Discover Andalucia and the fascinating history that has influenced this beautiful region. Explore whitewashed villages, taste delicious tapas and see the beguiling Moorish architecture, patios and gardens of Granada, Cordoba and Seville. Cordoba - Discover the Moorish architecture from the golden era of Al-Andalus at the Mezquita Grazalema Natural Park - Hike through dramatic limestone scenery from Puerto del Boyar to Benaocaz Seville - Explore this characterful city and the stunning UNESCO-listed Alcazar Palace
Arrive in Malaga, one of the main port cities in Andalucia. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Malaga at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Málaga-Costa del Sol Airport (AGP), which is around 25 minutes' drive from our hotel. The Tour Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 7pm for a welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. Should you miss the meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up. If your flight arrives earlier in the day there is plenty to see in the attractive downtown of Malaga, much of which is pedestrianised. The Picasso museum is worth a visit, the collection represents his entire life's work and is housed in the 16th-century Buenavista Palace.
After breakfast we'll check out of our hotel and travel (2 hours) to Ronda by train. The historic town of Ronda is often described as one of Spain's most attractive and it is dramatically perched high above El Tajo gorge. The bridge that spans the gorge often features in photos and separates the 15th century new town from its old town with Moorish roots. After checking in to our hotel we will spend the afternoon exploring Ronda on foot before making our way down into the gorge for dramatic views from below. In your free time you may like to visit the Arabic baths or the bull ring. Ronda played a key role in the development of modern bullfighting and it's bullring is Spain's oldest and most beautiful.
Today we explore the rugged and beautiful limestone scenery of the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park on a rewarding hike. We first travel by bus to the pretty mountain village of Grazalema, picturesquely nestled in the foothills of the Sierra del Pinar Mountains and overlooked by Penon Grande peak. Our walking route takes us through holm oak and Spanish fir forests with typical Mediterranean vegetation passing occasional 'cortijos' or traditional ranches. Keep an eye out for griffon vultures as Europe's largest colony nest in the park. We ascend to Puerto Boyar pass before making our way down hill to Benaocaz - another authentic Andalusian white-washed village with Moorish past and Roman origins. After a refreshing drink we travel back to Ronda. The walk is approximately 12 km with about 500 metres ascent and 550 m descent, and will take around five to six hours to complete. If you prefer not to walk you can spend the day at leisure in Ronda.
Leaving Ronda this morning we'll travel by public bus to Seville, arriving in the late morning. The capital of Andalucia is one of Spain's finest and most beautiful cities, built on the wealth of New World trade and plunder. We'll spend the afternoon walking through the city, exploring the former Jewish Quarter, and following winding narrow backstreets leading to Mudejar palaces (a blend of Christian and Moorish styles) and baroque churches culminating in a visit to the Alcazar. The stunning Alcázar Palace, Giralda tower and ramparts remind us of the Almohad dynasty of Moorish rule that ended when the city was reconquered by the Christians in 1248.
Today is free for you to explore Seville at your own pace. You might like to visit the city's impressive Gothic Cathedral, one of the largest in the world. Its bell tower was once the minaret of the Almohad great mosque, so impressive that the Christians incorporated it into their building. They topped it off with a weather vein statue called the Giralda and we recommend a walk up the ramps to the top for superb views over Seville. Other attractions include the General Archive of the Indias, Plaza de San Francisco, Casa Pilatos or Maria Luisa park.
Today we take the train to Cordoba. Standing on the banks of the Guadalquivir river, Córdoba was the first of Spain's three most important Moorish cities and was established in 719AD. It was the most enlightened of the Moorish period with one of Europe's leading universities and libraries of the time. The Romans had also left their mark here, best seen in the vast bridge that still spans the Guadalquivir. The Roman philosopher Seneca (who was compelled to commit suicide by Nero) was born here. Cordoba has a wealth of treasures locked away in its back streets with secluded patios tucked behind delicate iron grills. The 14th century synagogue is one of only two left standing in Spain, with the other in Toledo. This afternoon we visit the renowned Mosque (Mezquita), an extraordinary and unique building (there is the option to hire a local guide). Instead of destroying the original mosque after the Christians conquered Cordoba, the Catholic king decided to build a Cathedral within it. The early massive structure dates back to the 8th century, its roof supported by a forest of 850 coloured columns. Its jewel is the gleaming and superbly decorated Mihrab, which has survived in its original state. This evening there is the chance to take in some traditional flamenco music and dancing.
After a free morning in Cordoba for further exploration we take a public bus to the famous Andalucian city of Granada. The Arabic name 'Al Andalus' was given to the part of Spain under Islamic control for some 800 years. After checking into our hotel we will spend the afternoon walking around the city, discovering the main highlights including the Albaicin, the old Moorish quarter where many Islamic traditions are retained, giving the city its characteristic look of white walls and narrow streets. From the highest point are spectacular views across to the Alhambra and Generalife with the Sierra Nevada as a backdrop. When dusk falls, we suggest a stroll around the old Moorish Quarter to see its illuminated patios.
This morning we have included a guided visit to the remarkable Alhambra Palace and Generalife gardens. In 1239 Muhammad al-Ahmar, founder of the Nasrid dynasty and Sultan of Granada, began work on this, the finest example 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. The Generalife - the summer residence of the Caliphs and surrounding gardens - are considered among the most beautiful landscaped gardens in the world. Tickets to visit the Alhambra are limited, as such we'll keep our time in Granada flexible and organise sightseeing around our Alhambra visit.
This morning is kept free to explore Granada at your own pace. In the afternoon we board a public bus (2 hours) and return to Malaga. Time permitting before our final group dinner you may like to visit the Alcazar Moorish palace or Gibralfaro castle that overlooks Malaga.
Our trip ends this morning after breakfast. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Malaga 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 Málaga-Costa del Sol Airport (AGP), which is around 25 minutes' drive.
9 Break Fast(s)
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