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  • Countryside Spain's wild frontier
  • Country life Sherry-soaked fiestas

This sunny Spanish region is best seen from a saddle; riding over scorching scrub-covered lowlands while gazing at the Sierra Nevada range is as romantic as it gets. Like a toreador caught off guard, you’ll be knocked off your feet.

Like the paintings of Andalucia’s famed native son, Pablo Picasso, this region is vivid, bold and occasionally overwhelming. With eight provinces to explore, repeat visits beckon; because each ancient city offers a unique flavour of authentic Spanish culture: Almeria’s rock-carved dwellings, the Moorish flowered filigree of Granada’s gorgeous Alhambra, Seville’s mosques and bullfighting rings and abundant whitewashed and rock-hewn World Heritage sites scattered throughout. There are plenty of playas to play on too, perfect-for-basking-on coastline on both the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean and a calendar full of raucous religious festivals. Andalucia is sprawling and surprising with vast deserts and salt flats (it's easy to see why Sergio Leone found the region the ideal location for a shoot 'em up), and after a canter through the badlands there’s no greater pleasure than watching Sevillana dancers in a cosy bar, sloshing a sherry about and tucking in to tapas followed by something pungent and porky.

Do go/Don’t go

Many of this region’s fiestas revolve around religious devotion and Catholic saints, but piety is not a pre-requisite. During festivals such as Semana Santa (held during Easter) and Moros Y Cristianos (held at various dates throughout the year depending which province you’re in), sherry is downed in copious amounts and food, dance, music and song are all integral parts of the celebrations.

Getting thereView map

  • Planes Each of the eight provinces in Andalucia have an airport, but Malaga – Costa Del Sol airport (www.aena-aeropuertos.es/csee/Satellite/Aeropuerto-Malaga/en) is the largest, with regular flights to destinations throughout Europe. Trans-Atlantic flights to Malaga stopover at Dublin and flights across the Pacific change at Rome or Paris.
  • Boats FRS (www.frs.es) runs regular ferries from Tangier to Gibraltar. A one-way journey takes about 90 minutes to two hours.
  • Trains Andalucia’s trains can be unreliable, especially outside the cities, but it is possible to get around using the Spain's high-speed AVE network (www.renfe.com), which connects Malaga, Cordoba and Seville to Madrid.
  • Automobiles Andalucia is rife with road-trip worthy terrain, and while it may lack the romance of horse riding you’ll definitely cover more ground on four wheels. You’ll find hire car booths in major city airports.