Each year, we pick 12 'Destinations to Watch' for our Travel Trends report. In this blog series ABTA staff talk through their personal highlights and experiences of the destinations they've been to. This week, we're looking at the Andalucía , which Sean Tipton visited in January 2017.
Explore all our 12 ‘Destinations to watch’ here.
If I were to say to you, the Costa del Sol what images would it conjure up? High-rise hotel blocks, lurid coloured cocktails, Brits eating a fry up in the Sun Burnt Arms pub and for people of a certain generation, Eric Idle singing Torremolinos, Torremolinos? I suspect so.
This stretch of coast in Sothern Spain is blessed with mile upon mile of sandy beaches and an amazing climate, which has made it a magnet for Northern European holidaymakers since the 1960s. However, there has always been so much more to this part of Spain and in recent years more and more savvy travellers have wised up to the delights of this exotic and fascinating part of Spain many of whose cities have benefited from Barcelona style makeovers.
The first clue to one of things that makes Andalusia so special is in its name Al Andalus was the Arabic name for Spain a reflection of the fact that for hundreds of years most of the country and especially the South, was home to a flourishing and sophisticated Moorish culture. You see its heritage everywhere. Most major towns still have a palace or castle called an Alcazar that dates from this period. One of my personal favourites is in Malaga, which does not attract the crowds that more famous Andalusian attractions do.
The Moors loved gardens, shaded courtyards and running water as an escape from the high temperatures that you get throughout most of the year in southern Spain and fountains and other water features featuring strongly in their buildings.
Take a close look at older churches many of them are converted mosques incorporating intricate carved stonework, typical of the period. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Cordoba especially in its Cathedral the Mesquita with its forest of columns recycled from an even early time, when Spain was an important outpost of the Roman Empire. First time visitors must visit the Alhambra palace in Granada, it is one of the world’s most beautiful buildings, but pre-booking is essential. A trip to Seville is also highly recommended with its much-loved Moorish bell tower La Giralda.
If you go back to Andalusia, and I guarantee you will want to, try less well-known cities such as Jerez de La Frontera with its bodegas, sherry and brandy distilleries and the best flamenco shows in Spain, and Cadiz which has some of the best and cheapest Tapas in Spain.
The Andalusians are renowned in Spain for their charm, passion and sense of humour, so why not brush up on a bit of Spanish to sample their character for yourself? The food here is almost uniformly good, my personal favourite is rabo de toro, or oxtail. The seafood is also amazing, try the tuna in Cadiz when it is in season.
And finally, the much derided Torremolinos. It is actually quite a pleasant charming resort - quite disappointing really. And let’s not forget Marbella or Marbs is on the Costa del Sol if you fancy a bit of celeb spotting after all your culture vulturing.