Andalucia in southern Spain is full of fun things to do with a mesmerizing coastline with sand blown beaches to some of the highest peaks in Spain. The southern Spain region is a melting pot of cultures dating back as long as we can remember, something you can see in anything from architecture to food. Here are 10 things to do in Andalucia, covering all the provinces, from lesser-known to popular tourist destinations.
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Go Hiking in Costa del Sol
Most people think of beach holidays and cheap cocktails when going to Costa del Sol. But this area is home to some of the best hikes in Spain with several mountain ranges overlooking the Mediterranean. Among them, you have Sierra de Mijas, where you can hike Pico de Mijas or the lesser-known Pico Puerto Malaga, both boasting 360 views spanning from Malaga to Gibraltar and the Cordilleras Béticas on the inland. Not far from there, above Marbella, you have Sierra Blanca tempting with hikes like La Concha ridge and Cruz de Juanar, both showing off the beauty of Marbella. While these hiking routes are stunning, they are not summer activities, as the temperatures rise above 30 degrees Celsius. Go between October and April and the weather is perfect. In the summer months, you can walk rivers and canyons like Rio Chillar and Rio Higueron for a diverse adventure.
No trip to Andalucia is complete without exploring its capital city, Seville. The tapas capital in Andalucia is also known for top quality flamenco shows and unforgettable Fiestas. Discover the Moorish history through Seville Cathedral, The Alcazaba, and the Giralda, all set in the historic center of Seville. Walk in the largest park, Parque Maria Louisa, to enjoy the enormous green space dotted with fountains and Moorish heritage. Take the trip to Plaza de España where you can take a romantic boat ride or sit on the tiled benches and people watch for hours. Go for an adventure and stand up paddle through the historical river Guadalquivir for the ultimate adventure.
Go Whale Watching in Tarifa
The Strait of Gibraltar is known for more than refugees and drug smuggling from Africa. This stretch is a wonderful place for whale and dolphin watching all year round. While Gray Whales and numerous species of dolphins live here all year round, the summer months are extremely popular as Orcas migrate past the strait. The months between July and early September there are big chances of seeing them on any of the whale watching tours. Make sure you choose an ethical company that does not guarantee that you see the animals (after all, they are wild, free animals that can be anywhere in the sea) and doesn’t chase the animals with the boat.
Walk from Beach to Beach in Cabo de Gata Natural Park
Cabo de Gata Natural Park is packed with wilderness from dry desert to jaw-dropping cliffs. A coastline that will take your breath away. Spotted with wild sand blown virgin beaches, this is the perfect place to go hiking from beach to beach. You’ll discover some of the most secluded beaches in the Natural Park, otherwise only accessed by boat. The most popular route (and the most beautiful) is walking from San Jose Village, past Los Genoveses Beach, and continue to Monsul Beach. The latter was set on the map by David Bisbal in his music video, Ave Maria.
Go Skiing in Sierra Nevada
Sierra Nevada is the southern-most ski resort in Europe with the longest season from November to April-May. There are 21 ski lifts taking you to explore the 110 kilometers of slope dropping from the northwestern side of mainland Spain’s third-highest peak, Pico de Veleta. There are options for beginners to seasoned skiers and you can rent all the equipment needed in the village. Being less than an hour away from the city of Granada, it is a popular weekend destination among locals in southern Spain.
Discover the Red River in Riotinto
Tucked away in a corner of inland Huelva province, there is a tiny mining village called Rio Tinto. It’s a truly diverse place to visit with the red river of Riotinto running past. Yes, you heard me right! Red River. The deep red color comes from the high levels of iron and heavy metals in the soil, which is thought to be a result of the mining. You can go on a tourist train, an old mining train, taking you to the most interesting sights including the red river.
One of the most famous landmarks in Andalucia if not in Spain, is the Alhambra in Granada. The palace, fortress, and astonishing gardens are visited by millions and you will need to book your tickets in advance, but it is definitely worth it. Originally one of the most prominent Moorish military structures turned royal residence in the 13th Century, the mesmerizing Alhambra complex takes a whole day to tour if you want to see it all. See the Alcazaba, the ruins of the original Moorish fortress from the 13th Century, the Palace of Charles V, the uncompleted monumental palace that was begun built in 1526 for Emperor Charles V, and the implausible Generalife Gardens in Generalife Palace, the summer palace of the Moorish kings.
Go Paddleboarding and Snorkeling in Nerja
Nerja is known for its clear water and the rugged coastline up towards Maro. This is a popular destination for paddleboarding as you can discover hidden beaches, waterfalls running into the sea, and caves. There are many companies to rent paddleboards from on Burriana Beach. If you’re not comfortable exploring by yourself, you can go with a guided tour where you learn the basics about paddleboarding. The guide will show you the best spots along the coast and take your photos, so don’t forget your GoPro!
See Wildlife in Sierra de Cazorla Natural Park
Covering an area of more than 2000 square meters of the northeastern and eastern part of Jaen province, Sierra de Cazorla Natural Park is a heaven for wildlife lovers. The enormous protected area is known widely for wildlife spotting. There is a large number of hiking trails crisscrossing the natural park revealing emerald-colored rivers, dense forest, and mysterious canyons. The most frequently spotted animals are mountain goats, mouflon, fallow, and deer. But you can also be lucky and see fox and wild boar which roam near tourist accommodation looking for food. So do your part and do not leave food rests in nature and don’t attempt to feed the wildlife. This harms the natural ecosystem.
Go Wild Camping in Sierra Nevada
In general, it is illegal to wild camp in Spain. However, if it is part of a multi-day trek, you are allowed to wild camp as part of your trek if authorities are notified. Sierra Nevada National Park is the perfect place for this in the summer months. Being home to some of the highest peaks in the Iberian Peninsula, Mulhacen (3479m) being the highest, there are multiple Refugios you can stay at, but it is also an amazing experience to bring your own tent and hike from peak to peak. A popular route is Pico de Veleta and Mulhacen, camping above 3000 meters of altitude. But remember to notify Sierra Nevada park authorities unless you want to risk a fine.
There is no doubt Andalucia is a diverse piece of Spain and there are things to do for all types of people no matter your interests. This is just a fraction of what this amazing corner of Spain has to offer, but hopefully, this gave you some new ideas for your bucket list. Buen viaje!
This guest post is by Linn Haglund, an avid traveler from Norway that has spent most of her life abroad, living more than 8 years in Andalucia. Her passion for hiking made her realize just how hard it can be to find the information you need about hikes in Andalucia. This led her to create the destination blog Andalucia Hiking, a resource for hiking in this incredible corner of Spain.