Southern Córdoba Province
The rolling countryside south of Córdoba is almost entirely covered in olive trees and grapevines, yielding some of Spain's finest olive oils and the unique, sherrylike Montilla-Moriles wines. Back in the 13th to 15th centuries this region straddled the Islamic-Christian frontier, hence the many towns and villages that cluster around large castles.
There are two Mojácars: old Mojácar Pueblo, a jumble of white cube houses daubed over a hilltop 2km inland and dating back to at least Moorish times, and young Mojácar Playa, a low-rise modern resort spread out 7km along a broad sandy beach. As recently as the 1960s, the pueblo (village) was decaying and almost abandoned.
Parque Natural Sierras Subbéticas
This 320-sq-km park in the southeast of the province encompasses a set of craggy, emerald-green limestone hills pocked with caves, springs and streams, with some charmingly appealing old villages and small towns set round its periphery. It makes for some lovely exploring among valleys, canyons and high peaks (the highest is 1570m La Tiñosa).
Perched on a low hill 35km east of Seville, overlooking a hazy vega (valley) that sizzles in the summer heat, and dotted with ancient palaces and majestic monuments, Carmona comes as a surprise highlight of western Andalucía. This strategic site was important as long ago as Carthaginian times.
Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema
The rugged pillar-like peaks of the Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema rise abruptly from the plains northeast of Cádiz, revealing sheer gorges, rare firs, wild orchids and the province's highest summits against a beautifully green backdrop. This is the wettest part of Spain – stand aside Galicia and Cantabria, Grazalema village logs an average 2000mm annually.
Granada’s cliff-lined, 80km-long coast has a hint of Italy’s Amalfi about it, although it is definitively Spanish when you get down to the nitty-gritty – Moorish relics, old-school tapas joints and some damn fine churros. Its warm climate – there’s no real winter to speak of – lends it the name Costa Tropical.
Torremolinos & Benalmádena
Torremolinos was developed in the 1950s and, while many of the not-so-modern blocks are Stalin-era in their grimness, there remain attractive quarters, such as the La Carihuela. Torremolinos has been known as the Costa del Sol’s gay capital since its first gay bar opened in 1962. The highest concentration of gay bars and clubs lies just west of Plaza La Nogalera in the centre.
The capital of Huelva province is a modern, unpretentious industrial port set between the Odiel and Tinto estuaries. Despite its unpromising approaches and slightly grimy feel, central Huelva is a lively enough place, and the city's people – called choqueros because of their supposed preference for the locally abundant chocos (cuttlefish) – are noted for their warmth.
Arcos de la Frontera
Everything you've ever dreamed a pueblo blanco (white town) to be miraculously materialises in Arcos de la Frontera (33km east of Jerez): a thrilling strategic clifftop location, a soporific old town full of winding streets and mystery, a swanky parador, and a volatile frontier history. The odd tour bus and foreign-owned guesthouse do little to dampen the drama.
Antequera is a fascinating town, both architecturally and historically, yet it has somehow avoided being on the coach-tour circuit – which only adds to its charms. The three major influences in the region, Roman, Moorish and Spanish, have left the town with a rich tapestry of architectural gems.