We spent about 10 days in southern Spain at the end of March, 2001.  Most people go to this area and concentrate on the Costa del Sol with side trips to Granada, Sevilla, Cordoba, and all the other delightful places to visit in this region.  We live right on the Meditteranean coast, so we are well familiar with overbuilt crowded coastal tourist spots. Therefore, the Costa del Sol  didn't really attract us.  We spent 3 nights  in Granada, 2 nights in Ronda, and 4 nights in Sevilla, with a side trip to the Costa del Sol. 

A few general comments on touring in southern Spain.
  • The people are very friendly and helpful.  On the other hand, very few people speak English, so bring a good dictionary.
  • If you try to use Spanish they will gladly help you with pronunciation and vocabulary, and you'll probably get better service. 
  • Learn how to pronounce the names of streets and places the way they do.  Otherwise you'll never get to where you want to! The most important is the letter J which is pronounced as  a glottal "CH".
  • If a Spaniard says "In a minute...", that means..."sometime today".
  • In general, the roads are excellent with free expressways between   major cities.
  • We found the taxi drivers to be honest and reliable. 
  • The drivers are patient and not nearly as crazy as the drivers in France or Italy.
  • Most stores close from 2 PM until 5 Pm, and even 5 PM isn't a sure thing.  From 5 PM, most stores are open until 8.
  • If you are looking for a supermarket, don't expect the size,  variety and neatness of the modern European ones. They still have a long way to go. But you will be surprised at the cheap price of their olive oil!
  • The bull fight season starts in the middle of April (the earliest was on the 9th, after we left) and lasts till the end of September.
  • You will notice that the design and decoration of the buildings in this part of Spain are strongly influenced by the Moors that ruled the area. Many entrances of private homes and public buildings are covered by elaborate  decorative tiles, Moorish style. You will see this especially in the big cities. 

We flew into Malaga after midnight and stayed at the Parador Malaga de Golf because of its very close location to the airport.  Although we didn't want to stay in or near Malaga, we had a delightful stay at this Parador for the few hours we were there.  Breakfast was great! The rooms are spacious and very comfortable with large balconies and wonderful views of mountains and sea!

The following morning, we drove east along the coast road and visited Nerja, and Lanjaron on the way to Granada.  Nerja is about 45 minutes east of Malaga, and is still not too overbuilt.  We had a pleasant visit here.  To the right is one of the nicest pictures of this trip, and below is Alisa relaxing on plaza outlook spot.  Nearby are caves which are said to be worth a visit, but we were more interested in getting to Granada. 
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Lanjaron and its neighbor Orgiva are the main towns in the Alpujarras mountains. This area is a center for mineral water and calls itself the ham (jamon in Spanish) capital of Spain. There are spas in this area and many small isolated villages. We wanted to press on to Granada, so we didn't really do more than just pass through and get a general impression.  The main part of our trip was ahead of us.


We spent 3 nights in granada at the Reina Cristina hotel.  This is a 3 star hotel with an exceptional location right in the center of town.  It's also very attractive,  is a real bargain, and has an excellent restaurant. If you have a car, they will park it for you (valet style)  for about $8 per day. 

Rick Steves guides to 

Spain and Portugal

How to order tickets in
advance to the Alhambra

TUSPAIN'S  guide to
the Alhambra

UNESCO'S site about the Alhambra

Without any question, the main attraction in Granada is the Alhambra.  On the left are several links with information about visiting the Alhambra.   If possible, you should buy your tickets in advance because the number of visitors to the Royal Palace is limited to 400 per half an hour.  We ordered our tickets, with specific entry time by telephone from home, and picked them up at one of the over 2700 branches of the BBV bank in Spain.  It worked fine.  All the information can be found on the left.
If all you want to do in Granada is visit the Alhambra, then you can stay right on the grounds at the 4 star Parador, or at the 1 star America. 

If you do want to visit the city, there is plenty to see and do, and you should find a hotel in town.  The Alhambra is on a hill right next to town. It is a long walk uphill, or a 5 minute drive by taxi or bus from the Plaza Nueva.  Here's the bus on the right.
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One place which is a must to visit is the Albaycin, the old Moorish neighborhood.  The highlight of the Albaycin is the Mirador de San Nicholas, which has the best view of the Alhambra in the entire area. It's a great place to just go and relax and enjoy the view.
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Back to the Alhambra for a second.  It's very impressive and you should plan on spending at least three hours touring the grounds.  And, as you can see from the picture on the right, it's also a very relaxing place.  That's me relaxing in the Nazeirian Palace. The chairs are very comfortable and can be found in most of the larger rooms.
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The most interesting thing we did in Granada was go to a performance of a Flamenco troupe headed by a nationally known performer called Rafael Amargo.  This was not a night club act designed or presented for tourists.  This was a serious production in the main theater of Granada, and there were about 1000 people in attendance, and I didn't hear much English.  There are many serious dance productions, and they are far more entertaining than the night clubs for tourists which provide one "free" drink with the price of admission.
Granada has also great shopping districts and stores. Alisa enjoyed shopping at Il Corte Ingles, a great chain store with branches all over Spain. It carries clothing of many well-known European and local designers that are to Alisa's taste and.... size (minute), as well as all the other items that you expect to find at a respectable department store. 
     Some Granada links...
(lots of great info)

About Granada

TuSpain on Granada


There are several other interesting excursions you can make from Granada.  One is to the Sierra Nevada mountains which are very close, (and very high and very cold), or you can visit, as we did, Jaen, about 90 KM north of Granada. It is a charming small city with a cathedral and well preserved old part of town. It calls itself "the  olive oil capital of Spain". We wanted to visit Ubeda and Baeza as well, but didn't have enough time. 

We ate at two very good restaurants in Granada, one of which I remember -  Cunini, which we enjoyed very much and is located right near the Bib Ramblas on Pascederia street.  They are experts at preparing fish and seafood!  The Bib Ramblas is where the flower market is permanently set up.


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We drove from Granada to Ronda through Antequera and Alora.  Antequerra was beautiful.  I took lots of pictures and here's one to the left.
From Antequerra, we drove to Alora to see the "Garganta del Chorro" which is a few kilometers north of the town.  This is a gigantic gorge with an incredible bridge and (inaccessible) walking path attached to the cliff.  Unfortunately, the "garganta" was a gigantic disappointment and really not worth the ride, which takes you about 20 KM north of Alora.  The road from Antequerrra to Alora, and beyond Alora is a very winding road, and not for the faint of heart or those with weak  stomachs. Many of the roads in this area are like this and you should check in advance where you plan to drive. 


We spent 2 nights in Ronda.  Ronda is a beautiful town which shouldn't be missed.  It is split in two by a magnificent gorge. Check the links below to see some beautiful pictures.  We stayed at the San Gabriel Hotel, a 3 star hotel located in the old part of town.  This is a delightful place, with the staff providing absolutely wonderful service.  They also provide a valet parking scheme, for about $6 per day. To the right is the view we had from our room window.
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From Ronda we drove through the mountains on route 369 through several white villages (see below).  We drove through or by Ajatate, Benaladid (pictured on the right), and Gaucin, turned left on 377 and reached the coast at San Luis de Sabinillas.  Since it was Sunday, most everything was closed, but we did find a great green grocer open on the way out of Manilva.  We were able to stock up on fruit and cheese and we made our way down to the Costa del Sol and stopped in Estepono.   To our delight, we found out that there is a street market every Sunday in Estapano, and we enjoyed the day very much.   To get back, we drove up route 376 which is the route to take to Ronda.  It is a spectacular road, but easy to drive.  It snakes its way into the mountains with a great panorama at every turn. 
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Ronda's bull ring is famous and has a long history. It has a museum, and there is a restaurant right across the street dedicated to its most famous native son, Pedro Romero , the legendary bullfighter and the father of modern bullfighting. Its walls are literally covered with photos and memorabilia dedicated to this man. The restaurant was very good!
Ronda has quite a few good restaurants.  The one with the reputation as the best in Ronda is "Tragabuches", which wasn't open the night we wanted.  One that we did eat at was "Escudera" which was very good and was the most beautiful restaurant of the trip.  It's located behind the Parador and has a perfect view over the gorge.
About Ronda 

A nice collection of 
pics of Ronda by some
fellow travelers

Ronda by TravelinginSpain


White village route
described by
Andalucia web

The entire area surrounding Ronda in all directions is a beautiful mountainous area which is delightful for driving about and enjoying the scenery.  It's also the area containing what are known as the "white villages".  These are beautiful mountain villages, some touristy, some unspoiled and are known for their blazing white color.  One thing we noticed all over Andalucia is that painting the outside of homes is going on all the time and the paint always looks fresh.  There are cultural reasons for this white painting, and the explanation can be found in the link on the left. 

In any case, there are many, many villages but you can only visit a few.  On this day, we visited  Grazelemo, El Bosque, and Arcos de la Fronterra.  If you have time to visit only one of these villages, make it Grazalema.  Grazalema is the eastern entrance to a beautiful forest reserve called "Parque Naturel de la Sierra". The end of this route took us to Arcos de la Fronterra.  This is one of the biggest of the white villages and is hardly a village.  It's pleasant enough to visit, but driving through it is no picnic.  At the end of this day, we visited Jerez de la Fronterra, the home of sherry.  We didn't see anything interesting, and we don't care for sherry so we continued on to Sevilla.


Like many fellow travelers I have spoken to, we fell in love with Sevilla.  It's a city full of life, lots of great attractions to see, great restaurants, beautiful parks.......   We enjoyed walking all over the city, shopping, visiting the Alcazar, the Cathedral,  Santa Cruz , and most of all, Plaza Espana and the Maria Louisa park.  This whole area, (the park and the plaza) is really impressive.  We took the horse and buggy ride (4000 pts - about $22), and then walked back and spent a couple of hours there.  To the right is a picture of the Plaza Espana and below to the right are a couple of good links.
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We stayed at an interesting hotel - the San Gil.  This is a hotel listed in some places as 3 stars, and in others as 4 stars. It's been recently completely renovated, it is completely covered with marble on the inside, and is quite attractive.  The best thing about it is the size of the rooms (large, and many are suites), and the worst is that it is located at the farthest end of the city center which is about a 35 minute walk to the cathedral.  Also, try not to come with a car.  It has a parking problem and if the nearby garage is closed, you have to walk 15 minutes to the far garage and contend with the city streets.  On the other hand, it's 2 minutes from one of the major attractions in the city - the Basillica de la Macarena.
Sevilla on Line

Off the beaten path in Sevilla

The "Macarena" is one of the many Virgin Marys found in many of the churches in Sevilla which takes part in the processions during the holy week preceding Easter, the "Semana Santa". Here are a few links to learn all about the Easter week in Sevilla.  The Macarena is one of the most important and significant of the floats which take part in the Easter procession.  She is also the patron saint of bullfighters. 

The Semana Santa
in Sevilla

Holy week in Sevilla

Another site on
the Semana Santa

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Being so close to the Macarena, we witnessed what was apparently a "practice run" with the Macarena float.  This was Thursday night,  one full week before Good Friday, and we found hundreds of people milling about waiting outside the church. At about 11 PM, the doors burst open and a float with figures on it (not the Macarena) came out one door, circled around the church and went in the front door. It was carried on the backs of about 20 men. We enquired, and apparently, this was a trial run to break in the "penitents" chosen to transport the real Macarena to the cathedral.  That procession takes 12 hours!!  After you've checked out the links above, take a close look at the enlarged version of the picture on the left, and things will be a lot clearer.

Back to the hotel for a moment - it has another advantage.  It's located in the least touristy part of the old town - the Macarena section, which means that when you step out of the door, you are with real Sevillians, not tourists.  The stores, bars, and restaurants are not for the tourists here.  If you like that sort of thing, this is the place for you. And, when you want to get to the "real shopping", it's only a 15 minute walk to the main pedestrian shopping area.

Even if it's not Easter week, try to visit the Basillica de la Macarena.  It's one of the more interesting and beautiful churches in Sevilla, and right across the street is one of the best Tapas bars we ate at.  I believe the name on the front is "Bar Plata", but I'm not 100% sure.  It is located directly across the street (Resolana Andueza Munoz Leon is the name of the street) from the Macarena, and it serves very tasty "refined" tapas. On the right is a picture of one of the less refined tapas bars we usually ate at. If you don't know what tapas is, click here to find out.
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In Sevilla, we ate at 2 very good restaurants, one of which was the best restaurant we ate at during our entire visit.  These were the "Casa Robles", near the cathedral, and the Egana-Oriza", a wonderful restaurant near the Murillo gardens and considered the best restaurant in Sevilla..

Cordoba by

We drove from Sevilla to Cordoba for a day visit. It's about 130 KM, although you can take the train which is supposed to take less than an hour. In Cordoba, the main attraction is the Mezquita, a mosque turned into a cathedral.  This is really a  place not to miss.  It is really beautiful. 
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The other main attraction in Cordoba is the Juderia, otherwise known as the Jewish quarter, or what's left of it.   Except for the statue of Maimonides ( a famous Jewish scholar and doctor who lived in the tenth century), and a few Jewish place names, it's just a collection of souvenir shops and has very little atmosphere.  We were very disappointed by it.
Select to see larger picture Fortunately, it does have some good restaurants, and we ate at the "El Churrasco" restaurant, the most interesting restaurant of our trip. Here's a pic of Alisa during lunch.  As you can see, the inside of the restaurant is a garden.

Below are lots more links which might help you plan your own trip to Andalucia. 


The official site of the
Spanish parador chain

Hotelstravel's hotel
listing for Spain

Hotelspain - hotel
reservation service

An original and novel
list of hotels

"Travel in Spain", a free
hotel reservation service

"Typically Spanish" - 
a long list of hotels and 
other information

"Costa Holidays" general
travel information

A different Spain

"The Travelzine"

Adelaide's travel notes
on Spain

Maribel's guide to
Spain and southern France
The Best Travel Guide on the Web

Spainview - a very
interesting and informative
magazine about Andalucia

All About Spain
(an excellent site)

(general information)

A travel journal of
a trip to Andalucia
all about Andalucia



Above is a link to the great banner site where I made the banner for this page.




This is a page from our site "Travels with Steve & Alisa".  It describes one of the many trips we have made together.  We've built these pages not just to describe our trips, but to help other travelers if we can.  Please use the information we've provided freely, and let us know if you have any questions we might be able to answer about your own planned trip, or just let us know if we have helped you. Or perhaps you have some information we could add to the site. Visit our home page using the link to the right.                 

Enjoy your next trip!!                         ~Steve & Alisa~