Ceuta and Melilla
is a mountainous region located in the far south of Spain, rich
in minerals and an important centre for the production of olives,
grapes, lemon and oranges. Andalucia (Al-Andalus)
was the last stronghold of the Moors who first
arrived here from North Africa early in the eighth
century and were finally expelled in 1492. The Arab architectural
legacy is an important reason for visiting the region, especially
the three great cities of Córdoba, Seville and Granada.
The regional capital is Seville, one of the largest
cities in Spain, bearing numerous traces of the 500 years of Moorish
occupation. Seville is the romantic heart of the country, the city
of Carmen and Don Juan. The cathedral
in Seville is the largest Gothic building in the world and has a
superb collection of art and period stonework. Christopher
Columbus is buried here. The cathedral bell tower, known
as the Giralda from its crowning weather vane,
was originally a minaret and an observatory. The climb is worth
the effort for the commanding views over the city.
Of great importance is the Alcázar, the
palace-fortress of the Arab kings and one of the finest examples
of Mudéjar (Moorish) architecture, mostly
dating from after the Christian re-conquest. Seville’s other
sights include the Alcázar gardens, the
evocative neighbourhood of Santa Cruz with its
white-washed houses and tiled patios, and the Torre de Oro,
part of the Arab fortifications and later said to have been covered
with gold leaf imported from the Americas.
Week in Seville embodies the religious fervour of the Spanish
and is one of the most interesting festivals in the Spain. Early
booking for accommodation during festival time is essential. Holy
Week is followed closely by the famous April Fair,
during which couples parade the fairground mounted on fine Andalucian
horses, dressed in the traditional flamenco
costume. Drinking, eating, song and dance are the order of the day
for the whole week and the fairground with its coloured lanterns
and casetas bordering the streets is a continuous movement of colour.
Founded by the Romans, Córdoba’s heyday
was during the early Moorish period when it was reputed to be the
most splendid city in Europe. The Great Mosque
built between 785 and 1002 is the main tourist attraction. Highlights
include the Great Hall, characterised by delicately
carved horseshoe arches of alternating red brick and white stone,
the Patio de Los Naranjas, the Ablutions
Courtyard still shaded by orange trees and cooled by fountains,
and the Mihrab (prayer niche). In the 16th century
the mosque was transformed into a Christian church with the building
of a Renaissance Choir. Other reminders of Córdoba’s
history are the old Jewish Quarter, which boasts a 14th-century
mosque and one of only three in Spain, the Archaeological
Museum with its substantial Roman and Moorish finds and
the area by the river. Just outside town is the ruined palace of
Medina Azaha and the site is still being excavated.
The last city to fall to the Christians, Granada’s
outstanding monument is the Alhambra, the palace-fortress
built by the Nasrid rulers in the 13th to 14th centuries and the
most popular tourist attraction in Spain. Tickets must be booked
at least 24 hours in advance. The highlights include, the Palacios
Nazariés, its halls, courtyards and loggias decorated
with painted enamel tiles, delicately fretted arches, stalactite
vaulting, marble sculptures and stucco ornament, the Alcazába,
an 11th-century hilltop fortress and the Generalife,
the gardens of the summer palace.
Across the river from the Alhambra is the atmospheric
Arab quarter of the Albaicín. The main sights
here are the Arab baths, the Renaissance
Casa de Castril and the Church of San Nicolás
from where the views of the Alhambra and the surrounding
countryside are beautiful and outstanding. In the town itself, visitors
should not miss the Gothic Capilla Real (Royal
Chapel) built by Ferdinand and Isabella as a mausoleum
and a symbol of their triumph over the Moors. The
adjoining cathedral, built over several centuries, is impressive
mainly in its proportions.
South of Granada and only about 40km (25 miles)
from the coast, is the upland area of the Sierra Nevada,
a mountain range running roughly east to west. It contains the highest
peaks in Iberia, one of these, the Pico
de Veleta is over 3400m/11,155ft, and is accessible for
most of its height by road and coach trips. The region offers the
unique opportunity to combine a holiday of winter sports with coastal
sunshine and watersports in the Mediterranean. Mountain resorts
include Capileira (south of the Pico de Veleta),
Borreguiles and Pradollano, both
are located in the Solynieve region.
There are also coach excursions from Granada to the picturesquely
isolated villages of the Alpujarra on the southern
fringes of the Sierra Nevada. There are dramatic
views of the valleys and ravines from the twisting mountain roads.
Jaén is an ancient town rich in
art treasures and historic buildings, the Provincial Museum,
the Cathedral, the Castle of Santa Catalina
and the 11th-century Moorish baths among them.
Baeza is noteworthy for its aristocratic town houses
and dating from the Renaissance period. The most distinguished is
the Palacio de Jabalquinto, its ornamentation clearly
revealing Mudejar influences. Like Baeza, Ubeda
has many Renaissance palaces, but the outstanding monument here
is the Capilla del Salvador, a fine example of
de la Luz
The attractive stretch of coastline extends from the Portuguese
border in the west to Tarifa in the east and, while popular with
Spanish tourists, is still relatively undeveloped.
heyday as a port was in the 16th century when it traded in gold
and silver from the Americas. Today, the town’s slightly down-at-heel
appearance is part of its charm.
Points of interest include the sea fortifications, the ‘old’
and ‘new’ cathedrals and the tower, Torre Tavira,
worth the climb for the sweeping rooftop views. The nearest beach
is the Playa de la Victoria, but there are plenty
of alternatives in the direction of San Lúcar de
Less than half an hour away is the sherry town of Jerez
de la Frontera. Several of the bodegas (bars), whose links
with England began with the importation of sherris-sack
in the 16th century, are open to the public for tastings.
Other attractions include the splendid Renaissance cathedral and
a restored 11th-century Moorish Alcázar
with baths. Another popular excursion from Cadiz is to the
Sierra de Grazalema National Park where visitors can enjoy
the wonderful mountain scenery. Points of interest along the route
include the Puerto de las Palomas mountain pass which
overlooks Grazalema itself, the fortified town
of Zahara de la Sierra and Arcos de la
Fronteira, a picturesque village with a commanding cliff
top location overlooking the Rio Guadalete.
The road from Cádiz to Algeciras
offers spectacular views of the Straits of Gibraltar,
the North African coastline and the Atlas
Mountains. From Algeciras, ferries run
to Tangier and Ceuta on the north
African coast, as well as to the Canary Islands.
In the province of Huelva is the village of El
Rocío where one of the most important Spanish festivals
in honour of the Virgin Mary is held at Whitsun.
Also of interest are the beautiful stalactite caves of Gruta
de las Maravillas in Aracena in the north
of Huelva province and the national park, Coto de Doñana.
Costa Del Sol
This densely populated area is popular with tourists on account
of its fine beaches and picturesque towns and extends along most
of Andalusia’s Mediterranean coastline, from Almeria
Usually regarded as little more than the gateway to the Costa del
Sol, Málaga is an attractive and lively
city with plenty to interest the passing visitor. The birthplace
of Spain’s greatest 20th-century artist, Pablo Picasso,
it is now home to the newly opened Picasso Museum
which exhibits an important collection of his paintings. His parents’
house is also open to the public.
Sights also worth a look are the unfinished Cathedral
(16th to 18th centuries), the Tropical Gardens
and two restored Moorish castles, the Alcazaba
and Torremolinos, the main resorts of the Costa
del Sol, are overdeveloped, but it is still possible to find a relatively
uncrowded beach further afield. In the same province is Nerja,
known as the ‘Balcony of Europe’ on account of its having
a promontory look-out which is perched high above the sea with commanding
views of the Mediterranean and is also the home of well-preserved
prehistoric caves. An excursion can be made from Málaga
to the old mountain town of Ronda, spectacularly
situated on a gorge in the Sierra de Ronda.
Costa de Almería
To the east of the Costa del Sol is the province
of Almería, one of the most heavily developed
tourist regions in Spain. The capital of the same name is a former
Roman port, dominated by its Moorish castle, the
Alcazaba. Attractions here include the 16th-century
Cathedral and the Church of Santiago el Viejo.
The main resorts of Roquetas de Mar, Aguadulce, El Cabo
de Gata and Mojácar lie east and
west of the town.
Ceuta is a free port on
the north coast of Africa. The city is dominated by the Plaza
de Africa in the town centre and the cathedral. The promontory
has the remains of the old fortress. Bus services are available
into Morocco and there are regular car-ferry sailings from the port
is also a free port on the north coast of Africa, and is served
by car ferries from Málaga and Almería.
The town is mainly modern, but there are several older buildings,
including a 16th-century church.