When drawing up a list of the best things to do in Andalucia, you have no shortage of options.
Also spelled Andalusia, Andalucia is an autonomous community of Spain in the south of the county. As the region was held under Moorish rule between the 8th and 15th centuries, Andalucia has a distinct architectural legacy.
In fact, many of the “must see” Andalucia sights are also Spain’s major tourist landmarks. And, let’s not forget the food, flamenco, and fortified wine!
Best Things to Do in Andalucia (Andalusia)
This guide breaks down what to do in Andalucia across the main cities and coastal areas. In terms of getting around, renting a car is recommended. However, many top things to do in Andalucia are accessible via public transport or a guided tour.
Must See Andalucia Sights and Attractions
Bringing to life the architectural heritage of Southern Spain, these are the headliner Andalucia things to do for all types of travelers.
1. Alcazaba of Málaga
Looming over Málaga, the Alcazaba is a Moorish hilltop fortification built to guard against attack. The name stems from the Arabic word for citadel and has been rebuilt over the decades following the 11th century when the foundations were laid.
It’s easy to walk up from Málaga’s Centro Histórico and tap on a trip to the Roman Theater and Gibralfaro Castle. In tandem, these are three of the best things to do in Málaga for history and panoramic views.
Visiting the Alcazaba is one of the best things to do in Andalucia for free. That is, if you can visit on a Sunday after 2 p.m. Otherwise, you might want to visit with a tour guide. The Alcazaba and Roman Theater guided tour covers both attractions and means that you get the most comprehensive experience.
2. Royal Alcázar of Seville
Built on top of a former Moorish palace, Seville’s Real Alcázar remains an official residence of the Spanish royal family. The Mudejar architecture is a result of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities living alongside one another in the Iberian Peninsula.
If you want to get the most out of your experience, you would be best placed to enlist a guide. This Alcázar skip-the-line tickets and guided tour combination can’t be faulted for value. Once the guided segment ends, you’ll be free to wander around the gardens at leisure.
On the other hand, you could sign yourself up for this jumbo excursion that covers Seville Cathedral, the Giralda, and the Royal Alcázar. This is a practical use of time whether you’re spending one or three days in Seville.
3. Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba
Quick history lesson: Córdoba was the first city conquered by the Moors when they reached Spain in the 8th century.
As a result, the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba represents the centuries during which the city jumped between Muslim and Christian rule. Originally a mosque, the prayer hall was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral in 1236. Although, if you want to go back even further in time – it started life as a Roman temple.
This must see Andalucia attraction may be visited independently or with a guide. On a busy day, a skip-the-ticket-line Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba guided tour spares you from having to queue. Plus, your guide will explain the significance and meaning behind the architecture and materials used.
4. Alhambra Granada
Constructed in the 13th and 14th centuries, the Alhambra of Granada was formerly the center of the Nasrid Kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula. Added to the World Heritage List in 1984, the compound showcases a fusion of Moorish and Andalusian architectural customs.
When visiting, you’ll be able to explore the citadel, towers, and cloistered courtyards, as well as the Generalife gardens. This skip-the-line tour of the Alhambra and Nasrid Palaces saves you from having to wait. During your small-group visit, your expert guide will share a running commentary on the design and use of the monuments.
5. White Towns “Pueblos Blancos” of Andalucia
Known interchangeably as the White Towns and White Villages, these clifftop communities stand out among the green valleys of the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park. One of the best places to visit in Andalucia by car, you can follow the Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos to Ronda, Setenil de las Bodegas, Olvera, and beyond.
It’s typical to visit the Pueblos Blancos on a day trip from Seville or Málaga. Otherwise, you could stay overnight in any of the villages. If you’re not keen on driving these winding roads, this Pueblos Blancos and Ronda full-day trip is inclusive of round travel from Seville.
Best Things to Do in Andalucia Near the Sea
Fun fact: owing to Andalucia’s southerly location, the cities represent some of the warmest places in Spain in winter. While swimming might not be ideal in the colder months, this does still mean that the sunny coastal resorts may be visited at any time of year.
6. “Take the Sun” on the Costa del Sol
But, what to do in Andalucia when the weather’s at its hottest? There’s no better place to replenish your vitamin D than at the glorious beaches in Southern Spain! The Costa del Sun (Sun Coast) has a monopoly on beach things to do in Andalucia.
In fact, this cheery stretch of coastline is thought to have around 150 beaches. No beach is the same, and the best Costa del Sol beaches provide you with epic swimming and gorgeous sunsets.
If you’d prefer not to travel so far to the beach, the most accessible and beautiful beaches in Málaga have you covered for swimming, tanning, and grazing at beach bars known as chiringuitos.
7. Cruise the Mediterranean Sea
The coastline of Southern Spain and Andalucia meets the Mediterranean Sea. In terms of what to do in Andalucia on the water, you can take your pick from sailing trips, sea kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving.
These types of activity vary based on location and season. In Málaga, catamaran sailing trips are available during the day and in time for sunset. Scroll through the different options and you can upgrade the experience to include net seating, a glass of cava, or a DJ set.
On the other hand, if you’re staying close to Estepona, you can sign up for a dolphin-watching sailboat cruise. Subject to sea conditions on the day, you might be able to jump in for a dip.
Kayaking outings occur around the coastal sea caves, with sublime conditions around the Cabo de Gata and Níjar Natural Park. This natural park kayaking and snorkel excursion takes you up close to the volcanic cliffs and caverns. Snorkeling gear is provided if you want to see the marina life beneath the surface.
8. Explore the Port of Cádiz
This ancient port city of Cádiz is situated on a peninsula overlooking the Bay of Cádiz. Founded by the Phoenicians, Cádiz is actually the oldest city in Western Europe. Once a nucleus for trade, it is now the base of the Spanish Navy.
Super walkable, the historic center is awash with museums, watchtowers, waterfront eateries, and beaches. Another means of getting around is via bike while a sunset catamaran cruise is one of the most romantic things to do in Andalucia.
Cádiz tends to be overshone by the Mediterranean coastal resorts. However, that only adds to the city’s charm. If all that maritime history has you lusting for the seafaring lift, you can even hop on a boat to the Canary Islands. Ferries connect Cádiz and Gran Canaria once a week. Note that crossings do take around 40 hours but there are cabins onboard.
Cultural Things to Do in Andalucia
Of course, hanging out at the beach also counts as experiencing the culture of Spain. However, these are further ways to deepen your appreciation of the Andalucian way of life.
9. Catch a Flamenco Show
Seeing as the captivating art form of flamenco originated in this region, catching a show is one of the most unique things to do in Andalucia. Far more than “just” a dance, flamenco combines dance, music, song, and costume.
One of the classic things to do in Seville, the Flamenco Dance Museum hosts daily performances in an atmospheric heritage building. It’s possible to purchase a ticket to the flamenco show with or without admission to the museum. However, it really makes sense to get the combo and visit the museum in preparation for the spectacle.
10. Eat Traditional Andalucian Food
In terms of what to do in Andalucia for food, start with a bowl of gazpacho – cold tomato soup. The tomatoes are prepared with garlic, onion, and fresh herbs to fashion this healthy dish perfect on a hot summer’s day.
Otherwise, the food scene in the southern region is dependent on where you are. When near the coast, always opt for seafood. Mojama (salted tuna) and tortillitas de camarones (fried prawn fritters) are what to look out for in Cádiz. Meanwhile, espetos (barbecue-grilled sardines) are the go-to after a day in Málaga.
Inland, attention is turned toward meat-based dishes with Seville’s cooking scene revolving around pork and cured meats. Serranito de Lomo (pork loin and ham sandwiches) work for breakfast and lunch while spring’s snail season brings an abundance of caracoles to diners’ plates.
Rest assured, you’ll find all your favorite Spanish fare widely available throughout Andalucia including paella and classic tapas.
11. Taste Andalucian Sherry
The region around Jerez de la Frontera is celebrated for its exceptional sherry production. While it’s not a drink you naturally think of when visiting the realm of sangria, rioja, and cava, there are so many nuances in this fortified wine that are best unlocked as part of a tasting.
Centrally located, the Gonzalez Byass is one of the powerhouses for sherry. While in Jerez, you can make your own way to the bodega and partake in a sherry winery and tasting tour.
12. Explore Historical Ronda
Home to delicious wine, the most famous bullfighters in Spain, and three very old bridges, Ronda is well worth at least a day trip as you explore Andalucia.
You can easily reach it from Málaga or Marbella if those are your bases in the Costa del Sol.
I knew I would like Ronda when I learned that the bridge that they call the “new bridge” was built back in the 17th century. There are historical bridges and buildings here that date back as far as the Romans and you can wander the streets for free.
The views over the gorge that surround the town are also incredibly beautiful. If you have more time available, hop on a wine tour of Ronda where you can sample some of the wines of this region in stunning settings.
Best Places to Visit in Andalucia for Nature
Break up the cities with some of these adventurous things to do in Andalucia’s stunning hinterland.
13. Hike Caminito del Rey
One of the best places to visit in Andalucia for adrenaline and the great outdoors, the Caminito del Rey was formerly considered the most dangerous hiking path in the world.
However, things have changed and this gorge walk is now furnished with boardwalks and railings. In fact, we’d go as far as to say it’s one of the best day trips from Málaga for almost the whole family – provided kids are at least 8 years of age.
Helmets are provided and the walkway is as safe as houses, although it’s not recommended for those with a fear of heights.
There are three ways of hiking the Caminito del Rey from Málaga. Option A, you can book an all-inclusive Caminito del Rey guided tour with bus transport from Málaga.
Option B, you can make your own way there in a rental car and join a guided tour at the entrance. A guide isn’t necessary although it’s a good way of learning about the area.
Option C, you can self-drive from Málaga or any other nearby city and simply purchase your Caminito del Rey entry ticket at the site.
14. Spot Birds at Doñana National Park
Located 20 miles southwest of Seville, Doñana is the must-see Andalucia national park for flora and fauna diversity.
Listed as a UNESCO biosphere reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and Ramsar Wetland Site, Doñana National Park features sand dunes, wetlands, and forestland. Over half a million birds find refuge here during winter while wild boar and Iberian lynx are known to reside in the woodlands.
Day trips operate from Seville, sparing you from the need to rent a 4WD. This Doñana National Park tour is available as a private or small group and maximizes your chances of spotting an imperial eagle. The private tour is particularly worthwhile as you’ll have more say in the itinerary.
15. Canyon and Cave at Sierra de las Nieves National Park
Another of the best places in Andalucia for nature, Sierra de las Nieves National Park sits only 13 miles north of Marbella. La Torrecilla marks the highest point in Andalucia while GESM is the deepest gorge in the region.
There are several tour operators based in Marbella that organize tours of the national park. In time for summer, Aventúrate offers a mix of jeep drives, caving, canyoning, hiking trips, and mountain biking excursions.
As the name – “Mountains of the Snow” – suggests, the national park is often coated with a layer of snow during winter. Therefore this is one of the best places to visit in Andalucia for winter photography.
What to Do in Andalucia for Wellness
After wearing yourself out with these high-octane and historical Andalucia things to do, it’s only right that you make time to rest.
16. Decompress at a Yoga Retreat
Taking a morning yoga class is one of the coolest things to do in Andalucia while keeping on top of your health. Just ask your hotel to recommend a local class with an English instructor, if required.
On the other hand, you could consider a full-blown wellness retreat at one of Andalucia’s seaside towns or mountain resorts. Spanning a week, give or take, these yoga retreats in Málaga are a great place to start.
17. Sleep in a Castle
These scores of activities and sights in Andalucia are well-matched by the region’s wonderful accommodation scene.
One of the most luxurious hotels, La Bobadilla, a Royal Hideaway Hotel is nestled in the Loga mountain range between Málaga and Grenada.
All boutique bedrooms are individually decorated and attached to marble en suites with lavish soaking tubs. Meanwhile, the grounds feature an outdoor pool, landscaped gardens, and a 5-star spa. Hiking, bike rentals, and horseback riding are available to make the most of the landscape.