August 19, 2015 at 4:23 PM
When you think about Spain you will think of some of the main areas like Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona, the Canary Islands or Andalusia.
Andalusia is generally one of the favourite areas of Spain for Britons, however only a few take the time to head away from the beaches to visit the countryside. We therefore decided to seize this opportunity to take you with us on a journey where cultures, languages and identities were shaped by a multitude of influences.
This journey will let you circumnavigate this beautiful region of Spain, where cultures blend in an incredible melting pot. We suggest you start your trip from Cordoba.
Located roughly 250 miles south of Madrid, Cordoba has been the Capital city of the Islamic Emirate and then Caliphate, but its history started in Prehistoric times. The first human traces being those of Neanderthals dating between 42,000 and 35,000 BC. In the 8th century BC rose a civilisation named Kingdom of Tartessos which seems to have built a pre-urban settlement; however the expansion of the Carthaginians placed the settlement under their rule, General Hamilcar Barca (father of Hannibal) renamed it Kartuba (the city of Juba). Córdoba was then conquered in 206 BC by the Romans, in 169 BC a Latin colony was founded alongside the pre-existing Iberian settlement, the colony stayed under Roman rule until the fall of Rome and was then transferred to the Byzantine Empire. By the late 6th century it fell under the rule of the Visigoths until 711 when it was captured by a Muslim Army it then became a provincial capital subordinated to the Umayyad Caliphate which capital was Damascus. That later occupation saw the development of a large number of mosques, palaces and hygiene with other 300 public baths. Córdoba was recaptured roughly 5 centuries after the taking by the Muslims in 1236, the city kept its standards through the Renaissance times, following which it started to decline until the beginning of the 20th century. The new rise of the region is principally due to three main economical drivers: tourism, jewellery and agriculture. Here are some landmarks you cannot afford to miss:
- The “Mezquita-Catedral” of Cordoba (mosque turned into a cathedral)
- The “Alcazar de los Reyes Catolicos” (Arabic palace saved by the Catholic kings because of its beauty)
- The “Medina Azahara” (Old Arabic compound)
- The “Patio de los narajos”
Most likely you will need the whole day and maybe a bit of the next one, however we suggest that you park at your motorhome at the Camping Municipal El Brillante and try to eat a Flamenquin. Once you have finished exploring the city we suggest you take the A-4/E-5 to Seville, the journey should take roughly 1.5 hours.
According to the mythology Seville was founded by Hercules the Demi-god. The reality shows that it was founded about 2,200 years ago. Romans called it Hispalis and you can still observe the remnants of an aqueduct and a temple as well as the columns of La Alameda de Hercules. Following the withdrawal of Rome different people conquered the city such as; the Vandals, the Suebi and the Visigoths but in 712 the Moors conquered the city,they stayed until 1248. These 4 centuries of occupation have led to the deep transformation of the city’s architecture and led to the creation of a unique architectural style called Mudejar mixing Christian and Muslim architectural elements. After the conquest of Seville by King Ferdinand III of Castille and Leon the city continued to develop reaching its peak during the 15th century with the construction of its cathedral. The Moors’ Palace was replaced by Pedro I with the Alcazar; the upper level is still used by the Royal Family as the official Seville residence. In 1391, massive attacks took place against the Jews of the city leading to bloodshed and forced conversions as well as Auto-da-fe (acts of faith).
The city entered its golden age between the 15th and 16th century following the discovery of the New World as all goods imported from there had to pass through the Casa de Contratacion located in Seville before being distributed throughout the rest of Spain, but in the late 16th century the monopoly was broken, in addition, the Great Plague of 1649 halved the population, which led to a decline that would continue until the second half of the 19th century. Seville entered a new development with the inauguration of the railway lines as well as the electrification of the city, but these promises of a glorious future would soon be overwhelmed by the Spanish Civil War of 1936 which saw the rise of the Caudillo, General Francisco Franco which led to a state of autarky of the country until 1979. The new rise of Seville would then happen in 1992 with the fifth centenary of the Discovery of the Americas and the Universal Exposition. Also a year earlier the AVE (Spanish equivalent of the HS1) began to operate between Madrid and the City.
When in Seville here are some unmissable activities
- Visit the Alcazar
- Visit the Cathedral
- Visit the Archivo General de Indias (General Archive of the Indies)
- Have a stroll on the Plaza de Espana
- Have a walk along the banks of the Guadalquivir
- Attend a Sevillana show (flamenco dancing)
In order to park your motorhome we’ve found a nice place - the Camping Dehesa Nueva just a few kilometres outside of Seville not very convenient to commute but very enjoyable. Still the C5 bus takes you in Seville in roughly 45 minutes. When you are done get on the A-49/E-1 and drive for an hour towards Huelva and exit in San Juan del Puerto towards Palos de la Frontera.
Palos de la Frontera – Parque Nacional de Donana
This stop is actually a double stop as we will take you to two areas only separated by 23.5 kilometres (14.5 miles). Palos may not be a famous name in Britain, however one main event has marked its history. Even though you can find remains from the Upper Palaeolithic, the city itself was founded only in 1379 by Alvar Perez de Guzman and was quickly oriented to the cultivation of olive trees and the production of olive oil. The 15th century was definitely the Golden Age of the town especially with the War of the Castilian Succession that saw the maritime activities growing through the oceanic expansion rivalry. This growth reached its peak thanks to the Pinzon brothers who armed the Caravels that would have taken Columbus to the Americas.
On the 3rd of August 1492 the ships cast off to sail to the unknown, also, the city had a strong influence on the evangelisation of the Americas thanks to the monks of the Monasterio de La Rabida, where Columbus stayed and made friends with the clergy that would support him in convincing the Kings that his projects were possible. The monastery also hosted other famous people such as the Conquistadors Hernan Cortes and Francisco Pizarro. The city started to decline in 1503 with the opening of the Casa de Contratacion in Seville that moved the trade monopoly outside of the city. This decline would have continued till the late 20th century when Spain joined the EU and the city benefited from EU funding to develop a new economy particularly oriented on the agricultural and fishing sectors.
When in Palos here are the must-dos:
- The Port of Palos
- The House-Museun of Martín Alonso Pinzon
- The Muelle de la Calzadilla (Museum of Caravels)
- The Monastery of La Rabida
Halfway between Palos and the Donana National Park is the camping Donana located 5 minutes’ walk from the Torre del Loro beach it is a great place to relax and a nice stop for you to get ready to visit the National park. The park covers an area of 108,086 ha (roughly 267,000 acres) and is a protected wetland area. Often considered as the place where the legendary Kingdom of Tartessos (Bronze Age kingdom) may have had its capital. Tartessos has been often associated with the biblical city of Tarshish and some even associated it with Atlantis. Its economy was mostly based on metallurgy and jewellery.
Don’t forget to visit the Parque dunar de Matalascanas and its Marine Life Museum, if you can also walk around the park and maybe you will be lucky enough to observe an Iberian Lynx in its natural habitat.
When ready to leave, take the A-48 to Cadiz, allow about an hour or so to reach it.
Cadiz, “la tacita de plata” (the little silver cup) is deeply linked to the sea due to its strategic position between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. According to the legend the city was founded 80 years after the Trojan War in 1104 BC by the Phoenicians, in 501 BC the city was seized by the Carthaginians. Hannibal used it as a bridgehead for his conquest of Italy. Julius Cesar granted the city the title of Civitas Foederata (federated city protected by Rome). During the Roman Era the city was extremely prosperous with the construction of amphitheatres, aqueducts and during a short period it even became the 2nd most populous city of the Empire. During the 3rd century the Visigothic conquests and the internal crises of the Empire led the city on the path of decline fuelled by the reduction of maritime trade routes. From 522 AD to 711 AD Byzantines, Visigoths and Arabs followed each other. Between 711 and 1264 the city was greatly influenced by the culture of its Muslim masters.
Following its fall in the hands of Alfonso X King of Castille and Leon the city stagnated, but about 2 centuries later it saw massive growth due to the amount of convoys coming back from the Americas will their holds full of gold and other riches from the newly discovered continent. But this wealth attracted the attention of the English who raided the city with a fleet commanded by Sir Francis Drake in 1587,it was sacked in 1596 Robert Devereux 2nd Earl of Essex. In 1755, Lisbon’s earthquake destroyed a third of the city, this was to become the first milestone of the progressive decline of the city that would culminate by the Spanish loss of its colonies.
As for the previous stops here are the must-dos:
- The Cathedral
- The Casco Historico (the old city)
- The Roman Theatre
- La Caleta (main beach of Cádiz)
As usual we have found a nice campsite for you to stay just outside of the city- the Camping La Rana Verde. They even have a supermarket and a restaurant just in case you do not feel like cooking. When you are ready to hit the road again just take A-381 to Algeciras and from there the AP-7/E-15 up North-East to Málaga.
Welcome to the city of “La Manquita” (the one-armed), this nickname refers to the Cathedral that only has one tower. Founded as a Phoenician colony due to its great location making it a natural harbour. Malaka developed around its mining activities due to the numerous silver and copper deposits. The city soon came under control of Carthage and following its fall it entered the Roman sphere of influence. Initially recognised as a federated city it fully became part of the empire under Vespasian in the 1st century of our Era. The fall of Rome pushed the Germanic tribes to rush into the former province of Hispania but Justinian I of Constantinople soon conquered it in an attempt to rebuild the Empire.
During the Middle Ages Malaga flourished via the trade with Morocco and a solid middle-class of craftsmen and traders. Genoa’s republic saw an opportunity and settled a trade post that would act as filter for the merchandises travelling between the North of Europe and the Mediterranean. The Kingdom of Granada backed its power through Malaga’s powerful fleet but in 1487 the city was seized by the Christian cutting all maritime access to the Kingdom that would fall five years later. Despite all efforts of the Kings and its population the city stagnated until the 1800s however, Malaga gained influence with the loss of Gibraltar to the British as one of the main locks on the straights. In the 1800s Malaga became one of the main steelwork areas of Spain and the arrival of the railways accelerated it, but this new growth was muted by the economical downfall of the early 20th century however, during the Franco dictatorship a massive rural exodus happened leading to strong growth of the city, in addition the tourism boom of the Costa del Sol led to a massive economic growth of the region.
When in Málaga here are some activities you cannot miss:
- The Catedral de la Encarnacion
- La Alcazaba
- The Roman Theatre
- The Castillo
- Picasso’s house
As usual here is a nice campsite less than 700 metres from the seashore, its name? The Camping Torremolinos! Conveniently located in Malaga’s southern suburb you will be able to enjoy the city without all its noise and stress. When ready just get back in your motorhome and drive straight to Granada via the A-92 it should take roughly 1 and a half hours.
Welcome to the Ciudad de la Alhambra, Granada is a beautiful place, colourful, fresh, luminous; not really surprising the city was one of the most important of all Al-Andalus and the capital city of the Taifa of Granada and then Emirate of Granada.
The region has been inhabited for at least seven millenias and experienced Roman and Visigothic influences. In legal terms the city was founded following the Umayyad conquest of Hispania in 1013 and named Madinat Garnata. The Muslim influence massively marked the city until nowadays, each dynasty modifying the city in its own way. However the Nazaris (the latest dynasty) had the strongest influence which remains are still considered as the peak of the Islamic culture in Al-Andalus. The Alhambra Palace and the Royal Mosque are probably the masterpieces of that period. On 2 January 1492, the city was seized following the capitulation act of the city; a legend says that it is when Colombus received the blessing of Queen Isabella to cast off by using these words:
Isabella: - “My advisors say your journey is unfeasible.”
Columbus: - “My queen, do you remember what they used to say about Granada?”
Isabella: - “That it was impregnable!”
Initially the transfer of power went smoothly but the Cardinal Cisneros refusing the tolerant climate in Granada launched a campaign of forced conversions as well as Inquisitional trials and persecutions. The reign of Carlos V saw plenty of new buildings appear particularly the Royal Chapel, the Royal Hospital, the Cathedral and the Palace of the Emperor.
Throughout the 1500s the objective was to eradicate every last bit of Islam from the city, therefore most of the mosques were demolished or converted into churches. By the 16th century the city entered a period of decline due a series of natural catastrophes as well as epidemics. This decline continued until the second half of the 19th century until the arrival of the railway that boosted the sugar industry exports. The 20th century saw a brilliant beginning, but the fall of the sugar industry associated with measures of the Franco regime quickly started to prove as being counterproductive, it is only with the return to democracy that the city started to grow again.
When in Granada you will have to spend time in the museums to really get a grasp of the old city and the new. Sorry for those who are not fond of it but you cannot visit Granada without visiting at least a couple of museums, anyway here is the list:
- The Citadel of La Alhambra
- The Gardens of the Generalife
- The Cathedral and the Royal Chapel
- The Albaicin
- The Archaeological and Ethnological Museum of Granada
Here is a non-museum list of must-dos just in case:
- Eat a slice of Jamon de Trevelez
- Try the chorizo, the morcilla and the lomo
- Eat a tortilla del Sacromonte
- Taste the Santonada (chickpea soup)
- Go to the Hammam (Arab baths) and live the Al-Andalus experience
As usual here is a campsite that we judge worthy of welcoming you; it is the Camping Suspiro del Moro. Located 10 minutes’ drive south-west from the city, this campsite is a great place to stay and allows you to get good resting nights.
Here is where we leave you; feel free to explore other cities, Andalusia is a beautiful region however we particularly recommend Jaen and Almeria.
If you need additional information visit the Andalusian Tourism Board website.