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In Andalusia (Spanish: Andalucía) you can lie on a Mediterranean beach, ski on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada, or visit Europe's only desert, the Tabernas Desert. It is a geographically diverse region in the deep south of Spain, the country's second largest region and, with a population of 8 million, its most populous region.
Three of Spain's most famous attractions beckon travellers: the Alhambra in Granada, the Mezquita in Córdoba, and the city of Seville (Sevilla in Spanish). Other than those three attractions, there are also the beaches of the Costa del Sol, the Costa Tropical and the Costa de la Luz.
Andalusia has a surface area of 87,597 square kilometres, 17.3% of the territory of Spain. Andalusia alone is comparable in extent and in the variety of its terrain to any of several of the smaller European countries. Andalusia is in the south of the Iberian peninsula, in southwestern Europe, immediately south of the autonomous communities of Extremadura and Castilla-La Mancha; west of the autonomous community of Murcia and the Mediterranean Sea; east of Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean; and north of the Mediterranean Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar. Andalusia is the only European region with both Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines. The small British overseas territory of Gibraltar shares a three-quarter-mile land border with the Andalusian province of Cádiz at the eastern end of the Strait of Gibraltar.
Andalusia itself is an autonomous community within Spain, and is divided into 8 provinces:
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Málaga is the capital of the "Costa del Sol", a city very hospitable and full of happiness but also one of the most touristic places of Spain. Known because of its beautiful and extensive beaches, the espetos of sardines, the white wine, the cathedral, Picasso museum Picasso and fort. It has a warm climate all year round and is also the birthplace of the artist Picasso.
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The Alhambra is without doubt the most important tourist attraction in Granada, if not in Spain. It is a complex of buildings and gardens, consisting of an Alcazar and several Moorish and Catholic palaces.
The Cathedral in Seville is the biggest cathedral in Spain and the third largest Christian cathedral on Earth. It was built in the 15th and 16th centuries on the site of a Moorish mosque. Of this mosque only the tower called La Giralda survived. This tower once was the highest building in the world, and is special because it doesn't have any stairs to climb, instead you can climb to the top of the tower on 34 ramps, which made it possible to get to the top riding a horse. From the top of the tower you have a nice overview over the city.
Doñana National Park is a natural reserve in the provinces of Huelva and Seville. It covers 543 km2, of which 135 km2 are a protected area. The park is an area of marshes, shallow streams, and sand dunes in Las Marismas, the delta where the Guadalquivir River flows into the Atlantic Ocean. It was established as a nature reserve in 1969 when the World Wildlife Fund joined with the Spanish government and purchased a section of marshes to protect it. The eco-system has been under constant threat by the draining of the marshes, the use of river water to boost agricultural production by irrigating land along the coast, water pollution by upriver mining, and the expansion of tourist facilities.
The Mezquita, which means mosque in Spanish, is a present day Roman Catholic Cathedral located in the city. It originally was a Roman temple and over a thousand columns in the current church made of jasper, onyx and marble mostly belonged to the original Roman temple and several other Roman building in the area. A new church was built on the foundation of the temple in 600 AD by the Visigoths. But when Moorish forces occupied the city in 711 they started to turn it into a mosque. When the Christians took it back in 1236, they re-consecrating it very quickly back into a church.
Next to the Cathedral of Sevilla, on the other side of the Plaza de Triunfo lies the Real Alcázar (Royal Castle). Inside you will find a palace that was built in the typical Mudajar style. The Palace was built in the 14th century, but there are also older parts, as it was built on the site of a Moorish palace. Highlights are the Patio del Léon (Lions courtyard) at the entrance of the building, the Palacio de Pedro I and the Patio de las Doncellas, the Patio de la Monteria, and the beautiful gardens.
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The Tabernas Desert is probably the best example of a rea desert in Europe. It is located in the southeast of Spain, in the province of Almeria. The Tabernas Desert is situated between the Sierra de los Filabres to the north and the Sierra de Alhamilla to the south and southeast. It is a protected wilderness area with fantastic desert landscapes and as a desert is receives just less of the maximum of 250 mm a year in an area known as Levante. It is isolated from the humid winds of the Mediterranean Sea. On top of that, evaporation is much higher than that, especially during the long and hot summers when months without a single drop of rain and 12 hours of sunshine a day occur. This is when temperatures can exceed 40 °C in the shade (if you can find any!). Because of its splended desert wilderness, it was the location of many Spaghetti westerns and an Indian Jones movie as well. Some of the sets are now in use as theme parks, with names as Oasys, Fort Bravo and Western Leone.
The Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Seville is the most important religious event of the city, and one of the best known in the country. Although Seville is by far not the only city to stage the Semana Santa in this way, it is the most famous one. Semana Santa is the week leading up to Easter. From Palm Sunday, until Easter Sunday, there are daily processions through the city, which are organised by several brotherhoods. On Good Friday there are two processions; one in the evening, and one in the early morning, which is the most visited one of the whole week. The number of brotherhoods that participate in a procession varies. Along with the procession, wooden sculptures of individual scenes of the events of the Passion, or images of the Virgin Mary are carried, and have an important place in the procession. The most famous of the sculptures is the statue of Maria from the Macarena Basalica, which is carried around in the early procession on Good Friday. The processions lead to the Cathedral.
In general, it experiences a hot summer Mediterranean climate, with dry summers influenced by the Azores High, but subject to occasional torrential rains and extremely hot temperatures. In the winter, the tropical anticyclones move south, allowing cold polar fronts to penetrate the region. Still, within Andalusia there is considerable climatic variety. From the extensive coastal plains one may pass to the valley of the Guadalquivir, barely above sea level, then to the highest altitudes in the Iberian peninsula in the peaks of the Sierra Nevada.
Andalusia is home to the driest place in continental Europe, the Cabo de Gata, with only 117 millimetres of rain per year, but areas in the mountains can see up to 4,000mm in record years. Though usually it is also relatively dry over there. In general, as one goes from west to east, away from the Atlantic, there is less precipitation. "Wet Andalusia" includes most of the highest points in the region, above all the Sierra de Grazalema but also the Serranía de Ronda in western Málaga. The valley of the Guadalquivir has moderate rainfall. The Tabernas Desert in Almería, Europe's only true desert, has less than 75 days with any measurable precipitation, and some particular places in the desert have as few as 50 such days. Much of "dry Andalusia" has more than 300 "sunny" days a year.
The average temperature in Andalusia throughout the year is over 16 °C. Averages in the cities range from 15.1 °C in Baeza to 19.1 °C in Almería. Much of the Guadalquivir valley and the Mediterranean coast has an average of about 18 °C. The coldest month is January when Granada at the foot of the Sierra Nevada experiences an average temperature of 6.4 °C. The hottest are July and August, with an average temperature of 28.5 °C for Andalusia as a whole. Córdoba is the hottest provincial capital, followed by Seville. Sierra Nevada Natural Park has Iberia's lowest average annual temperature, (3.9 °C at Pradollano) and its peaks remain snowy for most of the year.
Andalusia has a number of airports. They can be found in Seville, Jerez de la Frontera, Málaga, Granada and Almeria. From all these airport there are domestic flights to Madrid and or Barcelona. The bigger airports (like Malaga Airport), also have direct flights from/to other European destinations. Seville Airport (San Pablo Airport, interational code SVQ)) has pretty good connections to destinations outside of Spain. Iberia, Ryanair, Air Berlin and Vueling are among the airlines that operate from Seville airport. Also Gibraltar and Faro in Portagal have airports, though with much less connections (Gibraltar) or longer transfer distances (Faro).
The main road routes into Andalusia are:
If you want to experience more than just the main cities or coast, renting a car gives you maximum flexibility. There are dozens of options and prices are low. Make sure you have full Insurance. Roads are good.
Bus services around Andalusia are provided by Alsina Graells and DAMAS.
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