Spain: The Diversity of Andalusia

April 26, 2013

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Discovering a new region of Spain reminds me how much I love this country — and how much more of it I have left to see.

While the thrill of discovering new lands is always tempting, lately I’ve been investing a lot of time and money in revisiting some old favourites. In early March I met up with dear friends and revisited all my old haunts in Hong Kong, then in late March made my way to Paris for the 9th(!) time. Right before Paris, I snuck in a second visit to Barcelona, which was a long time coming since I hadn’t been back since 2006.  Then, in April, with Liebling in tow, I returned to France and Germany, spending one weekend eating myself into oblivion in Lille (just wait until you see my food pictures!) and another visiting friends in tiny Ravensburg, a city an hour outside of Munich.

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Just when I was getting ready to rest my road weary feet, a last minute opportunity arose to dash off to Spain once more — this time to the southern provinces of Malaga and Granada. Spain is a country I could visit again and again,  so, mere days after practicing my Deutsch and eating weisswurst in Germany, I found myself repacking my bag and heading back to the airport with images of sun-drenched Andalusian beaches dancing in my head.

I wasn’t disappointed.

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Beautiful Coastal towns

I had heard of the cities of Malaga and Granada before, but had no idea that they were also provinces that comprise a bunch of tiny coastal villages.  While I had heard fantastic things about the city of Granada, Malaga city didn’t appeal to me in the least: I had heard that it was a massive party town rife with college students looking to get ridiculously wasted and debaucherous, totally not my scene as a 30-something in a long- term relationship. But I soon learned that the region is so much more than its reputation for partying and hooking up; the tiny towns all along the Mediterranean coast offer stunning vistas and quiet pleasures.  These towns also have some of the warmest and sunniest winters in Europe.  I felt silly for dismissing a whole region based on my half-knowledge of one city.

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Slow(er) Travel

We spent most of our first day wandering the small streets of sleepy Almuñécar and Salobreña (population 30,000 and 10,000, respectively),  taking in the brightly coloured and meticulously well-kept buildings and stopping occasionally to listen to the odd performer making music in the streets.

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 These towns are the definition of slow(er) travel: life here moves at a quieter, less frantic pace, and it’s more about experiencing and absorbing luxuriously than running hurriedly from monument to monument.  Those used to frenzy and having a zillion things to do may not like it here — there aren’t many major sights to see or boxes to tick in terms of activities in these villages.  The tight streets and small squares are literal ghost towns during siesta (taken very seriously here!) and the older locals gather on benches and languidly observe passerby.  This is the sort of place you visit to unwind, relax, and recharge, particularly in the tourism off-season: we walked along the beach in Almunecar before a long, late lunch at a restaurant where we indulged in local fare.
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Then, in Salobreña, we visited a fruit farm run by a lone farmer, who passionately explained his trade and beseeched us to see, taste, and feel his homegrown avocados and bananas. This sort of low-key activity was just what I needed after so much hectic back-to-back travel — I loved it!

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Diversity of the Andalusian Region

Over the last few days, I’ve grown to realize just how diverse southern Spain is– particularly the province of Granada, which is one of the few places in the world where one can go from the beach to the slopes in the same day.  While the coastal towns I outlined above are more geared toward the slow traveller, the rest of the province has a wide range of things to do and see.  The city of Granada is a pumping university town and tourist centre that is home to the Alhambra (a must-see site I visited yesterday; I’ll write about it in another post) and only a 45-minute drive away is the Sierra Nevada mountain range where I spent the morning skiing (yes, skiing! For the second time ever!) in scads of powdery white snow.  For all those can’t-sit-still folks, there are helicopter rides and sailing trips to keep you busy; I did both yesterday and can’t wait to share my impressions with you in future posts. I’m beginning to discover just how varied a  country Spain is and how my trips to Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville only scratched the surface; there are so many different experiences one can have here. I’ll definitely be back to Spain (it’ll be my 8th time visiting the country!) sooner than later.

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Have you ever been to this region of Spain?  Do you make it a point to revisit countries or cities you’ve already been to?  Why or why not?

I was a guest of Minube, but all opinions and mouth-watering pictures of beaches are mine.

 

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Den Nation April 26, 2013 at 7:21 pm

I absolutely loved my time living in Granada as a student; I am so glad that my university sent me there as an Erasmus student.

You should talk more about the food – there is so much to say about tapas, which are free in many places in Granada when you order a drink. I would go back just to eat the food.

I haven’t been back since my time there, and would love to visit again. I would love to visit the Rioja region in Spain as well, as well as the Extremadura region and Santiago de Compostela.

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Tee April 26, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Sierra Nevada…..that place has a special spot in my heart. Hiking there is gorgeous in the summer.

I do visit countries several times over, as there is always something else to discover. I’ve been to France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Norway to name a few several times over, and keep on discovering new things. I always, like to imagine where next I could live, though I must say, for now, I’m pretty content in my spot.

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Sharon April 26, 2013 at 11:56 pm

We spend 6 weeks touring Andalucia and yes its beautiful and we only spend 2 days on the cost. We lived in the villages where hardly anyone spoke English. I must say Granada was out least favourite. Alhambra just seemed like a giant tourist zoo for us. The water that looks marvellous in the picture was dirty and the gardens nothing special.

The best thing was the observation tower at the science museum for my kids. There you could see people skiing Sierra Nevada and the whole of Granada which I thought was ugly compared to the white villages we were used to elsewhere. Andalucia had a special place in my heart. Have you been to Seville? I loved it very much.

I love Spain too but since I discovered the more charming bits I am totally off the beach holidays. I have been looking for a cheap sun break just for me and hubby and Tenerifie, Costa etc come up but I just can’t stomach going there. I prefer Turkey for that as you can still find some less developed beach areas and guaranteed sunshine but we were only there last year for 2 weeks

I am struggling of where the two of us should go in May minus the kids but I will probably end like you visiting same old favourites.

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Sharon April 27, 2013 at 12:02 am

By the way your post has made me really want to revisit Andalucia with husband alone. When I went for 6 weeks it was just me and the kids. He is superfit and likes to be moving so we could spend time hiking, touring the villages and then maybe have 2 days near the end by the beach. Arghhh that seem like a great idea!

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Rubella April 27, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Wow! I had no idea Spain was such a diverse place, makes me want to visit even more and take my time doing so. Beach and skiing in the same day, the life! Great photos!
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Clare April 29, 2013 at 4:44 pm

I fell in love with Andalucia when my sister worked for a year in Jerez de la Frontera. It was unbelievably gorgeous. She also took me to Cadiz, Seville and Chipiona, where the most unspoilt beach I’ve ever seen in Spain was. We talk about returning to the region all the time – there are lovely places to revisit and clearly many new ones to discover. Thanks for a post that’s brought back memories and brightened up my Monday!
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LadyLittlefoot May 2, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Spain is so and I am sad that I will be leaving before I even scratched the surface. But it gives me a reason to come back so much to do, see & eat.

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Marty Chamberlain May 6, 2013 at 11:46 am

Nice article :) I could not agree more

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Marty Chamberlain May 6, 2013 at 11:48 am

I posted before I was ready sorry.. I am a fellow Canadian living in beautiful Salobreña which you mention in this article. When I arrived, it was for 2 days, that was 13 years ago.. it was love at first sight!
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TammyOnTheMove May 10, 2013 at 3:13 am

Looks wonderful. I actually don’t tend to go back to places I have been to for the simple reason that there are just so many places I still want to see and I’d feel like I am missing out. The only exception is Italy. When I was still living in the UK my hubby and I used to visit a different part of Italy once a year. I never get tired of the food, the historic sights and the people. Now that I am living in Cambodia though I try and make an effort to discover more new countries. Maybe when I am old and wrinkly I might go back to those places I visited before to explore areas that I haven’t visited first time round. :-)
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Oneika May 14, 2013 at 2:13 pm

I hear you, Tammy! I love Italy and it’s a place I could also go to again and again. I love that sense of familiarity that comes with having travelled to a place multiple times.

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Mike June 4, 2013 at 8:34 pm

I’ve been to Spain twice and will be returning a third time in about 3 months. I’ll actually be living and teaching English in Almuñécar! I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the city. At first I wanted to live in a big city, but now am really looking forward to the smaller coastal town!
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