Dreams of jetting off anywhere at the last-minute have seemed near-impossible this year.
Even if you book ahead at a time when travel seems just within reach, the uncertainty of the pandemic has meant that even European travel can seem like too much of a risk.
But what if there was a destination that would guarantee you would be fully covered if any COVID related issue did effect your holiday? A destination so desirable that in your head, you’ve already checked in.
For the whole year ahead, Andalucía on the southern coast of Spain is the place putting peace of mind back into international adventure with free Covid-19 travel insurance for non-resident international travellers – because holidays aren’t supposed to feel like a headache. More information can be found here.
That’s not the only reason Andalucía should be top of your post-Covid travel list.
Within reaching distance of the UK, the southernmost pocket of Spain is instantly recognisable for its charming rows of whitewashed houses, red tiled rooves and cobblestone streets, the ‘pueblos blancos’. Yet the history of this ancient region is rich and colourful, steeped in fascinating Moorish heritage, which shows itself in the art, architecture and ancient monuments of Andalucía.
It’s not just us that thinks so, either. The peninsula boasts an incredible five world heritage sites with UNESCO status, recognising its cultural contribution to the rest of Europe, which goes some way to explaining why it’s become a popular destination for culture vultures and intrepid explorers, alike.
From the best-known cities, Seville and Granada, to the hidden gems like Baeza, these five sites stretch from the south-east to the south-west coast, delivering an historic trail that practically plans itself.
Discover Andalucía’s most-noteworthy cultural gems to inspire your 2021 adventure.
GRANADA, the shining city
Before The Renaissance shaped parts of Spanish culture in the early 16th century, Andalucía was ruled by the Moors for around 800 years. They left behind a legacy of Islamic architecture, most notably the world-famous Alhambra, meaning crimson castle in Arabic.
While the Alhambra is the ‘show piece’ of Granada, the city itself is situated in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains where rich history blends with modern culture to create an energetic mix of bars, bohemian cafes and intimate flamenco clubs.
SEVILLE, the port city of the Indies
Known as ‘the jewel of Andalucia,’ Seville is perhaps the most popular with tourists, not just because it’s the capital and UNESCO site since 1987 but it’s also the home of Spanish flamenco and famous for its 40,000 orange trees.
Besides boasting a rich energy filled with music and dance, it has the largest Gothic building in Europe, the Cathedral of Seville.
Or, for an historic must-see that’s off the beaten track, Casa de Pilatos is a 15th century mansion blending mudejar-Gothic, Renaissance and romantic styles thanks to a number of unique restorations.
CÓRDOBA, the lived City
Founded by the Romans but later the capital of Islamic Spain, Córdoba is a veritable melting pot of cultures. It’s situated in the heart of Andalucía with The Guadalquivir river running through it, making it a rich plain for grapevines and olive trees – the perfect backdrop for an ancient city.
No trip to Cordoba is complete without a visit to the Mezquita, one of the world’s greatest Islamic buildings and itself enough to warrant world-heritage status. It’s a fascinating Mosque-Cathedral hybrid from a time when Muslims, Jews and Christians lived side by side.
BAEZA, the city of golden silence
It may be one of the smaller cities of inland Andalucía, but that’s all part of the charm. To follow the walking trail of stunning urban Renaissance monuments is to discover a staggering amount within a small space – and because it’s more of a hidden gem, you won’t have to content with crowds.
Once a hub for education and religion, today on every corner, there are palaces, churches or mosques, white houses, squares, fountains and towers to be explored, starting in the beautifully preserved, Plaza de Santa María, where time appears to have stood still. Wander to the old market square, Paseo de la Constitución, and onto the 13th-century Church of Santa Cruz, a rare example of Romanesque architecture.
ÚBEDA, the harmonious city
Just a stone’s throw from its little sister, Baeza, the walled city of Úbeda is another early example of Renaissance civic architecture and urban planning in Spain, explaining its UNESCO status.
Úbeda is home to not one but nine historic churches, such as the Church of San Pablo, the Church of Santa María de los Reales Alcázares and the Church of la Trinidad, dating back to the 17th century. They call it ‘the harmonious city’ because there is no one ‘outstanding’ building; each street, each square and each neighbourhood creates an ensemble of fascinating architectural finds.