When it comes to road trips what springs to mind? A three week jaunt across the States in a Cadillac that will always remain a pipe dream, or maybe something nearer to home that’s easy to organise and just as much fun? May I suggest a five day trip around Andalucía, taking in the cultural hotspots of Granada and Seville and a driving experience you’ll remember forever
Words: Vicky Mayer
As one of Spain’s jewels in its crown, Andalucía boasts not only some amazing coastline and beaches, but also some stunning countryside and cities that are just as memorable too. If you love to drive on empty roads with endless craggy vistas and winding roads, this is the place to come.
While the masses depart from Malaga airport for the nearby resorts, we picked up our hire car and headed inland straight to our first stop, the impressive Barcelo La Bobadilla, a 350 hectare estate situated in the Spanish countryside about 40 minutes outside Granada. The white-washed Moorish estate is the perfect place to crash and unwind before you head to one of Europe’s true wonders of the world, the Alhambra.
We stayed in a roomy suite with its own private terrace overlooking the hotel’s grounds and dined at the very impressive El Cortijo restaurant. Here you can sample the very best of traditional Spanish food, including the best gazpacho I have ever eaten and an exemplary crème caramel.
The estate offers visitors a wide choice of outdoor activities including trekking, tennis, swimming and horse riding, and it would be very easy just to stay here for a week and get to know the local area, but time was tight and the Alhambra Palace (which you must book in advance) beckoned.
The Palace is Spain’s most visited tourist destination and it pays to plan your day there. Bag a ticket for an early arrival so you can take time to wander through the different areas. Our picks were the spectacularly decorated Nasrid Palace and the Alcazaba.
It’s an easy two and a half hour drive from Granada to Seville and we arrived in time to have a welcome swim at the Barcelo Sevilla Renacimiento. Though part of the same hotel chain, it couldn’t be more different from sleepy Barcello La Bobadilla. Large and buzzy, it lies just over the river from the main city (and here’s a tip – it’s a very cheap seven euro cab ride there; don’t even think of walking in the dazzling sunshine), making it the perfect base for your Seville sojourn.
While Barcelona and Madrid offer visitors some of Spain’s most famous sights, Seville holds its own with its legendary late night tapas bars and impromptu flamenco displays. It is blisteringly hot here in the summer months so follow the locals and adopt a more after hours approach. Dinner here is a leisurely post 10pm affair with stand-out tapas bars El Rinconcillo and Sol y Sombra well worth a visit.
Yes, you can order the usual jamon plate and patatas bravas, but try ordering the daily specials for a more authentic taste of Spain. We opted for some melt-in-the-mouth octopus legs and fresh anchovies and acorns at a local bar, then promptly ordered the same again. As for flamenco, it’s easy to book to watch a tourist show, but by following the local twitter feed instead you’ll get to hear where dancers are performing that night in a bar for free. Way cooler and much more authentic.
Two days in Seville admiring the Moorish homes on every street corner left us wanting more, but like many of my favourite cities from New York to Rome, I knew I’d be back, and with one night to go before we headed home Malaga beckoned.
Malaga is so often overlooked by travellers on their way to and from the airport. Visit and you’ll be totally surprised. It’s cool, sophisticated and a very easy place to spend one last night in Spain. We spent the afternoon at the impressive Museo Picasso before dressing for dinner at the Jose Carlos Garcia restaurant overlooking the Marina.
We only managed to scratch the surface on our quick tour around Andalucía, but next time we’ll be heading for Tarifa, Jerez, Cadiz… the list is as endless as the possibilities in this magical province.
Rates at Barceló La Bobadilla start from £165 per room per night B&B. See barcelolabobadilla.com to book or call +34 958 32 18 61. Rates at Barceló Sevilla Renacimiento start from £123 per room per night B&B. See barcelorenacimiento.com or call +34 954 46 22 22
The Plaza de Espana in Seville (top left) is well worth a visit; guests at the Barcelo La Bobadilla can stay in a roomy bedroom and enjoy horse riding in the grounds; the Alhambra in Granada (right and below) is unmissable