Jerez de la Frontera
Stand down all other claimants. Jerez, as most savvy Spain-o-philes know, is Andalucía. It just doesn’t broadcast the fact in the way that Seville and Granada do. As a result, few people plan their trip around a visit here, preferring instead to jump-cut to the glories of the Giralda and the Alhambra. If only they knew.
Perched on an inland plateau riven by the 100m fissure of El Tajo gorge, Ronda is Málaga province’s most spectacular town. It has a superbly dramatic location, and owes its name (‘surrounded’ by mountains), to the encircling Serranía de Ronda. Established in the 9th century BC, Ronda is also one of Spain’s oldest towns.
Úbeda (oo-be-dah) is a slightly different proposition to its little sister Baeza. Aside from the splendour of its architecture, the town has good tapas bars and restaurants, interesting antique shops and is home to some of the finest pottery workshops in Spain. The city became a Castilian bulwark on the inexorable Christian march south.
Costa de Almería
The coast east of Almería in eastern Andalucía is perhaps the last section of Spain’s Mediterranean coast where you can have a beach to yourself. This is Spain’s sunniest region – even in late March it can be warm enough to strip off and take in the rays. For information, visit Almería City’s tourist office (95 027 43 55; Parque Nicolás Salmerón).
Just northwest of Seville you’ll find the Roman ruins of Itálica, at Santiponce. To the east, the flat and fertile farmlands of La Campiña stretch into the fiery distance, a land of huge agricultural estates belonging to a few landowners, dotted with scattered towns and villages.
Sierra Nevada & Las Alpujarras
Granada’s dramatic alpine backdrop is the Sierra Nevada range, which extends about 75km from west to east and into Almería province. Its wild snow-capped peaks include the highest point in mainland Spain, while the lower reaches of the range, known as Las Alpujarras (sometimes just La Alpujarra), are dotted with tiny scenic villages.
If the Jaén region is known for anything (apart from olives), it’s the twin towns of Baeza (ba-eh-thah) and Úbeda, two shining examples of Renaissance beauty. Smaller Baeza makes a good day trip from Úbeda, some 9km away. It has a richness of architecture that defies the notion that there is little of architectural interest in Andalucía apart from Moorish buildings.
There are two Mojácars: old Mojácar Pueblo, a multilevel wedding cake melting down the cliff, with its jumble of white cube houses 2km inland. Then there is Mojácar Playa, a typical modern resort along a broad beach. As recently as the 1960s, the pueblo (village) was decaying and almost abandoned.