Insider's Guide: Andalucia


For this week's Insider Guide,
Ted Wake, director of sales and marketing at short-break specialist Kirker Holidays (kirkerholidays .com), offers his top tips for a holiday in Andalucia.

1. Travel to Seville in the autumn or spring – in summer, the city's simply too hot. Seville is the ideal starting point for a visit to Andalucia, with intriguing architecture, such as the gold-encrusted Alcazar Palace and the third largest church in Christendom. Art lovers should head to the Fine Arts Museum, with its superb collection of works by Spanish artists.

2. Sense a shiver down your spine as you pass Seville's old tobacco factory? It's an evocative reminder that this is the site that inspired Bizet's much-loved opera, Carmen.

3. Take a specialist guided tour and sample sherry from any one of the many sherry houses in Jerez, where you can choose from a selection of extra dry, medium or sweet fortified wines. Make time, too, for a visit to the impressive Royal Andalucian School of Equestrian Art.

4. One of Spain's most synonymous symbols, flamenco, originates from Andalucia. Eschew displays aimed at the tourist hordes and head instead to the authentic dance spots frequented by Andalucians, such as Seville's El Arenal.

5. Fiestas are very much a part of Spanish life and never more so than in Andalucia. All towns and villages celebrate several times a year and the result is a colourful and charming spectacle. Seville's Feria is one of the most unmissable (24-29 April 2012).

6. Huelva province, in the north of Andalucia, is the place to enjoy one of Spain's greatest delicacies, the exquisitely-cured jabugo ham. Head into the mountains for picturesque views and a delicious lunch savouring delicacies created from organically raised pata negra pigs.

7. No visit to Andalucia would be complete without tapas. Try some of the seasonal specials, such as esparragos en tosta and percebes – delicious goose barnacles from the cliffs of northern Spain, shipped south to satisfy Andalucian gastronomic urges. In Seville, spend an evening snacking along Calle Betis, stopping at each bar for a drinks and tapas.

8. Cordoba's must-see Mezquita stands at the heart of the city. This glorious mosque is so immense there's room for a Baroque Christian cathedral inside – surely one of the world's most bizarre architectural combinations.

9. High on the list of Andalucian must-sees has to be the Alhambra Palace in Granada. Avoid school holidays and arrive early (timed tickets must be purchased in advance) to enjoy the palace and its spectacular grounds at their most serene. Sundowners or dinner at the nearby village of Albaicin offer an unforgettable view of the Alhambra as its colours change.

10. Andalucia is a vast and geographically diverse corner of Spain that's best explored at leisure and by car. Plan to return and aim not to do too much each time you visit. A truly successful Andalucian holiday will be one where you set off from A with the aim of reaching B, but have the most memorable experiences exploring an unspoilt village or stopping to admire the views.

To get further information about holidays to Spain and to other destinations, visit the website of Aito (Association of Independent Tour Operators) at aito.com.

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