When I think of my travels in the southernmost region of Spain known as Andalucía, or Andalusia, a few things come to mind immediately like sunny days, white-washed buildings, glorious alcázars… I find myself daydreaming just writing about it. It’s an attractive destination for so many different reasons but here are five that should convince you to add it to your list. Immediately.
1. Affordability. Spain is overall cheaper than the rest of Western Europe—especially given its economic crisis—with Andalucía, the poorest region in the country, being the cheapest. As a tourist, this means that from accommodation and taxis to restaurants and sight-seeing, life is quite affordable despite the Euro being more expensive than the Canadian or American Dollar. Plus, if you are a student, remember to carry an International Student Identity Card (ISIC) as it will often allow you to pay a reduced fee or receive free entry to sites altogether. This is why there were days where my total expenses from eating and sight-seeing combined were not even €20!
2. History and architecture. Due to its strategic location, Andalucía has seen many empires come and go including the Romans, Visigoths, Byzantines and Muslims before it became a part of the Kingdom of Castile. This means that the remaining sites today are not only historically fascinating but also very diverse from one another. The Muslim forts and palaces are especially remarkable for their design and undoubtedly, the jewels of Andalucía. Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Romani influences are spread throughout the region and can be seen in not only architecture but for example, literature and music as well leaving visitors with an incredibly rich experience.
3. Culture. A lot of the things that Spain is infamous for, such as flamenco and tapas, originated in Andalucía which makes experiencing them here feel more authentic. People in the south are also quite friendly, the atmosphere is relaxed and everyone just seems to know how to enjoy life. And speaking of enjoying life, are you ready for a fiesta? There are countless festivals every year and the towns definitely get into the celebrations. Some are seasonal, some religious, some musical and others are just plain fun. There is a list available here to help you get started and plan ahead; I made sure to visit Córdoba during the Patios Festival and you will not believe the photos when I post them.
4. Weather. May is a great time to be in Andalucía and I recommend it whole-heartedly. There aren’t too many tourists around yet and as the rainy season is over, there is only sunshine, sunshine and more sunshine. From a Canadian perspective, it is practically summer (
spring) but locals say the real summer is during July and August where temperatures can easily soar into the 40’s if you are inland. The next best time to visit? Autumn. It’s still sunny—do clouds even exist here?—but both cooler and off-season.
5. Scenery. Okay, this one is partly a result of my obsession with Mediterranean settings and The Alchemist but there is no denying that this region is wonderfully picturesque. It varies from flat lands and coastal towns on the sea to rolling hills and mountain ranges like the rustic Sierra Morena and snowy Sierra Nevada. Throw in some pueblo blancos and countless olive groves in between shepherd flocks and you’ve got yourself a very Andalucían countryside. If nothing else, it also makes for lovely train rides.