5 Reasons to Visit Southern Spain

5 Reasons to Visit Southern Spain

I could think of dozens of reasons to visit Southern Spain. It’s known for the best weather in Europe– it’s my goto place during the winter. There is a 95% chance the sun is shining in a cloudless sky. There is a festival dancing through the streets. And cheap Rioja flows freely making the above that much better. Here are my 5 favorite reasons to visit Southern Spain.

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5 Reasons to Visit Southern Spain

Andalucian Style and Traditions

The narrow waterway facilitated more than just the influx of people. The region also inherited a lot of the Moors language, dance, music, spices, religion, and architecture. The warmer climate, the laid-back ease in which people speak, the rolling hills with the twisted trunks of thousand-year-old olive trees make this region different from all others.

Many cultural phenomena seen internationally as distinctively “Spanish” are largely or entirely Andalusian. These include flamenco, bullfighting, and certain Moorish-influenced architectural styles.

Visit Southern Spain for Flamenco

The music and dance are great reasons to visit Southern Spain. If you get a chance to see a flamenco show, opt for one outside of the touristy areas. You’ll really thank me later. Your best bet is to follow the locals; they know where you’ll get an authentic show. Flamenco is not just a show for the tourists; it is ingrained into the Spanish culture.

Flamenco is the traditional song and dance of the Andalucían region. It is yet another by-product of a culture that once inhabited the area—the Romani or gypsies originally from the Indian Continent who migrated to the area more than 800 years ago.

After the Moors were defeated by the Christians in Spain, intolerance reigned. Ethnic groups like the gypsies; Muslims and Jews suffered a similar fate. They retreated to the high ground where authorities had little jurisdiction. They lived, worked, and suffered together in peace and harmony for centuries. And Flamenco is the fusion of their music, song, and dance.

Dancing for the Masses

In time, like everything else, Flamenco was brought down from the remote areas into the town and villages and performed for the masses. Non-gypsies began to take interest in the guttural, wailing words of what is best described as Spanish Soul music.

Flamenco is not just a show for the tourists; it is ingrained into the Spanish culture. It’s also a must when you visit Southern Spain. It is delivered in a way that touches your core, bringing the heartache to the surface and placing you at the center of it all. Thus, understanding Spanish is not a prerequisite to appreciating the music.

Check out the Blooms and Tradition: 83rd Tulip Festival in Orange City.

The Elements of the Dance

There are four elements to any great Flamenco performance: voice, dance, guitar, and the jaleo, or audience participation– hand-clapping and foot-stomping.

I was mesmerized by the sheer speed in the dancer’s feet. She wore a traditional red dress with an undulating sea of black and red ruffles. Her long jet-black hair was pinned tightly in a bun at the nape of her neck. Her only jewelry was a red carnation pinned into the crevice behind her left ear. She danced with such a passion, telling a story with the motion of her hands, the arch in her back, and the intensity in her eyes.

Her name was Nina.

Flamenco is a celebration of what can happen when we are all dropped into a melting pot. And that’s Southern Spain in a nutshell. It has become a soup of sorts… a drop of Roman, an Arabian dollop, and a dash of Europe stirred and simmered over a very long period of time. It’s unique and packed with a lot of drama, a lot of flavors, and the intensity you look for in a great vacation destination.

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Visit Southern Spain for the History and Architecture

The historical architecture of southern Spain is a rich mix of political, religious, and cultural influences that have lingered over the region from more than 700 years of Moorish rule. The hybrid styles created by these overlapping influences are unique to the region which is probably why it’s my favorite part of Spain.

And although Ferdinand and Isabella recaptured Spain from the Moors, they and future rulers continued to build in the Moorish style. I can’t say enough about it, you just have to see it for yourself.

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Visit Southern Spain for the Food

A visit to Spain is not complete without sampling the tapas. The Andalusian diet varies, especially between the coast and the interior, but in general is a Mediterranean diet based on olive oil, honey, legumes, vegetables, fish, dried fruits and almonds, and meat; there is also a great tradition of drinking wine.

We fell in love with tapas in Seville. Restaurants don’t begin serving dinner until 9 pm or later. This is the time that most Spaniards “bar hop” around, meeting friends over tapas and a drink. It’s common to visit several establishments before sitting down to a full meal.

Tapas can be anything from a potato omelet, a slice of warm cheese, or a bowl of gazpacho soup to anything and everything in between. They can be hot or cold, cooked or raw, eaten one at a time, or in place of a meal. Tapas are usually inexpensive, but hardly ever free, except in Granada where small tapas are often served with each round of drinks.

Tapas are a staple of nightlife and you should definitely visit Southern Spain to sample them and the cheap Rioja (red wine). But don’t just hang out at one, visit several to taste all that the area has to offer.

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The Tapas Stroll

Every evening before dinner, we made our way to the Cathedral area and strolled from one bar/ café to next for a couple of hours at night. One of the first things I learned to cook when we got back from Spain was Patatas Bravas, a simple spicy fried potato dish seasoned with Tabasco sauce, garlic, and paprika. The origin of tapas varies depending on who you ask, but one of my favorites is from The Joy of Cooking.

According to legend, a Spanish king was served a glass of wine and the servant covered the goblet with a piece of meat to keep the fruit flies out. The king finished the wine and ham and ordered another wine with the “lid”. It just so happens that the Spanish word for the lid is tapar… thus we have tapas.

Since then, however, many tapas bars are standing room only and the skill of balancing a plate on top of your wine glass has become a very important skill. Tapas are now a very integral part of the culture and one that we have incorporated into our own life. We left Seville soothed, satiated, and seduced by the Spanish culture.

Visit Southern Spain for the Festivals

The main reason I decided to visit Southern Spain was for the festivals. There is no better way to get to know the Andalusians than through their feast days. The local fiesta is the moment when every town and village strives to put on a splendid show. Over 3,000 fiestas are celebrated every year in Andalusia. They include fairs, patio contests, wine fairs, pilgrimages, religious processions, and carnivals. Some of the more elaborate are mock battles between Moors and Christians.

In fact, there is scarcely a day in the year without a festival, especially before and after the autumn harvests. Each town has its own patron saint, food fight, horse festival, or carnival.

Want more, check out this beautiful post about Semana Santa or Holy Week here.

Dressing the Part

The Andalusian festivals provide a showcase for popular arts and traditional costumes. Seville and Malaga are the most famous cities for Semana Santa. Semana Santa is the Spanish name for Easter. Members of local parishes carry ornately decorated floats depicting the Passion of Christ into the city cathedral. Semana Santa is the week leading up to Easter Sunday.

The Seville Fair or Feria de Abril in Seville occurs two weeks after Semana Santa. It runs from midnight on Monday night/Tuesday morning and finishes on the following Sunday night/Monday morning. Other popular ferias are the Feria de Agosto in Málaga, the Feria de Jerez or Feria del Caballo in Jerez, and the Festival of Corpus Christi in Granada.

The Running of the Bulls

Pamplona’s famous festival Fiesta de San Fermin is a week-long bull running and bullfighting festival. Every morning at 8:am is the city’s brave and the world’s foolhardy run ahead of angry horned bulls and cows. The rest of us watch from the safety of the wooden barricades or the balconies overlooking the cobbled streets of Pamplona.

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Visit Southern Spain for the Landscape

Southern Spain’s landscape has something for everybody. From the sunbathed sandy beaches all along the coasts to the arid Tabernas Desert in the southeastern province of Almería. The Sierra Nevadas lies in one of two National parks in Spain. The dramatic, mountain range is the highest in Europe (after the Alps) and has over 20 peaks. The two highest mountains are located in Andalusia. The parks are separated by the limestone gorges and beautiful valleys above the Guadiaro and Genal rivers.

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Comments

  1. Lorda Mow

    I am planing to visit Suthern Spain in this winter along with my kid Albert as he is very passionate about music and dance and he has a great wish to attend the famous flamenco show of southern spain.

  2. Cecilia Boat

    Southern Spain is definitely on my travel bucket list, especially Andalusia. I fell in-love with the place after reading the Alchemist.

  3. Ana Ro

    Awesome! Thanks for the inspiration, I have been to Spain, but never to the South. Flamenco and tapas are a perfect mix, and the landscape looks so good too. Hope to go there soon.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Both the festivals and the architecture are amazing in Spain that are well worth a plane ticket to check out the country.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      My husband loved Flamenco even a little more than I did, I considered taking it up because of it. I still might, it looks like great exercise.

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