Planning Your Time
A week in Andalusia should include visits to Córdoba, Seville, and Granada to see, respectively, the Mezquita, the cathedral and its Giralda minaret, and the Alhambra. Two days in each city nearly fills the week, though the extra day would be best spent in Seville, Andalusia's most vibrant concentration of art, architecture, culture, and excitement.
Indeed, a week or more in Seville alone would be ideal, especially during the Semana Santa celebration, when the city becomes a giant street party. With more time on your hands, Cádiz, Jerez de la Frontera, and Sanlúcar de Barrameda form a three- or four-day jaunt through flamenco, sherry, Andalusian equestrian culture, and tapas emporiums.
A three-day trip through the Sierra de Aracena will introduce you to a lovely Atlantic upland, filled with Mediterranean black pigs deliciously fattened on acorns, while the Alpujarras, the mountain range east of Granada, is famed for its pueblos blancos. In this region you can find anywhere from three days to a week of hiking and trekking opportunities in some of the highest and wildest reaches in Spain. For nature enthusiasts, the highland Cazorla National Park and the wetland Doñana National Park are Andalusia's highest and lowest outdoor treasures.
Andalusia has some of Spain's most important and most colorful festivals, and highlights include Carnival, on the days leading up to Ash Wednesday (which can fall late January through early March), and Semana Santa (Holy Week, between Palm Sunday and Easter). Both are big celebrations, especially in Cádiz, Córdoba, and Seville. Other events range from international music festivals to more localized celebrations, such as the early August horse races on the beaches of Sanlúcar de Barrameda and the mid-October olive harvest in Jaén.
Concurso de Arte de Flamenco. Devotees of Spain's unique style of music and dance flock to the city for this event, held every third year—the next is in 2022—in November. Córdoba, Andalusia.
Cruces de Mayo. Celebrated throughout the Spanish-speaking world, this ancient festival is a highlight of Córdoba's calendar of events, with lots of flower-decked crosses and other floral displays, processions, and music in early May. Córdoba, Andalusia.
Encuentros Flamencos. Some of the country's best performers are featured in this early-December event in Granada. Granada, Andalusia.
Feria de Abril. Held two weeks after Easter, this secular celebration focuses on horses, pageantry, and bullfights. Seville, Andalusia.
Festival de los Patios. This celebration, awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2012, is held during the second week of May, a fun time to be in the city, when owners throw open their flower-decked patios to visitors (and to judges, who nominate the best), and the city celebrates with food, drink, and flamenco. Córdoba, Andalusia. patios.cordoba.es.
Feria de Mayo. The city's foremost street party is held during the last week of May. Córdoba, Andalusia.
Feria del Caballo. In early May, carriages and riders fill the streets of Jerez and purebreds from the School of Equestrian Art compete in races and dressage displays. Jerez de la Frontera, Andalusia.
Festival Internacional de Jazz de Granada. Established in 1980, this November festival attracts big names from the world of jazz—no less than Oscar Peterson, Dizzie Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Herbie Hancock, among many others, have delighted fans. Granada, Andalusia. www.jazzgranada.es.
Festival Internacional de Música y Danza de Granada. With some events in the Alhambra itself, this international music and dance festival runs mid-June–mid-July. Tickets go on sale in late March. Granada, Andalusia. www.granadafestival.org.
Fiesta de Otoño. In September, this festival in Jerez celebrates the grape harvest and includes a procession, the blessing of the harvest on the steps of the cathedral, and traditional-style grape treading. Jerez de la Frontera, Andalusia.
International Guitar Festival. During the first two weeks of July, an array of major international artists perform at this celebration of guitar music, including classical, jazz, rock, folk, and—of course—flamenco. In addition to a full schedule of concerts, there are exhibitions, workshops, and conferences. Córdoba, Andalusia. www.cordoba24.info/english/html/guitarra.html.
La Bienal de Flamenco. Celebrating the best talents in flamenco, this festival is held every two years, the next being in September 2020. Seville, Andalusia. www.labienal.com.
Romería del Rocío. Pentecost weekend (seven Sundays after Easter) brings this Gypsy favorite—a pilgrimage on horseback and by carriage to the hermitage of La Virgen del Rocío (Our Lady of the Dew). Huelva, Andalusia.