It should be remembered that for hundreds of years, Spain was ruled by the Moors from North Africa and during this period the Moors exerted great influence on the arts and architecture (with a bit of barbarism thrown in). It is also full of the post Moorish, Christian architecture and art and so is a truly magnificent region. One should not confuse Andalucia with the Costa del Sol (although the CdS is in Andalucia) with its profusion of high rise hotels, discos and bars. Literally five minutes drive from the coast is a world of ancient splendour and the true 'rural' Spain, full of history and tradition. Wild countryside, mountains, lush cultivated areas, lakes and national parks abound, the list goes on and on. Andalucia could be termed the 'traditional' Spain. Throughout the summer there is a fiesta every week, first in one town and then the next week in a nearby town.
Through the neighbouring 'U' shaped mountain pass at Zafarray, Granada with its magnificent Alhambra is an easy hour's drive away. Very close to Granada is the Sierra Nevada mountain range which boasts some of the best skiing in Europe.
Also within easy reach is the ancient city of Cordoba. Cordoba has a most magnificent mosque (we are told it is the largest in Europe, some claim it is the largest in the world). This mosque dates from the time in Spain when the country was under Moorish rule and is unique in that post Moorish rule, the Christian king built a church inside the mosque. So vast is the mosque that it easily contains this magnificent church with room to spare. Cordoba also boasts much ancient architecture and many restaurants and should be placed on the 'must visit' list.
A slightly longer drive away (two hours) is the ancient city of Sevilla (Seville). Also a city with a Moorish influence, Sevilla is well worth the drive. Guests who do not wish to drive to Sevilla can take the train from the major rail junction at Bobadilla and for those who wish to visit Madrid, this is also the way to travel. Spanish trains are modern and comfortable and the service is usually excellent. We would suggest that a trip to Sevilla or Madrid should involve an overnight stay. Book your train journeys in good time prior to your trip as the trains are all 'ticket only' and no standing passengers are allowed. This can be done at Bobadilla or Malaga and remember to book your return too. Mid-week is the best time to travel.
Malaga city is also worth a visit. An ancient but modern city which is mostly by-passed by the people who flock to the Costa del Sol. In Malaga, visitors will find the ancient in architecture but also a wide variety of contemporary Spanish and international stores. The storekeepers in Malaga will be delighted to help you perform 'melt-down' on your credit cards. Malaga also boasts some of the last 'bodegas' which are the traditional wine bars. In a 'proper' bodega, one orders one's wine straight from the barrel and the barman will write down your tally on the bar in chalk.
Inland and to the west of Malaga is the mountain town of Ronda. This town is famous throughout Andalucia for its situation clinging to the side of a deep gorge. The drive from the coast up to Ronda is spectacular.The return trip can be made via the Torcal de Antequera, a wild mountain range with most unusually shaped rock formations. If you feel the round trip could be too long, go to Alhama de Granada which also has a gorge and is also steeped in history and has hot sulphur springs for those who like such things - well worth a visit!
If you feel you must, Gibraltar is some two and a half hours drive away. Gibraltar is without a doubt full of history. It is also a good shopping stop but don't be taken in by 'duty-free' price propaganda. Certainly the prices are duty-free but we have found that although prices carry no VAT, they seem to be 'hiked up' in the first place so we don't feel there are 'bargains' to be had (except booze and fags) and in many cases prices for the same goods in Spain can be much cheaper. If you do go to Gibraltar, park your car in a car park on the Spanish side and walk over the border, we always do (when we are very occasionally forced to go)! Traffic queues into and out of Gibraltar can be many hours long. From the border posts, it is only a 20 minute walk across the airport runway into Gibraltar town centre. Buses and taxis operate from the border and there are also mini-buses operating tours of the 'Rock'.
From John & Shelley Evans
Dear David & Anne
We arrived back home yesterday after our two weeks' holiday in Andalucia well refreshed, particularly after our peaceful stay at Casa Rosina. As we drove off around 9.30 am last Saturday morning the light on the mountains was just amazing, everywhere looked so beautiful and we can understand why you love to live there! The heat when we got out of the car at Arcos nearly took our breaths away - a very hot few days there but wonderful open countryside, before heading back towards Malaga via Grazalema and finally one night nr. Alora in yet another valley - all so different.
Thanks to you for "alerting" us to the beauty of Andulucia - but for your advert. we might not have thought of spending a bit of time exploring. Thanks too for organising the car hire - having spoken to others, Sol Auto definitely sounds the best in terms of ease of pick up etc. and the drop off was so easy too.