Andalucia Rustica

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Forming a natural passage bet ween Europe and Africa and a meeting point bet ween the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean, Andalusia, the old gateway to the Americas, is a miniature tourist universe whose most distinctive feature is its great diversity. Structured geographically around the River Guadalquivir, which crosses the region from east to west, Andalusia comprises 8 provinces (Almería, Cadiz, Cordoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaén, Málaga and Seville), and is the second largest region in Spain, covering some 87,268 km 2.

A unique location

Due to its unique geographical location, between two continents and two seas (the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea), Andalusia is blessed with ideal climatic conditions, with dry and warm summers and mild winters. In the province of Granada, we find pa rticularly striking contrasts as in just 40 kilometres we leave behind the characteristic alpine climate of the Sierra Nevada and enter the Costa Tropical with its mild microclimate. The region also enjoys perennial blue skies and many hours of sunshine per year which play a decisive role in shaping the joyful character of the Andalusian people.

The region ’s population – somes even million people – is evenly distributed throughout the capital cities , medium-sized towns and small villages. Thus, in addition to the numerous historic attractions which can be found in large towns and cities, there is a well developed tourism industry which is based on the natural resources and traditional character of rural areas .

Transport Network

A magnificent transport network provides easy access to the region’s tourist attractions.

Its modern and comprehensive road network, which covers more than 24,000 kilometres, includes motorways, dual carriageways, and conventional roads.

The AVE (the High Speed Train), the jewel in the crown of the Spanish railway system, has been a true revolution, allowing the journey time between Madrid and Seville to come down to just under two and a half hours. The introduction of the AVE has also improved communications between Madrid and Malaga. There are also good rail connections between all the main Andalusian cities.

Large modern airports , such as those in Malaga , Seville, Jerez, Almería, and Granada offer flights to the main Andalusian and Spanish cities, as well as to Europe and the rest of the world. The ports on both the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts complete this vast transport network. Many are popular destinations for cruise liners but they also offer regular connections to both North Africa and the Canary Islands.

A world of attractions

The eight provinces of Andalusia offer a world of attractions which make exploring the region a unique and unforgettable experience: monuments, which are widely regarded as architectural milestones (Cordoba’s Mosque, the Alhambra and Generalife, the Giralda, …); a wide range of contrasting landscapes and natural areas; a huge choice of possibilities for practising sports in ideal natural surroundings; a comprehensive network of spas, Arab baths and health and fitness centres which are perfect for relaxing and unwinding from the stresses of daily life; an all-year-round calendar filled with colourful fiestas and cultural events; deeply rooted artistic expressions like flamenco and bullfighting; a rich gastronomy with regional products of exceptional quality, such as fine olive oil; crafts which faithfully reflect the legacy of the many peoples who have populated the region over the centuries; modern and efficient facilities especially equipped for hosting events, conferences, trade fairs, and exhibitions. However, perhaps one of Andalusia’s greatest charms are the Andalusians themselves who with their friendly and welcoming character proudly share their ancient customs and heritage with visitors and make them feel at home.

Natural Beauty

The region’s incredible variety of landscapes and geographical contrasts range from the snow[1]capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada to the warm campiñas in the Valley of the Guadalquivir, volcanic landscapes like the Tabernas desert, and the lush medium-height sierras.

Stretching for almost 900 kilometres, the region’s coastline is dotted with towns and beaches. The Mediterranean section includes the Costa de Almería, the Granadan Costa Tropical, and Malaga’s Costa del Sol, whereas the Costa de la Luz between Cadiz and Huelva is on the Atlantic. There are fine golden beaches and concealed coves with warm crystalline waters and exceptional underwater scenery. The Doñana National Park, declared a World Heritage Site in 1994, is the largest nature reserve in Europe and one of the natural jewels of Andalusia.

Golf, water sports and active tourism

With its natural wealth Andalusia offers a huge range of possibilities for outdoor pursuits in natural surroundings: walking, potholing, mountain climbing, abseiling, paragliding, free flying, horse riding, hunting, fishing, diving, surfing, skiing… The eight Andalusian provinces have well equipped modern facilities for professional competition sports which make the region an ideal destination for sports enthusiasts. Additionally, there is a comprehensive network of high performance and professional sports centres and facilities which host international sporting events. Examples include: the Sierra Nevada Ski Station, the Motor Racing Track in Jerez, hundreds of golf courses which can be found throughout the region but especially on the Costa del Sol (an area which contains the largest number of courses in the whole of Europe), and 39 marinas of international prestige such as the famous one in Puerto Banús, Malaga.

Monuments and cultural routes

Throughout its thousands of years of history Andalusia has accumulated an impressive cultural and historic heritage.

Thanks to its mild climate, fertile soil, and rich mineral resources, the region has been continually inhabited since Prehistoric times, the Tartessians, Phoenicians, Iberians and Carthaginians being the first peoples who settled there.

In 206 BC, the city of Gadir (Cadiz), the last stronghold of Carthaginian Iberia, surrendered to the Roman army. This was the beginning of the Romanisation of Andalusia, where Augustus established an imperial province known as Beatica. The flourishing Roman period, which left its imprint in cities like Itálica, in Santiponce (Seville), was followed by the Visigoths and Byzantines, and then the Muslims who invaded the peninsula in the year 711. The Andalusi culture, the root of many Andalusian customs, was responsible for some of the most impressive Andalusian monuments, many of which have been declared World Heritage Sites: Cordoba’s Mosque-Cathedral and its historic centre; the Alhambra, Generalife Gardens and Albayzín in Granada; and the Giralda tower and Alcázar, in Seville.

However, traces of a splendorous past are not only visible in the capital cities. Most Andalusian villages and towns boast magnificent monuments which reflect their long history and rich artistic and cultural legacy. Valuable examples of Islamic, renaissance, and baroque architecture can be found in the numerous fortresses, castles, churches, convents, palaces and other constructions which make up Andalusia’s historic heritage. Fine examples of this are the renaissance complexes in towns like Úbeda and Baeza, which have also been declared World Heritage Sites. The cultural routes which feature the Andalusi legacy (the Caliphate, Washington Irving, Nasrid, Almoravid, and Almohad routes), together with the routes dedicated to Roman Beatica and El Tempranillo, and the region’s wide range of museums, are perhaps the best way of exploring Andalusia’s history and culture. There are also house-museums of well-known artists such as Picasso, Lorca and Alberti, which should not be missed.

Andalusia - Puente Nuevo - Ronda

Flamenco, fiestas and gastronomy

Flamenco, one of the most idiosyncratic elements of Andalusian culture and identity, is the central theme of numerous routes (Los Cantes Básicos, Minera, Huelva and its fandangos, etc.).

Andalusia and its way of life cannot be fully understood without exploring the fiestas and traditions, and sampling its gastronomy.

The region’s festive calendar, which includes popular pilgrimages, such as that of El Rocío, fairs, Easter Week celebrations, and Carnivals, is as varied as its geographical diversity.

Another way of discovering Andalusia is through its gastro-nomy, which is also a source of health. Based on the Mediterranean culinary tradition, with fresh seafood and locally sourced agricultural products, the one essential ingredient of the regional cuisine is olive oil. Magnificent wines (the region has six denominations of origin) typical dishes like gazpacho, fine cured pork products like the Iberico ham, and delicious homemade cakes and pastries are amongst the most popular flavours of Andalusia’s gastronomic universe, which faithfully reflect the Andalusi legacy.

Rural Andalusia

In addition to fine cuisine, Andalusia’s rural areas also boast picturesque white villages, in which time almost seems to have stood still, surrounded by breathtaking natural sites and spectacular countryside. Examples include the Alpujarras in Granada and Almeria and the white villages of the Sierras of Cadiz and Malaga. Its numerous spas, Arab baths, and health and fitness resorts also make Andalusia the perfect destination for those who wish to find relaxation and relief from fatigue and stress.

A Natural Paradaise

Andalusia has plenty to offer: dense lush forests, volcanic deserts, the highest peaks in the Iberian Peninsula, extensive wetlands, stretches of unspoilt coast and untamed nature; and places where one can improve one’s knowledge and education, practice all kinds of sports, or simply while away the hours in a relaxing and quiet atmosphere.

Andalusia is one of the leading Spanish regions in the implementation of measures for the protection of environmental heritage. 18% of its territory is included within a broad network of more than 80 Natural Areas comprising 24 natural parks which spread over mountainous ranges, woodland (with true botanical jewels such as the Spanish fir which can be found in the Sierra de Grazalema and Sierra de las Nieves natural parks), and coastal areas, such as the Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park.

Additionally, the region has natural areas of great ecological importance such as the National Parks of Doñana (a safe haven for the Iberian lynx) and the Sierra Nevada (with the highest peaks in the Iberian Peninsula – Mulhacén, 3,481 m. and Veleta, 3,392 m.), both of which have been declared Biosphere Reserves by Unesco.

There are also (28) nature reserves and (32) natural sites. Smaller in size than the parks, the nature reserves are mostly wetlands which play a vital ecological role in supporting a wide range of plants and animals, particularly birds, whereas the natural sites offer a wide variety of unusual landscape features ranging from the undulating karst formations to be found at El Torcal in Antequera, to Tabernas in Almería, the only desert in Europe.

The region also boasts a number of spectacular natural monuments such as the Cueva de Nerja, the Gruta de las Maravillas, and Los Infiernos de Loja.

Foto: Juani Márquez

Fuente: Junta de Andalucía

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