• Leslie

10 Day Andalucia Itinerary: the Best of Sunny Southern Spain

Updated: Feb 22


the colorful Plaza de Espana in Seville


It's here, finally, the perfect 10 day itinerary for Andalucia in southern Spain. I've procrastinated writing it. Itineraries can be so personal, can't they? Some people like culture and history. Others want to relax on a beach with an appropriately chilled beverage. Some like a perfect mixture.


But I loved every stop on my solo trip to sunny Andalucia. Full disclosure, it was February, so beach lounging was out of the question.


Nonetheless, I had an amazing trip. And I'm ready to hand over what I thought was a smashing 10 day itinerary for southern Spain -- a well-balanced blend of must see hotspots, hidden gems, tiny whitewashed villages, and natural wonders.



a little corner of beautiful Seville


Tips For Traveling in Andalucia


I flew into beautiful Seville and worked my way east, flying out of Granada. But you could just as easily reverse the direction and start in Granada. Starting in Seville meant that I didn't need a car the first few days.


By far the best way to see Andalucia is by car. That way, you're not limited by bus or train schedules and you can stop wherever you want. A car is the gift of freedom.


To be safe, you should have an International Driving Permit, just in case you're pulled over. And rent the smallest car possible. Medieval streets, parking garages, and on street parking can sometimes be a challenge.



Palacio de San Telmo, a government building in Seville Spain


The highways in Andalucia are extremely good. Just be sure to park on the outskirts of any small towns you're visiting, so you're not stuck in a labyrinthian maze of tiny medieval streets. Google maps worked well for me. I'm directionally challenged and only got lost a tiny bit in Granada.



Best Bases for Visiting Andalucia


I had three bases: Seville (4 nights), Ronda (2 nights), and Granada (4 nights). I really dislike moving every day. From those bases, I blitzed around seeing adorable white pueblos, dazzling palaces, Game of Thrones sites, and the natural wonders of Andalucia.



hanging out in the Royal Alcazar gardens, a Dornish garden of eden


I skipped Malaga. It's hard to do everything in 10 days. And it was far less appealing to me -- big city, lots of expats, and a cruise ship stop. No thanks. Though I would have liked to see the Picasso Museum there.


I stayed or stopped in 10 places: Seville, Cordoba, Osuna, Grazalema, Ronda, Antequera, Granada, Nerja, Frigiliana, and Guadix. I spent the most time in sunny Sevilla, which was sunny even in February.


Here’s what I did on my 10 day road trip in Andalucia, a jaunt I like to think of as a geographical cure.



a beautiful tiled bench in the Royal Alcazar Gardens that I wanted to take home and put in my back yard


How To Spend 10 Days in Andalucia: the Perfect Road Trip in Southern Spain


Day 1: Seville's Main Attractions


Seville was my base in Andalucia for 4 nights. I stayed right in the heart of old Seville on Calle Alcaicería de la Loza near the Plaza de la Alfafa. It was an adorable Air bnb. My only slight niggle is that is was rather loud at night. Even in winter, the Sevillanos live on the streets and party well into the wee hours.


Seville is amazing. It's a seductive mix of Mudéjar palaces, ornate baroque churches, colorful tiles, and winding cobblestone lanes. There's a romance to it. I fell in love immediately.


To be fair, I think there are ways that Seville can be a PITA. I list them here. But on the whole, it was glorious.



view of Seville from the Giralda bell tower

ceiling in the Ambassador's Hall of the Royal Alcazar


My first day in sunny Seville, I headed to the city’s historic center to take in Seville Cathedral, a massive Gothic affair, and the incredible Royal Alcazar. Be sure to climb up the Giralda bell tower for spectacular views. The entrance is in a corner of the cathedral.


The Royal Alcazar is the best site in Seville. It's a breathtaking 10th century palace that King Pedro gave a 14th century Mudéjar facelift. Inside, the highlights are the Hall of the Ambassadors, the Courtyard of the Maidens, the Courtyard of the Dolls, and the Hall of Tapestries in the Gothic Palace.



Courtyard of the Dolls in the Royal Alcazar

the baths of Maria de Padilla in the Royal Alcazar


Outside, there's a series of verdant lush gardens. Don't miss the Baths of Maria De Padilla, King Pedro's mistress. The baths are one of the Alcazar's Game of Thrones filming locations, a place where the Sand Snakes plot.


I advise purchasing tickets online in advance. Even in February, I had a half hour wait. The Alcazar was my very favorite place in all of Andalucia. Here's my complete guide to the palace.


Later, I spent the early evening checking out the Plaza de España. The plaza is one of the famous architectural landmarks in Seville. It stands out in a city already overflowing with beautiful architecture.



the dramatic Plaza de Espagna in Seville

checking out the Plaza de Espana on my first day in Seville


It was built for the Ibero-American World Fair of 1929, where Spanish speaking countries enjoyed a year long mutual admiration festival. The park's highlight is the Spanish Pavilion, the sweeping half circle structure with rose gold brick buildings.



Summary of Day 1 Sites: Seville Cathedral, the Royal Alcazar, and Plaza de España



Day 2: More of Seville's Must See Sites


Having seen some of the most popular sites, I dug a little deeper on day 2. I started with the charming Triana neighborhood.


Cross the Puente de Isabel II bridge over the Guadalquivir River, and you'll land in the colorful Triana neighborhood. It's a small soulful village and the old gypsy quarter of Seville. What was once considered the "wrong side" of the river, is now the fun and funky part of town. And it is THE place to buy ceramics.



Metropol Parasol in Seville

view of Seville from Metropol Parasol


I visited Metropol Parasol next. The ultramodern Metropol Parasol was built between 2005-11 by German architect Jürgen Mayer to revitalize the run down Encarnacion Square. It's called "the Mushrooms" due to its quirky waffle-like shape, inspired by the vaults of the Seville Cathedral.


I spent the late afternoon amidst the orange trees and tapas bars in Barrio Santa Cruz. Barrio Santa Cruz was once Seville's old Jewish quarter.


It's a popular district within the city -- a mass of tangled cobbled streets with tiny palazzos and tile covered patios. Some streets are so impossibly narrow, they're called "kissing lanes." I especially liked Plaza Dona Elvira.


I went on a Devour Seville "Tapas,Taverns & History" tour that evening. I honestly wasn't that thrilled with it for the price, despite its 5 star reviews. I liked most of the tapas and the history nuggets, but hated the drinks. The Sevillanos adore very sweet drinks, including something called "orange wine." Shudder.



Plaza Dona Elvira in Seville's Barrio Santa Cruz


Summary of Day 2 Sites: Metropol Parasol, Triana neighborhood, the Santa Cruz neighborhood, and a Devour Seville Tapas Tour



Day 3: Round Up of Seville Must See Attractions


My last day in Seville, art fiend that I am, I spent the morning at the the Museo de Bellas Artes, or Museum of Fine Arts. It's a smashing museum, quite lovely. It's known, after the Madrid's Prado Museum, as the "second art gallery in Spain." It's housed in a lovely salmon colored former convent.


Then, I visited the Casa de Pilatos and Palace of the Palace of the Countess Of Lebrija. Both of these are hidden gems in Seville and much less crowded. They’re beautiful Neo-Mudejar mansions overflowing with mosaics, beautiful tile, and sculptures. Casa de Pilastos also has an enchanting garden.



courtyard of the Casa de Pilatos

a grotto in the Casa de Pilatos gardens

me enjoying the tile panels in the Casa de Pilatos


That evening, I wandered north to see the Basilica de la Macarena and the "weeping virgin" in the north end of Seville. The wandered along the river to the Torre del Oro, which btw seems eminently skippable.



Summary of Day 3 sites: Museum of Fine Arts, Casa de Pilatos, Palace of the Countes of Lebrija, Basilica de la Macarena



the Roman Bridge, with the Mezquita as a backdrop, in Cordoba


Day 4: Day Trip to Cordoba


I took the train to Cordoba for the day. I loved Cordoba. It's a natural film set, it's so beautiful.


Cordoba has an authentic Spanish vibe with fewer tourists than Seville. The town definitely deserves more than one day. Still, I saw quite a bit in the 9 hours I was there.


I started with Cordoba's #1 site, the Mezquita, the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. Dating from the 10th century, it's a UNESCO site and one of the world's most well- preserved Islamic buildings.


In the 16th century, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella converted it into a cathedral, calling it the Cathedral of Our Lady of Assumption. I expected the combination to be discordant and perplexing. But I found the place fascinating, a snapshot of the sophisticated dual culture that once existed.



the Mezquita, Cordoba's stunning mosque-cathedral


You walk in from a courtyard of orange trees through the Porta de las Palmas. You're immediately in a forest of candy cane horseshoe arches. A highlight is the Mihrab, or high altar in a mosque.


The Renaissance cathedral is built right in the center, sharing marble and space with the Islamic arches. The vaulted ceilings are stunning. Be sure to go up the bell tower for spectacular views of the city.



forest of arches inside the Mezquita

In this photo, you can see the mosque and cathedral commingling


But there's much more to Cordoba than the Mezquita. Just downhill from the Mezquita is the Guadalquivir River. Cross the stunning Roman Bridge, both a UNESCO site and Game of Thrones filming location.


Stroll around the narrow streets of the charming old Jewish Quarter. Skip the Instagram popular Calleja de las Flores, or just stroll by. It's overrated and crammed with tourists. There are beautiful flowers and patios everywhere in Cordoba.


Go into the Jewish synagogue, say hello to the statue of Maimonides. Visit the beautiful Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos. This Alcazar can't hold a candle to Seville's Royal Alcazar, but I thought it was still worth a visit.



Calle de Flores in the old Jewish Quarter of Cordoba

pretty patio in Cordoba

the entrance to El Rincon de Carmen, a restaurant in Cordoba's Jewish Quarter


I had a late lunch in the courtyard of an adorable cafe in the Jewish Quarter, El Rincon de Carmen, which I would definitely recommend.



Summary of Day 4 sites in Cordoba: The Mezquita, the Roman Bridge, the Jewish Quarter, and the Alcazar.



Day 5: Drive To Ronda with Stops at Osuna and Grazalema


The next day, I picked up my AutoEurope rental car and drove to Ronda for bridge porn. On the way, I stopped in the charming white pueblos of Osuna and Grazalema, getting into Ronda rather late.



town of Osuna seen from the Collegiate Church


Osuna surprised me. I visited the town for its dashing bullring, which is one of Andalusia's Game of Thrones filming locations.


But Osuna itself was beyond adorable, a charming white pueblo village with a rich architectural and cultural heritage. There's row upon row of white stucco homes and streets dotted with orange trees. Osuna's a vertitable art gallery, with all its Renaissance and Baroque churches.


UNESCO lists Osuna's main drag, the Call San Pedro, as the second most beautiful street in Europe. Osuna was declared a Historic-Artistic site in 1967.



the main drag in Osuna Spain, deserted on a February day

me enjoying the views over Osuna on a quiet Sunday in February


Next up was Grazalema. It's a pretty mountain village of Roma origin. It's completely different than Osuna, more wild.


It lays in the valley of Sierra de Grazalema, splashed with whitewashed homes and surrounded by olive trees. I was there in February, so there was even a sprinkling of snow. I paused in the main square, the Plaza de España, which is lined with bars and restaurants, for a late lunch.


Depending on time, you can also visit Zahara de la Sierra, right next door to Grazalema. Like Grazalema, it's streets are white, immaculate, and fairly deserted. You can climb to the Tower of Tribute for views.



Grazalema Spain in the Sierra Nevada Mountains

pretty white pueblos in Zahara de la Sierra


Summary of Day 5: stops in Osuna and Grazalema en route to Ronda



Day 6: Ronda: Hemingway's "Romantic Background"


Only 40 minutes from Grazalema, Ronda is vastly more popular. It's the third most visited town in Andalusia. And there's a a reason -- it's dramatic. Ronda is perched on a mountainous gash carved by the Río Guadalevín.


Ronda is synonymous with its dramatic 18th century bridge, the Puente Nuevo. The bridge connects the two parts of the town over the 328 feet El Tajo gorge. Hike to the bottom of the gorge for great views.


Aside from the bridge, Ronda is pretty adorable -- plenty of cozy town squares, cobblestone alleys, terraces everywhere, and lovely architecture. You can visit the Mondragón Palace, the Arabic Baths, and the Bullring (Spain's oldest one) if you're feeling ambitious.


I made this a lazy, laid back day, after a fairly hectic schedule. I like to have a more relaxed day halfway through a road trip. Ronda fit the bill perfectly.



whitewashed homes in Ronda

view of the Puente Nuevo in Ronda


Summary of Day 6 sites in Ronda: Puente Nuevo, El Tajo Gorge, Mondragón Palace, the Arabic Baths, and the Bullring



Day 7: Drive from Ronda to Granada, Stopping at Antequera


On day 7, I made my way to Granada. On the way, I stopped in the white pueblo town of Antequera. Like Osuna, Antequera surprised me.


I came to inspect the UNESCO dolmens, a fairly new site just listed in 2016. But I absolutely fell in love with the town, known as the "Florence of Andalusia." And, unlike Ronda, I had the place mostly to myself. Antequera is really a must visit destination in Andalucia.


Antequera boasts ancient UNESCO megaliths, an impressive Moorish fortress, a lovely Renaissance church, and a stunning medieval and baroque historical core. You'll have an eyeful of swoonful scenery.



Calle Don Infante in Antequera, leading down to the Plaza San Sebastián and its central fountain

the Torre de Papabellotas, the bell tower of the Antequera Alcazaba


With so much to do, I pulled into Granada rather late, checked into my AirBnb, bought some groceries, and chilled.



Summary of Day 7 sites: the Antequera UNESCO dolmens, Antequera's church, the Municipal Museum and the Alcazaba



Day 8: Granada: The Alhambra and Barrio Sacramonte


I had pre-purchased tickets well in advance for the Alhambra, Spain’s most visited site and the world's last great Moorish fortress. So I began there in the morning. I've written a very thorough guide for visiting Spain's #1 tourist attraction.



view of Granada from the Alcazaba in the Alhambra complex


The Alhambra sits on a stunning piece of real estate – a high, mountainous location on Sabika Hill with sweeping views over Granada and the surrounding countryside. In the Moorish tradition, it's decorated with water: "standing still, cascading, masking secret conversations, and drip-dropping playfully."


Alhambra became a UNESCO site in 1984. It's a deeply affecting place. It's so beautiful and enchanting, it's difficult to process. Or to unglue your camera from your face.



the mighty Alhambra in Granada, the last great Moorish fortress


Once I’d drooled over the Nasrid Palace and relived history in the Alcazaba, it was time to explore Granada itself. I didn’t know I would love Granada before I arrived — a common theme of my Andalusia trip apparently. But Granada unexpectedly swept me away with its authentic Spanish vibe and dazzling attractions.


Lorded over by the Sierra Nevada Mountains, it’s an absolutely beautiful ancient city with historic architecture, including a massive Gothic cathedral. It boasts many atmospheric neighborhoods, each with an earthy distinct character.



the Sacramonte Barrio in Granada Spain


That night, I took a walking tour to the otherworldly Sacramonte neighborhood.


Sacramonte feels disconnected from the city. Yet, it sports one of the most mesmerizing views of the Alhambra. For centuries, Sacramonte was the home of gypsies, bohemians, artists, and foreign refuges. And they still live in the rustic caves.



Summary of Day 8 Sites: The Alhambra, old city center of Granada, and the Sacramonte neighborhood of Granada



view of Nerja and the Mediterranean from the Balcony of Europe


Day 9: Nerja and Frigiliana


The next day, I craved some ocean air. I drove south toward the Costa del Sol with Nerja and Frigiliana on my agenda. I had an early start because I also wanted to visit the Nerja Caves.


Nerja is a lovely town on the Costa del Sol. The heart of Nerja is its beautiful Balcón de Europa, a palm-lined promontory built on the foundations of an old fort. The balcony juts out like a natural pier and offers panoramic views of the cobalt blue sea and honey colored coast.


Just 15 minutes from Nerja by car is Frigiliana. It might be the most beautiful village in all of Spain.


In Frigiliana, everything is beautiful in a way that it almost never is. Frigiliana is a spotless, secluded, perfectly coifed cliff town dressed in blue and white with flowing orange and purple vines and potted blood red geraniums. Just dreamy.



the Balcony of Europe in Nerja Spain

the cliff town of Frigiliana in Andalusia


And after visiting numerous moorish fortresses, cathedrals and other “must see” Andalusian sights, I was incredibly relieved that there was almost nothing to do in Frigiliana. I was ready to just sink in the Moorish beauty and Spanish countryside. Oh, and meander into ceramic shops, purchasing some lovely items to bring home.



Summary of Day 9 Sites: Nerja, the Nerja Caves, and Frigiliana



me in front of Guadix Cathedral


Day 10: Day Trip to Guadix & Granada's Albaicín Neighborhood


The next day I took a short half day trip to the unique cathedral town of Guadix, a very off the beaten path destination in Andalucia, only 45 minutes from Granada. I went mostly to see the house caves or “cuevas.” Guadix’s inhabitants live in caves, with whitewashed chimneys set against the mountains.



the town of Guadix Spain

cave houses in Guadix Spain


Back in Granada later, I spent the late afternoon and evening wandering in the old Arab neighborhood of the Albaicín, or Albayzín. Built on a steep hill, it’s an ancient area with tight tangled winding streets and a bohemian feel. It's probably my favorite area in Granada.


The Albaicín was declared a UNESCO site in 1984. Amidst a jasmine scented breeze, you’ll find restaurants, cafes, tapas bars, and even street performers. And lanes that are so narrow they're called "kissing lanes."



street in the Albaicín neighborhood of Granada


Summary of Day 10 Sites: Guadix and the Albaicín neighborhood of Granada



So that’s how I spent a fairly hectic, but amazing, 10 days in Andalusia, seeing some of the best historic sites in Spain.


If you liked my itinerary for southern Spain, pin it for later.









0 views