There are lots of great restaurants serving delicious and reasonably priced food, and a wide selection of busy bars which stay open until late at night. Tourists flock in droves daily to see the nearby caves, but after an hour or two of sightseeing it’s often just back onto the bus to Era.
It’s the perfect location if you’d like to escape the crowds by day but still be a short distance away each time you want to enjoy an evening out. Moreover, the rocky coastline provides daredevils with the chance to fling themselves off the cliff edges (the water is very deep) as the spectators look on in disbelief.
Interesting fact: Much of Cab ode Data has been used in Hollywood blockbuster films in the past, such as Consul beach, a secluded seaside with a large, distinctive, half-submerged chunk of volcanic rock in its shallow waters. It was here that the plane chase in Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade was filmed, during which Sean Connery manages to scare away a flock of seagulls by wafting air at them with his umbrella from at least 50ft away, causing a Nazi pilot in pursuit to nosedive into the cliff.
This town offers the classic Brits-on-the-costa experience; bars showing live football matches, fish and chips, and busy nightlife, including a buzzing gay scene. Cab ode Data National Park in Almeria has some truly stunning, though little-known, beaches, gloriously pristine and mercifully undeveloped.
Situated in front of the center of fishing town Coil de la Frontera, this beach is broad and flat, with a vase expanse of sand at low tide, and lagoons, as the sea recedes far out. If you've ever dreamed of riding a horse along the sand, splashing gently in the waves as they lap the shore, this is the place to fulfil your fantasy (though only in low season I'm afraid).
With its curious mishmash of Moorish majesty and Roman relics, rustic Spanish charm and indelibly beautiful back country, where mountains tower above gushing rivers and canyons carve through the ground, it’s hardly surprising that Andalusia remains one of the most visited regions in Iberia. Threading its way beautifully along a dusty sandstone ridge above the verdant riparian lands of the Guadalupe Valley, the town of Marcos de la Frontera is something like Andalusia’s answer to Greece’s Santorini.
Its houses and church spires glimmer bright white beneath the sun, while the organic brown tones of the city’s Castillo are what crown the hilltop. Marcos was an 11th-century Moorish stronghold captured by the Christians in 1250 and formed one of the focal points of defense along the medieval frontier lines between the caliphates and crusaders (hence the suffix, ‘DE la Frontera’).
Set amidst a sea of olive plantations, swaying barley fields and clusters of pretty poplars and pines, beneath the rising ridges of the Sierra Nevada (tipped with drifts of snow throughout the winter), Alabama de Granada is a town primed for the postcard shot. The center is perched on the edge of a sheer gorge, which adds a dash of natural drama to the sleepy cobblestone squares and folksy tapas joints touting tortillas and Fine wines.
A long-time favorite of day-trippers out of the sun-kissed beach resorts that cluster around Malaga and Marbella, Midas offers a hit of traditional pueblos Blanco (white towns) charm without the need to delve too deeply into the heart of the Andalusian back country. A dash of dazzling white across the verdant ridges of the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park, Gain has been the source of inspiration for poets, painters and artists since it was first discovered by mainstream travelers sometime in the middle of the 19th century.
That bucolic character still oozes indelibly today, between the sleepy squares and hidden restaurants, through the sylvan swaths of cork plantations and chestnut trees, in every detail of the vistas that roll out on all sides, from the wild Cordillera Sabbatical in the north to the outline of Gibraltar far in the south. Cascading elegantly down the southern edges of the Sierras de Tejeda some 30 miles east of Malaga, Era juts its way out above the scintillating shore waters of the Mediterranean Sea in a blast of shimmering, perfect white.
Touched by the shaping hands of Roman, Moor, Christian and modern-day seaside tourism, the town now juxtaposes crumbling aqueducts with chic condominiums and Mudéjar architecture with the bubbling mix of coffee shops, seafood restaurants and sunbathing spots that coalesces on the Balcony of Europe promenade. Small, sleepy and compact, the center is a bucolic conglomeration of rough brick pueblo cottages and lonely, leaning church spires, encompassed by alluring groves of chestnut trees and oaks and the occasional Mediterranean pine.
All around, hiking trails wind their way further into the hills, the snowy tips of the Sierra Nevada loom and the creak of farmers’ wagons mingles with the occasional click of footsteps moving between the adobe homes. The town itself is a postcard-perfect image of a traditional whitewashed Andalusian settlement, finished off with dashes of terracotta red, crisscrossed by swaying washing lines and dotted with the occasional sun-kissed plaza where al fresco tapas joints spill out onto the corners in a medley of super-fresh olives and regional broths.
It’s hailed as one of the most breathtaking pueblos Blanco in the region, boasting a dramatic perch on the side of a mountain amidst the rugged foothills of the Sierra del Jamal, awash with winding cobblestone streets and dotted with enchanting sites like the pretty, painted Santa Maria DE la Mesa Church and the whitewashed Torre del Below, oozing at every corner with Andalucian-come-Moorish charm, a remnant of the Muslim rulers who dominated these lands until the early 13th century. Nestled in its very own mountain enclave at the heart of its eponymous natural park, the little town of Azalea is one of the few urban spots to grace the wild interior of the Sierra del Ending.
Famed for its natural setting and startlingly white veneer, this one is encompassed by swaths of impossibly green Spanish firs and oodles of untouched meadows which bloom into kaleidoscopic life with the coming of spring. The true essence of Spain is here, along the intricate cobbled lanes of a blindingly whitewashed village, in a majestic cathedral that soars into the blue, inside a buzzing neighborhood tapas bar where a bunch of proud, red-blooded locals watch a football game.
Whether it’s a masterpiece of Islamic architecture, a breathtaking nature scene, or a ravishing coastal town overflowing with old-world charm, there’s no better way to capture the romance and drama of Southern Spain than by visiting these beautiful places in Andalusia. Nestled in the foothills of the Sierras de Tejeda, just above Era, its distinctively Mudéjar historic center is all cobblestone steps, steep sinuous lanes, and carefully preserved whitewashed houses draped with geraniums and bougainvillea.
Plastered with vibrantly colored amulets and encircled by a 500-meter canal, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more remarkable city square than Seville’s monumental Plaza de España on the edge of Maria Luisa Park. Built on the site of an ancient Roman temple and with a Renaissance Christian cathedral at its heart, it is a symbol of harmony and coexistence between different cultures, religions, and civilizations that have left their mark on the South of Spain.
Locally known as Cisco Antigua, this whitewashed warren of shops, restaurants, and small flower-filled balconies is a blissfully atmospheric place to while away the afternoon chatting over a tornado or just people watching in the central Plaza de los Navajos (Orange Square). Spanning 280 square kilometers of arid ridges, dry river beds, and bizarre rock formations, the protected national park feels more American Wild West than Andalusia.
The ritzy marina and entertainment complex is just a short drive from Marbella city center along Costa del Sol, and resembles a traditional Andalusian village, with narrow, winding streets and whitewashed houses shimmering against the splendid backdrop of Sierra Blanca. Walking or biking along its well-marked trails is an exhilarating experience as the scenery changes dramatically, from deep, luxuriant river valleys to peaceful mountain meadows, magnificent waterfalls, and crumbling hilltop castles.
Located in the province of Jaén, the park is also a UNESCO biosphere reserve, encompassing some of the richest and most exceptional flora in the Mediterranean, including the nation’s largest continuous area of pine forest. The area is brimming with characterful tapas bars, craft shops, and flamenco venues, and the orange trees lining its myriad of pretty squares spread a lovely sweet fragrance through the streets.
Barrio de Santa Cruz is worth a visit for its intrinsic charm alone, but this seductive neighborhood is also home to some of the city’s most extraordinary monuments, including the Cathedral, the Archive of the Indies, and the spellbinding Alcázar. Roughen whitewashed houses and elegantly crumbling aristocratic palaces dazzle in the bright, intense light of Cádiz, while the sound of flamenco floods its cheerful medieval lanes and colorful plazas.
History emanates from almost every corner of its characterful neighborhoods; brilliant museums shelter splendid marble Phoenician sarcophagi; and the idyllic sandy beaches fringing the shoreline invite hours of lounging and playing in the languorous Andalusian sun. Typical architectural features such as small water fountains and brightly colored ceramic decorations add to the spectacular fairytale-like atmosphere, and so does the sweet scent of orange and jasmine permeating the air, or the romantic rhythms of flamenco playing in the background.
Shhh I am letting you in on my personal Top 10 favorite beaches along the Andalusian coastline, starting from east to west. This short selection takes you to where the Costa de la Luz starts.
There are dozens of beaches on that stretch of coast that also deserve a mention, but I'll save them for another day. Play El Playact sits almost midway along the coast in Cab ode Data, not far from the village of Las Negros.
The picture perfect beach, has featured in Hollywood blockbusters, commercials and several local films. Moving along from the desert landscapes of Almeria and heading westwards towards the beautiful Grenadine coastline and the Costa Tropical.
The desert starts to give way to mango groves, avocado plantations and citrus fruits. Nestled between the Sierra Nevada mountains on one side and the warm Mediterranean on the other, the resulting tropical microclimate is very pronounced.
Every little bay and hidden cove is a world away from your cliché Costa del Sol beach. Falling under natural park status, access is restricted during the summer months.
A courtesy shuttle bus is offered on a couple of the larger and more popular beaches. Playa de Cantarriján is often heralded as being the best nudist beach on the coast, it is certainly the area’s most picturesque.
The beach bar/restaurant also offers a kicking night-life scene, with concerts and themed parties. It's very hard to pick the best, but Play El Manuel is definitely high on our list.
The perfect family beach, with crystal clear waters, numerous coves and underwater formations to explore while snorkeling and some great hiking (such as the walk to neighboring Cantabrigian). Las Calls del Piano could be roughly translated as the corner of the pines.
It's another one of those spots you really need to know to find and one that 99.9% of all people just drive past without ever realizing the beauty that sits right beneath them. La Call de Maro was just voted as Spain’s second best beach by Antenna 3 viewers.
The year-long poll pulled in many thousands of votes and has placed Mary firmly on the map. La Call de Maro's lesser known and more beautiful little sister.
If feeling energetic you can easily swim to the larger La Call de Maro. Going a lot further west and towards the more popular holiday destinations of Midas, Fuengirola and Marbella.