Trips and Trip Planning in Spain

Wow, we’re in March already and I’m desperately trying to catch up with chores and articles. February went so quickly I so hope this month, my favourite one,  doesn’t rush by too much. I’ve planted cherry tomatoes, artichokes and bought broccoli plants that I must get in the garden in our holiday rental house soon.

My trips have been brilliant. If you didn’t read the last post I visited the lovely ancient farmstead Cortijo del Arte and spent a day with the local guide Carolina. I’m saying no more, you’ll have to read the post – A Weekend in Inland Malaga.

Cortijo del Arte

Cortijo del Arte

This last weekend I was invited to a private, exclusive estate in Castilla-La  Mancha. A beautiful amazingly presented luxurious estate with a purpose built ‘hunting lodge’ providing 16 suites and three bedrooms. It isn’t a boutique hotel but a private home that is rentable in its entirety for private functions, weddings and shooting parties with its own private runway, always handy to know as a trip planner! If you want to know more just get in touch via the contact form on the Trip Planning page.

Next weekend I’m off with hubby to another hotel in Cordoba city, one that I’ve wanted to visit for a long time – Hotel Las Casas de la Juderia de Cordoba ( de Cordoba because there is one in Sevilla too.)

Hotel Casas de la Juderia

Hotel Casas de la Juderia

I’m very much looking  forward to that visit and to experiencing the Hammam Al Andalus Baths there too. If you like saunas, massages and Hammams they are a must, especially in Andalucia where Moorish or Arab Baths were so prevalent. Read about the ones in Granada over on Luxury Spain Travel’s Hammam Baths in Granada post.

Hammam Al Andalus Details

Hammam Al Andalus Details

So with some post writing to get done, bag to unpack and pack again, I leave you for now in what is the most spectacular season of the year – March and springtime. The very best for trip planning, visiting Spain and gardening planning too.

A Weekend in Inland Malaga – Where to Stay and A Local Guide for What to See

This weekend I’ve been amazed yet again at the history, culture and beauty of Andalucia. Since moving to Jaen province in the north of Andalucia in 1996 I love nothing more than exploring the region, and the rest of Spain, it is always diverse and fascinating.

Pizarra, Valle de Azahar

Pizarra, Valle de Azahar

My destination was a lovely ancient Cortijo or farmstead, once known as the Casablanca, now it’s called Cortijo del Arte . Arte or art as each bedroom is named after a different Spanish artist. The new owners are going to be changing the name of the rooms. They will be holding art exhibitions (in the onsite municipal museum), then room will be named after the exhibiting artist and host one of their paintings too.

Cortijo del Arte

Cortijo del Arte

On Saturday we spent the day with a local guide, Carolina, on part of her Ruta Sensorial de Valle de Azahar – Sensory Route of Orange Blossom Valley, with other additions, I left the planning completely up to her. It was all fun. This valley, also known as the Valle del Guadalhorce, is covered with citrus plantations. Orange, lemon, kumquat, graperuit, if it’s citrus it grows here, this is a fairly mild climate with not too cold winters (like I get further north) nor too hot (like I get too!)

Citrus Grove, Valle de Azahar, Malaga, Spain

Citrus Grove, Valle de Azahar, Malaga

Carolina at Arkeolife  can design and plan your bespoke visit, their passion is archaeology and preservation while integrating culture with small enterprises. We visited three local businesses. The first a citrus farm with more varieties of oranges and lemons than I knew existed. The owner, known as Juanito Orange, made it an amusing and incredibly informative visit, even my husband who is no gardener was enthralled.

Juanito Orange Finca, Pizarra

Juanito Orange Finca, Pizarra

Then it was to a very small winery with a wide range of wines. We sampled several of Lascas de Pedernal‘s wines before the creme de la creme a wine made from Pomegrantes and one made form strawberries. I wouldn’t have guessed what the pomegrante one  was, but the strawberry one was very obvious, a pure strawberry aroma, and so strong. The flavour was just as delicious. I could imagine pairing it with a delicately flavoured ice cream or even better pouring it over the top.

Bodegas Lascas de Pedernal, Winery, Malaga

Bodegas Lascas de Pedernal

We left a table of empty, used glasses and with a goody bag to bring home, a bottle, 50cl, of Lemon wine and a Pomegranate wine. Such a joy seeing tiny, family businesses producing innovative wines and pretty bottles too!

Bodegas Lascas de Pedernal, winery Malaga

Bodegas Lascas de Pedernal

After several glasses and a long time since breakfast we had a brief, yet again fascinating stop at Aceites Esenciales de Eva. Eva greeted us, guess where? Yep, on her citrus farm. Which is where and how her story began. A necessity to make the most of her father’s struggling citrus  farm has seen her build her own success story producing and selling essential oils, shampoo, deodorant, body creams, sunscreens and if she doesn’t already produce what you want she will work with you to produce it. If you can’t visit her farm and buy them first hand she now has a shop – Aceites Esenciales de Eva.

Essential Oils Producer, Spain, Aceites Esenciales de Eva

Essential Oils, Aceites Esenciales de Eva

After a fairly speedy lunch Alora was our destination. As quite often happens here in Spain – the castle was closed on Saturday afternoon. But the viewpoint looking down the valley held us spellbound and Carolina furnished us with plenty of anecdotes and historical facts and to be honest we really didn’t have time, we’ve saved that for next time.

Carolina, Arkeolife Mirador de Cervantes in Alora

Carolina at Work at Mirador de Cervantes in Alora

We then headed to see an ancient washroom that Carolina had heard of but not yet visited. We were the first. Such history and culture rolled up in the outdoor natural spring fed washing troughs. The place to meet, gossip, sing and commiserate, all women together while doing the chores – sounds like more fun than loading the washing machine. Some still use it today, hence the buckets!

Ancient Washing Place

Ancient Washing Place

Our very last stop was another balcony with a view to rival Ronda’s, the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Flores

Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Flores, Alora

Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Flores, Alora

A busy, fun and informative visit. I have no hesitation recommending Carolina and look forward to doing more of her routes.

Trip Planner in Andalucia

Andalucia is a diverse and vibrant region. From the concrete jungle of the Costa del Sol to the wilderness of its natural parks. Culture, history, tradition along with over 300 days of sunshine a year make it – that awful cliche – something for everyone. That’s why a trip planner is needed. Someone on the ground who lives in the region and has done so for over two decades, exploring, writing about it and never failing to be stunned by its beauty and richness.

So many people fly into Malaga airport and stay near it on the coastal strip. That isn’t Spain. That’s the commercial touristy part that I rarely go to. Malaga old city is an exception. A delightful historical part near the port making it, along with Barcelona, a grand city right on the beach.

Head away from the airport, even along the coast (if you  must) and the over commercialism lessens a little but head inland to the wide open spaces, mountain ranges, beautiful cities and small white villages where customs and traditions live on – that is Spain.

If you’re not sure what Andalucia consists of read my blog post Where is and What is Andalucia (and Which Boutique Hotel to Choose? which talks about the provinces which make up the region of Andalucia. Each one as different and worthy of exploring as the other.

Whether art museums are your passion, or tasting tapas, mountain biking, cycling part ot the Vuelta de España route. Flamenco, history, Roman architecture, Moorish castles, wild orchids, small villages, olive oil mills, walking GR routes or Caminos, skiing, whatever activity you enjoy or interest you have you’ll find plenty of it here in Andalucia.

As well as what there is to see in Andalucia, where to stay is as important, maybe more important to you. Beautiful litte boutique hotels or historical Paradors abound, let me share some of my favourites with you. Or you can of course puruse the pages of Only Spain and see some charming places to stay.

Let me help you with my Trip Planner in Andalucia and Spain services.

Caves in Spain – Nerja Caves – 60 Years Since the Discovery, Altimira Caves – New Hand Prints Discovered

If there’s an extra push you need to make you visit Nerja Caves then maybe the 60 year anniversary since their accidental discovery is a good enough one. If you’ve been you’ll know that a visit is just jaw-dropping and if you’re like me then you would go again and again.

Nerja Caves

Nerja Caves

So if you are heading to Malaga and Costa del Sol add the Cuevas de Nerja onto your list of must-visits. The cave or caves because there are several chambers, are enormous. It is said that only around one quarter of the caves or caverns are open to the public at present. What is able to be visited and is a fair old walk including many steps. Because of these it isn’t suitable for the young or infirm.

Nerja Caves

Nerja Caves

This year, 2019, not only celebrates the 60th anniversary since their discovery by five local boys, four of whom are still alive, but a new discovery in the caves of Altamira in Cantabria too.  Three new hand prints in Altimira have been added to the collection of Palaeolithic hands found in catalogued by HANDPAS’. The Altimira Caves in contrast to Nerja Caves are not open to the public on the same scale as Nerja’s to keep them from deteriorating.

Nerja Caves

Nerja Caves

The Cuevas de Nerja were discovered when some local lads saw bats seemingly coming out of the ground. On further investigation they managed to get down underground and the rest as they say is history. Stagalagtites,  stalagmites, prehistoric art, rock formations and human remains were discovered and now are on view to the world.

This amazing complex of nature’s underground world is just stunning. When you stop and gaze at the sheer immensity and think about the time and the process that has created this phenomenon  it really does make time stand still.

Nerja Caves

Nerja Caves

The world’s largest stalagmite is here at a mere 50m high and 45m wide. I felt as though I was in a film set. An unreal place. Divided into four natural chambers, the second one large enough,with fabulous natural accoustics has hosted concerts.

Nerja Caves Train

Nerja Caves Train

The caves aren’t actually in Nerja itself but a few kilometres to the east, They are well signposted and there is lots of parking. You can also take the little tourist train from Nerja town if you haven’t a car. If you go in summer remember the temperature inside the caves is far cooler than that of the outside, so take a jacket or a jumper.

Where to stay in and around Malaga city and province? Chcek out our collection of gorgeous Boutique Hotels in Malaga. 

Which of our lovely collection is nearest to Nerja Caves? Miller’s of Frigiliana.

If you are planning a visit to Spain you may want to use our Trip Planning services.

All photos copyright @OnlySpain

Your Own Boutique Hotel for a Wedding in Spain? Four Fabulous and Private Small Boutique Stays

Ever thought of hiring your own hotel in Spain? Here we recommend four beautiful and private small boutique hotels for small private weddings or family gatherings.

Planning a party? Want a private wedding? Just fancy a real hummdinger of an escape for 2 – 20? Then rent your own hotel in Spain. Hop on a plane and arrive at your very own hotel, even if it’s only for a week or weekend. No other guests except your invited ones. Everything catered for. Just relax or party to your hearts content.

Karst Landscape, El Torcal, Antequera

Karst Landscape, El Torcal, Antequera, Malaga

If the destination isn’t important because you will all be together and have your own private swimming pool and don’t  particularly want to mix with others on a beach then head inland away from the crowds. The Costa del Sol might pop into your mind but get away from the hype, the English Breakfasts and pint of beer drinking tourists. Head for the hinterland.

La gruta de las Maravillas,Aracena, Huelva

La gruta de las Maravillas, Huelva

Spain is an enormous country with beautiful scenery. Whether you want to walk, run, mountain bike or just admire those views, getting away from it all means getting into serious countryside with not a soul or a club in sight.

El Palacio de San Benito, Cazalla de la Sierra

El Palacio de San Benito, Cazalla de la Sierra

When we say Sevilla we’re heading off in the wilds of Sevilla province into a charming white town, not the city. The mountain town of Cazalla de la Sierra is home to the oh, so quirky El Palacio de San Benito. A veritable museum of antiques fills this 9-bedroom small town abode.

Cortijo Sabila, Malaga

Cortijo Sabila, Antequera, Malaga

In the north of Malaga province surrounded by olive groves lies the modern villa filled with gorgeous decoration and extnsive grounds – Cortijo Sabila. Your own swimming pool with outside bar, life-size chess board and Alhambra Garden patio. With just 5 double rooms for an intimate stay.

Finca la Fronda, Aracena, Huelva

Finca la Fronda, Huelva

A Natural Park near the Portuguese border? In Huelva province the Finca la Fronda owned by the great great grandson of poet William Wordsworth is a glorious escape. It can sleep up to sixteen people. Surrounded by trees with no near neighbours and a pool in under tree cover, you won’t want to leave.

Casa Grande de Zujaira, Granada

Casa Grande de Zujaira, Zujaira, Granada

Following in the footsteps of poets, in Granada province on land walked by Frederico Garcia Lorca the newly renovated house of nobles – La Casa Grande de Zujaira is beautiful. Two hundred years old with many original fixtures and fittings with non obtrusive modernity. A stay for a Lady or ten.

 

Read more about each hotel

Cortijo Sabila

La Casa Grande de Zujaira

Finca la Fronda

El Palacio de San Benito

Rather we sorted your plans for you? We are also trip planners. Check out our Trip Planning in Spain services.

Spring Time for Trip Planning in Spain

As you may, or may not, know, I love trip planning. Not only do I offer trip planning in Spain services which compliment the portfolio of gorgeous place to stay – Only Spain ~ Boutique Hotels and B&Bs. Of course you don’t have to stay in any of the properties on here. There are many, many more across the country that we haven’t visited – yet!

So when it comes to our own planning, (yes I’m the planner and hubby is quite happy about that) spring time is just the best time for visiting Spain. Winters, especially inland can be cold (it is where we live) so the beginning of spring and the blossoming of flowers and shrubs is just my favourite time of the year.

Spring Flowers in a Basket

Spring Flowers

Summer, again especially inland, can get very hot. We get temperatures into the late 30s early 40º centigrade in June, July and August which just about finishes off a lot of plants. Many go dormant such as roses which bloom twice here, once in late April, early May and again after the intense heat has died away at the end of September, the beginning of October.

So colourful, brightness and sign that winter is departing with everything starting to bud is the best. The vines are just beginning to show signs that they are in fact alive. The olive harvest is starting to wind up and my favourite season is about to begin – or to spring!

Casa El Reguelo

Casa El Reguelo

So it’s time for trip planning for the spring, and I’ve begun. January is almost behind us (I didn’t say it but thought – I’m glad). February if it’s a mild one sees my gardens come to life. I have one at home and one at our holiday home Casa El Reguelo. Always a fair weather walker and gardener – roll on the warmth!

The visits we have planned so far are three lovely new properties in Andalucia. One in Cordoba city, one in Granada province and one in Malaga province. If you’ve always wondered what Andalucia actually consists of, have a read of my post – Where is and What is Andalucia….

The Mezquita, Cordoba city

The Mezquita, Cordoba city

I’m excited to bring you the gorgeous 200 year old La Casa Grande de Zujaira in La Vega area just 22km from Granada city and on the doorstep of Fuente Vaqueros the home town of poet Frederico Garcia Lorca. There’s now a museum in the house where he was born and historical archives on his life and works.

La Casa Grande de Zujaira

La Casa Grande de Zujaira

Next month after a few non-working days Ibiza (yep, heading for some warmth) we go south to the province of Malaga to visit the ancient Moorish dairy farm – Cortijo del Arte in Pizzara. That is in the Guadalhorce valley, a lovely rural spot,  each room in this ancient farmstead is named after an artist. Watch out for its addition to Only Spain at the end of February.

Cortijo del Arte

Cortijo del Arte

The beginning of March sees us heading to one of my favourite Andalucian cities – Cordoba, to visit the stunning Hotel Las Casas de la Juderia de Cordoba. A hotch-potch of five ancient houses in the Jewish Quarter that have been united in one hotel via little patios and corridors, it’s rather larger than our usual style but quirky and unique. A very central hotel just two minutes walk from the Mezquita.

Las Casas de la Juderia

Las Casas de la Juderia

As yet we have no plans for Easter, but after that hubby, youngest son and I are heading (probably plunging back into winter) to Glasgow to visit my brother and nieces. I can’t wait to see them, but think I’ll also be happy to return to my Andalucian blue skies.

So that’s my Spring Time for Trip Planning in Spain – how’s yours going?

Don’t forget if you want help planning your trip to Spain, just get in touch. It’s all on this page. 

Where is and What is Andalucia and Which Boutique Hotel to Choose?

Many people say to me ‘I love Spain and Andalusia’ but when I quiz them a little more I find that they don’t know much at all about Andalusia. Or is it Andalucia? So, here is a little about where and what Andalucia is.

Andalucia is the Spanish spelling and Andalusia is the English way to write it. I use the ‘c’ spelling because I live in Spain, well Andalucia. So where is it? Down south of course! It’s the south of Spain. But not all the south, so what does it consist of? Well Andalucia is one of the 17 Autonomous Regions that make up Spain, there are also two autonomous cities – Ceuta and Melilla which are on Morocco’s Mediterranean coast.

The Alhambra, Granada

The Alhambra, Granada

As one of Spain’s largest regions Andalucia, as most Spanish regions, is then divided into provinces. There are eight provinces in the autonomous region of Andalucia. We have boutique hotels in all but one at the moment, click the links below to see our collection. The eight provinces are – Almeria, Cadiz, Cordoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaen, Malaga and Seville or Sevilla in Spanish. Each of these provinces has a provincial capital of the same name.

King's Walkway, Caminito del Rey, Malaga Province

Caminito del Rey, Malaga Province

So Malaga, as with all of them, is both a city and a province. Which can be confusing. For example Malaga airport isn’t in Malaga city but in Torremolinos which is nearby. Sevilla isn’t only an amazing and tantalizing city but a vast area including Natural Parks and pasture land.

El Palacio de Las Dueñas, Seville city

El Palacio de Las Dueñas, Seville city

Jaen isn’t only famous for its olive groves and olive oil but has a route of Castles and Battles running through the province as well as being home to Spain’s largest Natural Park – Parque Natural de Cazorla, Segura & Las Villas.

Cazorla, Segura & Las Villas Natural Park, Jaen Province

Cazorla, Segura & Las Villas Natural Park, Jaen Province

Granada isn’t only home to The Alhambra but you can ski in winter and sunbathe on its beaches in summer, or at the end of April/beginning of May you can do both on the same day. Cordoba city, home to the incredible Mezquita, also has some stunning natural areas and white villages as well as grazing land for the pigs which produce excellent jamon.

The Mezquita, Cordoba city

The Mezquita, Cordoba city

Huelva, bordering on Portugal also produces some award-winning jamon and its coast saw Christopher Columbus set sail on his voyages of discovery. It also has the most beautiful and awe-inspiring caves – La gruta de las Maravillas.

La Gruta de las Maravillas, Aracena, Huelva

La Gruta de las Maravillas, Aracena, Huelva

Cadiz is the most southerly province with over 200km of coastline with excellent windsurfing where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. Inland there are beautiful small towns and the ‘White Village’ route.

Zahara de la Sierra, Cadiz  White Village

Zahara de la Sierra, Cadiz White Village

Almeria is the mildest place in Spain located on the Mediterranean Sea. With a domineering Arab fortress in the city overlooking the sea. Inland is Europe’s only desert a desolate area of scrubland home to film studios of the old ‘Westerns.’

Fountain, Almocita, Almeria Province

Fountain, Almocita, Almeria Province

Diverse and unique Andalucia oozes history and culture from one small town to another, from city to city it’s a compelling area to visit. Everyone falls in love with it. One visit is never enough.

I rather like this description of Andalucia by award-winning romance author Hannah Fielding…

Azure skies all the year round, dazzling sunshine and sweetly fragranced gardens… colour, romance, emotion and the iconic figure of a flamenco dancer or the torero in the arena, sword and cape in hand beneath the scorching sun – there is no place like Andalusia on earth.

Is Andalucia on your list of places to visit? But where with so much choice and being so vast in size it is hard to choose. Start with our province pages to find where to stay. Don’t forget we are trip planners too. Just pop over to the Trip Planning page and start your holiday rolling.

Boutique Hotels in our portfolio in Andalucia, Province by Province

Cadiz, Cordoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaen, Malaga and Seville.