Andalusia, Spain

Andalusia is one of Spain’s autonomous communities located in the southern portion of the country. Andalusia is an excellent vacation destination for anyone regardless of their areas of interest. This region has a rich history, including a long period where there was a large Muslim population in this region. As a result, Andalusia is home to some of the most extraordinary architecture in all of Spain, including historic mosques and cathedrals. Andalusia is also the place to go for those interested in learning about flamenco culture in Spain.

Andalusia is composed of eight provinces, including Granada, Cordoba, Sevilla, Malaga, Cadiz, and others. Because Andalusia is in the southern part of the country, there are many options for beach visits. The best time to visit Andalusia is in the spring and early summer between April and July and again in the fall in September and October. These months provide optimal temperatures for traveling throughout the region without being too hot or too cold.

The Castle of Cazorla, Andalusia, SpianOne of the main attractions in Andalusia is the Alhambra in Granada. This is the site of an old Moorish fortress. Although the site was originally used for military purposes, it has become an icon of Moorish occupation in Granada for hundreds of years. Today, the Alhambra is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites, attracting tourists from all over the world.

Many visitors to Andalusia also come to see the famous flamenco music and dance of this region. Flamenco comes in several different forms, and locals will tell you that there is a “true flamenco” behind all of the tourist shows. The search for this “true flamenco,” a seductive dance to rhythmic music, occupies people of all ages in Andalusia.

Andalusia is also home to a number of beautiful cathedrals, many of which have been built on top of old mosques. The Great Mosque of Cordoba, for instance, dates back to the 8th century, when its construction began under the Umayyad Caliphate. The mosque was probably built on top of an even older Visigoth site. The mosque is an elaborate work of art and architecture. Historically, this mosque served as one of the most important sites for Muslims in Cordoba as a site of prayer. During the Reconquest, in which King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella expelled the Moors and Jews from Spain, the Great Mosque was converted into a Catholic church. Today, the site is another UNESCO World Heritage Site and it attracts thousands of visitors each year. There are still debates in Spain today about who has the right to worship in the Great Mosque because of its complicated history.

Andalusia remains the second most popular region for tourism in Spain. The rich culture and intricate history brings people from all over the world to explore this great region. Traveling in Andalusia is a great way to learn about Spanish history and the Arab influence that still has an impact on life in Spain today.


Spain’s Regions

Spain’s constituent regions aren’t states or provinces, as in many other countries of the world, but autonomous communities. This political distinction results from the profound differences in culture within the country’s borders. Several of the regions have their own language, all have their own food, and many have their own storied histories as ancient, proud civilizations.

El País Vasco, or Basque Country, is perhaps the most famously independent of Spain’s autonomous communities. The Basque language is notoriously difficult to learn. Luckily Spanish is widely spoken, but any effort to communicate in Basque is appreciated by locals. San Sebastian is the area’s top destination, thanks to its breathtaking Atlantic shores and its reputation as the best producer of the region’s unique food. A local specialty worth sampling is sidra, a slightly alcoholic apple cider.

Spain’s other famously independent region, Catalonia, is located on the country’s eastern shore. Its language, Catalan, is easily learned by Spanish speakers. Barcelona is known for the many structures by famous modern architect Antoni Gaudí, whose style permeates this well-planned regional capital. The beaches of this cosmopolitan city nicely complement the region’s ski resorts to the north and nature reserves to the south.

Andalucia is the intersection of all the finest aspects of Spanish culture, from food to music to architecture. The region invented tapas and is the world’s largest producer of olive oil, while the city of Sevilla is known as the home of flamenco music and dance. This southern region of Spain enjoys a rich Moorish history; sites such as the Great Mosque of Córdoba and La Alhmabra of Granada exhibit the height of Arab art and architecture from the Middle Ages.

El Comunidad de Madrid consists of the city of Madrid and its surrounding towns. Despite being the home of Spain’s central government and the Royal Palace, Cathedral, and Gardens, Madrid is best known for its nightlife. The neighborhoods of Huertas and La Latina are filled with revelers at all hours of the night as they scour the city for the best bars and dance clubs.

Even Spain’s less famous regions have their own defining characteristics. Valencia is the birthplace of paella, La Rioja is famous for its red wines, and the windmills of Castilla La Mancha were immortalized in Don Quixote. One of Spain’s ancient kingdoms, Galicia adds another regional tongue, Galician, to the tally of official languages, and another famous dish, empanadas, to the nation’s cuisine. Aragon, another such kingdom, houses a wealth of historical artifacts from the Middle Ages, while Cantabria is home to more Stone Age archaeological sites than anywhere else in the world. In Navarre’s largest city, Pamplona, locals and tourists alike run through the narrow streets with bulls during the Feast of San Fermin, and with its soaring mountains and dramatic rocky coastline, Asturias is considered the most beautiful part of the country.

Thanks to the linguistic, culinary, architectural and artistic diversity displayed across Spain’s autonomous communities, a trip to this one country can feel like a tour of over a dozen different nations.