Road trip In Andalusia - South West Itinerary
There are endless opportunities when you venture on a sweet off-season road trip through the provinces of Seville and Cádiz. The southern most part of Spain is cherished for having some of the most scenic sights, from nature reserves to ancient towns with lyrical names. As travelling slow is the best way to experience Andalusia, we recommend a week to discover the two provinces that we cover in this read.
The south is adored with attractions large and small; so many great spots in fact that you will need to take your time to swing from the great cities of Seville and Cádiz to the lakes around Zahara with surreal views of the Sierra de Grazalema mountains, or to the swimming reservoirs around Arcos de la Frontera, and the desirable heavenly bliss sunflower fields on the outskirts of Jerez de la Frontera.
SEVILLE AND CARMONA
We recommend giving yourself 3 days in the Andalusian capital Seville. This is the largest of the autonomous region of Andalusia and houses some of the most fascinating cultures and histories in Spain. Although the city dates far back to Roman times, an invasion by the Moors in the eighth century left a cultural mark that characterises the city today, in addition to the Visigoths period, the Jews and Phoenicians. Make sure you book your stay in one of the many converted 17th - 18th century mansions with traditional arcade patios. Our favourite hand picked stay is boutique hotel Corral del Rey. The architectural highlights are the atrium patio, Roman marble columns and the original wooden carved beams; all this fine art work accentuated by a unique Lutron controlled lighting system. It is also situated in a narrow street in the old quarter of Barrio Alfalfa, five minutes walking distance from the Cathedral.
33 kilometres north east of Seville, you can find Carmona, an old town built on a ridge overlooking the central plains of Andalusia. The city is known for its thriving trade in wine, olive oil, grain and cattle, in which we recommend buying artisan goods in any of their dozens of local shops. Venture through the tree-lined avenue of Alfonso XIII and head to the Seville Gate, a well conserved piece of history from the Carthaginian origins, with remains of the Roman additions and altered through time in the Middle Ages by the Moors and Christians. The town of Carmona has over a dozen churches and convents, which we especially recommend visiting the Convento de Santa Clara to buy artisan sweets made by the nuns. The Baroque architecture is beautiful and should be admired from both the inside and out.
Additionally, this town is best known for its Andalusian cuisine, in which they do a Ruta de las Tapas (Tapas Route). Bars and restaurants that participate are marked with blue and white signs. Do try the tasty salmorejo, chickpea soup, gazpacho, partridge from the mountains, and the queso payoyo, a tasty cheese made from goat and sheep milk in the sierra of Cádiz (Grazalema to be exact). We tried the mollete, a typical bread handmade with flour, water, salt, yeast and sesame. This is a bread of Arab origin, where in the nearby town of Marchena they integrate into their daily meal. Carmona gets this bread (mollete) from the town of Marchena, and sometimes fill their sandwiches with lamb, pork spread and even ham with cheese. Interestingly, Carmona produces their famous pink gin Puerto de Indias.
Do not miss the impressive former Arabian palace of the fourteenth century, the Parador de Carmona. From the look out of this hotel, you can see the beauty and tranquility of the surrounding landscape (main pic above). The exquisite gastronomy and restaurant (former refectory), offers beautiful views of the swimming pool area and is under the luminous Andalusian skyline. The historical elements of Arabic decoration such as the tiles and ceilings will remind you of what was once the Andalusian territory, in addition to medieval gauntlets and armours in glass cases serenading the communal areas of the hotel.
BORNOS AND ARCOS DE LA FRONTERA
On your drive from Carmona to Arcos de la Frontera, we suggest you head in the direction of Utrera and ride south through the rolling green Andalusian hills. You will come across El Palmar de Troya and The Palmarian Catholic Church of the Carmelites of the Holy Face. This is a division of the Catholic Church, which can be admired from the road. The grandeur of the church will give you goosebumps, with its eye capturing architecture.
Keep driving south until you arrive to one of the most attractive inland beaches in Bornos. At the reservoir of the same name, the water is supplied from the River Guadalete. Downtown Bornos is a Complex of Historical Artistic Monuments, where you can find picturesque monuments such as the Los Ribera Castle Palace, the Fontanar Tower and other 16th century buildings. Even if you are not going in the town for a stroll, at least make a stop at the road to admire the views of the reservoir in the distance with the mountains in the back drop.
Located nearby Bornos you can reach the pastoral area of the white washed town Arcos de la Frontera. This is situated on a hill top in the district of the Sierra de Cádiz, with surrounding views of the countryside. There are little pockets of lakes around the Arcos Reservoir, where you can bathe in the warmer months or practice outdoor sports such as water skiing, kayaking, hiking and fishing. We recommend parking your car in any of the available spaces (can be frustrating as it is steep) and walking up to the Mirador de la Peña Nueva. Here you can enjoy some of the best panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes and see the Guadalete river that runs all the way through the town of El Puerto de Santa Maria. The only down side to this viewpoint is that the sun tends to always point at the direction of the people taking photographs, making it difficult to be instagram-friendly. On the other side of the mirador is the Peña Vieja, which is always in the shade. Here you can enjoy the views in a café with a terrace with a glass that protects you from any possible fall.
COSTA DE LA LUZ
For the remainder of your road trip through the south west of Spain, we recommend seeing some of the towns that make up the Costa de la Luz (Coast of the Light). This is best identified as a stretch of towns and natural reserves running from the beginning of the Guadiana River on the Portuguese-Spanish border down to the small city of Tarifa, almost opposite of the water from the Moroccan city Tangier.
The province of Cádiz has very active summer months with tourists, especially in some of the beach towns like Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Chipiona, El Puerto de Santa María, Cádiz, Chiclana de la Frontera and its exclusive urbanisation of Novo Sancti Petri, Conil de la Frontera, Zahara de los Atunes, Vejer de la Frontera and Tarifa. Whether visiting Andalusia in the warmer months or not, you must still visit the sand dunes of Bolonia beach. The Atlantic winds also sweep powerfully in Valdevaqueros beach in Tarifa, Vejer's El Palmar beach, and Caños de Meca, a neuralgic point for the hippy movement.
The Costa de la Luz is much more than just beaches, there are also natural protected areas of the Doñana, Bay of Cádiz, cliff and marshes of Barbate, Tinto and Odiel, arrow point of El Rompido, lagoon of El Portil, marshes of Isla Cristina as well as important cultural points such as: Baelo Claudia Roman ruins in Bolonia, Cape Trafalgar (where the Royal Navy decisively defeated Napoleon's combined Spanish and French fleet), or the steep white villages of Medina Sidonia and Vejer de la Frontera.
Only when you travel slow through the south west of Spain will you ever get an authentic sense of the place. To get to know this part of Andalusia properly, we recommend booking a tour with Genuine Andalusia. The team behind the tour agency are based in Seville and Jerez de la Frontera. They organise in-depth travel itineraries that suits your holidays.