The historic Spanish city of Seville is the heart, capital and cultural hub of the romantic and stunningly lovely Andalusian region. As a destination on the upper class Grand Tours of the 19th century, it is famous for its fabulous Moorish architecture and is the perfect centre for touring around the region. Good hotels, reasonably priced car hire and comprehensive bus and train services are all here.
For 800 years, Andalusia was occupied by the Moors, who left a treasurehouse of magnificent buildings, from palaces to mansions and mosques, when their empire collapsed and they were expelled from Spain. Many of these buildings are now UNESCO World Heritage sites, with the most famous of all, the Alhambra, set in Granada. Exploring Andalusia from Seville is easy to arrange.
Andalusia’s not just historic remnants of times long gone by, as it’s known across the world for its spectacular countryside, national parks, beaches and tiny traditional villages where Spanish dance and gypsy music reign as they have for centuries. The snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains are the region’s highest point, medieval Crusader castles adorn the hills of Almeria and the buzzing beach resorts of Marbella and Malaga attract hundreds of sun-seekers every year.
If you’re not into self-drive, there are two bus companies in Andalusia, Alsina Graells and DAMAS, which run comfortable long-distance buses around the region at budget prices. Their routes service the major cities and conurbation, and also run to remote locations of interest. The city’s Prado de San Sebastian bus station is the entry point for exploring Andalusia from Seville, with Cordoba, Algeciras and Granada favourite destinations.
Train travel is a little more restricting should you want to explore the more remote areas of this amazing region, nicknamed the Soul of Spain, but cities such as Granada, Cadiz, Almeria and Malaga are all served by the rail system. Exploring everything the region has to offer would take a lifetime of holidays, but a selection of the beauties here is easily covered in two weeks’ travel.
Beginning in Seville itself, there are narrow lanes to explore, leading to magnificent, medieval Moorish monuments such as the Alcazar, the Giralda and the superb cathedral, once a mosque and now the world’s largest Gothic church.
Moving into the rest of the region, known as Al Andalus during its Moorish era, you’ll visit the city of Cordoba, which lies, as does Seville, along the banks of the graceful, slow-moving Guadalquivir River.
Approximately three hours’ drive from Seville is the magnificent Moorish palace of the Alhambra, considered the most spectacular Moorish building still standing. Set in the heart of the city of Granada, the complex was used both as a citadel and a residence following its completion and is a must-see on any visit to Andalusia. The city’s Old Quarter gives a magical wander through tiny streets lined with shops and open-air markets.
As you continue your Andalusian journey, you’ll realise that the region is unique in Spain and its focus is on flamenco and its music as well as on art and architecture. It’s the traditional Spain of the movies and folk tales, ancient yet modern and relatively unchanged from times past in its rural areas. For a break from man-made glories and crowded cites, head for the Cazorla Segura and Las Villas Nature Park, a mountainous wilderness which hides the source of the great Guadalquivir River as it rushes through its ravine to the Tranco de Beas lake. Waterfalls, Alpine meadows, gorges and pine forests are all here, as are tiny villages.
Back on the road, the next stop for total scenic remoteness should be the Alpujarras, high on the Sierra Nevada’s slopes and a refuge for artists and writers for several decades. Squat little homes hug the slopes in the villages and their occupants still create the traditional handicrafts of the area, including colourful rugs, pottery and woven basketwares. Horseback riding here is a pure joy.
Amy is a guest blogger from Easyjet who operate flights to Seville from London Gatwick in the UK.