hidden Andalusia Spain Arcos de la Frontera white-washed

Unusual Andalusia – Hidden Treasures and Local Pleasures in Southern Spain

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The challenge when visiting Andalusia is often shortlisting what to see and do. About 7m people visit the region every year and most of those will be visiting the Alhambra, Mezquita, Alcazar & Giralda – the stunning monuments and among the top attractions in Spain. Although we adore these monuments, these busy sights aren’t always what make a holiday really special. Our clients most-treasured memories take place at the lesser known monuments. And so, based on our experience of designing itineraries for almost 15 years, we bring you our suggestions for unusual Andalusia… 

To get you in the mood, this video gives you a great sense of what Andalusia looks like…

And now it’s time to explore Totally Spain‘s 14 destinations in Unusual Andalusia:-

Museo Palacio de la Condesa de Lebrija in Seville

We have yet to hear a negative comment about this wonderful palace which rarely graces the must-see lists for the city. You’ll adore the stunning patios or courtyards, elaborate staircases, beautiful tiles and intricate mosaic floors. Make sure you take the guided tour of the private family rooms. You won’t be disappointed.

hidden Andalusia Spain Seville Lebrija

Inside the Museum or Casa de la Condesa Lebrija you’ll find wonderful intricate detail such as the Azulejo tiles. photo credit: Silvain de Munck via photopin cc

2 Calle Sierpes in Seville

Something we all enjoy when we travel in Spain is discovering the small independent stores. In Seville, be sure to head to Calle Sierpes where you can enjoy some charming traditional shops and shop fronts on this centrally-located pedestrian street. Keep an eye out for the hat shop from 1896 and quite a few shops selling fans – which will come in handy in Seville. Buy one and you’ll probably use it!

hidden Andalusia Spain Seville Sierpes

Calle Sierpes – a great place to walk back in time. photo credit: mksfca via photopin cc

Camara Oscura/Perdigones Tower in Seville

This is something we highly recommend. Consider it as a great add-on to a sightseeing tour as you really get a great overview of the city. Worth doing at the beginning or in the middle of your stay so you can investigate the sights that most interest you later by foot. The tower from the 1890s is nice as well. You’ll find the camara at the top. If the day is wet or foggy (an unusual occurrence in Andalusia), don’t go – you won’t have any visibility.

Hidden Andalusia Spain Seville Camara oscura Perdigones

While the Perdigones tower is stunning, it’s what you can see from the top that we think is really amazing! photo credit: Carlos Cesar Alvarez via photopin cc

Hospital of Santa Caridad Convent Chapel In Seville

There are many reasons why we like this space. The building is a working hospital so there’s lots of activity but not that of your average crowded museum. It was founded in 1674 and you can visit its baroque chapel and enjoy some stunning art work by Sevillian painters such as Murillo and Valdes Leal. But we especially recommend it because it’s exactly what you don’t expect from a hospital.

hidden Andalusia Spain Seville Santa Caridad hospital Valdes Leal

Inside the working hospital you’ll find works such as Finis Gloriae Mundi by Valdes Leal from 1672. Look closer and you’ll see how macabre it is! photo credit: remaud_joel via photopin cc

5 Seville by Bike. Yes, really!

Sometimes you need to get a different perspective to enjoy a city. Did you know that Seville is Europe’s 4th bike friendly city (after Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Utrecht) and has been called the “poster child of the modern bicycle planning movement”.

There is a very successful city bike scheme and a number of private companies also offer bike hire and cycling tours of the city. We can’t think of a better way to see the city and support the great progress made by the authorities.

hidden Andalusia Spain Seville by bike

A great bike-lane system and public and private bike rental schemes makes it easier and safer to cycle around Seville. photo credit: webwontok via photopin cc

6 Paco de Lucia

The well-known guitar maestro from Algeciras, Paco de Lucia, died in February 2014. His passing has been mourned all over the world. If you don’t already have his music on your player, now is the time to purchase it. And we guarantee you won’t find a better soundtrack to listen to as you travel around Andalusia. Why not start with his final album called Cancion Andaluzas?

hidden Andalusia Spain Seville flamenco Paco de lucia bienal

If you want a soundtrack for your trip to Andalusia, it has to be Paco de Lucia – who will be remembered at the Flamenco Bienal this September in Seville. photo credit: montuno via photopin cc

7 Quiet Beaches in Andalusia?

The coastline in the south is very beautiful and, although it seems an impossibility with so many visitors to the region, it’s still easy to find quiet beaches in Andalusia especially out of season. We recommend the beaches of Huelva on the Costa de la Luz when we are looking for just that. We love Isla Cristina for its sandy and soft beaches that are popular with Spaniards seeking the sun and a break from the city but the beaches in general along the lesser visited Costa de la Luz are terrific. Expect simple restaurants with great local ingredients and you’re probably better off packing a picnic for the beach.

hidden Andalusia Spain Huelva beach

One of the many quiet beaches on the Costa de la Luz in Huelva, Andalusia. photo credit: pericoterrades via photopin cc

8 Andalusian Oil – Looks as good as it tastes in Ubeda

You cannot visit Andalusia without tasting its great olive oils. We are always singing the praises of Ubeda and its hinterland. You won’t regret it. Stunning UNESCO World heritage architecture, a centre for traditional ceramic production and producer of top quality olive oil. Have it for breakfast (really!), lunch and dinner and buy some to take home. There are plenty of places to stop over – the parador is one we recommend. Visit the Archaelogical Museum & Mudejar House and the Pottery Museum which sells ceramics from local artisans whose workshops you can visit too.


hidden Andalusia Spain Olive groves Ubeda

Image of the olive groves from the UNESCO-listed city of Ubeda in Jaen. photo credit: trebol_a via photopin cc

9 Villadompardo’s Baths  – the largest in Spain

If you are in Ubeda, you should take the short trip to the Palace of the Counts of Villadompardo, in the nearby city of Jaen. We wrote about it in our 14 Hidden Spanish Gems for 2014 and can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a beautiful renaissance style building from the 16th century. However the Arabic baths within the palace, date back to the 11th century. They are the largest surviving in Spain. Really special visit and off-the-beaten-path too.

hidden Andalusia Spain baths Villadompardo

Villadompardo – the largest baths in Spain. photo credit: Remo- via photopin cc

10 The Courtyard ‘Museum’ of Cordoba 

Everybody who goes to Cordoba visits the Mezquita – with good reason – it’s utterly unique. But make sure to leave some time to visit another singular space  – the beautiful courtyards and gardens of the Palace of Viana. It’s known as the Museum of Courtyards – as it has 12!  A must-see for gardeners and a great way to experience the pride of Cordoba – its courtyards – out of festival time. See our post on patios for more information on these special spaces.

hidden Andalusia Spain courtyard Cordoba

The Pillar Courtyard at the Viana Palace in Cordoba. photo credit: Chris Juden via photopin cc

11 White-washed Andalusian charm in Arcos de la Frontera

One of our favourite white-washed towns is Arcos de la Frontera. It’s a fortified town up high on a ridge located between Ronda and Jerez. As you can imagine it has seen quite a few battles. You’ll enjoy a day here and can use it as a starting point to explore more of the white-washed villages. There are plenty of ceramic stores to explore and a castle, churches, palaces and convents to visit. As always, the parador is a good place to stop and have a drink. It’s a busy place at fiestas – during Easter week and for its Feria de San Miguel at the end of September when its horse and human population soars.

hidden Andalusia Spain Arcos de la Frontera white-washed

You’ll need your sunglasses in this dazzling white town. photo credit: Rosino via photopin cc

12 The Many Many Museums of Malaga

Seville, Granada & Cordoba are the big three in Andalusia but we encourage you to consider the city of Malaga when looking at the map. Especially if you are flying into its airport. It’s home to a number of world-class art museums including the CAC Malaga, the Thyssen Museum of Malaga, the Centre Pompidou Malaga, the Russian State Museum in Malaga and of course the Picasso Museum and his birthplace is also a museum. It’s not officially ‘art’ but Malaga’s classic car museum which we wrote about here is also great visit. If you like the Easter processions – which are huge here, you should try visit when they are on. If not, visit the museums run by the cofradias. And the Interactive Music Museum is a good one for young members of the family.  Also for foodies, there is a very interesting gastronomic scene starting to emerge here as Malaga looks to put itself on the food map as the Basque Country and Catalonia have done in recent years.  Be sure to ask us about it.

hidden Andalusia Spain Malaga museums

Picasso’s balcony. You can spend an entire week visiting museums in Malaga. photo credit: Two Steps Behind via photopin cc

13 Cave houses in Guadix

And just in case you thought you had seen everything, you shouldn’t miss out on the chance to see the cave houses near GranadaGuadix has the highest concentration of this unusual dwelling  – thanks to the composition of the soft rock in the area – and it is possible to visit and stay in the caves in this area. You’ll also see the Cave Museum which explains how the houses were made and what they were used for. A fascinating visit and one to keep the kids happy for sure.

hidden Andalusia Spain cave houses Guadix

The cave houses in Guadix. They’re tricky to photograph because they’re sort of hidden. photo credit: Joanjo Aguar Matoses via photopin cc

14 Carriages with Views in Andalusia – but not the horse-drawn ones…

There are some great train journeys to be taken in Andalusia – and the views are amazing. It’s not for every budget but if you want to see the big sites – in a different way – it’s hard to beat the Tren Al Andalus that takes in Cadiz, Jerez, Seville, Cordoba, Ubeda, Baeza, Granada and Ronda. Once you board the train, you don’t have to think. Meals, excursions, tours – its all organised for you – you just have to sit back and enjoy Andalusia.

hidden Andalusia Spain train journeys

Train journeys in Andalusia – where the views are always stunning. photo credit: Cris Valencia via photopin cc

If you’d like to read more about Totally Spain’s Andalusia, click here.

Tempted to arrange an Insider tour of Andalusia?
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