How many reasons do you need to visit Andalusia? As one of the most visited regions in Spain, Andalusia is 87 thousand square kilometers of historical Moorish palaces, sunshine, and marvelous gastronomy. In fact, Andalusian cuisine is, arguably, one of the richest cuisines in the country. Meanwhile, the wines are living a revolution: growers and producers have focused on super high quality wines by going back to their ancestors’ thousand-year old traditions, while looking at what the future holds.
Where else can you find freshly-caught seafood from two seas -this is here where the Atlantic and the Mediterranean merge – sought after tapas unique food style, savory sweets, the best olive oil in the world, the extraordinary jamón ibérico and an impressive range of wines (among them the iconic sherries)?
Here’s a sample platter of the sights, smells, and (of course!) flavors that you can expect during this once-in-a-lifetime journey:
1. Málaga: The Art Hub by the Mediterranean & Paradise of Sardinas En Espeto!
What better way to start your trip to the Costa del Sol region than getting acquainted with its capital?
Indeed, Malaga is a multi talented capital that’s known for many things: it’s the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and has a thriving art scene; the streets are lined with Gothic and Baroque marvels; and the local cuisine is rich in seafood while the impressive vineyards on the hills defy human understanding with the blue Med in the horizon.
While strolling along the palm-lined promenade, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll be familiarized with the gastronomic superstar of Malaga: Sardinas en Espeto! Translated to sardines on a skewer, this classic Malagan staple can be found in beach bars and restaurants across the coast.
2. Córdoba: The Old Capital of Al-Andalus & Guardian of Moorish Heritage
Travelers who visit Córdoba for the first time are often surprised at the city’s architecture, which is distinctly different from other Spanish cities. Where else can you see typical flower-adorned Spanish courtyards mingling amongst ancient Roman columns, an enchanting Moorish Mosque-Cathedral, and Renaissance-era buildings? n fact, Cordoba was the capital of the Al-Andalus empire and developed into the largest city in Europe, while quickly becoming one of the leading cultural and economic centres throughout the Mediterranean Basin.
Thanks to its status as an Islamic hub for many years, Córdoba is full of Moorish charm — just like its neighbor across the Alboran Sea, Morocco. Visitors are treated to an assortment of exotic sights, smells, and tastes. In fact, one of the most famous dishes of Andalusia, salmorejo, is purported to come from Córdoba.
Wine lovers the world around will delights their senses with the Montilla-Moriles wines, and gourmets will succumb to the charms of one of the best extra virgin olive oils in the world (in fact Cordoba is the second world largest production area of olive oil).
3. Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Andalusia’s Liquid Gold
Although most people would typically associate olive oil with Italy, did you know that Spain is actually the world leader in producing this ‘liquid gold’? What’s even more surprising is that about 75% of the olive oil produced in Spain comes from the Andalusia region: Jaen, Cordoba and Malaga lead the list.
Extra virgin olive oil is one of the hallmark ingredients in Spanish cooking, and trying a few of the local-grown varieties in the “World Capital of Olive Oil” is a must-do for any foodie!
4. Sherry wines
Who said that Andalusia is only famous for its food? Cádiz, a province that’s part of Andalusia, beckons visitors to come and enjoy the region’s most well-known export: Sherry wine!
Spain takes its viticulture seriously: any wine that’s labeled as Sherry must come from a specific region called the “Sherry Triangle.” This area includes the cities of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María, which make up each part of the triangle and play an integral role in the production of Sherry.
This region reveres its viticulture heritage so much that it even has a special Sherry Festival! Every September, locals and visitors gather in Jerez de la Frontera to pay tribute to this famed drink, with flamenco dances, grape stomping, music, street markets, and, of course, wine tastings.
5. Iberian Ham: A Classic Andalusian Dish
Upon arrival to Jabugo, a small town of 2,600 inhabitants, you might not notice anything out of the ordinary — until you realize that this is one of Spain’s premier destinations for Jamón ibérico. The town, which came from humble beginnings, now proudly carries the title of Denominación de origen — which means that only hams produced by farmers in this region can be labeled as Jabugo Ham.
In fact, Iberian hams with denomination of origin can be produced only in 5 regions in Spain, two of them in Andalusia: Los Pedroches (Cordoba) and Jabugo (Huelva). The black label signifies that the meat is of premium quality, since the pigs must be either purebred Iberian pigs (or have a minimum of 75% Iberian genes), be fed natural acorns and other organic ingredients, and be free range. Thanks to this special mix, Iberian ham is considered to be one of the most delicious meats in the world — and definitely one of the best dishes to try in Andalusia!
6. Ronda: The Charming City of Romance & Prose
While there are many cities that could fill up an Andalusia travel guide book, Ronda has something especially unique to it.
Nestled near the Sierra de las Nieves mountain range and cut through by the Guadalevín River, Ronda is truly a product of its surroundings. The town is split into the ‘new’ and ‘old’ town, connected by the Puente Nuevo stone bridge — which overlooks a 100-meter deep gorge!
Thanks to its natural wonders and romantic architecture, many great artists flocked to this city to be inspired. The most famous included Ernest Hemingway, Gustave Doré, Orson Welles, and Rainer Maria Rilke, who immortalized the city in a single quote: “I have sought everywhere the city of my dreams, and I have finally found it in Ronda.” .
7. Seville: The Andalusian Superstar
As the capital of the entire Andalusia region, Seville proudly wears its title! From its iconic Moorish architecture to charming labyrinth-like streets, lively atmosphere, and culinary offerings, Seville has firmly solidified its spot on any Andalusia itinerary.
Seville is also widely considered to be one of best places to visit in Andalusia for foodies. No trip to Seville is complete without a trip to markets — thankfully, Seville has more than a dozen! There’s no better way to understand Seville’s food scene than to start at the source: a mercado. Three of the most popular include Mercado de la Encarnación, Mercado de Feria, and Mercado de Triana.
After a hearty meal, it’s time to dive into Seville’s architecture. Andalusia is known for its unique mix of architecture, including Moorish, Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance styles — and the best way to see them all together is at the Royal Alcazar. Originally built as a fortress during the 11th century, the Alcazar was constantly modified by subsequent monarchs until it became the stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site that it is to this day.
8. Bluefin tuna
Although Andalusia is prized for having sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and seaside promenades, that’s not all — the waters in this region are home to one of the most prized sea creatures: the Bluefin Tuna.
Spanning up to 3 meters (9.8 ft) in width and weighing up to 700 kg (1,500 lb), Bluefin Tuna are locally known as the ‘bulls of the sea’ and have an important place in the local gastronomy and the Andalusian way of life. Fishing for Bluefin Tuna goes back more than 3,000 years and even has a special technique called Almadraba. Every year between May to June, locals and travelers from around the world come to the province of Cádiz to see the tradition for themselves and try a bite. Don’t miss one of the most famous Andalusian dishes, Mojama, which are thinly sliced and cured Bluefin Tuna. Exquisito!
9. Tapas: A Coveted Lifestyle
There’s a saying that goes, You haven’t been to Spain if you haven’t tried tapas, and we’re inclined to agree.
Tapas are an integral part of Spanish culture and, of course, a popular stop on any Andalusia food tour as well!
In fact, going out for tapas is a popular way of catching up with friends and family. It’s such a common tradition that there’s even a special verb, tapear, which means to go for tapas.
However, dining on tapas is especially a must-do experience in Andalusia. That’s because Seville (the capital of Andalusia) is believed to be the birthplace of the original tapas, and nowadays there are more than 3,000 tapas bars across the city.
(Psst — just don’t mistake them for pintxos!)
10. Axarquia: Land of Heroic Viticulture
Although Axarquia may be famed for its quaint villages and as a popular stop for any intrepid road trip route though Andalusia, it’s actually quite heroic as well.
Indeed, despite dramatically steep slopes and rugged land, this scruffy coastal region offers some of the best wines produced under the Málaga denomination!
The native Moscatel and Rome grape varieties, mixed in with the Mediterranean breeze, distinctive soil, and unique local climate yield a delectable drink that is sure to delight any visitor.
Do you need more excuses to visit Andalusia? A trip to the south of Spain means discovering some of the most amazing historical legacy, tasting your way through the region’s most popular dishes, learning about Spain’s rich culture and cuisine and an absolutely unique lifestyle. And that’s just the beginning! Join us on our Andalusia Food & Wine adventure and experience the excitement and emotions of this Mediterranean gem. From bespoke accommodations to tastings at authentic Andalusia wineries, and plenty of gastronomic delights, this is an experience you’ll never forget!