The Best Travel Experiences in Andalusia
Getting Lost in the Barrio de Santa Cruz: In Seville, "famous for its oranges and women" according to Lord Byron, you can wander at leisure through this Arab-looking ghetto of narrow streets. The brilliantly whitewashed little houses festooned with flowering plants and graced Andalusian courtyards epitomize romantic Seville. While away a meal or a whole afternoon at one of the outdoor cafe tables tucked into a handkerchief-size, hidden square. Under the Moors, Jews flourished in this ghetto but were chased out by the Christians at the time of the Inquisition. The great artist Murillo also called this barrio home.
Drinking Sherry at the Bodegas of Jerez: Spain's most distinctive fortified wine -- "sherry" in English, jerez in Spanish -- uses this charming little Andalusian town of Jerez de la Frontera as its main production center. Touring the sherry wineries, or bodegas, is one of the province's most evocative undertakings, but nothing is more memorable than an actual tasting. You'll quickly determine your favorite, ranging from fino (extra dry) to dulce (sweet). It's best to arrive in early September for the annual grape harvest.
Visiting the Great Alhambra: People from all over the world flock to Granada to enjoy wandering the Alhambra, Andalusia's last remaining fortress-palace constructed by the Muslim caliphs, who staged their last stand here against the Catholic monarchs. In 1832, Washington Irving, in his Tales of the Alhambra, virtually put it on the tourist map after decades of neglect. Inside its walls is a once royal city with fountained courtyards, fanciful halls (once filled with dancing girls from the sultan's harem), and miles of intricate plasterwork and precious mosaics, which all pay testament to past Muslim glory.
Experiencing a Bullfight: With origins as old as pagan Andalusia, bullfighting is a pure expression of Spanish temperament and passion. Detractors call the sport cruel, bloody, and savage. Aficionados, however, view bullfighting as a microcosm of death, catharsis, and rebirth. If you strive to understand the bullfight, it can be a powerful and memorable experience. Head for the Plaza de Toros (bullring) in any major Andalusian city, but the most spectacular corridas (bullfights) are in Seville.
Feasting on Tapas in the Tascas: Julia Child once said, "Tapas are reason enough to go to Seville." These small plates of food can be washed down with wine or beer, but a true Andalusian will accompany them with a glass of sherry. Cured ham or chorizo (spicy sausage), gambas (deep-fried shrimp), and marinated anchovies are favorites, as are stuffed peppers or a hake salad -- and most definitely a bowl of cool gazpacho, a "liquid salad" for a hot summer day.
Getting Swept Up in the Passion of Flamenco: Flamenco, which traces its Spanish roots to Andalusia, is best heard in old Gypsy taverns in such evocative neighborhoods as Seville's Barrio de Triana or Granada's Albaicín. From the poshest nightclub to the lowest taverna, flamenco's foot stomping, castanet rattling, hand clapping, and sultry Andalusian guitar strains can be heard nightly. Some say flamenco's origins actually lie somewhere deep in the heart of Asia, but the Andalusian Gypsy has given the art a special and distinctive interpretation. Performed by a great artista, flamenco's dramatization of inner tension and conflict can tear your heart out with its soulful, throaty singing.
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