Free People Escapes: Andalucia

A local’s guide to exploring Andalucia, Spain.

Been eying our FP Escapes ‘The Art of Ritual’ retreat with partner YOGASCAPES? We’re so excited to whisk you away to this magical corner of the Earth. Here to share a little more about our destination today is contributor Victoria Lewis. Take notes, sign up for our FP Escape, and plan to hit up some of these spots while in Andalucia!

Spend a few days traveling around Spain and you’re almost certain to encounter wildly varied landscapes, from stunning white sand beaches to towering mountains. This is part of the truly enchanting magic of the country. And nowhere is that more strikingly evident than in Andalucia, the region at Spain’s southernmost tip.

Picture pretty whitewashed towns perched atop cliffs overlooking the sea and sunbaked olive groves that swiftly give way to dense alpine forests and cooler climes. And then of course, the area is also home to some of the country’s most stunning – and beloved – cities, from historic Seville and Granada (where you’ll find the must-see Alhambra Palace) to the glam beach resort of Malaga and windsurfer’s paradise of Tarifa.

So where to even begin exploring this extraordinary area? A local guide helps.

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In 1978, British interior designer Charlotte Scott decamped to a remote corner of Andalucia in the Sierra Morena Mountains. A decade or so later, she opened a laidback dream of a hotel and called it Trasierra. She built a family there and never looked back. Fast forward to the present and it’s become a family affair, with Scott’s son George heading up many of the day-to-day operations of the charming countryside estate.

Of course, having spent his whole life in the area, George Scott also knows a thing or two about exploring Andalucia. Here, he shares his tips for a locals-approved, very cool trip around the region.

1. Take your journey to the gorgeous Sierra Morena Mountains

Do: Take a guided foraging tour, where you’ll collect locally cultivated, seasonal ingredients and then use your finds to concoct inventive dishes in a cooking class. If the kitchen isn’t your domain, get outside and go horseback riding, hiking or biking or even try your hand at painting (picnics optional, but highly encouraged). And if you prefer to just do less, head to a nearby farmhouse where locals will cook a meal for you and serve you incredible Spanish wines. At night, cuddle up for some stargazing.

Eat: For delicious locally sourced vegetable dishes and a lovely dessert menu, try slow food restaurant Cortijo Vistalegre in the local village of Cazalla de la Sierra. A bit further afield, you’ll find the utterly unassuming El Perdoso in Taberna el Cruce, a simple gem of a place with traditional food and excellent wine.

Stay: At Trasierra, of course!

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2. Drive south to Ronda via Córdoba.

Do: In Córdoba, the typical tourist sites (like the mosque/cathedral) really are worth visiting. Less frequently seen and equally fascinating is the historic synagogue.

On the way to Ronda, stop off in Priego de Córdoba, a beautiful white washed village in the heart of a natural park called Subbética. Buy a few bottles of their famous, award-winning extra virgin olive oil.

Eat:  While in Cordoba, make sure to have a meal at the sprawling century-old Bodegas Campos. The tapas-style restaurant serves delicious food all day long and is a local institution.

Stay: Spend a night or two at the charming, four-room Finca Naranja, just fifteen minutes outside the city walls.

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3. Visit Ronda and its surrounding countryside.

Do: Walking around Ronda, an ancient town perched on a cliff, is a must. It’s a spectacularly lovely place to explore. Afterwards, drive up into the mountains behind the town and take a long walk around tiny Montejaque. The views are otherworldly. You can also visit the Roman ruins of Acinipo, and stroll to the amphitheater at the top of the hill.  On the way back, stop by Setenil de las Bodegas to wander around and peep the unique cliff dwellings.

Eat: In Ronda, eat at a little restaurant called Almocabar. They’ve got amazing salads (a rarity in Spain), super fresh seafood and delicious desserts.

Stay: Finca Naranja will happily house you for another night.

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4. Head towards the coast to the chilled-out wind and kitesurfer’s paradise of Tarifa.

Do: From Ronda, drive down the coast but towards Algeciras, not Marbella. En route, you’ll see the famous white washed villages. Stop for a few pictures and then head on to Tarifa.

If beach time is your thing, try Bolonia or Punta Paloma. Further afield, towards Vejer de la Frontera, El Palmar is a beautiful option as well.

Eat: For lunch, head to casual Otero, near the Roman ruins in Bolonia. For dinner, try Las Rejas, which has the freshest seafood around.

There’s also the cool, modern El Campero in nearby Barbate. The town is famous for tuna fishing, and El Campero is the best place to reap the fruits of their efforts. Eat in the bar area or outside if the weather is good.

And at El Palmar beach, you must eat at chill La Chanca. Get the amazing rice with red prawns called “carabineros.”

Stay: Check in to the well-known and chic Hotel Hurricane. You could spend all day lounging by their palm tree-lined pool overlooking the sea or set out to explore the area. If they’re all booked up, try their sister property Hotel Punta Sur, just down the road.

Towards Vejer de la Frontera you’ll find the lovely Casa la Siesta, a chic 9-room luxury retreat.

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5. Spend a day exploring the pretty seaside town of Cadiz en route back to Seville.

Do: Compared to the other cities in Andalucia, Cadiz is relatively under-the-radar, meaning it has fewer tourists. It’s very charming and one of the best places to visit in the region. Walk up the Torre de Tavira for a bird’s eye view of the town. If you happen to be there on a Saturday, wander the marketplace just off the Plaza de las Flores for a chance to glimpse the region’s bounty of beautiful, fresh produce. Then, head to Playa Victoria to grab a lounge chair and soak up some sun.

Eat: For a more refined menu, head to El Faro for traditional dishes in a white tablecloth setting. If you want something with a bit more local flair, head to the waterfront and ask after La Caleta. It’s a favorite among the fishermen, so you know it’s got the freshest seafood on the market.

Stay: Spend the night in the cool Hotel Argantonio, housed in a renovated 19th century mansion.

If you wanted to cut straight back to Seville from Tarifa, you could also stay at the lovely Hacienda de San Rafael and explore their verdant countryside instead.

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Photos by Jana Kirn

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Comments

  1. I have to say, as a spaniard, that I couldn’t be more dissapointed for one of the things that you say here in this article: salads are a rarity in Spain. If you say that is because you didn’t eat real in good places. In Spain you can eat delicious salads, especially in summer.

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