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.

Cordoba, Spain Full of UNESCO Sites

Cordoba is full of UNESCO sites. It isn’t as popular to visitors as Barcelona or Sevilla yet has more UNESCO listings than either of them and more than anywhere else in the world. With the addition of the Medina Azahara in 2018 Cordoba now has four UNESCO sites which makes Spain’s total number inscribed on the World Heritage list at the end of 2018 – 47 .

What is a UNESCO Site?

A UNESCO Site is one which is determined by the World Heritage Committee as a UNESCO site and added to the World Heritage list, as their website says must be ‘of universal outstanding value’ and also meet one of 10 criteria such as being representative of a living or extinct cultural tradition or civilization.

Cordoba’s four are: the picturesque Historic Quarter, The Mezquita Mosque/Cathedral, the new Medina Azahara, and the Patios Festival, added in 2012.

Cordoba’s Historical Quarter

Cordoba was founded by the Romans in 2nd century BC. The Moors conquered it in the 8th century and built splendid mosques, palaces and public buildings. In the 13th century it was conquered by the Catholic Kings.

The Historic Centre of Cordoba reflects thousands of years of occupation by different cultural groups – Roman, Visigoth, Islam, Judaism and Christian. It reflects the urban and architectural complexity of Roman era and the splendour of the great Islamic city which  was between the 8th and the 10th centuries.  There are still many ancestral homes and traditional houses built around interior courtyards which are Roman in origin with an Andalusian touch. Most still feature the presence of water and plants in daily life.

The Mezquita Mosque/Cathedral

The Great Mosque of Cordoba or Mezquita, now called the Mezquita/Cathedral because the Catholic Kings built a cathedral within it. It is a unique artistic achievement due to its size and the sheer boldness of the height of its ceilings. It’s a testimony of the Caliphate of Cordoba and a testimony of Islamic religious architecture which also used building techniques from the west such as double arches supporting the roof.

The Mezquita or Great Mosque of Cordoba was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1984 and later parts of the Historic Centre, the Alcazar (the fortress), and the south to the banks of the River Guadalquivir, the Roman Bridge and the Calahorra Tower were added.

The Medina Azahara

The Medina Azahara or Caliphate City of Medina Azahara is an architectural site about 6km from the present city centre built in the mid 10th century by the Umayyad dynasty as its capital. It was a powerful and luxurious city which was almost demolished in war and then abandoned and forgotten about for nearly 1,000 years.

It provides  a unique and intriguing  insight into the life and times of the now vanished Western Islamic civilization known as Al-Andalus.

The Cordoba Patios Festival

Festivals are declared as world heritages by UNESCO when they’re ‘deemed particularly notable’ The festival of flowers – Cordoba Patios Festival  started in 1918 and was added to the list in 2012. It is a celebration of spring and takes place the first two weeks of May (the dates vary slightly from year to year) when around fifty private historical houses in the historical center open their beautifully decorated, flower-laden patios to the public.
Each patio is unique, usually featuring water, including the once necessary wells. Entry is free and maps are available at tourist kiosks or online. There are now different routes plotted on the maps for ease of finding the patios in these narrow, winding streets.

Have these treasures whet your appetite to visit Cordoba? Then you’ll need to find a lovely place to stay.  See our Cordoba page which includes hotels in the city and province of Cordoba or check out the two gorgeous hotels in the city itself Hotel Balcon de Cordoba and Hotel Viento 10.

 

All photos copyright OnlySpain.org

Five Fabulous Boutique Hotels in Andalucia for Great Walking Holidays

Andalucia in the south of Spain is a great destination for walkers and hikers, having numerous mountain ranges providing no end of great walking country.  We’ve paired up superb scenery with  five of our gorgeous boutique hotels for some of the best destinations in Andalucia for walking holidays. Whether you prefer a serious hike or gentle stroll the mountains and olive groves offer plenty of scope.

Cortijo Sabila

In the north of Malaga province, just 35 minutes from Malaga city and near the stunning El Torcal National Park  Cortijo Sabila makes a great base. Surrounded by olive groves with mountainous backdrops the views are lovely. With only eight bedrooms and being an adult-only hotel, providing home-cooked dinners every evening (on request), it’s an excellent choice.

Cortijo Sabila, Boutique Hotel, Malaga, Spain

Cortijo Sabila

 

Cortijo del Marques

North of Granada city the beautifully restored country estate Cortijo del Marques is a great base for visiting the city of Granada and Granada province or just basing yourself in this country house hotel and walking from the doorstep.

This 500 year-old cortijo with its own chapel is surrounded by fields growing sunflowers and wheat, olive groves and is located between the Pozuelo and Arana mountain ranges.

Each room is unique, keeping the history of this charming manor house alive, with many original features retained and the resident owners are delighted to share its tales.

Cortijo del Marques is closed from the beginning of November until mid March.

Cortijo del Marques, Granada

Cortijo del Marques, Granada

Finca la Fronda

In the depths of the enormous Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche Natural Park in the west of Andalucia Finca la Fronda is an oasis of calm. Surrounded by indigenous trees such as sweet chestnuts and cork oak trees it really is idyllic for the walker.

There are many marked routes around the National Park and plenty of information in the hotel itself. Or just take yourself off and enjoy the peace, quiet and pure mountain air of these Sierras.

If you fancy you can pop over the border into Portugal while here it is so close. Or stay near the hotel taking walks from 1 hour to 8 hours in length and easy to medium grades.

Finca la Fronda, Alajar, Huelva

Hotel Los Castaños

The tiny hamlet of Cartajima is to the west of Malaga in the Valle del Genal part of the Serrania de Ronda mountain range.  With an altitude over 800m it is higher than most of the surrounding mountains providing some stunning and far-reaching views.

On Wikiloc there are many walking routes of varying lengths and difficulties around this area. It’s not far from Ronda for day trips and the next village, a good walk, it the ‘blue’ Smurf village of Juzcar.

Hotel Los Castaños

Hotel Los Castaños

Molino la Nava

Molino la Nava is an ancient olive oil mill from the  XVIII century in Cordoba province, so obviously it is surrounded by olive groves which are great for walking. It is now a lovely hotel, complete with machinery from its olive mill days in the rustic restaurant.

With just eight rooms and in the middle of nowhere it conjures visions of peace. It’s also in the starlight reserve of the Sierra Morena so the night sky comes alive without the need of a telescope.

If you don’t fancy roaming the olive groves  the GR48 runs right alongside the hotel. For a bit of city life Cordoba is only 30 minutes drive away.

Molino la Nava. Boutique Hotel, Montoro, Cordoba

 

Want to read more about each of our ‘Fabulous Five’ hotels? Each link will take you to the appropriate hotel’s page.

Cortijo Sabila

Cortijo del Marques

Finca la Fronda

Hotel Los Castaños

Molino la Nava

See my post over on my Andalucia Explorer blog you fancy reading my Walking the Mountains of Ronda and Grazalema book review by Guy Hunter-Watts. He’s the local expert and has written many walking guides for Cicerone publishers covering Andalucia.

 

Amberlair

Have you heard of Amberlair project – a crowd sourced Boutique Hotel?  They are creating the world’s first crowd sourced Boutique Hotel? It’s  great  fun to follow their progress with the first hotel to being based in the south of Italy. Pop over to their website and follow its progress.

Marcus & Kristin Amberlair Founders

Marcus & Kristin Amberlair Founders

The Amberlair website features many boutique hotel lovers – #boholovers as they call them and I’m one of them! If you’d like to read a bit more about the ‘Me’ behind  Only Spain – here I am! Rachel Webb of Only Spain.

Only Spain Boutique Hotels on Other Sites

As you probably know I sometimes write about the gorgeous hotels and Bed & Breakfast properties from this Only Spain portfolio on my blogs Andalucia Explorer and Luxury Spain Travel but did you know that I also write for other sites at times?

Finca la Fronda, Alajar, Huelva

Finca la Fronda

I’ve recently written about the lovely Finca La Fronda  both on Luxury Spain Travel and for Journeys, Jaunts and Junkets take a look, it really is a beautiful hotel with a touch of English-ness, you’ll have to read one of the posts to find out about it.

January Birthdays

At the end of January (hubby’s birthday) and a very cold weekend we found ourselves heading  to the coast in hope of good or at least better weather than our inland mountain home was forecast to have.

My choice of getaway was the lovely Miller’s of Frigiliana. I’ve written about it on our sister site Luxury Spain Travel and Miller’s is on here too.

Read about Miller’s of Frigiliana on Luxury Spain Travel.

And suddenly, amazingly and scarily here I am again in December (2018) thinking yet again of what to do and where to go for his birthday next month! Funny how we always go away for his, but not mine, unless I plan it!

It’s been an odd year (maybe you read my Closing of a Year post) which I won’t be sorry to see leave and will be celebrating the new.

It’s been tough taking in my step father and being the mother of 3 sons. They bring a girl into my home and one hopes they will be around forever. Then, all change, the romance is over. My relationship with my ‘daughter-in -law’ broken and supposed to just end like the ‘romance.’ Even more tricky when the eldest son’s other half is her sister.

Well, good things always come from the negative and it looks like our middle son will be working in Amsterdam next year, so that’s a definite travel plan if so.

Travel has been curtailed when caring has increased (read ‘The Closing of a Year’ post.) Bring on 2019 so we can go forth and explore, visit the fabulous hotels and B&Bs around Spain, we have a looong list of gorgeous places we (read I) want to visit.

And with those visits take Only Spain Boutique Hotels to new heights with lots more lovely boutique stays and with Spanish pages for each establishment too (my youngest will be doing the translations, I may speak it but writing it is not very good!)