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Discovering Andalusia by car

Embark on a Journey Through Andalusia: The Ultimate Road Trip Adventure.

Vast and endlessly fascinating, Spain is the perfect place for an extended road-trip and each respective region (including the Canaries and Balearic Islands) has its own history and diversity. Blessed with a temperate climate, the southernmost province of Andalusia epitomises the country’s key characteristics with enough tourist appeal for an action-packed itinerary at any time of the year. Stretched right across the south of mainland Spain, it comprises a wide range of striking landscapes – from the deserts in the east and fine sandy beaches along the coast to the verdant sherry-producing vineyards surrounding the lesser-visited city of Jerez to the west.

Andalusia has lost none of its sunny grace and bright colours over the centuries, with some parts still evoking the memory of the Romans who built lavish villas in the land they called ‘the mother of all fruits’. Exuding an intoxicating charm, it’s a province that has retained much of its rustic beauty, particularly in the hinterland where much of our driving itinerary is focused.

And there’s plenty of choice when it comes to booking a reliable vehicle for your trip, with some companies offering a more rounded service than others. Auto Europe is one such option, having been at the forefront of the industry for 70 years and a very popular choice for an affordable car hire in Andalusia and all other parts of Spain. They also offer one-way car hire bookings, which means you can collect your vehicle in one place (ie Granada city centre) and drop it off somewhere else (at Seville Airport, for instance).

Moorish Glory

Cordoba, Andalusia
Cordoba, Andalusia

No other part of Spain is so rich in Arab heritage than Andalusia, which is why our journey begins in the gorgeous city of Córdoba, once the western capital of the Islamic empire. Set in a warm, fertile valley, its main tourist site is La Mezquita, the UNESCO-listed mosque that ranks prominently amongst the most splendid Moorish buildings in the whole of Europe. Located nearby in the old Jewish quarter to the west of the mosque’s towering walls, the amazing Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos is another very impressive building that typifies the Andalusian style in a complex that incorporates rare Roman and Visigothic ruins.

The road heading south-east from Córdoba (the N-432) takes you directly to Granada, another ancient city notable for its stunning Moorish architecture. Nestling in the foothills of the Nevada Mountains, it was founded by the Iberians and was the capital of an Islamic kingdom for around 250 years before it fell to the Catholic Monarchs in 1492. Granada’s historic centre is a maze of Moorish houses and twisting alleyways known as the the Albaicín, Spain’s best-preserved Arab settlement and a UNESCO-protected World Heritage Site.

But most people travel to Granada to see the Alhambra, a palatial city of immense proportions that was built when the Nasrid dynasty ruled the city from 1232-1492. An outstanding legacy of Islamic architecture, the Alhambra is a huge complex comprising four main groups of buildings – the Alcazaba (the original 13th-century Moorish fortress), Nasrid Palaces, Palace of Charles V and Generalife Palace, each set in its own carefully landscaped grounds. Don’t miss!

Coast to Coast

Granada, Andalusia
Granada, Andalusia

Granada provides quick and easy access to southern Spain’s sun-drenched coastline and visitors with a car hire can enjoy the freedom and flexibility of adding as much beach time as they desire to their Andalusian itinerary. Heading south from Granada affords breathtaking views of the magnificent Sierra Nevada National Park along the scenic road that leads down to the enchanting Costa Tropical, a glorious stretch of pristine shoreline located midway between Malaga and Almeria.

The journey south-west along the famed Costa del Sol offers a series of additional highlights, including the chance to spend a night or two at one of the many vibrant seaside resorts dotted along the coastline, such as Torremolinos, Benalmadena, Fuengirola or (arguably the most glitzy of them all) Marbella. Besides its many excellent beaches, Marbella is blessed with a quaint old historic centre, the Casco Antiguo, an oasis of cobblestone streets lined with whitewashed houses and peaceful plazas shaded by trees.

But the road along Andalusia’s southern shoreline has much more to offer than fashionable beach towns, a good example being the giant Rock of Gibraltar (one of southern Europe’s most prominent landmarks) located further down the coast. There’s much to see and do in Gib (as the locals call it), such as the excellent Gibraltar National Museum, Upper Rock Nature Reserve (the best place for spotting the mischievous apes!), a ride on the head-spinning Gibraltar Cable Car and a visit to St Michael’s Cave, which is crammed full of spectacular stalactites and stalagmites.

West Side Story

Los Alcornocales Natural Park
Los Alcornocales Natural Park

From Gibraltar, the scenic road heading north-west towards Jerez (the A-381) passes through Los Alcornocales Natural Park, an area of rare beauty covered by native Mediterranean forest. This is the lesser-known part of Andalusia that far fewer visitors ever get to see despite it being so easily accessible by car. Located just 35 kilometres apart, the two cities of Jerez and Cadiz make for a very pleasant diversion for travellers en route to Seville, the last stop in our Andalusia road-trip itinerary.

Few cities are as quintessentially Spanish as Seville, which is a lovely place to visit at any time of the year. The city’s central feature is its colossal cathedral founded in 1402 with a nave larger and arches loftier than any other religious edifice in the Iberian Peninsula. Seville’s sumptuous royal palace (the Real Alcazar) is also worth seeing for its fine combination of regal grandeur, Mudéjar craftmanship and landscaped gardens. And if you only have time to visit one museum during your stay, then make sure it’s the Museo de Bellas Artes which is housed in an old convent and showcases the best of Spanish art and sculpture from the Middle Ages to the present day. Seville is also the city that claims to have invented tapas, the delicious bite-size snacks served as finger food all over Spain.

That brings us to the end of our motoring adventure through the heart of Andalusia, the ultimate Spanish travel experience in a province where history and tradition go hand in hand.

¡Buen viaje! (Have a nice trip!)

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