Andalusia makes up a huge part of Spain — it’s basically the southernmost fifth of the country. Although it’s not the largest autonomous community (that title goes to Castilla y Leon), it’s certainly the most populous.
Really, it’s too big to discuss in just one podcast, and in previous podcasts we’ve talked about the cities of Córdoba, Granada, and Seville. So today we’ll be focussing on Cádiz, Jerez, and the Pueblos Blancos where we’ve been based for the last three months.
Cadiz is a small city located on an ithsmus, and it’s easy to see most of it in a day by foot. In fact, the local government has marked four different routes around the city, focusing on different aspects of its history. We particularly liked the green line, which takes you to the Roman amphitheatre, the old and new cathedral, the town walls, the market, and to other sites of interest — which all have information boards in Spanish and English.
The main paid attractions are the Torre Tavira (€5), one of the old watchtowers that was erected during Cadiz’s boom period as a merchant port.
The camera obscura gives great views of the city. The cathedral also costs €5 to enter, and if you want to climb the tower, it’ll be an extra €4. The museum is €1.50, free for EU residents, and is definitely worth a wander — there’s phonecian relics, two sarcophagi, and a whole bunch of art.
You can’t visit the San Sebastian castle, but you can follow the narrow walkway out to it for good views of the city. Santa Catalina castle is free to enter and hosts a small museum and an art exhibition, as does the military fortification Baluarte de la Candelaria. You could also visit the Oratorio de San Felipe Neri, which hosts a display about the Constitution of 1812 — but it’s all in Spanish.
Jerez is known for wine, horses, and flamenco, but there’s a lot more to it than that. It’s a pretty city that’s lovely just to wander around — and the local government has prepared several routes such as a wine route or a flamenco route. The ways aren’t marked as they are in Cadiz, but there are information boards about each attraction in English and Spanish.
As well as drinking sherry in a bar (Tabanco Plateros is our favourite), you should do a winery tour to get your head around how this wine is produced — it’s really quite strange. We recommend Bodegas Tradicion for an excellent, though pricy tour; if you want a cheaper, more-touristy one with good hours, choose Beam over Gonzalez Byass, even if it is the most famous — it’s expensive and you only get two tastes. Diez Merito and Alvaro Domecq are also well-priced, solid options, as is Williams and Humbert — though they are a little out of town.
If you’re into flamenco, visit the free flamenco centre and attend a recital or show in the evening — though you might come across locals strumming their guitars in the streets if you’re lucky. Ask at the tourist office about what’s on while you’re there, and avoid the touristy shows if you can.
As for horses, you’ll see statues of them all around the city, and if you visit Williams and Humbert bodega you’ll get a short horse show included in the entrance price. The most famous horse centres are Real Escuela del Arte Ecuestre, which has a show at 12 on Thursdays, and Yeguada de la Cartuja has one at 11 on Saturdays. Both have various prices, but cost around €20.
The Alcázar fortress is a must-visit, and it’s free on Mondays… though you still have to pay to visit the camera obscura, which is definitely worth seeing. It’s €5.40 including the camera obscura if you visit another day, and they are open every day.
The zoo is a little pricy but your fee helps support their reproduction programme, the Arabic baths are amazing and a wonderful splurge option, and the Museo del Belén (nativity scene museum) is something a bit different that’s worth doing. If you’re after free attractions, visit the market, the Zoco handcraft centre, and (our favourite) the Claustro de Santo Domingo for free art exhibitions.
We loved being here in winter, because there was always something going on — Christmas parades, zambomba parties, mosto restaurants to visit, and more recently, Carnaval celebrations. But it seems that Jerez is a city where there’s always something going on — they have a festival every year and the calendar (http://www.turismojerez.com/index.php?id=2963&L=0) is packed with other activities.
You’ll need a car to visit the white villages, unless you find a tour that will take you to a few of them. We went on a day trip with friends and did a one-hour hike in the hills near Grazalema, one of the prettiest towns. We also passed Arcos de la Frontera and spent the afternoon in Ronda, which is actually in the province of Malaga.
These white villages are gorgeous to see from a distance and as many of them are perched on cliffs, they offer great views of the surrounding countryside. Plus, the food of this area is delicious — make sure to try some local cheese.
There are lots of other small towns in the region, like El Puerto de Santa Maria, Sanlucar de Barrameda, Rota… We didn’t get to visit any of them, so we’ll have to come back to check them out!