A GENERAL OVERVIEW Spain offers tourists a buffet of landscapes, from the hot streets of Madrid to cities teeming with Moorish remnants and influence to spa retreats in the countryside. This vivid Spanish nation produced gifted Andalusian horses, sherry, imaginative tapas treats, traditional paella and the kind of exotic flamenco dancing guaranteed to have you re-arranging your evenings.
MADRID This cosmopolitan city throbs with over 3 million people. Historic tourist attractions include the intricately designed Royal Palace , over 50 museums such as the Prado Museum and many icons of artistic and cultural dynamic. An outdoorsy people flourish amidst refreshing parks, gardens and fountains, and flea markets abound.
TRANSPORTATION IN MADRID While the majority of travelers arrive by air, Madrid has an excellent rail system, connected to every major city in Europe. Even driving is easy with well-marked streets, and this outdoor-centric city caters to cyclists and pedestrians. An affordable well-marked subway system extends throughout Madrid, making it the best way to get around.
BARCELONA Over two million people inhabit this exquisite city fringed with beaches on the Mediterranean Sea, enriched with 2000 years of history. Visitors and locals alike will swarm le Rambla, a pedestrian only people-watching paradise rife with shops, cafés, restaurants and plenty of art & amusements at every turn. The architecture of Anthony Gaudi punctuates an already colorful city.
AL ANDALUS EXPRESS TRAIN Experience the historical region of Andalusia on a luxury vintage train with 12 cars that include sleeper, dining, bar and shower cars, all designed with lavish refinement and attention to detail. Used only by royalty in a bygone era, stops include Grenada, Cordoba, Ronda and Seville, and arrangements are made for passengers to dine either on the train or at exquisite local restaurants.
SEVILLE An important riverside Andalusian city, Seville has much for history and architecture buffs. 500 years of Moorish influence complements stunning Gothic cathedrals. A popular attraction, the Alcazar dates back to 931, with breathtaking detail within the palace and well-groomed Spanish/Islamic gardens without. Crowned by the Tower of Gold, the city of Don Juan pulses with public squares and a vivacious nightlife.
GRENADA Nestled in the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, Grenada’s main signature is the splendid Alhambra whose palatial design and immaculate gardens speak to its Arabic origin. The Old Town has more Renaissance & Baroque accents. An outdoor shopper’s mecca, Grenada offers a labyrinth of enchanting markets where you can discover and purchase fragrant spices that have made Spanish cuisine so enviable.
CORDOBA Located in the center of Spain’s Andalusian region that is noted for its Moorish heritage, Cordoba was the capital of Islamic Spain in the 10th century. Its chief attraction is an 8th century mosque that combines two cultures with the addition of a Christian cathedral at its center. An Arab and a Jewish quarter round out the personality of this city of 300,000 people.
RONDA Dramatically perched in the Sierra de Ronda Mountains in Spain’s Andalusian region, Ronda is breathtakingly beautiful from every angle. River gorges with romantically sculpted bridges are a crowning glory, while active public squares, museums and a bullfighting ring keep the town bustling. Ronda also claims the dual Moorish/Christian blend of history known in this area, and the Santa Maria Cathedral is on most tour itineraries.
ANTEQUERRA Another one of Spain’s luscious Andalusian cities, Antequerra is blessed with the views of the Sierra el Torcal Mountains. The tapestry of historical highlights is enhanced with spectacular natural endowments. More than 30 churches embellish the town whose population is only 30,000 people. On every tour is a visit to El Torcal with its idyllic views of the garden.
RURAL RETREATS IN THE ANDALUSIAN REGION Tourists are combining history with nature and enjoying countryside havens that feature pristine pools, elegant dining and calming surroundings. One good example is la Bobadilla, whose more unique attributes include organ concerts.
JEREZ Spain’s equestrian activities are headquartered in the town of Jerez, where a highlight is to head to the 1600 seat arena of the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art to observe the gorgeous horses and their riders in action. Jerez is named for its flourishing sherry industry, and numerous wine cellars offer tours and tastings.
ACCOMMODATIONS IN SPAIN Hotels that range from 1 to 5 stars are the most typical accommodation choice in Spain. An ideal climate lends itself to luxurious spa resorts, while budget conscious travellers opt for hostels and camping facilities. Apartment hotels, Inns and rooms tucked into winding streets are worth seeking out.
DINING IN SPAIN Spanish cuisine is manifested in a wide variety of gastronomic delights, built on locally produced olive oils, fine wines and other fresh ingredients. It’s customary to have the appetizer-like tapas selections for earlier dining. Most people don’t think about going out for dinner until around 10:00, and the joy of the sport of eating can be seen all over Spain until the wee hours of the morning!