Andalusia is one of the best destinations in Europe for enjoying the outdoors. Lounging on the beach tops the list of activities for most travelers, but there's a lot more to do. The province's mountains lure thousands of mountaineers and hikers, and fishing and hunting are long-standing Iberian obsessions. Watersports ranging from sailing to windsurfing are prime summer attractions.
Custom tours of Spain that focus on art and architecture can be arranged, especially by Heritage Tours (tel. 212/206-8400 in New York or 800/378-4555 outside New York; www.htprivatetravel.com). Founded by an architect, Joel Zack, these tours can be designed to order, and often include guided trips through such art cities as Granada. Without airfares, trips begin at around $4,000 (£2,000) for a 10-day jaunt.
Featuring groups ranging in size from 15 to 25 participants, ACE Study Tours (tel. 01223/835055; www.study-tours.org) in Cambridge, England, offers tours led by an art historian to such highlights of Andalusia as Córdoba, Seville, and Granada. Eight-day trips start at $2,500 (£1,250) and include double occupancy in a hotel, round-trip airfare from London, plus breakfast and dinner daily.
The leading U.S.-based outfitter is Easy Rider Tours, P.O. Box 228, Newburyport, MA 01950 (tel. 800/488-8332 or 978/463-6955; www.easyridertours.com). Their tours average between 48 and 81km (30-50 miles) a day.
In England, the Cyclists' Touring Club, Parklands, Railton Road, Guildford, Surrey GU2 9JX (tel. 0870/873-0060; www.ctc.org.uk), charges $70 (£35) a year for membership; part of the fee covers information and suggested cycling routes through Spain and dozens of other countries.
The Iberian Peninsula lies directly across migration routes of species that travel with the seasons between Africa and Europe. Some of the most comprehensive studies on these migratory patterns are conducted by Spain's Centro de Migración de Aves, SEO/BirdLife, Calle Melquiades Biencinto 34, 28053 Madrid (tel. 91-434-09-10; www.seo.org). Based at a rustic outpost near Gibraltar, their summer work camps and field projects appeal to participants who want to identify, catalog, and "ring" (mark with an identifying leg band) some of the millions of birds that nest on Spanish soil every year. Participants are expected to pay for their "tuition," room, and board, but can often use the experience toward university credit.
Travel specialist Cox & Kings Travel, Gordon House, 10 GreenCoat Place, London SW1P 1PH, UK (tel. 020/7873-5000; www.coxandkings.co.uk), leads weeklong treks that take in Granada, Seville, and Ronda, exploring their Moorish and Renaissance gardens and some of southern Spain's architectural highlights. The tour is called "the Gardens of Andalusia."
In recent decades, thousands of British retirees have settled in Spain, and their presence has sparked the development of dozens of new golf courses. More than a third of the country's approximately 160 courses lie within its southern tier, within a short drive of the Costa del Sol. In fact, Spain's two most talked-about golf courses are both in southern Spain. Valderrama, 11310 Sotogrande, Cádiz (tel. 95-679-12-00; www.valderrama.com), is on the western tip of the Costa del Sol, a Robert Trent Jones, Sr.-designed course carved out of an oak plantation in the 1980s. Hyatt's new La Manga Club, 30385 Los Belones, Cartagena (tel. 968-17-5000; www.lamangaclub.com), is on the Costa Blanca near Murcia and is the site of three golf courses, one of which was recently remodeled by Arnold Palmer.
Packages that include guaranteed playing time on some of the country's finest courses, as well as airfare and accommodations, can be arranged through such firms as Golf International (tel. 800/833-1389 or 212/986-9176 in the U.S.; www.golfinternational.com), PGA Travel (tel. 888/439-1831 in the U.S.; www.pgatravel.com), and Comtours (tel. 800/248-1331 in the U.S.; www.comtours.com).
Hiking & Walking
To venture into the more rugged countryside of Catalonia, Andalusia's valley of the Guadalquivir, or the arid and beautiful Extremaduran plains, contact Ramblers Holidays, Lemsford Mill, Welwyn Garden AL8 7TR, U.K. (tel. 01707/331-133; www.ramblersholidays.co.uk).
A well-known equestrian center that conducts tours of the Alpujarras highlands is Cabalgar, Rutas Alternativas, Bubión, Granada (tel. 95-876-31-35). The farm is best known for its weekend treks through the scrub-covered hills of southern and central Spain, although longer tours are available.
Alventus, an agency based in Seville, offers weeklong cruises along the coast of Andalusia and the Algarve in Portugal. Its three-masted, 13m (43-ft.) sailing yacht departs from the Andalusian port of Huelva. For reservations and information, contact Alventus at Calle Huelva 6, 41004 Sevilla (tel. 95-421-00-62; www.alventus.com).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.