This past fall we traveled to the rolling hillsides of Southern Spain’s Andalusia and spent the week exploring the beautiful region with my family. Our home was a white-washed hacienda just outside of the charming town of Ronda, nestled amongst groves of olive, pomegranate, and fig trees, so fresh and ripe that they were nearly splitting on the branch. We alternated between adventurous days of exploration – hiking, sailing, wine tasting, and wandering through quaint villages – and relaxing afternoons listening to music, drinking cocktails, and swimming at our hacienda. Of course, we always made time for tapas, wine, and the occasional siesta.
It was my first time in Spain and I absolutely fell in love with its beautiful scenery, rich history, laid-back vibe, and vibrant cuisine, and I’m already dreaming of when we can next return. Scroll down to see my favorite places to eat, visit, and explore in Andalusia.
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- Bardal: Recently awarded its first Michelin-star, Bardal is a modern Spanish restaurant in the heart of Ronda. We spent nearly four hours savoring their 14-course tasting menu – each dish more innovative and delicious than the last. The service was flawless and they were incredibly accommodating of our dietary restrictions, including the fact that I am a pescetarian. An absolute must!
- De Locos Tapas: Reservations at this popular tapas bar in Ronda’s Old Town are a must. We loved dining al fresco along the walls of the old stone ramparts and cozying up with the pashminas so kindly provided by the restaurant when the famous Andalusian winds began to blow. Every single tapa dish we ordered was delicious and the prices simply cannot be beaten!
- Restaurante Almocabar: Located in Ronda’s Old Town on a beautiful tree-lined plaza, this classic Spanish restaurant featured delicious local specialties, amazing wines, and a wonderful ambiance.
- Albacara: This restaurant, in Ronda’s city center, offers an outstanding view of the famed Puento Nuevo bridge and is an amazing spot for sunset cocktails.
- Private Chef: We enjoyed two fabulous meals at our hacienda cooked by the amazing chef Maria Terol Rosell. There was truly nothing better than being able to lounge by the pool until sunset, throw on a cover-up, and enjoy a beautiful meal al fresco together as a family!
- Alhambra: We traveled to Granada to visit the famed Alhambra, and it was truly even more magnificent than I had expected. Originally constructed as a fortress in AD 889, Alhambra was converted into the Royal Palace in the 14th century and became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella. We hired a private guide, Federica Abril, who provided us with a plethora of fascinating information and allowed us to skip the very long entrance lines. The Nasrid architecture, colorful tilework, intricately carved details, and symmetry were truly awe-inspiring and I could have spent days exploring every nook and cranny of the beautiful palace and gardens.
- Bodega Garcia Hidalgo: Nested in the beautiful Guadalcobacin Valley, Bodega Garcia Hidalgo offers a lovely tour and wine tasting experience that is paired with a delicious three-course Spanish lunch.
- Descalzos Viejos: Descalzos Viejos is a truly spectacular winery that is housed in a former 1616th-century monastery built on the edge of a cliff. We enjoyed a beautiful tasting experience with the proprietor, Flavio Salesi, where we watched the sun set over the Sierra de las Nieves mountains and had philosophical conversations about life, love, and art. It was one of the absolute highlights of our entire trip and is an absolute must. (By appointment only).
- Hiking: Spending a day hiking in the nearby Sierra de Pinar mountains is a must. The Sierra de la Grazalema national park offers a variety of hikes with varying ranges of difficulty, however, make sure you pick a path with a high elevation as it will ensure you are able to enjoy the postcard-worthy views of the surrounding Andalusian countryside.
- Ronda: We chose the beautiful town of Ronda as our home base and truly could not recommend it more. It offers countless dining options, amazing views, stunning architecture, and is packed full of history.
- Grazalema: When the phrase ‘white village’ is uttered, the Cycladic architecture of Santorini is usually what comes to mind. However, Andalusia is also home to some of the most beautiful hill towns that I have ever laid eyes on – tiny white villages nestled high into the mountains. Walking through Grazalema, I felt like I had entered a portal into a different century. Its steep, cobble-stone streets are framed by the most gorgeous mountain views and lined with whitewashed houses that are covered with little potted plants.
- Zahara de la Siera: Perched above the vibrant-turquoise Zahara-El Gastor Reservoir, this village is truly a photographer’s dream. As I slowly strolled through the winding, cobblestone alleyways I felt as though I had stepped into a scene from Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises.”