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Andalucia & Costa del Sol

Andalucia is a mountainous region in the far south of Spain, rich in minerals and an important centre for the production of olives, grapes, oranges and lemons, which includes Ceuta, Melilla, the Costa de Almería, the Costa del Sol and the Costa de la Luz.

The regional capital is Seville, one of the largest cities in Spain, and one bearing numerous traces of the 500 years of Moorish occupation. Seville is the romantic heart of the country, the city of Carmen and Don Juan; its cathedral is the largest Gothic building in the world and has a superb collection of art and period stonework. Christopher Columbus and St Ferdinand are buried here. Of great importance also is the Alcázar, the palace-fortress of the Arab kings, together with Giralda and Torre de Oro, reputedly once covered in gold leaf, and the River Guadalquivir. Holy Week in Seville embodies the religious fervor of the Spanish and is one of the most interesting festivals in the country. Early booking for accommodation at festival time is essential. Holy Week is followed closely by the famous April Fair, during which couples parade the fairground mounted on fine Andalucian horses, dressed in the traditional flamenco costume. Drinking, eating, song and dance are the order of the day for the whole week and the fairground with its colored lanterns and casetas bordering the streets is a continuous movement of color.

to the northeast has further relics of the Moorish Empire, the most spectacular being the 8th-century mosque with painted columns and arches. The building is so magnificent that it has been preserved through the changes of religion.

contains probably the greatest tribute to the Moorish Empire in Spain, the Alhambra. This fortress palace, home of the Moorish kings, defies accurate description for its sumptuous elegance and beauty. It is surrounded by the exquisite gardens of the Generalife, whose ponds and fountains help to cool the hot summer air. The Alhambra is possibly the single most splendid building in a country bearing relics of numerous epochs and civilizations. Granada's magnificent cathedral houses the tombs of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.

South of Granada and only about 40km (25 miles) from the coast, is the upland area of the Sierra Nevada, a mountain range running roughly east to west. It contains the highest peaks in Iberia; one of these, the Pico de Veleta (over 3400m/11,155ft) is accessible for most of its height by road and coach trips are available. The region offers the unique opportunity to combine a holiday of winter sports with coastal sunshine and watersports in the Mediterranean. Mountain resorts include Capileira (south of the Pico de Veleta), Borreguiles and Pradollano (both in the Solynieve region).

, capital of the northwestern Sierra Nevada, is an ancient town rich in historic buildings and art treasures; the Provincial Museum, the Cathedral and the Castle of Santa Catalina are among them. Baeza, 48km (30 miles) from Jaén, displays architectural styles which span Romanesque to Renaissance. Baeza as a whole has an air of nobility and strength; the aristocratic design and countless nobles' mansions are enhanced in appearance by the prevailing golden hue of the stone.

Barely 10km (6 miles) from Baeza and 58km (36 miles) from Jaén lies Ubeda, with Renaissance palaces to be seen on all sides.

Costa del Sol

This extends along almost all of the Mediterranean coast of Andalucía from the Costa de Almería to Tarifa in the south. The Costa del Sol is a densely populated tourist area mainly because of the fine beaches and picturesque towns.

The main city of this area, Málaga, lies only a few miles from the famous tourist resorts of Marbella and Torremolinos. Over 160km (100 miles) of coastline ensure that, despite its popularity, it is still possible to find a relatively uncrowded beach. In the same province is Nerja, known as the `Balcony of Europe' on account of its having a promontory look-out which is perched high above the sea with commanding views of the Mediterranean. It is also the home of well-preserved prehistoric caves. An excursion can be made from Málaga into the hinterland to the old Spanish mountain town of Ronda, spectacularly situated on a gorge in the Sierra de Ronda.

Resorts on the Costa del Sol: Calahonda, Torre del Mar, El Palo, Málaga, Nerja, Torremolinos, Benalmádena Costa, Fuengirola, Mijas, Marbella, San Pedro de Alcántara and Estepona.

Costa de Almeria

To the east of the Costa del Sol is the province of Almería. The capital of the same name is a Roman port with many Moorish-style houses, dominated by two castles. It is surrounded by subtropical vegetation and hills and is situated within a wide bay. Attractions in the town include the 16th-century Cathedral, the Church of Santiago el Viejo and the Moorish Alcazaba.

Resorts on the Costa de Almería: Adra, Roquetas, Cabo de Gata, Aguadulce, Mojácar and San José.

Costa de La Luz

This runs along the southern Atlantic coast of Spain between Tarifa and the Portuguese border, featuring long sandy beaches and unspoilt sand dunes.

From Algeciras, ferries run to Tangier and Ceuta on the north African coast, as well as to the Canary Islands. Taking the road from Algeciras to Cádiz is one of the most enjoyable drives in the country, offering spectacular views of the Straits of Gibraltar, the North African coastline and the Atlas Mountains. Cádiz is characterized by palm trees, look-out towers and white-fronted houses. It is one of the oldest towns in Iberia, founded by the Phoenicians around 1000BC. Less than half an hour away is the sherry town of Jerez, housing the great bodegas whose product has linked the town with England since importation of sherris-sack into this country began in the 16th century.

In the province of Huelva is the town of El Rocío where one of the most important Spanish festivals is held, that of the Virgin of El Rocío. Also of interest are the beautiful stalactite caves of Gruta de las Maravillas in Aracena in the north of Huelva province and the national park, Coto de Doñana (see the general introduction above).

Resorts on the Costa de la Luz: Barbate, Algeciras, Tarifa, Conil de la Frontera, Chiclana de la Frontera, Cádiz, El Puerto de Santa María, Rota, Chipiona, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Torre la Higuera, Mazagón, Punta Umbría, El Rompido, La Antilla and Isla Cristina.

Ceuta & Melilla (The African Enclaves)

Ceuta is a free port on the north coast of Africa. The city is dominated by the Plaza de Africa in the town centre, and by the cathedral. The promontory has the remains of the old fortress. Bus services are available into Morocco and there are regular car-ferry sailings from Algeciras.

Melilla is also a free port on the north coast of Africa, and is served by car ferries from Málaga and Almería. The town is mainly modern, but there are several older buildings, including a 16th-century church.



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