Roman settlement and was overtaken over by the Visigoths before the Muslim conquests in the eighth century. It later became an imperial city ruled by the Caliphate of Córdoba, then was re-conquered by the Catholics in the 13th century.

The most notable architecture in modern-day Cordoba is  La Mezquita , a mosque that is now a cathedral and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984; the Alcázar mediaeval castle and a Roman bridge built in the early first century BC across the Guadalquivir river.

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Almería

The arid landscape prevailing in Almería’s inland areas made it a popular film set for “spaghetti western” movie producers in the 1960s, and many sites in the  Tabernas desert have been maintained as tourist attractions. The province was also chosen by David Lean to film Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and by John Milius for The Wind and the Lion (1975).

Back on the coast, the volcanic-origin Cabo de Gata-Nijar Nature Park is considered to be the most ecologically important marine-terrestrial area in the European western Mediterranean Sea.

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Huelva

Located just across the river from Portugal’s south-eastern corner of the Algarve, Huelva is best known for the  Doñana National Park . (Or for its delicious Jabugo cured ham, if you are a foodie.)

One  of Europe’s most significant natural protected reserves, Doñana is a must visit for nature lovers. The park is covered in marshes, shallow streams and sand dunes, and is home to a vast variety of eco-systems. It provides shelter for thousands of birds, other fauna including deer, boars, badgers and mongooses, and endangered species such as the Spanish imperial eagle and the lynx.

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Jaén

Finally Jáen, one of Andalucía’s two smallest provinces (with Huelva) when it comes to population but of epic proportions in the global olive oil marketplace.

As the self-proclaimed (with ample justification) “word’s capital of olive oil”, Jaén province produces more than the whole of Italy, the second largest producing country after Spain. In all, more than 550,000 hectares of olive groves, over 60 million trees, and 20 per cent of the world’s olive oil production...

Several producers offer organised visits and tastings, many located close to the World Heritage cities of Baeza and Úbeda, which have some of the best-preserved examples of Italian Renaissance architecture in Spain.

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Image courtesy of andalucia.com | Article courtesy of Annie Button


 

Jan 21, 2020 | 643 Page Views

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