Follow us on this car journey across a surprising land
Granada, Malaga, Seville, Córdoba. In one word, Andalusia. It's an incredible journey that we encourage everyone to experience sooner or later. You'll fall in love with it just as we did, and you'll find yourselves promising to return and discover something new. Andalusia is very special, and different from other places in Spain. The spectacularity of the area can be found in the cities, towns and villages, as well as the spaces between them, as geographically speaking their positioning creates a string of small distances that allows the perfect 'on the road' adventure to be planned.
"And the end of all our exploring. Will be to arrive where we started. And know the place for the first time." - T.S. Eliot
The trip we propose to you in this article departs from Malaga and follows on to Granada, Córdoba and Seville. Not only does this trip follow the poetic statement of T.S. Eliot, the decision to fly to and from Malaga is also very practical, both because it is a convenient city to catch a flight to, and also because the chosen means of transport for our tour is by car. If you don't want to pay a surcharge to redeliver the car in a different city from where it was hired in the first place, why not leave from where you left off?! It's also possible to move between cities using train or bus, but be aware that some places that deserve to be seen will require specific deviations from public transport routes. It's a good idea to hire a small car to do a slow, relaxed trip through the Andalusian outback, as Andalusia goes far beyond the beauty of its cities, offering jaw-dropping natural landscapes from one destination to the next.
Whatever your first destination may be, why not book your hire car here in advance, so that your transport is all sorted and ready to go before you even land in the airport!
Your trip starts in Malaga, where you have just landed and collected your hire car. The splendid Andalusian city serves as an excellent arrival point, offering many different options to discover the surrounding territory. But, we will guide you through our trip which starts in the historic city centre. The centre of Malaga has two lives: a day and a night. During the day, Calle Larios boasts an impressive selection of stores where you can do some shopping (or window-shopping!), whilst in the evening the city centre comes to life as many bars open up their doors and turn up their music. There are also lots of restaurants where you can try the delicious Spanish dishes that are typical of the region.
The Alcazaba deserves to be acknowledged separately, an ancient Moorish fort that is surrounded by many different types of trees, from exotic palms to spledid evergreens. The hill climb is a must-do, as when you reach the top, not only is there a complete view of the stunning fort walls, but it's also possible to visit the ancient Roman Theatre next to it. From up there, you'll have a breathtaking view of the Costa del Sol, as well as most of the touristic harbour. In the evening along the harbour docks the fresh scent of the sea wafts through the air, and there are many restaurants with outdoor seating serving excellent fish. Malagueta is one of the most stunning beaches of Malaga, boasting crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches. However, our tour takes place in spring, so we'll have to tell you about the beaches of Costa del Sol another time. It is, however, important to give the town of Nerja a mention, as overlooking the sea it has earned its nickname the Balcony of Europe.
Balcony of Europe
Hostel recommendation: Hostel Malaga City is located right at the heart of the city, just 3 minutes from the house of Picasso and the Merced market, which is an excellent place to eat tapas. Nearby you'll also find the Malaga Cathedral, Alcazaba and the Roman Theatre.
Alhambra 'The Red'
The next stop after Malaga is Granada, the second city of our journey. Granada is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination as the curiosity surrounding its jewels is very high. Situated on the slopes of Sierra Nevada, Granada is undoubtedly a magnificent city which you certainly deserves to be visited. It has become known all over the world primarily for its incredible Alhambra Palace, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 and also competed to be acknowledged as one of the seven wonders of the modern world. Alhambra is a Moorish fortress that represents the meeting point between Andalusia and Islam. Its beauty cannot be defined as anything less than superb. In fact, it managed to survive through the Counter-reformation period, in which Catholicism sought to obliterate and in many cases destroy any reference to Islamic rule. Alhambra is a grand, monumental structure which over the centuries has seen various developments and building extensions which has enabled it to remain in such good condition up to the present day.
The visit to the Alhambra is popular and must be booked in advance, as access is granted only to a small group of people every day, with the complete visit lasting around three hours. The fortress is found upon the hills of Sabika, and from its tip you can see the whole city. Alhambra is a highly exceptional structure that you should dedicate a substantial period of time to. We see it as 'a small trip within a trip' that will undoubtedly leave you enchanted and amazed by the refinement of its spaces. Observing the details of the arches, the forms of the windows and the spatiality of the whole structure, it really is a work of perfection, almost unimaginable that it has managed to last through all these centuries. It takes its name from the colour of its walls and in arabic it literally means "The Red". Although today we see a red which almost fades into pink, weathered with time, in the past its rouge tint was likely to have been more pronounced. The inside of the structure is home to fantastic courtyards and water fountains. Alhambra can be specifically differentiated by its various zones: the defence zone of Alcazaba, the Nasrid Palace and the Generalife Garden. Albayzin, the ancient historic centre of Granada, is filled with white houses covered in flowers and is situated on the hill that overlooks the Alhambra. The most important site to visit before leaving the city is the Cathedral, dating back to the XVI century, its remarkable structure was built on top of the remains of a previous mosque.
Details of the Alhambra interior
Hostel recommendation: El Granado can be found on a quiet street in the centre of the city, around 300m from Granada Cathedral and 200m from the San Girolamo Monastery. In the immediate vicinity there are also many tapas bars, restaurants and food stalls to explore during your stay.
Cordoba Mosque @bogitw
Cordoba, the ancient capital of Mora, strongly reflects the Andalusian identity. Spread across the city, many Moroccan inspired tea rooms still remain, hidden between restaurants and bars which serve specialities that are more attached to Spanish tradition. Typical plates to sample definitely include the Salmonejo and the Gazpacho. Out of all the cities mentioned in our tour, Cordoba is perhaps the city in which the contrasts between contemporary and traditional aspects work together most harmoniously, particularly visible in the atmosphere of the everyday and of course in the architecture. The Grand Mosque of Cordoba, today referred to as the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of Holy Mary in Cordova, clearly demonstrates the excellent and unique cohabilitation of various artistic styles, involving a mixture of renaissance, gothic and arabic-islamic architecture. The really narrow streets are a key characteristic of the city, winding this way and that between the white houses in the Jewish quarter. The Jewish witness and demonstrations of ethnic differences are present in this vibrant city. Another point of interest is the powerful and evocative Roman Bridge over the Guadalquivir, and the splendid Alcazar of the Christian Kings, an Arabic style structure which emerges between flowery gardens.
Hostel recommendation: Funky Cordoba is a great place to meet like-minded travellers. In the nearby surroundings there are many activities available, for example horse-riding, trekking or even mountain biking. Spend your time relaxing in the thermal bath and enjoy a nice massage, or why not visit some of the neighbouring towns, such as Priego de Cordoba and Medina Azahara.
Azulejos in Plaza de Espagna
Seville is the biggest city among those previously mentioned. It is the main city of Andalusia and deserves the longest visit in comparison to the others. Even in this splendid city, the arabic influences are still very prominent. Starting from the unmissable Cathedral of Seville, constructed on the ruins of the ancient mosque of which today only the bell tower remains, moving on to La Gilarda which was previously a minaret, and finally the Patio of Los Naranjos (the lemon courtyard). The neo-Moorish style Plaza de Espagna is a wide, spectacular space, located inside Maria Luisa park. Visit it before 10:00, or before 12:00 in summer because it closes at night to prevent vandalism of the colourful azulejos, ornamental ceramics typical of portuguese and spanish style. The square was constructed on occasion of the 1929 Iberian-American exposition, immediately becoming one of the greatest symbols of the city.
Also, the Real Maestranza Arena is one of the most vibrant places in the city, as it is home to the biggest and most distinguished bullfights, where big duals take place between the bulls and bullfighters. Although today, bullfighting is an activity that is criticised by most places in the world, it's so rooted in the Spanish culture that it continues to take place here in Seville. The structure is also home to the Taurino Museum that traces the history of bullfighting. The river Guadalquivir that we pass by in Cordoba also runs through Seville, and along its banks we can find another really famous monument, referred to as the Gold Tower. Just as the name evokes, it is said to have once been completely covered with gold. The 12-sided tower was historically used for the regulation of naval traffic, but today it acts as a Naval museum. The quirkiest quarter of Seville has to be the Santa Cruz district. An enchanting tangle of streets and mini squares makes it easy to lose your way as you stumble across sensual Flamenco shows that pop up from one bar to the next.
Real Maestranza Arena @Jackmac34
Hostel recommendation: Arc House Seville is situated 600m from Plaza de Armas. At the heart of the city centre, this hostel offers a fully-furnished kitchen to accommodate all your culinary needs, as well as a common area with a tv and computer.
Andalusia is a wide region that certainly deserves to be explored in depth, also taking care not to forget the smaller villages that spread across land and sea. Costa del Sol, for example, is one of the most popular and visited coastal destinations in Spain. If you so choose, follow our advice and book the best hostels in these cities, or you can also decide on your accommodation through browsing our website directly in the booking panel below!