Andalucía is the southern most region of Spain; home to all of the quintessential Spanish images of the bullfight, flamenco, cascading white villages, sherry and hilltop ruined castles. The region is made up of 8 individual provinces; Malaga, Granada, Sevilla, Cordoba, Almeria, Huelva, Cadiz and Jaen. Each region has its own principal city which carries the same name, and has very different characteristics and traditions which gives each a unique and individual feel. The landscape changes dramatically as you travel around Andalucía. Spain’s highest peaks rise up from the Sierra Nevada in Granada; Europe’s only desert can be found in Almeria; Sevilla offers miles upon miles of fertile plains and Cadiz has the wild Atlantic coast which nearly touches Africa at The Strait of Gibraltar.
The early Mediterranean civilization of the Phoenicians discovered Andalucía's rich mineral wealth and plentiful seas, which in turn was invaded and captured by The Romans, Celts, Visigoths and eventually the Moors in 711. The early civilizations settled mainly on the coast; it was The Moors who discovered the true potential of the land by planting olives, oranges, lemons, saffron, figs, almonds and vines – which are still most of Andalucía's main harvests today.
The indelible mark left by The Moors is at the heart of much of the Andalucía that we see today: The medieval white washed villages, the typical Andalucían patio and water fountains, wrought iron window grills and stunning crumbling monuments which colour every landscape.
The conquering Christians created a more sombre Andalucía; a far cry from the tolerant, artistic and innovative society created by The Moors. The Christians built imposing gothic churches, grand state buildings and drove fear into the hearts of the people with their rigid catholic crusade, culminating in the dreaded events of the Spanish Inquisition. After Spain’s relatively brief but glorious golden age when Columbus sailed from Sevilla in search of The Americas in 1692, returning with more gold than they knew what to do with, the Andalucían people were then subjected to more than 300 years of extreme hardship and poverty. The civil war, the dictatorship of Franco and the “latifundia” landholding system which gave huge estates to absentee landlords, left people scraping by on the tiny amount they could produce from the land, existing in an almost 3rd world state whilst the rest of Spain and Europe advanced in leaps and bounds.
The wailing sounds of the flamenco voice capture the intensity and suffering of the people, whilst the vibrant music and dance, their excitable spirit. This spirit is the true soul of Andalucía. During hard times moral was boosted by the local fiestas and faith restored by religious festivals and “romerias” which gave the whole village the chance to sing, dance and dress up in celebration of simple events such as harvesting the olives or pressing the grapes. All these traditional fiestas are still very much alive in Andalucía today and here you can see the staunch Andalucían pride at its best. Parading their horses, dressing in flamenco finest and singing and dancing until the very early hours. For all its bleakness and remote civilizations, Andalucía is not a quiet place to visit. Even in the most remote mountain village you can be kept awake all night!
30 years on from the end of the Franco dictatorship, you can see a very different Andalucía from that of just one generation before with enterprise, new cars, lovely houses and an indulgent lifestyle. However, step away from the city centre or tourist villages and you can see that poverty still exists in a state unlike many other parts of Europe but stop for a while, look and listen and you will also see that the spirit of Andalucía lives on. Come and join us!
Dr Holger Herwig - Train tour of Andalucía - Canada
I want you to know that we love Lemon Valley! Every boutique hotel was a delight – well centered, brightly colored and with courteous staff. The city guides were informative and caring, willing to help in any way requested. All arrangements for trains and hotels were 100% perfect. We have NEVER had such a wonderful tour.