Having lived in Andalusia for almost four years I have managed to visit a few places in this very southern region of Spain.
UPDATED: 09th July 2020
When deciding about places to visit in Andalucía, it’s up to someone’s individual taste to choose from a range of bigger or smaller destinations. Do you fancy party beaches, secluded shores, family vacations, historical towns or silent nature parks? Whichever you prefer, you will find it in Andalusia. Are you ready, solo travellers?
A Bit More about Andalucía
Andalucía, the very southern region of Kingdom of Spain has more than 87 square kilometres and 8 million inhabitants. People living here tend to be far more traditional than the rest of Spaniards. They’re also louder, crazier and more expressive.
When somebody mentions Spain, many of us think about Flamenco dancers and music. This idea is wrong as while it says everything about Andalucía it really is not reflected in the rest of Spain. Alright guys, that’s the end of my long wise speech, let’s have a look at the best places to visit in Andalusia!
Just to add that all of these are very welcoming for both group travellers and solo travellers. Spain is one of the safest countries for female solo travellers and it’s one of the most recommended destinations for first time solo voyagers.
Andalucía Destinations Can be Divided between:
The Costa del Sol is pretty well-known for its never-ending summer party vibes. The coastline around Malaga is basically studded with bars, discos and clubs. Beach party lovers from all over the world, rather travelling alone in a group, would definitely enjoy these Andalusia destinations:
- Marbella & Puerto Banus
Marbella – The Fanciest Andalucía Destination
The fanciest and poshest area of the Costa del Sol and also Andalucía itself is located less than an hour on the west from Malaga. This paradise for the richest Europeans is packed with expensive shops, late-night beach clubs, haute cuisine restaurants, golf courts and beautifully decorated holiday apartments. Anyone looking for lively places to visit in Andalucía should head right there.
This once poor and isolated place has turned into one of the fanciest coastlines in the whole of Europe within just 15 or 20 years. I don’t really think I have to mention it as already 99% of you know it but, the most famous place in Marbella is Nikki Beach – crazily expensive and attracting the type of visitors who love to be seen.
If a frown has creased your forehead to express your humble opinion about Marbella, stop judging the place right now. I do not fancy top styled size zero ladies and protein kings with tanned torsos (that’s the common clientele of Marbella’s clubs) either.
Luckily, Marbella and its surroundings has more to offer, even for nature lovers. Head off to the northwest, to find a charming, turquoise water lake called Lago de las Tortugas. Or choose one of the hiking trails – Pico de la Concha, Trail Artola Dunes, etc.
Marbella is surrounded by the Sierra Blanca mountains so it’s really not just about shopping malls, golden cocktails, drugs, strippers and wild parties.
Other Fancy Beaches to Check Out in Costa del Sol on Your Andalucía Travel:
Playa Los Alamos in Torremolinos.
Playa de la Carihuela with the famous El Horno Beach Club in Torremolions (translated as The Oven it has to be the hottest place on planet Earth!
Sunset Beach Club at Benalmadena Costa.
Playa San Francisco & Los Boliches in Fuengirola.
Playa Del Cristo in Estepona, popular tourist destination which retains an authentic Spanish charm thanks to its picturesque old town.
Burriana beach in Nerja, a small cosy town with incredible views and purple sunsets.
Wherever you go in Andalucía you find unmistakable traces of its fascinating history. Andalusia, like other southern parts of Spain, has been occupied by dozens of ethnic groups and nations. One of the strongest influences comes from the Arabs who invaded Iberia in the middle ages and completely changed Hispanic culture and architecture.
The Spanish name Andalucía (‘Andalusia’ in English) was created in the 13th century and was derived from the Arabic Al-Andalus – a Muslim name for Iberia. Why am I bothering you with boring history?
Because without Romans, Phoenicians and especially Arabs, Andalusia would look completely different. The Arabic culture is so dominant here, and there is no wonder, the caliphate lasted almost 8 centuries! Play a Flamenco song and try to guess what it reminds you. It sounds like Muslim music! The influence is just strong.
These are the Best Cities to Visit in Andalucía for Solo Travellers & Travellers Who Fancy Culture and History:
The Biggest City of Andalusia
Malaga is not the capital of Andalucía but it’s the biggest city of this southern region. Being occupied for more than 2800 years makes it one of the oldest towns on Earth – as another Andalusian city dinosaurs.
The biggest cultural artefacts for history hunters in Malaga are: the Renaissance and Baroque-style cathedral La Manquita built between the 16th and 18th century; the Moorish citadel Alcazaba; Gibralfaro Castle which whose construction started in the 10th century and finished in the 14th century during the rule of the Moors; and a Roman theatre which is more than 2,000 years old.
Are you hungry for some art? If so, then Malaga has the best museums and galleries in the whole of Andalusia. You can visit the Picasso Museum, Carmen Thyssen Museum, Coleccion de Museo, Interactive Music Museum, as well Museum of Glass and Crystal, Malaga Wine Museum, and more. When it comes to galleries you can choose between the Art Gallery Gravura or the Artesenal.
Cities with the Richest Arabian Cultural Footprint
Sevilla is the city of Flamenco and the capital of Andalusia. According to many resources it is also the birth-place of tapas and it is considered one of the best places to visit in the whole Europe. Fun history fact about Sevilla: the famous discoverer Christopher Columbus is buried in Sevilla’s ES Cristobal Colon.
Granada and its medieval complex of Moorish castles at Alhambra represent the peak of Arabic culture in Spain. Thanks to the monumental Sierra Nevada mountain which is just 35 kilometres to the southeast, Granada is also justly popular for its picturesque scenery.
Cordoba used to be a centre of Iberian life during the caliphate era. It is said there used to be more than a million people living in what is now the centre of Arabic history in Andalusia. No wonder it’s the only city in the world to have four cultural heritage sites: Mezquita Mosque and Cathedral; the Historic City Centre; the Cordoba Patios and the palace town of Medina Azahara. Check out what else you can do in Cordoba.
Cadiz, the oldest inhabited city in Europe, used to be one of the most important ports in the whole world. It’s not just the long list of historical buildings which attracts visitors to this Havana alma mater (yes, Havana was built to mirror Cadiz!). Cadiz is also Sevilla’s competitor in terms of tapas – people of the area believe that the yummy tapas dishes were born in this city!
The town has a long coast full of wonderful beaches, the old town serves one of the best tapas in the whole Andalusia and Cadiz hosts one of the coolest carnivals in Europe! Yes, it’s definitely one of the best places to visit in Andalucía! I am personally attached to this place while it was my very first solo trip after moving to the South.
Gone with The West…
Antequera is another Andalucía destination which is old enough to tell some pretty cool historical stories! Although settled in medieval times, there are also Bronze age and Roman ruins to be admired. However, the biggest magnet for travellers is the Pink Lagoon in El Torcal Park – the home of hundreds of Flamingos.
Do you fancy Westerns? Awesome! Almeria, the driest place in the whole of Europe is the place to go! Huge mountains and dry sands have attracted famous directors for years.
Did you know that ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’, ‘Indiana Jones’ and ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ were all shot on location there? One of the natural oases in this desert-scape is Cabo de Gata and its natural park and La Chanca, a colourful area featuring gypsy caves.
When I am talking about cool coastal towns I am talking about the Atlantic coastline of Andalucía. Why? Costa del Sol is fancy, Costa Tropical is hot and hilly, Costa Almeria is dry and exotic, and Costa del Luz is just cool!
Why? Who are the coolest creatures of the beach apart from dolphins? Yes, you’re right, it’s the surfers! And the Atlantic Ocean is their territory. Moreover, the hedonistic party vibe from the
Costa del Sol hasn’t arrived to the Costa del Luz yet. So this Atlantic part of the Andalusia is somehow still innocent, independent and cool – I have to repeat my visits to this cool costa all the time.
The Best Places to Visit in Andalusia for (Solo) Travellers Located in Costa del Luz are:
- Bolonia Beach
- Conil de la Frontera
- Chiclana de la Frontera
- Zahara de los Atunes
- And all the beaches out there!
When talking about Costa del Luz it’s really more about the beaches than the towns themselves. They are charming, don’t get me wrong. Most of the local houses were built in white which makes the villages and towns out there look clean, innocent and friendly.
Tarifa’s Cool Beaches
The centre of all the Andalusian surfer culture is without any hesitation Tarifa, the water is cool the wind is cool, the town is cool and the people are bloody cool too!
There are several beaches in Tarifa: A small family beach Playa Chica. Even though it is super tiny it’s popular because of its sheltered position, it’s less windy so far less wavy and the water is less cold than anywhere else.
Los Lances Beach is the place for kite-surfers any other water sport lovers. The beach is long, windy with golden sands and crystal-clear waters.
Playa de Valdevaqueros is also on the cool people and cool surfers’ list. Basically, the same as the Lances, but a bit further from town and it’s a bit more hilly and rocky with dunes. That’s just what I love. It feels like a little piece of paradise!
Punta Paloma Beach is a wild nature beach with diverse shores situated just directly after the Valdevaqueros beach. If the previous one is a little piece of paradise, Punta Paloma it’s en turquoise eden on Earth!
Bolonia Beach is a must-see for beach lovers. It’s located between Tarifa and Zahara de los Atunes. It’s somehow apart from civilisation, with just a few restaurants and apartments around.
The Beach Story in Costa del Luz Continues
Zahara de los Atunes is a small fishing village famous for its annual Rutas de Atun festivals which celebrates one of the most beautiful ocean creatures – the tuna.
The town itself is basically one long beach so if you don’t have money, nerves or time to fly from Europe to the Caribbean go to Zahara instead, the turquoise waters there will – can I say seduce you? Yeah, those blue eyes flirt with you all the time.
El Palmar is a small coastal town and its main beach is vibrant, energetic and packed with water sport lovers and relaxing people. It’s located between Zahara and Conil de la Frontera. The environment is really laid-back, the nature is unspoiled and mystical.
Oh Gosh, there are plenty of tiny rural villages to visit in Andalusia! I will mention just few of them and will think about putting more details into a separate article.
Rural places in this Southern part of Spain are beautifully charming. The houses are usually painted in white colours (so called Pueblos Blancos) and the villages themselves were most of the time built on a hill or on a piece of a rock.
This makes them visible from far away and gives them the uniqueness of being photogenic from the outside and at the same time having a jaw-dropping view from inside of the town.
Best Villages to Visit in Andalucia, if You’re a Solo Traveller and Looking for a Real Rural Experience are:
- Vejer de La Frontera
- Castellar de la Frontera
- Arcos de la Frontera
- Zahara de la Sierra
- And dozens more!
I’ll cover these in special articles about rural Andalusian villages and towns. They all have in common the rawest southern experience and a nostalgic vibe. Some of them are pretty similar to each other so you can choose just those which are on the way during your Andalucía travels.
The real beauty of Andalusia is hidden in the unique nature and stunning landscape which changes behind every corner of the country. Almost a fifth of Andalusia is covered by protected areas which consist of two national parks, four nature parks and several protected natural areas, natural reserves and monuments.
National Parks which Highlight the Importance of The Ecosystem and Wildlife:
- Sierra Nevada
Natural Parks which Demonstrate Enormous Range of Geology, Climate and Habitats:
- Cabo de Gata-Níjar
- Sierra María-Los Vélez Natural Park
- Sierra de Grazalema
- Bahía de Cádiz
- Los Alcornocales
- Estrecho Natural Park
- Sierra de Cardeña y Montoro
- Sierra de Hornachuelos
- Sierras Subbéticas
- Sierra Nevada National Park
- Sierra de Baza National Park
- Sierra Castril Natural Park
- Sierra Huétor Natural Park
- Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche
- Despeñaperros Natural Park
- Sierra de Andújar
- Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas Natural Park
- Sierra Mágina
- Montes de Málaga
- Sierras of Tejeda, Almijara and Almara Natural Park
- Sierra de las Nieves
- Brazo del Este Natural Area
Which Andalusia’s Destination Will You Choose?
As you can see dear (solo) travellers, Andalusian destinations are unlimited! You can find high mountains with snowy peaks just a few kilometres away from one of the busiest and hottest beaches in the whole of Spain! You can choose between dozens of beautiful places to see.
The choice between the busy beach resorts on Costa del Sol & Costa del Luz, the historical heritage cities, secluded natural parks or white Pueblos Blancos is on you.
Even though that Andalusia is also a perfect destination for short stays, try to stay a few days more and explore the variety of landscapes the country offers you.
There is also one very special place which attracts a few travellers yearly even though it’s not the Miss World of Andalucía.
I am talking about a small town bordering with Gibraltar which was once called ‘The Ugliest Town of Spain’ or ‘Medellín of Spain’– La Linea de la Concepcion, It’s not so bad though, they have friendly people and a few nice restaurants out there – I wrote about it in this article. If you want to read more about the amazing food of Andalusia or Spain, read my article about Spanish snacks.
I wish you happy wandering across the southern part of Iberian peninsula. I hope that my article about travels in Andalusia has given you a few ideas where to go! If you need more insights you can read also my piece about road-tripping across Andalusia. Have fun folks!
Photos of the author.