Entitled as the “land of the light”, Andalucia’s twelve months of sun a year is a reality. Known for its beautiful landscapes and near idyllic beaches, Andalucia is also home to exotic fruits, the origins of tapas culture and flamenco, and much much more.
Many of you may know or have heard of Costa del Sol, a popular tourist destination with aplenty rental and golf holiday makers, lots of attractions to go see and an ideal sunshine. There are other ‘Costa’s’ in Andalucia too. The area of Motril, Almuñecar and Salobreña (Granada province) is known as Costa Tropical, home to tropic and exotic fruits. These towns are surrounded by mountain ranges that protect their coastal plains from cold northerly winds allowing the sun to shine right in, both in winter and summer, just like in the Canary Islands.
Mangos, papayas, medlars (‘nisperos’ in Spanish), limes, persimmon (‘caqui’ in Spanish) and avocados grow in these areas, as well as litchis — a bundle of various juicy exotic fruits.
The chirimoya is another tropical fruit that is not quite heard of elsewhere in Europe, or in the world for that fact. This greenish tree fruit (with sweet black seeds in it) fits in the family of apple plants and is often known as the ‘custard apple’. Originally from Latin America Andes but grown and known in Costa Tropical and Canary Islands for many years. The taste of this fruit is quite peculiar and often depicted as a “mixture of pineapple, strawberries and banana”, others say its a “delicate temptation of raspberries and cream”. Nevertheless, we like them, so you might want to give them a try (if you can get your hands on one) and figure for yourself, what do they taste like?
During winter months Andalucia has stunning bright orange persimmons (“caqui” in Spanish) glowing and growing on leafless branches. Caqui’s are reminiscent of an apricot, peach and pear in taste, some may confuse this fruit, of Chinese-origin, with a pale-looking tomato. Persimmons were common in Spain as decorative plants in gardens and patios and only became considered an edible treat in the 1950’s.
Persimmons are also a fruit that grow in Granada, as well as Valencia and are great sources of vitamin A.
Also in wintery month, January-February time, Andalucia treats us with the beauty of Almond trees in bloom. Almond trees with willowy branches and delicate white and pink flowers of sweet scent. A contrast to the the usual dry and brown countryside soil, almond trees in this time of post-spring are a sight much awaited by locals, adding color to countryside life.
Changing conversation from fresh fruit to dried fruit, raisins are common in Andalucia, specially in Málaga. Since 18th Century Málaga mountains’ raisins have been traded throughout Europe. Known as exquisite delicacies of Andalucia, Málaga raisins are formed mostly of ‘Moscatel de Alejandría’ grapes. Picked in late summer months of August and September and left to ‘dry’ in the southern slopes. Ready by December/January, having thoroughly dried and turned into a darker color — these are the best quality raisins you will get. The bigger ripened raisins are usually sold in whole bunches.
If you’re an adventurer and curious for Málaga’s raisins, there is a raisin route one can do in Axarquía, Málaga. This route takes one through Andalucia’s traditional white washed villages on a 62.5 km trip. A drive on 20 minutes from Málaga centre.
The great thing about Andalusia is the close proximity that cities have to each other. In other words, it does not matter where to your flight is, other Andalusian cities are only a short drive away.
You may have heard of cities such as Granada, Córdoba and Sevilla, destinations worth a visit and well situated in distance from Málaga (airport).
Granada has the most renowned building of the Andalusian Islamic historical legacy. The city is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains (a popular ski destination) and withholds the famous fortress Alhambra, of Arabic origin. UNESCO has listed the Alhambra as a World Heritage Site. This city works as a winter wonderland in winter months and a historic hot spot in summer.
What is else is there to do in Andalucia?
Tapas, how and where to enjoy them
Part of Andalucian culture is Tapas. Standing whilst eating and drinking is a foreign concept to many, and loud bars, taverns and restaurants filled with loud people is different and exciting too.
It is sure that every town, city, village in Spain has some form of bar that serves tapas, usually located in historic or city centers.
Seville, capital of Andalucia, is also considered the capital of tapas. Don’t be mistaken, other Andalusian; Granada, Córdoba, Cádiz, Almería have tapas bars and even have own tapas specialties of the region/city.
In the last decades, tapas culture, of origin Andalucia, has spread throughout the country. In Andalucia it is still custom to serve guests with a complementary tapa with every glass of wine, sherry or beer — some only give with the first glass. Spanish cuisine has a world reputation for being flavorsome and delicious, and a glass of wine of beer is a must go with.
Did you know? World famous beer San Miguel also has a factory in Málaga, Cruz Campo was founded in Sevilla, and Alhambra was founded in Granada, also home to the Islamic fortress of the same name.
Andalucia produces some quaffable still wine, the country’s great fortified wine, a vino fino (sherry) that is most often associated with the region. Wine encompasses the spirit of the Andalusian culture. What better to accompany great tapas than a great glass of wine? Cultivation of vines in Andalusia go back centuries, and today it is a region that products world known wines.
Andalusian sherry is usually made from the Palamino grape, a grape that grows extremely well on chalky soils in the city of Jerez de la Frontera. There is a harvest celebration festival in Jerez every year, usually in September, where sherry, flamenco and other Andalucian performances and traditions join and create an event worth to experience. Like many festivities in Andalucia, festivals turns night into day and day into night; celebrating has no limit.
Many say that you either learn about Andalucia through Flamenco or you learn Flamenco through Andalucia.
There are endless places where to go and experience ‘Flamenco’ in every Andalusian city.
Jerez, again, is a hotspot for Flamenco with an annual “Festival de Jerez” that gathers the famous and professional from the field to share and show off their skills of this folk dance in perfomances and workshops.
Ferias and festivals
Festivals, known locally as ‘Ferias’ (translated to ‘fairs’) are a big part of Andalusian culture. With festivities taking place around the clock, locals abandon themselves into the merriment of the Feria.
One of the most famous ferias in Andalucia is in Sevilla, the “Feria de Abril” that is normally celebrated in April – but this year (2014) celebrated in May – starts of the 5th.
Ferias, specially this one, have a lot of dancing named Sevillanas. Sevillanas, often confused with ‘Flamenco’, but is not real flamenco. Sevillanas is a type of flamenco that anybody can dance.
Fuengirola, a popular Costa del Sol destination for tourists and locals alike, holds an international feria named “Feria de los Pueblos”. This year (2014) it runs through from 30th April until the 4th of May, just before Sevilla’s Feria de Abril, perfect 2 in 1 chance.
This international feria has stands, in Spanish known as ‘casetas’, of over 20 different countries, sharing food, drink, dance and culture. It’s a big event and a perfect pre-summer celebration.
If you are planning a trip in spring/summer to Andalucia, we suggest you give the stunning beaches of Costa de la Luz a visit – they won’t disappoint. Costa de la Luz mainly focuses on the province of Cádiz, where white sandy beaches may just take your breath away. These beaches are famous surfing beaches with all kinds of water-sport facilities and activities.
Tarifa, one of Cadíz’ beaches, is a better place in the winter than in the summer.
That is, if surfing is your thing. Open all year around and with wind all year around too, Tarifa is a surfer’s paradise.
Majority of Spanish golf courses are found in southern and sunny Costa del Sol. With round 70 golf courses in the region, it has also become known as the Costa del Golf. Over the years many have said that Costa del Sol and Golf go hand in hand. The milder winter climate allowed golfing to happen all year around, in some of the most varied, challenging and beautiful golf courses in the world. Golf courses nearby excellent apartment and resort rental complexes, spa hotels, sunny climate and great ambiance and cuisine. What else could a golfer ask for?
Select from the following if you are interested to know more about Andalucia, flamenco, ferias, carnivals and festivals, types of Andalusian sherry, how Spain has become Nº1 wine producer in the World and Andalucia’s untouched beaches.