Things to Do in Andalucia
The gorgeous old Moorish town of Ronda is high in the foothills of the Sierra de las Nieves and was occupied by the Phoenicians and Muslims before the Spanish re-conquered Andalusia in 1485. It teeters precariously atop the El Tajo Gorge, with jaw-dropping views across the rugged countryside, and is one of the few towns in the world to be split in two by a ravine.
The rocky, sheer-sided limestone cliffs of El Tajo Gorge plummet 390 ft (120 m) to Guadalevín River far below and at its narrowest it is only 225 ft (68 m) wide. Over the millennia the river has carved out this massive canyon as it is fed by snow melt in spring. Three bridges span the gorge and the biggest of these is the triple-arched Puente Nuevo, which was built in the late 18th century. It has become one of the most iconic images of Spain. Start an exploration of the gorge from the pathway that leads down behind the tourist office in Plaza España, just on the north side of the Puente Nuevo.
The Puente Nuevo (New Bridge) is a major feat of 18th-century engineering uniting Ronda’s old and new towns over El Tajo Gorge, the sheer limestone ravine that descends to the craggy bed of the Guadalevín River 390 ft (120 m) below. Spanish architect José Martín de Aldehuela designed the bridge and construction began in 1759 but it was 42 years in the making. During that time, more than 50 workers were killed falling into the gorge.
The best photo opportunity and viewpoint across the gorge is bang in the middle of the Puente Nuevo – just don’t step back into the traffic. The chamber built into the bridge’s central arch below the road was once used as a jail and political prisoners were reputedly thrown out of the windows to meet a gory death on the rocks below. Today is has a more pacific role as a small museum detailing the history and construction of the bridge.
More Things to Do in Andalucia
Settled by the Phoenecians around the 7th century BC, later conquered by the Muslims and finally settling under Spanish rule, Ronda has had a long and varied history marked by war, trade, and geographic wonder. Today, most visit the small town of Ronda in order to enjoy is rustic charms, photograph the dramatic landscape and taste some of the local wineries of the region.
Described by many travelers as a bit “off the beaten path,” the somewhat circuitous road leading up to the town is marked by the beautiful Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun) terrain. Mountainous and Mediterranean climate are good for wine, and some notable local wineries are located in this district and may be visited along the way.
Mijas is the typical idyllic Andalusian village (or at least Mijas Pueblos, the old part of town, is). White-washed houses cluster against the side of a mountain range with a view of the Mediterranean. It's all white and blue and sparkling fresh.
If you like golf, this place is for you - there's a myriad of courses. If you don't, you might find something to like in Mijas' history as a a Phoenician trading town, its old churches, its local honey or its donkey taxis. It may be a long way from authentic, but it's still plenty quaint.
Mijas' greatest pleasure is probably just a walk to the steep heights of Mijas Pueblo, enjoying the contrast of white houses and bright bougainvillea.
With its peculiar stacked rocks and knobbly karst towers, the otherworldly landscape of El Torcal is one of Spain’s most unique natural landscapes, formed over 150 million years ago, by the movement of tectonic plates beneath the ocean. Now a protected nature reserve, El Torcal’s unusual terrain is celebrated both for its remarkable geology and its diverse wildlife, and the rocky landscape is home to around 700 different plant species and a colorful array of nesting and migratory birds.
The starting point for most visitors is the El Torcal visitor center, but three color-coded walking trails also take in the park’s highlights – the 1.5km green route; the 2.5km yellow route, which climbs to the ‘Las Ventanillas’ (The Windows) lookout point at 1,200 meters; and the 4.5km red route, which reaches a height of over 1,300 meters.
Southern Spain is so much more than just sandy Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines. Andalucia is in fact home to mountains – loads of them – many of which make up Sierra Nevada National Park, the largest of its kind in Spain. This nature-filled wonderland, also considered a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve given its flora and fauna, is home to more than 20 peaks that reach over 3,000 meters, and some 50 high-mountain lakes. Not surprisingly, it’s ripe with opportunities for outdoor activities, ranging from hiking to biking, bird watching and skiing (given that it is home to Europe’s southernmost ski resort). It’s not just about all things outdoorsy here: darling villages speckle the Sierra Nevada, and particularly in the region of La Alpujarra. This is where, amidst slithering mountain roads, you’ll happen upon the famous pueblos blancos, or white villages, a collection of idyllic towns whose architecture and style of flat roofs and tiny terraced streets harken back to Muslim times.
The 17th-century village of Santiponce lies nine km (5.5 miles) north of Seville and is the site of one of Andalusia’s most important historical remains: the Roman city of Itálica near the banks of the Guadalquivir River. Founded in 206 BC when the Romans were busily empire-building across Europe, Itálica was the first – and largest – Roman settlement in southern Spain; it rose to be of considerable military significance within the Empire and was the birthplace of several emperors, including Hadrian, who built the infamous wall across northern England. The city fell into disrepair with the crumbling of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, and for many years it was plundered for stone used in the building of the lovely city of Seville.
Located on a stretch of Spain’s Mediterranean coast known as the Costa del Sol, the Andalusian city of Malaga offers a variety of historical and cultural attractions, from Moorish castles to Roman ruins to the birthplace of Pablo Picasso.
If you prefer to see other highlights of Andalusia, take a shore excursion to the bullfighting town of Ronda or the old Moorish city of Granada, home to the famous Alhambra. Cruise ships dock at the cruise terminals – A and B – in the eastern section of the Port of Malaga. From the port, it’s about a mile (1.6 km) to get to the edge of the city center; there is a public bus that can take you to the Paseo Parque, and from there you can walk up to the Cathedral of Malaga and other historical attractions.
Things to do near Andalucia
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