A Ten-Day Itinerary in Andalusia

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Seeing a bit of southern Spain

My friend Laura and I had been looking for an opportunity to travel a bit in Spain, and decided on Andalusia. Airport options were Seville and Málaga, and Málaga worked out best. We could coordinate our arrivals (from opposite directions) so we’d be together from the very first transfer. The only thing we booked in advance was a place to stay in Málaga for the first two nights, to give us an easy start and some time to plan the rest. We stayed downtown, as we were both interested in seeing the city – and of course, in feeling like we’d arrived in Spain rather than finding ourselves on a could-be-anywhere beach.

My main aim was to spend time with my friend, but I had two other desires: to see a friend in Antequera (Málaga province) and to see Seville. Laura was game for both, and thought Córdoba and Granada could complete the plan. We’d already agreed that there would be no need to rent a car in order to visit cities. Traveling by train or bus would be a lot more relaxing. As we looked at schedules, we saw Córdoba could be a first stop, then Granada, over to Seville and lastly Antequera before our flights out. Ten nights total, just do-able.

By the time we’d gotten settled in Córdoba, we were doubting how many transfers we really wanted to make in these days. We checked on access to some of the main attractions. I’m sure you’re thinking of the Alhambra in Granada, just as we were. It turns out that needs to be booked well in advance, probably especially when you get to the shoulder season – which is how I’d think of our early May dates – and certainly in summer. Laura has been to Granada, I haven’t, but intend to visit the Antequera friend a number of times in the next years, so I should have other chances.

After that, our thoughts of Granada were easily discarded. Fewer transfers! I’m sure everyone should go if there’s an opportunity, and most definitely if planning ahead secures Alhambra tickets. But we know that Andalusia is full of splendid sites and it would be impossible to feel shortchanged, wherever we ended up. We both felt enormously relieved after agreeing upon this abbreviation of our route! Sometimes less really is more.

Neither one of us is the sort of tourist who has to see it all, and works through a checklist of every major attraction. We’d rather walk a lot to see a city, get a feel of it, stop for coffees or a drink, and enjoy our time at a natural pace. You could book completely full days of sightseeing and catch a lot more museums, cathedrals and monuments than we did. We’ll grant you kudos but we won’t be envious. It’s a matter of personal preference.

How we spent our ten days in Andalusia

It’s hard for me to not write “Andalucia” – the Spanish spelling!

I’m giving an account of our days, from sightseeing through transfers and basic expenses, hoping that it will be helpful as a base for others thinking about a similar trip. You can see what we found possible at a leisurely-enough pace to enjoy things our way, and make your own adjustments.


Immediately, we were astounded by the beautiful Jacaranda trees in all the parks and plazas. How lucky to be there in May when all were in bloom!

We weren’t ambitious after traveling, so after settling into our apartment-hotel, we walked around town with no destination in mind other than some grocery stores. We cooked in that night and made our plans over red wine – how else?

Refreshed and ready to explore the next day, we started by clambering around the Castillo de Gibralfaro and the Alcazaba, taking in the views. We saw the Roman columns, and went on to enjoy the waterfront and port. After sharing fresh fish and white wine for a late lunch, we walked more, until late in the day when we visited the Picasso Museum (open till 7 pm) in Buenavista Palace, which dates to around 1500. We were satisfied with our Málaga sightseeing.

On to Córdoba, with a Spanish SIM card for data

We just walked a bit in Málaga, till time to check out, when we rolled our suitcases off to a cafe. We went on to the station quite early, which gave me time to get a Spanish SIM card at Yoigo right in the station. Ten euros gave us plenty of data for maps and info. The other phone shops would not sell a tourist sim: either they didn’t have them in stock, or they would only deal with contract plans for people with residency. So make a note of Yoigo!

Our Córdoba lodging was hard to find, and we had to drag our bags further than expected after a taxi took us to where we picked up the keys. Once settled, we took our taxi driver’s good recommendation of Casa Pedro Jimenez for glasses of wine and a couple of tapas. We were nearly keeping Spanish hours that day, with tapas at 6 pm. But we ate dinner before 9 pm, not really local style! That was at Moriles Ribera, and between the two spots we saw a lot of the town and lingered around the Guadalquivir riverfront. Note that the whole historic center of Córdoba is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so just taking in the architecture and the parks is a very satisfying way to spend time.

The Mezquita of Córdoba can be visited for free

The next day we had a serious purpose: to visit the Mezquita, or Mosque-Cathedral. Entry is free from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. during the week (Tuesday-Friday), so we headed out early, arriving a bit after 8 and finding the line not too long. The allotted hour is plenty of time, even though every surface is something to marvel at.

Exploring Córdoba independently

We saw from posters that the Patios de Córdoba festival was in full swing. We could have purchased tickets and dedicated hours to discovering these charming nooks, but we saw how crowded they tended to be and we hadn’t the patience. It was amusing enough to take glances and a few steps inside the ones we could.

One of the display cases of canes owned by Antonio Gala

Laura had a map suggesting walking routes through town and we followed them a bit. When a poster outside an elegant building caught my eye, we went into the courtyard and learned it was the Fundación Antonio Gala (Calle Ambrosio de Morales, 20), presenting an exhibit on the life and works of the lawyer-poet-novelist. Not a name we knew, but one we should, as he is a much-loved and recognized author. There were lots of photos and press clippings to study, and two striking cases chock full of walking sticks, each with a unique head, of course. Gala wrote that he was not a collector of walking sticks, but rather a collector of friends who gave him walking sticks; and that when he walks, he depends not on the support of a stick but the support of his friends, some who’ve passed away, some who’ve passed out of his life, and others who are still with him. Just that clever note is enough to convince me he’s worth reading. Here’s my affiliate link to the page of Gala’s works at Amazon.es . Before the month was out, Antonio Gala died, so this tribute-exhibition was timely.

Three days to explore Sevilla

It suddenly felt luxurious to have three days in any one place. We chose Seville, as many say it’s the most beautiful city in Spain. On arrival, I can’t say it took my breath away; we taxied to a little cafe close to our lodgings, to wait for access, and I just saw rather plain, narrow streets, a bit sad, even. But the city quickly grew on me, because as we walked around, we appreciated a wealth and variety of beautiful architectural details.

Our first evening, we went to explore the riverfront, found the organic market over/under the bridge closed for the day, and settled outside at Lonja del Barranca for self-service food from its marketplace.

The next day we were ready to explore a lot more. We had gotten oriented fairly quickly, with the “Setas” (mushrooms!) plaza being a touchstone. Laura figured out where the best pedestrian area was, with trendy shops we could browse. We weren’t finding anywhere inspiring for lunch until we happened across the modest little Er Caserio where we lucked out with delicious food. In this neighborhood, 25.50 euros for two mains and two glasses of red wine seemed a very good deal.

We went on to Maria-Luisa Park to see the Plaza de España, mostly designed for the Ibero-American exhibition of 1929. Stunning and should not be missed! So glad Laura knew of it!

The weather was sunny, beautiful and pleasant! We had feared punishing heat. Perfect weather for enjoying a bit of a cruise on the river, so we boarded Cruceros en Sevilla.

Visiting Seville’s main attractions: Alcázar, Catedral, Giralda

Laura had identified our targets for serious sightseeing on our last full day in town. We got tickets online: the Alcázar (headout.com, about 9 euros ) and the Catedral with its Giralda (from the Cathedral’s own page, 11 euros for a senior). If you plan enough in advance, you can book free 2-pm-only entry to the Catedral and Giralda.

The Alcázar, or al-Qasr al-Muriq

This royal residence has seen a lot of history; you may enjoy reading some tales online, such as the four here on the official site. From late June into September, there are concerts here: Noches en los Jardines del Real Alcázar.

Seville’s Cathedral and Bell Tower (Giralda)

Upon entering the Cathedral, one is steered towards the belltower entrance. If we’d had a chance to think about it, we might have decided that going up 35 floors wasn’t necessary … but there we were, nearly herded up, and to our great relief, we found the climb was a continuous ramp. There are occasional lookout points that allow stepping out of the moving crowd. We made it. It wasn’t hard. And the views were a treat on this sunny day.

Once back on the ground level, there were truly untold riches to be seen. No one should miss this in Seville! It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the largest Christian Gothic cathedral in the world, according to its official webpage. Building started in 1401 after Christians had retaken the town; and of course building was on top of an earlier mosque, as has so often happened in cities that have changed hands from Muslim to Christian – and vice versa. The Giralda used to be the minaret! Tombs found in the chapel or crypt include those of King Ferdinand III, his son Alfonso X the Wise, King Peter of Castile and Christopher Columbus, whose tomb is especially elaborate.

Such a full day of wondrous sights! We couldn’t take in any more, so ate casually nearby and caught a taxi back to our apartment. But we did have one more visit in mind, which, being in the neighborhood, seemed a perfect fit for our half day before departure:

Palacio de Las Dueñas

Having bought Alcázar tickets from headout.com gave us a discount for our next purchase, so we got our tickets to the Palacio de las Dueñas (Calle Dueñas, 5) for about 7 euros each. This extraordinary house was built in the 1400-1500s for the Pineda, lords of Casa Bermeja. In 1612, it came into the family of the Duke of Alba. I can’t see that name without thinking of the terror of the Netherlands in the days of Spanish domination and religious repression, but Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, the Duke who gained this estate through marriage, was three generations later.

Off to Antequera

We then caught a bus to Antequera where my friend Francisca lives; she was kindly hosting us for two nights, met us at the station and gave us the royal tour: her home town mostly by foot, and the following day out in her car. Antequera is a town of just over 40,000 people, especially noted for its olive oil and for an extraordinary geological zone, the limestone Torcal de Antequera, which emerged from the sea a hundred million years ago. In town there is an old Moorish fortress, the Alcazaba. We ate tapas and meals in some of her favorite spots and felt we got a nearly-native view of the area.

Our first stop when touring by car was El Torcal, where Laura managed the whole path Francisca suggested. Not that sure-footed on such rough terrain and feeling very unsure of how it would be when scampering back down, at a certain point I declared myself finished and sat to wait. Climbing more rugged paths there is Francisca’s way to relax! Next we drove to the town of Francisca’s birth,  Villanueva de la Concepcion, a town of about 3,200 people. The day included lunch at a simple spot in the hills, and dinner back in Antequera.

Back to Malaga, beachfront near the airport for easy departure

After two nights at Francisca’s, we caught a bus to Málaga and then a taxi to our hotel on the coast. We did want to see the beach, but were unlucky with the weather. The gray skies and cool temperatures ruled out a beach day. What to do but enjoy some sangria and relax together?

Transportation costs and timing for this itinerary in Andalusia

Our transfers, with prices per person

  • Train from Málaga Maria Zambrano to Córdoba, 2:15 to 3:20 pm, € 30.90
  • train Córdoba to Sevilla Santa Justa, 12:33 to 1:30 pm, € 30.40
  • bus Sevilla to Antequera, 3 to 5:45 pm, € 20.90
  • Alsa bus Antequera to Malaga, 1 hour journey late morning, € 6.50

How to save on Spanish intercity trains and buses

Be aware that prices vary by time of day, not just by route. If you can be flexible, you may find a fare that is half of what some other schedule would cost. Check the transport company websites directly, rather than third-party ticket sellers. That would be RENFE trains, and for us, was Alsa buses, but there are other bus companies which rome2rio.com may help you find.

What we did not know is that a senior discount card for the Spanish Renfe trains costs only 6 euros. We’d have saved that, for sure. I had paid 50 euros for my French train (SNCF) senior card, so it didn’t occur to me that Spain would have a scheme that would be worthwhile for only two train trips!

Lodging cost: $1,159 for eight nights; two nights were at a friend’s house

We had separate bedrooms at two properties, and except for the last night’s hotel, had a kitchen. The last night’s hotel included breakfast and dinner.

Food cost

This of course depends on individual preferences! I can say that we generally had lunches for $10-$15 per person and dinners for $20-$25 each. We did sometimes share dishes, a good economy and appropriate for our appetites, but we enjoyed wine with meals – a glass or two. Friends know who was the “or two.”

Our conclusions

We didn’t sit down and summarize, but along the way we agreed that if we would do something in this area again, or if we would be advising friends or family, we’d be inclined to skip Málaga . That is, okay for arrival but head directly on elsewhere. We felt our time in Cordoba was sufficient, although it offers more to see than we toured. Seville, on the other hand, would be enjoyable for a longer time. And of course, we’d plan ahead and get to Granada and the Alhambra. We both especially enjoyed the days with Francisca. There’s nothing like having a good friend host a visit and introduce her territory; that was in many ways the best part of the trip. Even without a friend, we’d recommend getting to some of the smaller towns in the interior of Málaga province.

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