Rural Andalusia

All Ways Spain – Rural Andalusia Los Guajares

The Truly Great Outdoors

The Andalu­sian coun­try­side abounds in nat­ur­al bless­ings, from snow-topped moun­tains to fer­tile plains, vast dune beach­es to delta marsh­es teem­ing with birdlife. The region has the high­est pro­por­tion of its ter­ri­to­ry ded­i­cat­ed to pro­tect­ed nation­al and nat­ur­al parks of any in Spain (num­ber­ing 26 in total) as well as the great­est bio­di­ver­si­ty in fau­na and flo­ra, and a cli­mate that sur­pris­es in its vari­ety but where sun­shine is sel­dom lack­ing. Inspired by these sur­round­ings man has built here some of the most pleas­ing vil­lages and small towns that you will find on any jour­ney, such as Ron­da, Vejer de la Fron­tera, Ara­ce­na, Úbe­da, Cazor­la, Alhama de Grana­da and count­less oth­ers. The delight of these towns is aug­ment­ed by the fact that, despite the advance of tourism in the past 25 years, they retain their inde­pen­dent spir­it and tra­di­tions. Andalu­sia is also one of Europe’s least dense­ly pop­u­lat­ed areas mean­ing that “get­ting off the beat­en track” requires no great art and yields some rich rewards.

The region always has been and even today is still marked­ly agri­cul­tur­al. The great Roman estates (“lat­i­fun­di­ae”) were based espe­cial­ly on areas of Andalu­sia and neigh­bour­ing Extremadu­ra, a landown­ing sys­tem which left its stamp on the land and the peo­ple, being one of the pri­ma­ry caus­es of the wide­spread social injus­tice which looms large in Andalusia´s his­to­ry. Today the vast plains of the Guadalquivir val­ley and the high plains of Grana­da and Almería provinces grow cere­als and sun­flow­ers and clos­er to the rivers maize, cot­ton and rice. The king of the Andalu­sian coun­try­side, though, is Olea europaea: the olive tree. It is lit­er­al­ly impos­si­ble to trav­el in rur­al Andalu­sia with­out see­ing the ser­ried groves stretch­ing to the hori­zon and cling­ing to the steep slopes of improb­a­ble cul­ti­va­tions. If Andalu­sia were a coun­try it alone would pro­duce more olive oil than any oth­er in the world, and the “liq­uid gold” of the south is nowa­days one of Spain’s most pres­ti­gious and impor­tant exports, as well as a cor­ner­stone of the cui­sine. Indeed, our Gourmet itin­er­aries all, in dif­fer­ing ways, get you clos­er to the cul­ture and cul­ti­va­tion of olives and olive oil, a fas­ci­nat­ing sub­ject and a tasty and healthy prod­uct.

Much of Andalusia’s tourism is con­cen­trat­ed on its Mediter­ranean and, to a less­er extent, Atlantic shores, with the lure of over 300 days a year of sun­shine remain­ing as mag­net­ic as ever to Vit­a­min D-defi­cient vis­i­tors from north­ern climes. Flank­ing the Cos­ta del Sol are two stretch­es of coast­line that offer the same sands and waters but with a tenth of the peo­ple and a thou­sandth of the con­crete and neon. Stud­ded in the rugged coast­line of Almería is the gem of Cabo de Gata, a Nat­ur­al Park with restric­tions on build­ing and devel­op­ment that mean it is like step­ping back in time by some 40 years com­pared with the rest of the Andalu­sian shore­line. Here one can walk along coastal paths, stroll alone on beach­es on a sun­ny winter’s day, and take to the clear turquoise waters to snorkel, kayak or swim. At the west­ern end of Andalu­sia, rub­bing up against Por­tu­gal, is the Cos­ta de la Luz, a string of (often windswept) Atlantic beach­es where the pound­ing of break­ers have fash­ioned some impres­sive sand dunes, such as those at Bolo­nia, sure­ly one of the best “secret” beach­es of Spain, with its Roman ruins and views of Africa. Even though these beach­es are more devel­oped, as with Cabo de Gata it is pos­si­ble to avoid the crowds and immerse your­self in just the won­der­ful scenery – and the sun­shine.

Spain is, after Switzer­land, the sec­ond most moun­tain­ous coun­try in Europe, and Andalu­sia includes a var­ied range of moun­tain scenery, from the high­est peak of Mul­hacén (stand­ing at 3478m atop the Sier­ra Neva­da) to the rolling hils of Jaén province. What were once hide­outs for ban­doleros and mal­con­tents are now par­adis­es for walk­ers, cyclists and nat­u­ral­ists. Our var­i­ous Out­doors itin­er­aries will take you to some of the best places, such as the Alpu­jar­ra – the delight­ful val­leys that sit in the lee of the Sier­ra Neva­da — the pine-clad moun­tains of the Sier­ra de Graza­le­ma, near Ron­da, or the weird and won­der­ful shapes wrought in the karst lime­stone of El Tor­cal de Ante­quera. Nor does one always have to ascend to get the best views – the wealth of Andalu­sia extends to plains, marsh­es, wet­lands and desert among its scenic inven­to­ry. The Nation­al Park of Doñana in the province of Huel­va bare­ly ris­es above 40 m from sea lev­el, con­sist­ing of a unique sys­tem of marsh­es, wet­lands and sand dunes and has been declared a UNESCO World Her­itage Site for the impor­tance of its ecosys­tems, flo­ra and fau­na. In east­ern Andalu­sia, in the province of Almería, one finds the Desert of Taber­nas, where sum­mer tem­per­a­tures can sur­pass 40ºC (104ºF) – in the shade! Due to its sim­i­lar­i­ties of ter­rain with “the Wild West” the area has often been used for loca­tion film­ing in movies, boast­ing “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”, “Mad Max III” and “Indi­ana Jones and The Last Cru­sade” among its many cred­its.

Per­haps one of the great­est charms of Rur­al Andalu­sia are its innu­mer­able vil­lages and small towns, which com­bine beau­ti­ful set­tings with a qui­et, sleepy atmos­phere and a slow­er gen­tler way of life that is often rather envi­able. Fies­tas and cel­e­bra­tions are still an essen­tial com­po­nent of this life and to wit­ness, say Sem­ana San­ta (Holy Week), in some­where like Arcos de la Fron­tera (Cádiz province), is an unfor­get­table expe­ri­ence.