Spain’s southern region is jam-packed with whitewashed villages, mesmerizing beaches, natural wonders, and colorful culture. Home to the highest peak in the Iberian Peninsula and many of Spain’s highest mountains, jaw-dropping ravines, and other unique landscapes, there are limitless things to do in Andalucia.
With some of the most stunning cities where you can dive into the tapas culture or learn to dance flamenco, you will never get bored. There are scenic drives across mountains and valleys, along a never-ending coastline of diverse beaches where kite surfers play in the waves, passing through traditional villages where you can forget about communicating in English.
This is a guest post by Linn Haglund, originally from Norway but has lived around eight years in Andalucia, exploring every corner of this great region in Spain. Her love for hiking made her create Andalucia Hiking, where she helps others confidently hit the hiking trails with thorough hiking guides and hiking tips.
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Hike the highest peak in the Iberian Peninsula
Mulhacen hiking adventure is a must when you are in Andalucia. The highest peak in mainland Spain (3379 meters above sea level) is easy to reach on a day hike in the summer months. You can take the national park shuttle bus from Capileira to Mirador de Trevelez and do the 4-5 hour return hike to the top. This is not very challenging, but a basic fitness level is recommended as the altitude can get to you.
For anyone looking for a bigger challenge, you can make it a two-day trek from Hoya de la Mora, Capileira, or Trevelez. Climbing up the west ridge is much more challenging and is only recommended if you are used to walking in the mountain. It’s highly recommended for the two-day hikes to bring ultralight trekking poles as the steep parts can be challenging, and you don’t want to carry much weight.
Wander around Europe’s most impressive karst landscape
One of the unique karst landscapes in Europe is in the Malaga Province in Andalucia. El Torcal de Antequera has two easy hiking trails crossing the park, where you can walk through massive rock formations formed by millions of years of water and wind. One hundred fifty thousand years ago, this area was underwater but got pushed up 1300 meters to where it is today.
El Torcal de Antequera is the perfect place for a relaxing walk and a picnic. Look for fossils in the rock and expect to see wild mountain goats. These goats are wild even though they’re used to humans. So make sure you don’t feed them or chase them in any way. If you see these creatures, just be calm and admire the magic to be so lucky to see them.
Walk Caminito del Rey
Caminito del Rey is probably the most famous hike in Spain after the Camino de Santiago and should be on anyone’s list of things to do in Andalucia if you dare. It used to be one of the most dangerous hikes in the world. The old mostly destroyed path hanging a hundred meters from the gorge floor on the vertical cliff is now replaced with a new, safe passage.
Well, replaced is maybe not the right word. The old path is still hanging there – barely – right beneath the new one to remind us of the danger that the adventure seekers hiked before 2015 put themselves into. Not all of them came out of it alive.
Today, you have to book a ticket in advance on their official site, and it’s mandatory to wear a helmet that you will get at the entrance. The 2-hour hike is totally safe and secured, though it’s still high up, and if you suffer from vertigo, you might reconsider if this is something for you or not.
Road trip to explore the white villages
A road trip exploring southern Spain’s white villages is one of the best things to in Andalucia. There are so many unique villages to visit that you wouldn’t think they are real. Let’s start with the only white village that isn’t white – Júzcar- the Smurf Village. You can probably guess that it’s painted all blue, but it’s also a fun place for families as you find all things Smurfs there, from playgrounds to toys and Smurf events.
Another unique village not far from Júzcar is Setenil de Las Bodegas, where the houses are carved right into the rocks that hang heavily over the streets. You have to see it to believe it. Not far from Setenil, you find a village with some of the best views in Andalucia, Zahara de la Sierra. With its old castle overlooking the village and perfectly turquoise lakes contrasting to the vast countryside of rolling hills, it’s a fantastic photography spot.
On Costa del Sol, you have the two most famous villages, Mijas Pueblo – the gateway to hiking in Sierra de Mijas – overlooking Fuengirola and Mijas Costa Frigiliana overlooking Nerja. Frigiliana is close to mesmerizing river walks like Rio Hihueron and Rio Chillar and the famous Nerja Caves.
Head to the region of Huelva for another incredible cave that is less visited in the white village of Aracena. Not far from there, you can discover the Red River in the village of Riotinto.
Other villages worth discovering are Carmona in Seville, Arcos de La Frontera and Vejer de La Frontera in Cadiz, Castril in Granada, Antequera in Malaga, Cazorla in Jaen, and San Jose in Almeria.
Visit Andalucia’s wonderful capital city, Seville
Visiting the capital city, Seville, is one of the unmissable things to do in Andalucia. Compared to other popular cities in Spain, Seville has kept its authenticity and is the place to learn flamenco, forge in tapas, and deep dive into the history and cultural fusion that makes today’s Andalucia.
The cathedral, Giralda, and Alcazar are all must-visit attractions surrounded by restaurants and bars that are jam-packed with locals and tourists alike. The cute neighborhood of Barrio de Santa Cruz, the hidden parks, and the riverside are all worth a wander. Along the river, you can also see the Torre del Oro and cross the Puente de Triana bridge to the traditional neighborhood of Triana, where all the best Flamenco places are.
But don’t leave Seville without visiting Plaza de España and getting lost in the biggest park in Seville, Parque de Maria Luisa. If you have time for a day trip, you should check out the well-preserved Roman ruins at Italica.
Enjoy water sports
With over 600 miles of coastline and an inland spotted with lakes, Andalucia is the place for water sports. Paddleboard and canoeing are great activities both at the beach and the many stunning lakes. El Chorro lakes are incredibly excellent for this, with the turquoise water turning green on cloudy days.
The coast of Nerja is stunning for this with its clear water, but it’s also the best place to go snorkeling and scuba diving.
Head down to the Cadiz coast for supreme kite surfing and even some regular surfing. Especially Tarifa is a hot spot for wind water sports.
Explore Cazorla Natural Park
Cazorla Natural Park is the largest protected natural area in Spain. It’s an incredible place for wildlife spotting with deer, mountain goats, fox, and wild boar in abundance. The park is crisscrossed with hiking trails, rivers, mountain peaks, and castles. The most popular hike is Rio Borrosa, taking you along the glittering river, past powerful waterfalls, up the canyon wall, and through two long tunnels 100 meters above the ground. It’s a good 8-hour hike but well worth the effort.
Like Gilillo peak, other hikes offer unbelievable 360 views of the surrounding mountains and forests, while further hikes go between the remains of ancient castles and fortresses.
Discover Granada and the Alhambra
Granada’s stunning city is the perfect place to enjoy charming streets, tapas, and astounding views. The old town definitely takes you back in time, and the Alhambra fortress, palace, and gardens tell an intriguing story of Moorish kings and Christians fighting over power over the years.
You should spend a whole day only in Alhambra to see it all. Tickets sell out quickly, at times a couple of months in advance, so make sure you plan your trip well, so you get tickets in time.
In Granada’s old town, you can also explore the underrated Moorish palace, Palacio de Dar al-Horra that was home to the mother of Granada’s last Moorish king.
If you have the time for a day trip, make sure you head to Guadix for a day to witness the cave houses and the unique landscape surrounding this charming town.
Walk from the beach to beach in Cabo de Gata
Cabo de Gata Natural Park is famous for its sand-blown beaches, hidden coves, and rugged coastline. One of the best things to do in Andalucia is to walk from the beach to the beach in Spain’s outer-worldly corner.
You can walk for hours and hours and discover hidden beaches that only boats can access otherwise. From the coastal village of San Jose, you can walk past Los Genoveses Beach and continue past Monsul Beach. The trail is steep at times, and in other parts of the path simply crosses the bare mountain wall, so suitable footwear is a must. If you suffer from vertigo, there might be some parts that can become a challenge.
Discover the red river of Rio Tinto
The red river of Rio Tinto is one of the unique attractions in Spain and surprisingly little known among foreign tourists. The small mining village, Rio Tinto, offers tours with an old mining train to see the main mining spots and learn about its history, but it also stops by the red river. You can even self-drive and stop at several places by the river and visit the mining pits.
Rio Tinto river takes its intense red-orange color from all the heavy metals and iron in the water, and it is a sight of a lifetime. The best of all, this is really off the beaten path in Andalucia.
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