Andalucia is blessed with a wealth of culture, history, mountain scenery and plenty of sunshine. On this tour we visit Granada, Seville and Cordoba along with spending a couple of nights off the beaten track in a traditional posada in a typical Andalucian village. We include visits to the stunning Alhambra Palace and Cordoba Mezquita, two jewels of Moorish architecture from the golden era of Al-Andalus. Cordoba - Discover the Moorish architecture from the golden era of Al-Andalus at the Mezquita Sierra de Arcena - Walk through the verdant rolling landscape to see the white villages Seville - Explore this characterful city and the stunning UNESCO-Listed Alcazar Palace
Arriving at Malaga Airport today we may take a direct bus from the airport terminal or we may travel the short distance into the city by train to take a bus from the main bus station. Either way the 128 kilometre drive to Granada should take us around two hours, getting us into the famous Andalucian city in the early evening. Located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Granada is a historical gem that is blessed with a stunning fusion of Spanish and Muslim art and architecture including the Alhambra Palace, the Generalife Gardens and the city's grand 16th century cathedral. Our trip begins at the meeting point in Malaga Airport (AGP) at 15.45. If you would like to join the complimentary airport transfer today, the latest your flight can arrive is 15.15. We will travel together as a group by public bus (around two hour drive) to our hotel in Granada. There will be a short briefing on arrival by our trip Leader about the week ahead. If you reach Granada earlier in the day under your own steam, perhaps you might choose to visit the Royal Chapel, go inside the cathedral or visit the San Jeronimo Monastery. For the next two nights, we will be staying at Hostal La Ninfa in the quieter and historic El Realejo neighbourhood. Our hotel is in a characteristic Granada house, which has free Wi-Fi available. Bedrooms are en suite, cosy and simply decorated. They have a safe, television and hairdryer. It's a 10 minute walk from the Alhambra and from the city centre. Just beside the hotel is the Plaza Campo del Principe where you can find a number of good restaurants and bars to perhaps sample tapas and wine in this evening. On this highlights trip we have packed in as many of the sights as we can, but there is very little free time in Granada, so if you wish to discover more on your own then we would recommend extending your stay for a night or two.
One of the highlights of our journey is our visit this morning to Granada's iconic Alhambra Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that overlooks the city. Built in the 13th century by Mohammed Iibn Nasr, the founder of the Nasrid dynasty, the palace is considered one of the finest examples of Moorish architecture outside the Arab world. The fabulous decoration in stucco, both inside and outside the buildings, reveals the purest expression of a sophisticated civilisation just before its decline. You might also choose to spend time in the Generalife, which is one of the most beautiful landscaped gardens in the world, surrounding the summer residence of the Caliphs. We also include an orientation tour of the city this afternoon, taking in some of the city's main points of interest including the Albaicin, Granada's historic and atmospheric old Moorish quarter. According to the availability of Alhambra tickets it may be necessary to move the visiting time around slightly and your Tour Leader will communicate this on tour. Likewise it may not always be possible to arrange the same time slots for all clients. Audioguides are available in the Alhambra for those interested, otherwise the visit is unguided.
After a couple of hours free in the city this morning we take a taxi to the bus station to catch the midday bus on to the city of Cordoba, the once great capital of the Islamic caliphate of al-Andalus. Like Granada, Cordoba hides a wealth of treasures amongst its rambling back streets and this afternoon we have chance to visit its great mosque, the Mezquita-Cathedral. Another of Spain's UNESCO World Heritage Sites, this extraordinary building represents a unique blend of faiths, housing two oratories and a stunning hypostyle hall that contains 856 columns of jasper, onyx, marble and granite. Tonight we will be staying at the Hostal Maestre, which is a small hotel in the historical centre of Cordoba. It's very close to the Plaza del Potro and the Fine Art Museum and only around 5 minutes' walk to the Mezquita. There is free Wi-Fi and most rooms are set around typical Andalucian garden patios. Bedrooms are en suite with air-conditioning and a television.
We have up until about 1.30pm today free to explore Cordoba before travelling by train and bus deep into the countryside of rural Andalucia to the small village of Castano de Robledo, close to the Portuguese border. Our destination lies in the heart of the Sierra Aracena National Park, surrounded by a landscape of cork trees and forests of oak and sweet chestnut. Castano is a captivating collection of narrow cobbled streets and whitewashed houses that exhibit the typical 'serrano' architecture of the area. We will stay in the Posada del Castano guesthouse for the next two nights is within this tiny village. It's owned by our tour leader and is filled with rustic character and rural charm; making it the perfect base for exploring neighbouring countryside on foot. You can relax after a day walking, in its courtyard and garden, on the terrace or in the comfortable upstairs lounge filled with books. All the bedrooms are different and have their own character. Most are en suite but some have shared bathrooms and they don't have televisions.
After breakfast this morning we walk to the picturesque 'pueblo blanco' (white village) of Alajar, famed for the imposing 17th century shrine of Arias Montano that occupies a rocky promontory high above the village. We return to Castano on foot (total walking distance 12 kilometres). This afternoon you may wish to visit the town of Aracena, home to the famous 'Gruta de las Maravillas' (Cave of Wonders), set amidst one of the most spectacular cave systems in the country. If time allows there may be chance to pay a visit to the caves (optional).
Lying to the northwest of Seville, the Sierra de Aracena is a remote western outlier of the extensive Sierra Morena and the quiet, easy paced, way of life here remains definitively Andalucian. The wooded hillsides support a smattering of tiny whitewashed villages, with rural economies still reliant on the production of quality cured hams, chestnuts and cork. We have a chance to enjoy more of this rural idyll today, with a walk to the nearby village of Galaroza, in the beautifully scenic Valley of the Ribera de Jabugo (walking distance is approximately 6.5 kilometres). Later in the afternoon we catch the bus to Seville. Our bags will be transported separately to the bus stop in Galaroza. On arrival in Seville our tour leader will take us on a walk to help us get our bearings, so we know how to get to all the main places that you may like to explore more of tomorrow during your free time. We'll see the Jewish Quarter, Plaza Santa Cruz, Park of the Discoveries and much more. For the next two nights we will be staying at Hostal Sierpes; a small hotel which is a converted old 17th century mansion in the Santa Cruz district of historical Seville. It's only around 150 meters from the cathedral and the Real Alcazar. The hotel has a restaurant serving traditional tapas and Andalucian cuisine. The bedrooms are set around a pretty courtyard filled with wood carvings and traditional ceramics. Rooms are en suite with air-conditioning and they don't have televisions.
The Andalucian capital can trace its ancestry back over two thousand years. It is now home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is one of the three largest Old Towns in Europe (Venice and Genoa being the other two). Today is free for you to perhaps choose to visit the Real Alcazar and the city's immense Gothic Cathedral. The queues for these to attractions can be long, so we'd recommend booking these online before you travel. Please see the optional excursion information on the Trip Notes for further information about this. Alternatively you might want to just take a walk through the city, taking in its beautiful Mudejar architecture (a mixture of Christian and Moorish styles).
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Seville. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Seville at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Seville Airport (SVQ), which is about 30 minutes' drive. On this highlights trip we have packed in as many of the sights as we can, but there is only one free day in Seville and there are many museums that you may like to visit, so if you wish to discover more on your own, then we would recommend extending your stay by a night or two.
7 Break Fast(s)
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