Travel

Andalusia: What to prioritize, and how to have a fabulous trip on a budget

Cadiz (photo by Sarah Nagaty)

As an Egyptian, I grew up with magical images of Andalusian palaces and the captivating poetry of the Iberian Peninsula of that time. Back in school, Arabic classes always involved something about the history and literature of that place and period. Naturally, Andalusia became the number one destination on my bucket list.

I wanted to see this world where East physically and spiritually meets West.

Cost

This is not a cheap trip if you don’t plan everything ahead.

It is true that Andalusia is relatively cheaper than other Spanish regions. But, like any trip with several stops in different towns, everything can add up, especially when done with trains. (Don’t believe those who tell you that you must drive to see Andalusia!)

Our itinerary involved four Andalusian destinations: Seville, Cordoba, Cadiz, and of course Granada! I believe that these are the real must-see destinations in Andalusia. We needed a week for all four of them and it didn’t feel hectic at all given how small some of them are.

The whole Andalusia trip, everything included, cost us together 1,500 euros (for my husband and me).

Seville

It was easy to get a cheap flight to Seville from Lisbon. Most European cities have direct flights to Seville. Seville has the most expensive accommodation out of these towns, but, again, when planned in advance, you are likely to find amazing deals on Airbnb.

We stayed close to the center and walked everywhere instead of taking buses. We also always found a few flamenco performances in the street which were a real treat.

Cordoba

The cheapest way to visit different Andalusian towns is to stay in Seville and go on day trips from there. It is definitely less expensive and easier to book an Airbnb for a few nights in a row than for one night.

It took us 45 minutes to get from Seville to Cordoba. We couldn’t get enough of Cordoba’s historic city center with its narrow, winding streets and rich history. It is pretty small, but one thing keeps unfolding into another, especially the more patios you discover. (Check out Cordovan patios.)

Of course, most of our visit was dedicated to the Mosque Cathedral of Cordoba which, as the name indicates, is half mosque, half cathedral. It is an architectural masterpiece with so much history connected to it.

Photo by Sarah Nagaty

Cadiz

For those whose holidays don’t count without being close to the coast, like me, Cadiz is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. It is only 90 minutes from Seville.

The beach stretches across the city with several bars and restaurants along the coastline. You will often see locals swimming or playing different beach sports after school hours there, which adds a cozy vibe.

Fresh tuna fish is a must-try.

Granada at sunset (photy by Sarah Nagaty)

Granada

Many travelers seem to end their trip to Andalusia before getting to Granada due to its remote location. However, I would say that if there is one place to visit in Andalusia, it has to be Granada.

It is the locus of the Andalusian spirit where centuries of civilization and culture blend in a unique way that is only particular to Granada. It feels like a place from a movie, or something sliced off ancient times.

We spent three nights there and we wish we could have stayed for longer.

The obvious must-see is the Palace of Alhambra, which dates back to the 11th century and is one of the most famous monuments of Islamic architecture. As with accommodation, tickets to the palace have to be bought online with enough time in advance as there is a maximum number of visitors allowed per day.

More generally, Granada is known for breathtaking shades of sunset. A great thing to do is to grab your own drink and watch the sunset from one of the high viewpoints of Granada.

Food

For food, we did what locals do. Have you heard of that Spanish tradition of serving free food (tapas) with every drink you order? Well, it is real in Granada (but not everywhere else in Spain, so don’t get your hopes up in the other cities).

We ordered food on the first night. Obviously, no one felt the need to serve us free tapas. However, I realized that those who didn’t order any food, always got something to eat with each drink. So, this is what we did for the following two evenings in Granada.

With each drink, we received a plate of something: fried squid, Russian salad, sausages and other things I can’t even remember. Two amazing bars which always offered generous portions were Bar Los Diamantes and Bodegas Castañeda. Make sure to remind them of your free tapas if you don’t get it automatically.

Together, these four historic cities, each representing their own little piece of Andalusia, form the rich cultural tapestry of a region like nowhere else on earth.

Their shared but diverse multicultural history makes for an exceptional tour of Southern Spain.

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Read more about Spain here in Dispatches’ archives.

See more from Sarah here.

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Sarah Nagaty has a PhD in cultural studies, She’s lived in Portugal for six years.

As a student of cultural studies, Sarah is drawn to what connects people from different backgrounds to new cultures and places, how they relate to their new surroundings and what kind of activities they could engage with in their new hometowns.

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