Andalusia region, Spain

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1. Posted by Stevens85susan (Budding Member 8 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Hi guys,

I am looking at the possibility of traveling to the south of Spain, Andalusia region for a 2 week holiday. I have never been and was hoping to get some insight on the best time to go and also if it is easy for a non-spanish speaker to get around. Is the public transport easy to use in the region to get to the next destination?

Ideally I would not want to visit in the summer time as it would be too busy and hot.

Look forward to hear from you :)

Susan

2. Posted by bex76 (Moderator 3932 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Spring or Autumn would be a good time to go - as you said, summer is not ideal and winter can get quite cold in that part of Spain as much of it is at altitude. I went in early March a few years ago; I'd recommend going a bit later than that as it was still quite chilly and extremely wet.

The trains are excellent in the region and it's no problem if you don't speak Spanish. If you are just looking to see the main places, i.e. Granada, Cordoba and Seville, then you can easily get around using the trains. I'm not sure what the public transport is like to the smaller towns and villages though - you may need to hire a car.

Also, don't overlook Malaga - it's a lovely city and worth spending some time there.

It's a fantastic part of Spain - you'll love it.

3. Posted by Sander (Moderator 5294 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

I've visited Andalusia 5 times, I think, each time in winter (ranging from late December to late February), and always loved it. Weather can reportedly be bad that time of the year, but we always lucked out with (mostly) gorgeous sunny days with temps around 20 degrees, which is amazing when for me in the Netherlands I'm used to miserable 0-5 degree days.
One time of the year to absolutely avoid: New Year's. And if you're going to Ronda, then a strong recommendation for late February, when the almond trees are blossoming.

Public transport for getting between the main cities is good (the railways in particular are very good; long distance busses are mostly okay). If you need a human to sell you tickets, you do have a chance of hitting someone who doesn't speak much English, and might struggle a little bit - but even then it's totally doable; worst case just write down the dates/times/cities, and that'll solve everything. In hotels/hostels, everyone should speak English. In restaurants it's about 50-50, though much better in the more touristy restaurants (which we of course tried to avoid).

Outside the connections between main cities, public transport can be limited, so there are definitely regions for which I'd strongly recommend renting a car, for example the Sierra de Grazalema with its "white villages". (Highly recommended as a destination if you like hiking.) Road quality is generally excellent, and traffic light (at least that time of the year), and I know from experience that driving on the other side of the road is something you get used to very swiftly.

I'd rank the places we've visited like this:

  • Sevilla; 4-5 days is good to get an overview. Spend a full day visiting the Alcazar (look up beforehand when it's open; on my first visit I didn't get to see it because it had closed for two days, and this is truly one of the highlights of the region), at least a day wandering aimlessly through the narrow alleys of the Barrio Santa Cruz, do a daytrip to the nearby Roman ruins of Italica (there's frequent busses from the main bus station, a 15 minute walk outside the city center), and spend half a day marvelling at the faded glory of the Plaza de Espana and the other architecture at the Parque de Maria Luisa.
  • Ronda: You can see everything there is to see about this town in a day and a half, but I'd give it a 3 day minimum anyway, just because it's such a nice place (though I imagine it's horrible in high season). Perched on top of high cliffs, with a very picturesque old bridge and the aforementioned almond trees, it's like a town out of a fantasy movie. Some of the best restaurants we visited in all of Spain are to be found here - and that's saying quite a bit. Hike down the cliffs at the edge of town, and you'll find yourself in a quiet rural landscape filled with olive groves. There's also a cave with ancient rock paintings in the region, but transport there can be a challenge if you don't have a car. Nights can be very chilly here in winter, but the days are good as long as the sun is shining.
  • Sierra de Grazalema: If you like hiking, a week is barely enough time. Otherwise a day to visit one or two of the white villages is all you'd be interested in.
  • Granada: Purely on the strength of the Alhambra, otherwise I'd rank it even lower. Was seriously not fond of this city, and wouldn't give it more than a day for the city itself, plus the requisite day for the Alhambra, which of course is the reason to go here. When we visited in January 2011, we could get away with only booking a day in advance (which we could do from any ATM), but I'd do your research to see if that still holds, and probably try to book at least a week in advance.
  • Cadiz: No major attractions, but an absolutely lovely city to explore all the same, worth 2-3 days.
  • Arcos de la Frontera: Another pretty town perched on top of high cliffs. Not quite as nice as Ronda, but very picturesque and worthwhile to explore for a day or two anyway.
  • Malaga: The beaches here are the draw in summer, and so there's loads of unattractive hotels focusing on that - but there's a gorgeous Roman theater, the worthwhile Alcazaba (not nearly in the same league as the Alcazar or the Alhambra, but still good in its own right), and we might've lucked out, but I also remember some really good restaurants. Worth at least 2 days.
  • Tarifa: We only visited for a couple of hours, and had the idea we'd seen everything this town had to offer in that time, but I might be selling it short.

Of course you should take all the recommended times with a large grain of salt; what works for me might not work for you, and I generally recommend lingering in places longer than the "minimum", just to get a better feel for them.

I haven't been to Cordoba yet, but that city is high up on my wishlist.

[ Edit: Edited on 24-Sep-2017, at 01:52 by Sander ]

4. Posted by Sander (Moderator 5294 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Quoting bex76

Spring or Autumn would be a good time to go - as you said, summer is not ideal and winter can get quite cold in that part of Spain as much of it is at altitude. I went in early March a few years ago; I'd recommend going a bit later than that as it was still quite chilly and extremely wet.

I looked up some climate charts on wikipedia; it looks like you were pretty unlucky, as March is the driest month from October-April everywhere in Andalucia, with an average of 5 rainy days (Sevilla, Cordoba, Cadiz, Granada), and even though that's the wettest time of the year, even the rainiest month December doesn't get more than an average of 8 rainy days.

5. Posted by Stevens85susan (Budding Member 8 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Wow guys thanks so much for all of the info. Greatly appreciated! Its always exciting to learn about new places! :)

6. Posted by bex76 (Moderator 3932 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Quoting Sander

Quoting bex76

Spring or Autumn would be a good time to go - as you said, summer is not ideal and winter can get quite cold in that part of Spain as much of it is at altitude. I went in early March a few years ago; I'd recommend going a bit later than that as it was still quite chilly and extremely wet.

I looked up some climate charts on wikipedia; it looks like you were pretty unlucky, as March is the driest month from October-April everywhere in Andalucia, with an average of 5 rainy days (Sevilla, Cordoba, Cadiz, Granada), and even though that's the wettest time of the year, even the rainiest month December doesn't get more than an average of 8 rainy days.

It does seem that I was unlucky Sander - and it was torrential rain most days, not just a shower or 2!

7. Posted by Teoni (Respected Member 613 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

I visited around Autumn and apart from one day of light rain it wasn't too bad. The seaside cities did seem pretty empty though Seville and Granada were very busy. I drove so I can't say about public transport but we did find around Andalusia a lot of people spoke English. In terms of the Alhambra book early is a must otherwise they do set aside a number of tickets to sell on the day, but tourists literally get up at the crack of dawn to purchase these so they may be gone by the time you get there. Night tour tickets for Alhambra, if they still run these, I did notice they never sold out.

8. Posted by Stevens85susan (Budding Member 8 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Thanks for all the info :) is car hire quite cheap? And roads visibly marked with good roadsigns?

9. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5672 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

I visited just last June and the weather was warm to hot but that's part of the charm. 28-33 degrees but very dry heat. As it was my first family trip with the little one further away we did not go to many places but loved Ronda for sure.

We did drive around though and roads and roadsigns are very very good! Also, prices of rental cars are among the lowest on the planet. Be sure to have full insurance though. Driving around and visiting small white villages perched on hills is one of the delights of Andalusia, as there is more to see than just cities. We just drove and parked the car and had lovely mornings or afternoons walking around and eating icecream at small parks or squares with only locals there. Alozaina, Tolox, Casarabonela...and loads more! Lovely!

10. Posted by Stevens85susan (Budding Member 8 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Thank you very much! I must say I have never driven while on holiday especially when it has been to drive on the other side of the road. :)