The enticing province of Andalucia the automous region where Almeria is located, offers abundant sun, active cities, and awesome scenery.
Sprawled across the southern third of Spain, the province of Andalucia extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the border of Portugal. With more than 7 million inhabitants, it is Spain’s most populous province, with citizens living in large modern cities or sparse rural settings. The southern coastline of Spain draws beach-loving tourists from all over Europe. The peaks of the Sierra Nevada delight skiers. A rich heritage of art, culture, and architecture inspire visitors. Yes, Andalucia does have it all.
While the soft, sandy, sun-drenched beaches of the coast are the biggest tourist draw, much more interesting are the three jewels of Andalucia: Seville, Cordoba, and Granada.
Centuries ago, as the Netherlands, England, and France struggled to own the seas and dominate the colonies of the New World, Seville was one of the world’s wealthiest cities.
It had passed from an Iberian settlement to a Roman outpost to a city subordinate to Toledo, capital city during Visigoth rule. Then, in 712 A.D., the Muslims arrived. They renamed it Ishbiliya, a part of the Caliphate of Cordoba. Material prosperity grew as the city flourished as a center for learning, philosophy, and art.
In 1248, Christians returned to Seville, led by Fernando III (the King Saint). By the 16th century, Seville had begun a slow decline that lasted until the early 1900’s when it was seized by Nationalist during the Spanish Civil War. From the mid 1940s, Seville slowly regained her footing as a city of culture, with the population increasing (today just under 1 million). Expo 92, designed to celebrate the epic discovery of Columbus, brought an influx of international professionals with money and new ideas. The result is the colorful, vibrant, and lively Seville of today.
What to See, Where to Eat, and Where to Stay in Seville
Touring Seville must include a visit to the monumental Cathedral, the fascinating Alcazar, and beautiful Pilate’s House.
Among hundreds of excellent options, the bar/restaurant Estrella stand out. For comfort and economy, look no further than the Hostal Sierpes, in the center of town.
Mirroring the fate of Seville, Cordoba was first established as an Iberian town that passed to Roman control. The Romans made Cordoba their capital of Hispania Ulterior and the city prospered mightily. When Rome fell, the Visigoths controlled Cordoba until the 8th century when the Muslims entered.
Assisted by a disaffected Jewish population, the Muslims routed the Visigoths and re-established Cordoba as a city of great prestige and prosperity. Centuries later, the Christians ousted Muslim and Jew, hurtling Cordoba into a long, slow decline. It has only been within the last five decades that wealth has returned and the population begun to restore Cordoba’s past glory.
Sights, Restaurant, and Hotel in Cordoba
The mosque, called “Mezquita” is a testimony to man’s ability to do great things. Also worth a look is the reconstructed Roman Bridge that spans the Guadalquivir River.
For an authentic yet economically priced meal, stop in El Choto.
The NH Califa hotel in Cordoba’s old town offers affordable comfort.
Granada, too, was a small Iberian village, then a Roman fort of little consequence. It was the Muslims who made Cordoba a city of magnificent art, architecture, and culture. Particularly with the peaceful 250-year rule of the Nasrid dynasty, Granada enjoyed a golden age characterized by religious tolerance, a love of learning and a passion for comfort.
Sadly, in the 16th century, political intrigue, marital infidelity among the ruling family, and the relentless pressure of Christian neighbors lead to Granada’s fall.
Today, Granada again enjoys a slow return to prosperity, spurred by visitors to nearby mountain resorts or to the stunning Alhambra palace complex.
Sights in Granada, Where to Eat, and Where to Sleep
Without question, the Alhambra complex is one of the most breathtaking triumphs of architecture in the world. The borough of Albaicin offers relief from the busy streets of Granada along with great food and artisan shopping.
The Bar El Ladrillo in Plaza Bib-Rambla has a fabulous selection of tapas (delicious and filling bar snacks) or full meals, great service, and reasonable prices.
The Hotel Juan Miguel is centrally located, clean, comfortable and affordable.
Andalucia offers mild winters and very hot summers. Festivals year-round entertain locals and visitors. The history, culture and cuisine leave a lasting memory.