From Flamenco to fried fish, all kinds of wonderful things come to mind when you think of Andalusia, but there’s also the typical crowded beach holidays. More and more, we’re all thinking about how to do things differently. We want to enjoy the great outdoors, challenge ourselves a bit, taste everything and meet local people we’d otherwise miss sunning on beaches with folks from home.
Our suggestion? Pull on a pair of hiking boots to see and experience the real deal. On Hiking Southern Spain: Authentic Andalusia the walks are moderate (with a slight challenge or two) which helps work up an appetite for wine and small bites along the way. It’s truly an adventure for all of your senses — so let’s tuck into some of the highlights:
Cool down in a cave hotel
From the start in Granada, get whisked away to rural Benalúa de Guadix for two nights in a cave hotel. (We said it’s going to be different.) Located high in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Cuevas la Granja is a chance to inhabit the region’s underground culture, literally speaking. You’ll also visit a cave museum to learn how original dwellers dug into clay hillsides to shield from hot summer sun and chilly nights. Very cool indeed!
Saunter over rugged sierras
Feel the burn and feast your eyes on three different hikes (with an optional fourth!) through scenic mountain panoramas. In the Marquesado del Zenete leg, you’ll wind through Sierra Nevada’s northern foothills to take in a 15th-century castle and unique canals built by the Moors. On another day, you’ll loop through the rocky crags, cool streams and pine forests of Sierra de Huetor Natural Park. With all that fancy footwork, you’ll want well-worn hiking boots on your feet and light layers on your body. It does get colder than you’d think at elevation but every trek is circular so you only need a daypack for essential gear.
Learn more about the Moors
Everyone knows about Alhambra palace (worth a visit if you have time before or after in Granada) but Moorish culture is everywhere you look in Andalusia. This tribe of North African Muslims ruled parts of Southern Spain for 800 years until the late 15th century. They built castles and dramatic fortresses as well as irrigation systems that are still in use today. Their influence is also seen in the pueblos blancos, charming whitewashed villages like Canillas de Albaida that dot the hillsides.
Opt to go for a gorge walk
Just to set the scene, you’re chilling in a villa in Canillas de Albaida (say that 3 times fast), a tiny town of 800 people that call themselves Canilleros. It’s a labyrinth of narrow streets and whitewashed houses and you’ve got a full free day ahead. Do you opt to take on the Caminito del Rey, go on a shorter hike to nearby Salares or just stay put because oh em gee this place is awesome? Before you answer, it’s worth noting that one is Andalusia’s most impressive gorge with hanging bridges and walkways carved into the 100m high rock walls. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it is an option.
Wind down with mountain wine
With all those hills and dales, you’re definitely going to work up a thirst. It’s important to stay hydrated and put that reusable water bottle to use. But let’s be real, one of the greatest things to drink in Andalusia is the wine. On yet another hike, you’ll tackle the marble-rich Sierra de Almijara which includes a gentle uphill to the Puerto Blanquillo pass at 1,260m and ends in the quaint mountain village of Competa. There, all of your effort is rewarded (as if the Mediterranean sea view isn’t enough) with a vineyard tasting of locally-produced wines. Salud!
Know before you go
• Andalusia is best visited from late March to June and September to October to avoid the hot summer temperatures and cooler winter weather. Especially important for hiking!
• While the walks are moderate and rated a 3 out of 5 on our physical scale, these 4-6 hour hikes are not a good choice if you’ve got bad knees or injuries.
• If you want to see the famous Alhambra or other sites in Granada, book nights before or after to explore the city at leisure.
• Ending near the beaches on the Costa del Sol makes a strong case for adding nights to just lay in the sand and rest your feeties.
• Want to keep walking? Try our popular Walk the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. It’s not built as a combo trip but easy enough to pull together.
Ready to take a few good mountain walks paired with informal wine tastings? G Adventures gets you there on our Hiking Southern Spain: Authentic Andalusia tour and other far-from-ordinary active adventures in classic European destinations.