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Are you planning a trip to Southern Spain? This part of the country is home to many incredible destinations, including small unique villages which offer a cultural experience.
Whether you love visiting historic sites and museums, relaxing at the beach, or hiking, there is a place in Andalucia for you.
This Southern Spain bucket list includes some of the best things to do in the region!
Southern Spain Bucket List
Explore Marbella Old Town
Marbella is famous for its luxury shopping and nightlife, but there are many more reasons to visit Marbella.
One of them is to explore its beautiful old town. Its picturesque streets are home to independent shops, its central square (called Plaza de los Naranjos), which is a meeting point for tourists and locals, and its atmosphere makes it unique.
It’s also near the historic centre where you can do some incredible activities in Marbella, from relaxing at the beach or taking a sunset catamaran cruise to eating delicious tapas and exploring one of its green parks.
Visit Cabo de Gata Nijar Natural Park
Cabo de Gata Níjar is one of Andalucia’s most beautiful natural parks. Located in the province of Almeria, Cabo de Gata is home to unique coastal and arid landscapes. Here you can enjoy a low to difficult hiking trail with scenic views or relax at the beach.
Spend some time exploring this fantastic natural park, and include San Jose on your list. It is a quaint fishing village with an idyllic beach.
This natural park gets busy during summer, so opt for the off-season months to have a quieter experience.
Attend a flamenco show
The birthplace of flamenco is Andalucia, specifically Seville. Although Seville offers some of the best flamenco shows, you don’t necessarily have to attend one there.
You can attend a flamenco show in many other Andalusian destinations, such as Granada and Malaga.
If you go to Granada, you can visit the unique Cuevas de Sacromonte (Sacromonte Caves) and then watch a live flamenco show in a beautiful setting. The neighbourhood of Sacromonte is well-known for flamenco.
However, no matter the city you choose, going to a flamenco show is a unique experience.
Eat Andalusian traditional food
There is no visit to Andalucia without indulging in the region’s traditional dishes.
Andalusia cuisine is full of flavours and was highly influenced by the Moors, who occupied the region for many years.
One of the best ways to taste traditional food is by taking a food tour, especially if it is your first time visiting Andalucia.
Some of the most popular savoury dishes include gazpacho (cold tomato soup), garbanzos con espinacas (chickpeas with spinach) and pescaito frito (fried fish).
For those who have a sweet tooth, there are also many delicious sweet pastries, cookies and desserts, such as piononos, pan de Cadiz, tortas locas and pastel Cordobés.
Also, if you love wine, Andalucia has some of the best wineries in Spain. Head to Jerez (Cadiz) or Ronda (Malaga) to taste regional wines.
Visit Plaza de España
Plaza de España is one of the most beautiful squares in Spain. This architectural gem is located in the capital of Andalusia, Seville.
The buildings, the benches decorated with detailed mosaics, and the artificial lake are to admire. Interestingly, each bench represents a city in Spain, so national tourists love taking photos of the bench that is named after their town.
Plaza de España is a very lively place, and you can often enjoy the music of street artists singing flamenco. After visiting it, don’t forget to explore its park, called Parque de María Luisa.
If you don’t like crowds, visit Plaza de España at sunset for a magical and quieter experience.
Discover the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba
The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, known as La Mezquita in Spanish, is another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Southern Spain.
It was built during the Muslim period in Andalucia in 785, but it was considered only a mosque at that time. During the Spanish Reconquista, it became a cathedral.
Nowadays, it is a very important building representing the city’s different civilisations and religions.
If you are into architecture, this is a must-see in Cordoba. It has two main architectural styles, Moorish and Renaissance (with Baroque and Gothic elements).
Take the audio guide and spend a few hours learning about this beautiful place, and then head to Puente Romano (Roman Bridge) for a short but lovely scenic walk.
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Visit Nerja Caves
Nerja, located in the east of Malaga, is a lovely coastal town. There are many things to do in Nerja, but visiting Nerja Caves is unmissable.
According to locals, these caves were discovered by a group of friends in 1959, and since then, it has become a historical-artistic monument.
When you visit Nerja Caves, you can see beautiful mineral formations, like stalactites, including the largest stalactite in the world.
There are also numerous rock paintings, but they are in a protected area that can’t be accessed because of conversation issues.
Visiting the caves won’t take you more than 2 hours, so you can make the most of your time by visiting Nerja’s beaches, like Burriana or Maro Beach, or wandering its lively old town, home to many restaurants and shops.
Enjoy the views from Alcazaba de Malaga
There are a few Alcazabas in Southern Spain, but one of the prettiest is Alcazaba de Malaga.
This Moorish fortress-palace is one of a kind. It is located in the heart of the city, so there is no way you will miss this beautiful building.
Inside you can explore its gardens, contemplate its architecture and walk on the walls to see some of the most beautiful views in Malaga.
You can visit it at your own pace or book a guided tour with a local who will tell you everything about the history of the Alcazaba and other interesting facts about the city.
Alongside the Alcazaba, you can also visit the Roman Theatre and Gibralfaro Viewpoint and Castle. The viewpoint is a fantastic place to enjoy the sunset and take pictures too.
Go on a day trip to a whitewashed village
Andalusia is home to many fantastic whitewashed villages, so you will likely find a village close by no matter which big city you go to.
Some of the most popular whitewashed villages in Andalusia are Mijas Pueblo, Frigiliana, Setenil de la Bodegas, Olvera and Carmona.
Frigiliana is officially on the list of the prettiest towns in Spain. This little town near Malaga is picturesque from any angle you see it.
The town is divided into two areas, but the historic centre is where you will find all the monuments and places of interest.
Stroll in its hilly cobblestone streets, encounter friendly cats, and have a meal on a rooftop terrace while enjoying the spectacular coastal and mountain views.
It is one of the most beautiful towns near Malaga.
Surf in Tarifa
There are plenty of cultural activities in Southern Spain, but it is also an excellent destination for those who love sports, especially water sports.
Tarifa is the best surfing destination in Europe. Due to its location and weather, you get the best conditions for surfing. So, whether you are a beginner or have some experience surfing, you will love Tarifa.
In addition to surfing, it is also worth exploring the laid-back but beautiful centre of Tarifa, and if you love historical sites, Baelo Claudia isn’t far from Tarifa.
Baelo Claudia is one of the best-preserved Roman archaeological sites in Southern Spain. You can walk in this beautiful ancient city.
Hike Caminito del Rey
Nature lovers must visit Caminito del Rey. This scenic hiking trail was once considered very dangerous but was later adapted to the public.
Caminito del Rey is only an hour’s drive from Malaga, so you can either drive there or take a guided tour with transport included.
Doing this 8-kilometre walking route is an experience. Enjoy a different hiking trail with breathtaking views of cliffs, canyons, a gorge, and a river.
The area is also inhabited by wildlife, so you might be lucky to see birds like golden eagles and vultures.
It is a very popular hiking trail, so booking your tickets months in advance is highly recommended. If possible, avoid the summer months, as temperatures in the area can reach 40 degrees Celsius.
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Spend half a day at the Alhambra Palace and Gardens
If you love discovering new UNESCO World Heritage Sites wherever you go, you must add the Alhambra Palace and Gardens to your Andalucia itinerary.
It is one of Spain’s most emblematic Moorish fortresses, and it is unsurprising why many travellers go to Granada just to see this architectural gem.
Walking around the Alhambra and gardens is truly an experience. Contemplate stunning views of Granada, appreciate the detailed Moorish architecture, and learn more about its history.
There is so much to see that you can easily spend 4 hours in the Alhambra. Also, as with other famous buildings, book your tickets in advance to guarantee entry.
See the beautiful patios of Cordoba
Cordoba is the best destination to see the authentic Andalusian courtyards. They are much more than aesthetics. It is a cultural aspect of the region, and especially of Cordoba.
The best time to visit the patios in Cordoba is in spring when the flowers have blossomed and the weather is warmer. Also, May is the month in which the courtyard festival (Festival de los Patios Cordobeses) takes place. At this festival, you get access to all the beautiful patios across the city.
If you plan to visit Cordoba in winter, you can still see Palacio de Viana, which has 12 unique courtyards.
Discover the Alpujarra region
If you are looking for unique villages in Andalucia, head to the Alpujarra region in Granada.
Alpujarra is a region with numerous towns and villages on the mountains, very close to the famous ski resort of Sierra Nevada.
You can spend the day visiting many of its towns as they are next to each other. However, one of the most unique villages in the region is Soportujar, popularly known as the witches’ village.
Superstition and strange creatures are part of the culture of this village. There are many legends, and Soportujar showcases its culture with statues of witches and other spooky things.
Other popular villages in the Alpujarras are Lanjarón (known for its water), Pampaneira, Bubión, and Trevélez.
During your time in the region, you might also want to try the local cuisine, including the famous “plato alpujarreño.” The latter is a traditional dish that contains pork, sausages, potatoes, fried eggs, and peppers.
Go on a day trip to Gibraltar
If you are staying in Malaga or Cadiz, it is very easy to go on a day trip to Gibraltar, situated at the bottom of the Iberian Peninsula bordering La Linea town.
Gibraltar is a fun day trip for any traveller, but especially families. There are many things to see in Gibraltar in a day.
The Rock of Gibraltar is the most famous attraction from where you can enjoy stunning views of the country as well as the north of Africa and Spain.
While visiting this attraction, you can also see the monkeys, visit St Michael’s Cave and walk on the Suspension Bridge.
Other great activities to include in your one-day itinerary are going to the Botanical Gardens, shopping at Main Street, and visiting Catalan Bay.
Final Thoughts: Southern Spain Bucket List
Overall, Southern Spain is rich in history, culture and beautiful natural spaces and is a region worth visiting.
The best time to visit Andalucia is in the shoulder season because of fewer crowds, cheaper flights and accommodations, and the weather is pleasant.
Summer is extremely hot across the region, so only consider it if you want a beach holiday. It isn’t a good time for sightseeing as temperatures reach 40 degrees in most cities.
There are so many great things to do in Spain! Check out more of our Spain posts below.
- 15 Fabulous Weekend Breaks in Spain
- 11 Free Things to do in Barcelona Spain
- Spain Bucket List: 39 Best Things To Do in Spain
- 14 Best Road Trips from Barcelona
- Where to Stay in Barcelona | 6 Best Barcelona Accommodations!
- How to Spend the Perfect 24 Hours in Barcelona
- 14 Romantic Things to Do in Barcelona, Spain with your S.O.