MAGICAL SPAIN, ANDALUCIA
(Malaga, Gibraltar, Ronda, Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada, Nerja)
As all the itineraries Audrey designs are customized, this Southern Spain Itinerary: The Best of Andalucia in 12 days, presented here is one of the many ways you can experience Spain on your PRIVATE TOUR with your local host.
Tour starts in Malaga and ends in Nerja (Best times April/May and Sept/Oct)
Arrival airport is Málaga Airport, Pablo Ruiz Picasso International Airport (AGP)
Oh Spain… how you dazzle us with architectural feats and artistic treats, enrich us with historic treasures and nourish us with sangria and tapas! From charismatic cities full of lively bars and hip galleries, to sleepy villages dotted with white washed houses and olive groves, Spain never fails to open up travelers’ eyes, minds and hearts.
Spain offers some of the richest cultural heritage to be found anywhere in Europe. And, the Andalusia region is an excellent example with its unique blend of Roman, Arab and Catholic inspired influences. A journey along the country roads is one of the best ways to discover the well-known icons as well as the charming lesser-known gems. Mention Spain and images of bullfighters, colorful flamenco dancers and Don Quixote spring to mind, but take a Travels with Audrey private tour of Spain and you will discover so much more. Discover the heart and soul of Spain with Travels with Audrey.
€4,900 PER PERSON double occupancy, pricing based on a minimum of 6 people
Get a group together and let’s get something on the calendar!
HIGHLIGHTS & INCLUSIONS of YOUR PRIVATE TOUR TO SPAIN
- Expert local guides with skip the line private touring and entrance fees
- Dedicated local tour leader, driver-guide
- Insider access to the Spanish way of life
- Accommodations that blend a mix of Spanish hospitality, comfort and local character (Daily Breakfast included) in standard rooms
- Hand-picked Insider Experiences: local wines and sherry tasting; discover how olive oil is made and taste some yourself at an Olive oil mill; watch a soul stirring-Flamenco show; a unique visit to an Andalusian stud farm in Jerez de la Frontera and/or bull farm, walking around a local market followed by a Paella cooking class
- Private transportation and train tickets where applicable
- Discover slow travel: a perfect balance of sightseeing and time at leisure
- Savor the views from the rock of Gibraltar known in antiquity as the Northern Pillar of Hercules
- Visit the picturesque white villages perched on dramatic cliff tops (Ronda, Arcos de la Frontera, Frijiliana)
- Visit the enchanting city of Cordoba, whose historic center is a UNESCO world heritage site with a visit to the Mosque of the Caliphs in Cordoba
- Stroll through the architectural splendors of Seville
- Be immersed in Moorish-style opulence at Alhambra Palace, a UNESCO World heritage site
- Enjoy the serious cultural capital Malaga
- Explore the heart of Andalusia, where palaces, cathedrals and quaint villages all have a story to tell
- Soak in the sun on a Costa del Sol beach in Nerja
- Visit the famous troglodyte quarter of Guadix – A Truly Unique Spanish Experience
- DISCOVERING SPAIN’S CUISINE: Our itinerary includes wonderful experiences with local cuisine as you enjoy a variety of included dinners at authentic Spanish restaurants.
DAY 1: MALAGA
Welcome to Spain!
Your included transfer will take you to your hotel upon your arrival in Malaga.
DAY 2: EXPLORING MALAGA
After breakfast your expert local tour guide will take you on a private walking tour of Malaga, exploring the old historic center and harbor and walking through the centuries, visiting Phoenician walls, the 1st century BC Roman theater and 11th century Alcazaba, a Moorish military citadel and royal residence with a visit of the cathedral. Málaga was founded by Phoenicians around 770 BC and subsequently ruled by Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths, Moors and, since 1487, Spanish Christians. Birthplace of Picasso, the city has a sophisticated foodie scene and has also emerged as a serious cultural capital with some impressive art galleries and museums.
A special stop on your walking tour for a sweet wine tasting at an emblematic location.
Afternoon is at your leisure to explore more of the city, spend time shopping. Audrey will be on hand with suggestions based on your personal interests. Among the many choices, you can choose to visit the Museo Picasso and/or Museo Carmen Thyssen.
DAY 3: GIBRALTAR/RONDA
After breakfast our drive will take you to Gibraltar for a panoramic tour of the rock/cable car.
When you first see the Rock of Gibraltar, whether it is from the air, from the sea or from either the Costa del Sol or the western end of the Bay, it is its impressive stature, towering isolated above the surrounding countryside, that causes the greatest impact. It has had this effect on people for many thousands of years. Gibraltar is a beacon which signals the position of the Strait of Gibraltar, the narrow neck which separates Europe from Africa and provides the only link between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.
Our final destination today is Ronda, a beautiful town perched on the edge of a dramatic limestone escarpment that is sliced in two by the El Tajo Gorge where the Guadalevin River flows 393 feet below. Ronda, acclaimed for 2000 years by everyone from Pliny the Elder to Hemingway, is an incredible sight.
DAY 4: RONDA/WHITE VILLAGES/JEREZ
After breakfast, on your private walking tour you will begin with an exploration of the old town and the best viewpoint for admiring all three bridges. We’ll cross over Puente Nuevo into the new town to Plaza de Toros, Spain’s oldest bullring and home to one of the most famous bullfighters in Spanish history, Pedro Romero.
After lunch, journey to the Pueblos Blancos, the quintessential white villages of southern Spain! We stop along the way for wine tasting at a local Finca and perhaps for a café con leche in Arcos de la Frontera, queen of the white villages. Arcos de la Frontera is one of the signature images of sultry southern Spain and is the Pueblo Blanco by excellence. The mountains between Ronda and Arcos de la Frontera were contested by Arab and Christian armies for 700 years leaving “de la Frontera” (on the border) as an appendage to the names of many towns.
“Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos”: the beauty of the Sierra de Grazalema region is unmatched in Spain. Its combination of dramatic mountain scenery and splendid whitewashed villages makes you half expect to see medieval Berber farmers and Christian knights. Andalucía contains scores more white towns, all similar in their outward appearance, but each, on closer inspection, hiding distinctly different cultures and personalities.
In Jerez de la Frontera, the hub of sherry wine production, we discover the secrets of how it is produced with a guided tour of the oldest family wineries in town. A tasting is followed by exclusive access to the bodega’s private art collection. Sherish, the Arabic term for sherry, follows just behind Flamenco and bullfighting in popularity for southern Spaniards. Made from the Palomino grape, there are two basic styles, oxidized and non-oxidized. The key difference is the layer of yeast known as flor that prevents oxidation when present in a barrel.
DAY 5: SEVILLA – Saturday
This morning we are in for a treat: a visit to an Andalusian stud farm, one of the world’s most important reserves of prestige thoroughbred Andalusian horses. Learn the history of the Andalusian horses and their Carthusian lineage in different stages of their lives. Enjoy a guided tour of the farm to see free running colts, mares and stallions. The compact, muscular breed known locally as the “Pura raza Espanola” was bred by Carthusian monks in the late middle ages and became the darling of the sherry aristocracy in and around Jerez de la Frontera in the 19th century.
Then we make our way to the city of Seville, the capital of Andalusia situated on the banks of the Guadalquivir River, the most cosmopolitan of its neighbors, a storied city that has been Andalucía’s seat of power and glory for nearly 1000 years.
This afternoon explore the vibrant city of Seville with your expert local guide on your private walking tour. Highlights include a stroll through the Jewish quarter; the impressive cathedral of Saint Mary, burial site of Christopher Columbus and 3rd largest in the world built on top of the Almohad Mosque. Two parts of the mosque were preserved in the cathedral: the Moorish entrance court Patio de los Naranjos; and the Giralda, a minaret converted into a bell tower; the Alcazar de Sevilla, the oldest royal palace in Europe that is still in use.
The original nucleus of the Alcázar, that you will visit today, was constructed by the Moors in the 10th century as a fortified governor’s palace and is still in use today as a residence for the Spanish royal family. It is a spectacular complex of palaces, courtyards and gardens from various periods and in complementing architectural styles – all in all a dazzling trip back in time.
With a flair for drama, its own traditional dance and flamboyant modern architecture, Seville displays Spain’s most noticeable local pride. Nowhere is as quintessentially Spanish as Seville, a city of capricious moods and soulful secrets which has played a pivotal role in the evolution of flamenco, bullfighting, baroque art and Mudejar architecture. Known as Hispalis in Roman times, Seville was taken by the Moors in 712 and remained a Muslim capital until the 13thcentury. Between 1503 and 1718 Seville had a monopoly as the only trading port between Spain and the Americas, becoming extravagantly wealthy and spawning a Golden Age of arts and literature.
DAY 6: SEVILLA
In the morning enjoy a market visit with paella cooking class followed with lunch on the delicious meal you have prepared including drinks. If you wish not to partake, you are free to explore the city at your own leisure. (Please check with us as to the cooking class information and options-you can also choose to have the paella cooking class on a bull farm, really something unique and truly special!)
Afternoon at leisure: So much to see! We do recommend a visit to Plaza España, set amidst the wonderful gardens of Maria Luisa Park. Built in 1929 for the Ibero-American Exhibition (World’s Fair) it is an impressive example of Renaissance Revival style architecture.
DAY 7: CORDOBA
La Mezquita the flower of Al-Andalus
In Cordoba we begin our guided walk back in time to the Al-Andalus from over a thousand years ago with a walking tour and visit of the Mezquita, a Unesco world heritage site, and the old Jewish quarter. Córdoba’s grandest monument, the Mezquita or Great Mosque is one of the most impressive Moorish structures. Noted for its red and white columns, taken from Roman temples that previously occupied the site, the Mezquita was a church that became a mosque before reverting back to a church charting the evolution of Western and Islamic architecture over a 1000 year period. Córdoba served as provincial capital for the Roman Empire and was the capital of Al-Andalus during Moorish times. In the 10th century it was the most cultured city in 10th century Europe, the most populated city of the world with public libraries, public baths, medical schools and universities. The Moors brought an educational system to the Dark Ages of Europe and made tremendous advances in mathematics, astronomy and medicine. They were well known for their religious tolerance.
This afternoon explore the old town’s narrow streets and private patios at your leisure or perhaps pamper yourself this evening with a visit to an Arabic bathhouse.
DAY 8: BAENA/GUADIX/GRANADA
We continue East today to the unforgettable city of Granada, which was the last strong hold of the Moorish empire in southern Spain until it finally, fell to the catholic kings in 1492. Granada (Gáranata) was once the grandest city in Spain! Set at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountain range it is the most visited of all Andalusian cities.
When Isabel I, the queen of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon, married in 1469, the pair united the peninsula’s two most powerful kingdoms and began a period of economic growth and religious zeal never before seen. They were the driving force behind the brutal Spanish inquisition, beginning the forceful conversion, expulsion and persecution of all non-Christian believers in what was formerly a religiously tolerant Hispania. Granada was the last city of Al-Andalus to fall to the Christian Reconquista in 1492.
On the way, we will stop in the small market town of Baena which produces olive oil of such high quality it has gained its own Denominacion de Origen (DO) a designation that indicates the product’s unique geographic origins, production process and quality. Spain is the largest producer of Olive Oil in the world and 80% of Spanish total production is in Andalusia. The production of olive oil in Spain dates back to almost 6,000 years ago with the settlement of Phoenician and Greeks. Ever since then, olive oil has continued to be an integral base of most Spanish cuisine, similarly to wine. Spanish wine has been elevated to the status of one of the best wines in the world for its wide variety of grapes and exquisite taste.
Enjoy a visit, tour and tasting at one of the many local producers, an olive mill, and buy excellent olive oil straight from the press. The town’s periphery is dotted with huge storage tanks. The handsome town of Baena boasts many fine monuments and an 18th century “arcaded almacen” (warehouse) on the Plaza de la Constitucion, which houses a magnificent mansion converted into a tapas bar, the Meson Casa del Monte.
Our next stop before arriving at our hotel in Granada is the cathedral town of Guadix for a private tour, well off the beaten path. Its history dates back to Phoenician and Roman times, and it played a major role in the Reconquest. The most interesting feature of the Guadix area is that many of the inhabitants of this large town live underground, in the southern part of the town, in what are known as cave houses. The jagged ocher terrain and the dazzling whitewashed chimneys and doors of the caves contrast dramatically with the snow-covered peaks of the Sierra Nevada, which loom above. The cave district is signposted on the main street of the town as the “Barrio Troglodyte”. The “troglodytes” very friendly people and are also very house-proud, or “cave-proud”, as you wish. If you show an interest in their homes, you will be sure to be invited in to have a look. Ever since the Moorish times, the people from Andalucia have been fond of living underground because it is the best way of escaping the summer heat waves, and don’t be surprised if you are invited in to have a look around. Most of today’s cave-dwellings are well-appointed, like any other Spanish home, and some are even quite luxurious, with marble floors, fitted kitchens, faxes and internet connections.
DAY 9: GRANADA
In 711 an army of North Africans and Berbers crossed the Strait of Gibraltar united under their faith in Islam to begin what would become almost 800 years of Moorish reign in the Iberian Peninsula. Named Al-Andalus – land of the Goths – by the Muslim conquerors, Andalucia is as rich in history and culture as the landscape is diverse. Consisting of eight provinces, the region varies from sandy beaches to olive groves to the steep hill top towns of the Sierra Mountains.
Moorish influence is prevalent throughout most every facet of life whether it be the “adobo” and cumin spices of traditional dishes, the repetition of geometric tile patterns in architecture, the lopped off towers of former mosques where churches and cathedrals now stand or the recurrent calligraphy of Islamic Art.
This morning is dedicated to the magnificent Alhambra, UNESCO World Heritage site, a breath taking Moorish palace and fortress perched on top of a steep hill adjacent to the city centre. A true tribute to the beauty of the North African architecture in Andalusia, the Alhambra contains a huge network of beautiful rooms, patios and gardens. The palace is close to architectural perfection, perhaps also the most refined example of Islamic art anywhere in the world and not to mention the most enduring symbol of 800 years of Moorish rule known as Al-Andalus. From afar, the Alhambra’s red fortress’s towers dominate the Granada skyline set against a backdrop of the Sierra Nevada’s snow-capped peaks.
The rest of today is free for you to explore Granada at your own pace. A visit to the stunning cathedral and Capilla Real, the Gothic mausoleum and burial site of Ferdinand and Isabel, are highly recommended. The chapel has important collections of art from Spanish and Italian painters including Botticelli and Perugino.
Great for shopping would be the Alcaiceria, the great bazaar of Granada, dating back to the 15th century when it was a huge market place for Arabic silks and spices.
DAY 10: NERJA
Following a dramatic mountain descent we arrive in Nerja where we will spend the last few nights of our tour. After relaxing in your hotel, your tour manager will take you on an orientation walk in the late afternoon. Nerja is on the seashore some 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Málaga and marks the eastern tip of Málaga’s Costa del Sol. Once a sleepy fishing village, Nerja boasts 16 kilometers (10 miles) of beaches with sparkling clear water. All major water sports are available here, including water skiing, scuba diving and sailing. Flanked by a dramatic mountain range, Sierra Almijara, to the East, the town has fortunately managed to avoid being blighted by the concrete high-rise scenario which has been the inevitable result of the tourist boom in some of the coastal resorts.
The old quarter of the town is still virtually unchanged with narrow, winding streets, whitewashed houses with wrought iron terraces overflowing with geraniums, on which a canary can sometimes be heard singing. However, the heart of Nerja is its spectacular Balcón de Europa, the “Balcony of Europe”, a magnificent promenade along the edge of a towering cliff, once the site of the great Moorish castle, with sweeping panoramic views of the Mediterranean and the small coves and beaches below, against an awesome backdrop of mountains.
DAY 11: NERJA/FRIJILIANA
Today we visit Nerja and Frijiliana, as well as the famous caves! Voted the ‘prettiest village in Andalucia’, Frijiliana is also important from an historical viewpoint. El Fuerte, the hill that climbs above the village, which was the scene of the final bloody defeat of the Moors of La Axarquía in their 1569 rebellion. The hill is topped by scanty remains of a ruined fort from which some of the Moors reputedly threw themselves rather than be killed or captured by the Spanish. It is said that bones and rusted weapons dating from this encounter still lie among the scrub on El Fuerte.
The Axarquia region East of Malaga has a rugged beauty that many tourists to Spain have not yet experienced. The area is renowned for its outstanding walks and fauna and flora and is a haven for nature lovers who will be enthralled by the spectacular landscape. The village is a tangle of delightful narrow cobbled streets lined by whitewashed houses, their wrought-iron balconies filled with planters of brilliant red geraniums. Small plazas provide shady seating while the village bars are popular with visitors who come here to taste the locally produced wine. There are also several excellent shops selling pottery and ceramics, including decorative plates with their distinctive Arab design.
Nerja’s most spectacular attraction is undoubtedly its fascinating caves which are included in your visit today, located just outside of town. They include archaeological treasures such as paintings over 20,000 years old and other pre-historic remains. One of the enormous natural caverns has been transformed into a concert hall, where many performances are staged during the summer.
DAY 12: DEPARTURE DAY
Yes, it is that time to leave this beautiful land with many wonderful memories and in the hopes of traveling with you again.
Transfer to Malaga airport or, if you wish to extend your holiday, this is a perfect location to continue on to Morocco or stay a few days in Spain traveling up to Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, Avila, Rioja wine country and Barcelona. Contact us for details.
Ready for a personalized private guided tour to Spain? Contact Audrey for your complimentary 30 minute phone consultation.
Audrey specializes in custom tours and itineraries to Europe, providing guests with delights that excite the senses that are genuine, intimate and unique experiences of Spain and beyond. With a balance of culture, food, wine and stunning natural and man-made landscapes, this tour captures everything that a guest would be looking for in a Spanish experience. Audrey warmly invites you to come along and experience Magical Spain.