The City of Cádiz is the Capital city of the Province of Cádiz and the oldest city in Europe. The city of Jerez de la Frontera with its international airport lies inland from Cádiz. Its main industry is Sherry and Brandy production and is also famous for Andalucian horses and flamenco.
Its latitude, at the southern-most point of the Iberian Peninsula, and its magnificent climate, have made this coast a coveted prize for Tyrians, Tartesians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Visigoths and Arabs during thousands of years. The attractions are plentiful along the length of these 200 km of the finest golden sands on the peninsula.The "Costa de la Luz" looks out to the Atlantic Ocean. It boasts miles of clear unpoilt beaches with golden yellow sand. Beaches backed by huge sandunes rather than tower block hotels. One wonders how they have remained unspoiled for so long.
Rolling countryside and white villages, Arcos de la Frontera and Grazalema to name just two. These villages tend to be defensive structures built high on the hillside. The sierra de Grazalema was the first area to be declared a Natural Park in Andalucia (a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1977), and is one of the most ecologically important areas of Spain. The area is famous for its spectacular limestone cliffs and landscape of gullies, caverns and gorges, the most spectacular being La Verde, with rocky walls that rise almost vertically for 400 metres. It contains the highest point in the province of Cádiz, El Torreón, at 1,654 metres.
The City of Córdoba is the Capital city of the Province. It has Roman origins but in the tenth century it was the western capital of the Islamic empire. Today it is a friendly city enjoyed by tourists. Its main attraction is the mosque. As well this unique mosque-cathedral, Cordoba's treasures include the Alcazar, or Fortress, built by the Christians in 1328; the Calahorra Fort, originally built by the Arabs, which guards the Roman Bridge, on the far side of the river from the Mezquita, and the ancient Jewish Synagogue, now a museum. Cordoba's medieval quarter, once the home of the Jewish community, is called "La Judería" (The Jewry), a labyrinth of winding, narrow streets, shady flower-filled courtyards and picturesque squares such as La Plaza del Potro. In early May, homeowners proudly festoon their patios with flowers to compete for the city's "most beautiful courtyard" contest
Further downstream Castillo del Almodovar del Rio and Palmo del Rio are also worth visiting. The famous moorish palace Medina Azahara just north west of Cordoba on everybody itinerary.
The province of Granada is dominated by Spain's highest mountain peaks, the Sierra Nevada.
The Sierras are snowcapped for much of the year and offer skiing from November until late May. During the rest of the year the Sierra Nevada nature park offers the walker endless opportinities. The desolate upper slopes of Mt. Mulhacen at an altitude of well over 3000m give the impression of being in a lunar landscape.
The Alpujarras peaks are scored by long, sheltered valleys and occasional gorges, all good hiking territory if you're prepared to strike off into the hills with a tent. There are some fifty or so beatiful white villages scattered around here, many of them worth a visit.
Although not nearly so well known for its coastline as its
neighboring province, Malaga, Granada is similarly picturesque beachside. The
Costa Tropical has sandy beaches and hidden coves. The town of Almuñecar,
becoming increasingly popular with tourists. Water sports and scuba
diving are popular here, thanks to the variety of sea life and clarity of the
water. The white village of Salobreña is worth a visit. Here you will be torn
between visiting the moorish castle and the beach. The sight of sugar cane
plantations and Avocado, confirm the the origin of the name Costa Tropical
Granada was first settled by native tribes in the prehistoric period, and was known as Ilbyr. When the Romans colonised southern Spain, they built their own city here and called it Illibris. The Arabs, invading the peninsula in the 8th century, gave it its current name of Granada. It was the last Muslim city to fall to the Christians in 1492, at the hands of Queen Isabel of Castile and her husband Ferdinand of Aragon.
The city of Granada is dominated by the Alhambra, arguably the most exciting, sensual and romantic of all European monuments. It was the palace-fortress of the Nasrid Sultans, rulers of the last Spanish Moorish kingdom and in its construction Moorish art reached a spectacular and serene climax. But the building seems to go further than this, revealing something of the whole brilliance and spirit of Moorish life and culture. Here you can admire the spectacular view referred to by the former U.S. President, Bill Clinton, on his visit to Granada in 1998, and which he described as "the most beautiful sunset in the world".
The Alhambra is one of the most brilliant jewels of universal architecture; a series of palaces and gardens built under the Nazari Dynasty in the 14th C. This mighty compound of buildings ? including the summer palace called Generalife, with its fountains and gardens - stands at the foot of Spain's highest mountain range, the Sierra Nevada, and overlooks the city below and the fertile plain of Granada.
The Alhambra was a palace, a citadel, a fortress and home of the Nasrid sultans, high government officials, servants of the court and elite soldiers (from the 13th century to the 14th century). Today the monument is divided into four main areas: the Palaces, the military zone or Alcazaba, the city or Medina, and the agricultural estate of the Generalife. It also includes noteworthy buildings of different periods, such as the Renaissance-style Charles V Palace, housing the Alhambra Museum, with items taken chiefly from the Monument, and the Museum of Fine Arts. All of these areas are set in the natural surroundings of woods, gardens and orchards.
The hill facing the Alhambra is the old Moorish casbah or "medina", called the Albaicin, a fascinating labyrinth of narrow streets and whitewashed houses with secluded inner gardens, known as "cármenes". The Plaza de San Nicolas, at the highest point of the Albaicin, is famous for its magnificent view of the Moorish palace. In order to appreciate fully the unique value of the architecture and landscape of the Alhambra, we recommend a visit to the Albaicín (Mirador de San Nicolás) or Sacromonte. From these two places the spectacular relationship between the Alhambra and the district and city of Granada can be discerned.
The Sacromonte hill, which overlooks the city from the North, is famous for its cave dwellings, once the home of Granada's large gypsy community.
The province of Huelva may not be the best-known part of Andalucía among foreign visitors, yet it too has a lot to offer. It lies at the west of Andalucia stretches from Seville Province to Portugal.
The province is probably best known for its marshlands and national park, called the Coto Donaña where, amidst sand dunes, marshes, pinewoods and freshwater lagoons live flamingos, plus rare buzzards, lynx, mongoose and a startling variety of migratory birds.
Atlantic beaches with miles of unspoilt golden sand are also a feature of this province. The Coastline is known as Costa de la Luz. To the north rolling wooded hills of the Sierra de Aracena complete the picture of this varied province that has so far escaped mass tourism.
Running along the northern border of the province lies the beautiful and little-visited Sierra de Aracena, an extensive range of pine-covered mountains and thinly populated valleys, where wild boar, eagles and deer still roam abundantly. Fascinating in their own right, these green-sloped mountains conceal one of the marvels of Andalucía: Rio Tinto. Another of Huelva province's better known attractions are the Caves of Marvel in the small town of Aracena. The different parts of the cave have particularly evocative names referring to their shapes and include the Hall of the Organs, the Hall of the Jewels, God's Glassworks and the Great Lake of the Emeralds.
The village of Jabugo is famous for its cured hams and other meat products. There a several holiday resorts in the province which are particularly popular with the Spanish. One is Punta Umbria, known for its picturesque beaches and reached via the marshlands of the River Odiel, a natural wilderness with a great variety of birdlife, hemmed in by sand dunes and pine woods. The town is also famous for the fresh seafood and jumbo prawns served in numerous bars and restaurants.
Another Atlantic beach town to recommend is Matalascañas which has numerous hotels and restaurants. This is also an important centre for excursions, being less than 40 kilometres from Huelva City and 85 from Seville City. The recommended route to Matalascañas is via El Rocio, a tiny village of white cottages and a simple church . This is the site of Spain's largest religious pilgrimages; a colourful event combining fervour and devotion to the Virgin del Rocio and all the excitement of an Andalusian fiesta.
The actual city of Huelva dates back some 3000 years. Today it is large, sprawling and industrialised. There are however some very interesting places not to be missed such as the quarter of English style Victorian Houses. Just to the south, particularly around La Rabida a must for those interested in the story of Columbus.
Jaen is probably best known for its abundance of olive trees which dominate the landscape and punctuate the horizon, interspersed by stark white-washed farms and houses against a deep orange backdrop; the colour of the soil. This province is the world's leading producer of olives and olive oil. Little wonder that it is also the venue for the world's largest trade fair devoted to this quintessentially Mediterranean crop which takes place in Jaen city during the first week of October.
The landscape of Jaen province is expansive, unspoilt and very beautiful. Some of the towns and villages worth visiting here include Baeza, Ubeda, Alcalá.
Just east Ubeda and Beaza lies the Sierras de Cazorla nature park, arguably one of the most beautiful nature parks in the Andalucia.
Many travellers enter Andalucia through another nature park named Despeñaperros. Here the twin carriages NIV motorway are forced to part company to negotiate the narrow gorge aptly named "Gateway to Andalucia" (240 km South of Madrid and 40 km south of Valdepeñas.
At the start of its long march to the sea, the Guadalquivir gives its name to a valley bounded by the sierras of Cazorla, Segura del Pozo and de la Cabrilla: it goes on widening its V-shape toward the south east, confined by a series of peaks that are over 2,000 metres in altitude.
Its sheltered position between the Montes Universales and the Sierra Nevada means that it was ideally situated to provide a refuge for high altitude plants during the tremendous climatic changes in the Ice Ages. Consequently, these mountains contain a number of Tertiary relict species not found anywhere else in the world. Viola cazorlensis, a shrubby violet with unusual deep crimson or carmine flowers and very long slender spurs, is one of the most interesting. It flowers in May, for the depths of shady rock crevices; its nearest living relatives are found as far away as Mount Olympus in Greece and in Montenegro. Another of these relict species is the butterwort Piguicula vallisneriifolia. This carnivorous plant is found in a highly specialised habitat under towering limestone cliffs drenched in continually dripping water and totally out of reach of the rays of the sun.
All told, the reserve contains over 1,100 species of plants, but you needn't be a specialist to enjoy the forests of tall pines that reach 20 metres in height and the sweet profusion of thyme, rosemary, sweet marjoram and lavender. Along the banks of the streams are tunnels of flowers, grasses, ferns and shrubs. The minor rivers are lined with poplars, ash trees and willows. On the lower slopes the pine forests are made up of aleppo pine while above about 1,300 metres maritime pine dominates. Here, too, snowy mespilus and Montpellier maple flourish along with such bushes as Lavandula latifolia and Helianthemum croceum. Oaks are also frequent. The high valleys, called navas, are covered with grasses and wild flowers, ideal fodder for the red deer. Some of the mountain tops are treeless, sometimes this is due to natural causes, but more usually it is because overgrazing has tipped the ecological balance in favour of low growing shrubs rather than trees.
The vast expanses of farmland around Seville are punctuated mainly by towns, such as Carmona, Ecija and Osuna, rather than small country villages. This is partly because much of the property has traditionally been in the hands of a few wealthy landowners. This part of Andalucia was reconquered from the Moors early on in the 13th century, when Spanish monarchs had relatively little power and were forced to share out the spoils of war among a small number of knights, in contrast to the supreme authority of Isabel and Ferdinand when they took eastern Andalucia three centuries later, and took care to divide the land in small plots among poor farmers from the north of Spain.
Nevertheless, the wooded hills in the north of the province, in that part of Sierra Morena known as la Sierra Norte, are home to charming towns such as Cazalla de la Sierra, where King Philip V was fond of hunting wild boar and deer and which is currently favoured by Seville´s gilded youth for weekend escapades, and Constantina with its ruined castle and poetic vistas.
An interesting place to visit is La Cartuja de Cazalla a national monument which is an old cartucian monastery converted into a hotel and cultural centre.
The City of Seville is the Capital city of the Province and the region of Andalucia. Near Seville itself is the ruined Roman city of Italica, founded by Scipio Africanus in 206 BC, but later abandoned when the meandering river deprived it of its function as a port, which in turn gave rise to the birth of modern Seville.
Seville certainly is one of the most beloved places by visitors to Spain. Although today Moorish influence is architectonically most evident - Andalusia was occupied by Moors for about 800 years - it has been a cultural center long before. The fertility of this land and its favorised climate with mild winters and about 3000 hours of sun per year (if you ever have visited it in August, where temperatures can arrive to some 47°C, perhaps you will deny to call it favorised) made Phoenicians and Carthaginians settle here. Later came Romans, like almost to any place in Europe, and two of their emperors, Trajan and Hadrian, in fact were born here.
Also lateron Seville was the home of famous and infamous figures of history, the legendary "Don Juan" started from here to conquer the hearts of women across all Europe, while Columbus started from a port close to Seville to discover a new world. Prosper Merimée's "Carmen", who couldn't make her decision between the officer Don José and the bullfighter Escamillo - the consequences you can watch still today in opera houses - was a worker in Seville's old tobacco factory. By the way, this factory serves today as University, a fact that might give you a glimpse on Andalusian talent for improvisation.
When you visit this city, you are in the very heart of Andalusian culture, the center of bullfighting and Flamenco music. Take yourself time and take life easy, as Andalusians use to do, and interrupt sightseeing from time to time to have a few "tapas", those typical "small spanish dishes", and a glass of Sherry wine in one of the probably thousands of bars in this city, and consider a few of the hints on the following pages to make your stay a memorable one.
and Sierra Alhamilla also deserve a special mention. The natural