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5 Reasons to Go to Southern Spain

sunburnt and happy in Nerja

Sunburnt and happy in Nerja

When people think of traditional Spain, they tend to imagine the bright blue skies and the white hilltop villages that embody southern Spain. Girls twirling around in fluffy flamenco dresses while drinking sangria and hot manly boys dramatically fighting 1000lb bulls, that was certainly what I thought as soon as I found I would be moving to Córdoba for a year. However, Andalusia, the culturally rich and historic area in southern Spain has so much more to offer. Colorful, vibrant, alive. These are the three words that immediately pop into my head when I am thinking about Andalucía.

Planning a trip to Spain and need a place to start? Been googling southern Spain travel? Here are some of my favorite experiences in the south of Spain.

What are some of your favorite spots in southern Spain? Did I mention any of them?


1. Climb to the top of Seville’s cathedral

Southern Spain travel Huffing and puffing, I slowly made my up to the top of the Giralda bell tower. After spending the morning getting lost in Sevilla’s iconic and colossal cathedral, and taking about 100 photos of Christopher Columbus’ tomb to boot, I was ready to climb up the symbol of Seville. Instead of stairs there is a steep walkway that men would ride up on horseback to announce the prayer call when the tower was the minaret of a mosque in Muslim Spain. As I emerge at the top wheezing like an old lady, the whole city of Sevilla opens before me below. It was worth it.

Southern Spain travel
2. Visit Córdoba in May

Southern Spain travel
Córdoba, an amazing city to visit normally, comes alive in May. For the entire month there are festivals after festivals, leaving little time for boredom. Living here last year, I marked the days off on my calendar until the first festival, cruces, when giant flower crosses are placed around the city’s churches, complete with temporary bars and flamenco music. Typical Spain. Then comes the patio flower festival, where I raced around the city, visiting all of the usually secret interior patios of houses that are opened to the public. For 10 days the entire city smells like flowers, mixed with the orange blossoms on the trees. But Córdoba saves the best for last with its annual fair or feria. A giant illuminated structure mimicking Córdoba’s famous mosque-cathedral is set up along with hundreds of public tents filled with locals in traditional flamenco dresses and suits who stomp and clap sevillanas with visitors from dawn til dusk.

Southern Spain travel

Southern Spain travelSouthern Spain travel 3. Have a beach day in Nerja

Southern Spain travel Whenever I needed an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life in Spain, I would head down to Nerja, a small beach town east of Málaga for the day. Without a doubt it’s one of my favorite beaches on the south coast, simply for its striking beauty and lack of old northern European tourists. Big mountains and cliffs drop down to a stunning coastline dotted with little beaches. The water here is bright turquoise and clear 100 feet out, and instead of gritty sand it’s made up of tiny pebbles. As I would lay on my towel with my toes pointed towards Africa looking up towards the cliffs, I would find the peace and relaxation I was looking for.

Southern Spain travel

4. Walk along the gorges in Ronda


Perched precariously on top of a group of cliffs connected by a series of bridges, Ronda is a city unlike any other. Beloved by writers like Hemingway who used to come here and fight with the bulls, nowadays Ronda boasts nothing but charm and spectacular views. As I walked along the ancient walls and peer cautiously over the thin railings, I found myself imagining I could live there.
I wouldn’t even need to join a gym with all the exercise I’d get from climbing up and down the gorges. I also morbidly wondered if people were actually thrown off the bridges during the Spanish Civil War or if Hemingway just invented it. Anyone know?

southern spain travel

Southern Spain travel

5. Get lost in the gardens of the Alhambra in Granada
Southern Spain travel


The jewel of southern Spain, the Alhambra is historic Spain at its finest. Nestled at the top of the old quarter of Granada, and perfectly situated in front of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains, this massive palace is straight from a postcard. Every time I go I spend hours wandering around the extensive gardens, staring out at the spectacular views of the city and off towards the mountains. In fact, one time I slipped into one of the numerous fountains because I was too busy trying to take pictures of the flowers and medieval Islamic architecture. Lesson learned, always watch where you’re going, even in gorgeous places like Granada.

Southern Spain travel
Southern Spain travel

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39 Responses to 5 Reasons to Go to Southern Spain

  1. Cat August 29, 2012 at 8:31 pm #

    All great places to go! Cordoba, Granada and Jerez are all on my list for visitors, too, and I’m hoping to finally get to Jaen or Almeria this year!

    • Elizabeth Carlson August 30, 2012 at 8:32 am #

      oh yeah, I love Jerez and Arcos too! So many beautiful places!!

  2. Kirstie August 29, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

    I most definitely second all of these. Andalucía, there’s no place like you!

  3. Trevor Huxham August 30, 2012 at 1:19 am #

    Aaaaa this is perfect! I can’t wait to visit all these when I’m ready to get out of Jaén for a weekend this school year. I think Córdoba is first on my list, although our orientation will be in Sevilla so there’s an excuse to travel for a bit. Haha.

    Did you ever hear back on getting a third-year placement as an auxiliar or have you found another teaching gig, Liz?

    • Elizabeth Carlson August 30, 2012 at 8:33 am #

      Nope, no way for me to stay in Spain legally. I have to go back to the US for a few months then I’ll be back 🙂

      • therese January 19, 2015 at 9:05 am #

        Hi! I am looking into teaching English in Spain next year! I was wondering what program you went through. Any tips or advice would be super appreciated.

    • Trevor Huxham August 31, 2012 at 4:23 pm #

      Well that’s good to hear you’ll be back! 😀

  4. Alex Butts August 30, 2012 at 9:21 am #

    I have never heard of Nerja but it looks out of this world! I have some friends who just started teaching in Sevilla, so hopefully I will make it to that area soon

  5. Camila Maria August 31, 2012 at 12:16 am #

    You have two of the spots I’ve been to–Sevilla and Granada. I loved Sevilla as a city, the colors, the designs, loved Plaza de Espana, and we went to see the Cathedral as well…but I’m afraid of heights and couldn’t stomach the idea of going up the Giralda. Kudos to you for going up. Perhaps my next visit I’ll make myself do it. I went all through the Alhambra that was amazing! But both visits were so quick! It was part of a 10 day trip around Madrid and the “Sun Coast” –it was really Madrid, Andalucia, and the Sun Coast. The trip made me fall in love with Spain, but I’ve yet to visit Andalucia again!
    http://thetravelbugandlifelessons.blogspot.com/

    • Elizabeth Carlson August 31, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

      I hope you get back soon! It’s a really charming part of spain 🙂

  6. Cassandra September 1, 2012 at 10:07 am #

    I need to make it to Nerja! Those pics are beautiful.

  7. Canedolia September 10, 2012 at 8:28 pm #

    I’ve been planning to go to Andalucia for a second time for a while now and you’ve just inspired me to decide that it needs to be soon!

  8. Casey July 14, 2013 at 2:37 am #

    Nothing beats wandering through the markets in el Albaicin in Granada and then going to hang out on the mirador de San Nicolas :))

  9. John March 6, 2014 at 9:16 pm #

    Hi Liz,

    Great post. Andalucia is such a beautiful place, I can’t get enough of it. The diversity, the people, the passion…..no better place in the world 🙂 Next time you come back you should check out some of these excursions – all favourites of ours. The beaches in Nerja are nice, but if you head eastwards a bit, you get into the Parque Natural de los Acantilados de Maro-Cerro Gordo and the beaches there are amazing. A completely different feel to them than the typical ‘Costa’ beaches. A few of them i listed here round 500 fascist prisoners were thrown to their deaths in 1936.

    • Gillian August 15, 2015 at 1:13 am #

      Thank you for this recommendation we are visiting fir the fist time next year in August with our daughter and her four children, travelling from Caragena towards Gibralter for one day and heading back to Mercia over a two week period. I was looking for quieter beaches for them and quieter places to stay en route.

  10. Danika June 17, 2015 at 1:54 am #

    Yes, yes and yes again!

    Andalusia is absolutely fabulous, I’ve lived down here on and off for a couple of years now, and I’ve definitely noticed more and more tourists. It’s little wonder, considering the AVE from Madrid is just a couple of hours. I’m a champion for all of it’s little, overlooked pueblos though!

    • Gillian August 15, 2015 at 1:22 am #

      As you know the area quite well could you tell us some nice places suitable for us to visit with four children, we have two weeks to travel from Cartagena down to spend a day in Gibralter and return to Mercia. I read hear that Nerja is a quiet beach for them and Ronda looks nice, I was thinking maybe take the coast road down and the hill road back. Would you have any ideas for us please as we want to avoid ares where the clubs are for stag nights etc.

  11. Meghana July 2, 2015 at 6:02 am #

    hi wanted to know if its safe for a solo woman traveller? i am planning a solo trip. Thanks in advance.

    • geeta August 12, 2015 at 1:56 am #

      Meghana I am solo traveller from the Netherlands. If you are making a trip to South of spain covering up all places let me know. If you like the idea that I can join in as I hardly travel solo.

  12. Brian & Noelle | Wandering On June 9, 2016 at 6:13 pm #

    Yes! Love this post! We spent two months housesitting in Algodonales, very close to Ronda, in Andalusia last summer and we really loved exploring the area! Such an incredible part of Spain and there’s so much more to see than the Costa del Sol. Flamenco, tapas, siesta, tinto de verano, what’s not to love?! 😀

  13. chris June 13, 2016 at 7:29 am #

    hi wanted to know if its safe for a solo woman traveller? i am planning a solo trip. Thanks in advance.

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