Discovering a new region of Spain reminds me how much I love this country — and how much more of it I have left to see.
While the thrill of discovering new lands is always tempting, lately I’ve been investing a lot of time and money in revisiting some old favourites. In early March I met up with dear friends and revisited all my old haunts in Hong Kong, then in late March made my way to Paris for the 9th(!) time. Right before Paris, I snuck in a second visit to Barcelona, which was a long time coming since I hadn’t been back since 2006. Then, in April, with Liebling in tow, I returned to France and Germany, spending one weekend eating myself into oblivion in Lille (just wait until you see my food pictures!) and another visiting friends in tiny Ravensburg, a city an hour outside of Munich.
Just when I was getting ready to rest my road weary feet, a last minute opportunity arose to dash off to Spain once more — this time to the southern provinces of Malaga and Granada. Spain is a country I could visit again and again, so, mere days after practicing my Deutsch and eating weisswurst in Germany, I found myself repacking my bag and heading back to the airport with images of sun-drenched Andalusian beaches dancing in my head.
I wasn’t disappointed.
Beautiful Coastal towns
I had heard of the cities of Malaga and Granada before, but had no idea that they were also provinces that comprise a bunch of tiny coastal villages. While I had heard fantastic things about the city of Granada, Malaga city didn’t appeal to me in the least: I had heard that it was a massive party town rife with college students looking to get ridiculously wasted and debaucherous, totally not my scene as a 30-something in a long- term relationship. But I soon learned that the region is so much more than its reputation for partying and hooking up; the tiny towns all along the Mediterranean coast offer stunning vistas and quiet pleasures. These towns also have some of the warmest and sunniest winters in Europe. I felt silly for dismissing a whole region based on my half-knowledge of one city.
We spent most of our first day wandering the small streets of sleepy Almuñécar and Salobreña (population 30,000 and 10,000, respectively), taking in the brightly coloured and meticulously well-kept buildings and stopping occasionally to listen to the odd performer making music in the streets.
These towns are the definition of slow(er) travel: life here moves at a quieter, less frantic pace, and it’s more about experiencing and absorbing luxuriously than running hurriedly from monument to monument. Those used to frenzy and having a zillion things to do may not like it here — there aren’t many major sights to see or boxes to tick in terms of activities in these villages. The tight streets and small squares are literal ghost towns during siesta (taken very seriously here!) and the older locals gather on benches and languidly observe passerby. This is the sort of place you visit to unwind, relax, and recharge, particularly in the tourism off-season: we walked along the beach in Almunecar before a long, late lunch at a restaurant where we indulged in local fare.
Then, in Salobreña, we visited a fruit farm run by a lone farmer, who passionately explained his trade and beseeched us to see, taste, and feel his homegrown avocados and bananas. This sort of low-key activity was just what I needed after so much hectic back-to-back travel — I loved it!
Diversity of the Andalusian Region
Over the last few days, I’ve grown to realize just how diverse southern Spain is– particularly the province of Granada, which is one of the few places in the world where one can go from the beach to the slopes in the same day. While the coastal towns I outlined above are more geared toward the slow traveller, the rest of the province has a wide range of things to do and see. The city of Granada is a pumping university town and tourist centre that is home to the Alhambra (a must-see site I visited yesterday; I’ll write about it in another post) and only a 45-minute drive away is the Sierra Nevada mountain range where I spent the morning skiing (yes, skiing! For the second time ever!) in scads of powdery white snow. For all those can’t-sit-still folks, there are helicopter rides and sailing trips to keep you busy; I did both yesterday and can’t wait to share my impressions with you in future posts. I’m beginning to discover just how varied a country Spain is and how my trips to Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville only scratched the surface; there are so many different experiences one can have here. I’ll definitely be back to Spain (it’ll be my 8th time visiting the country!) sooner than later.
Have you ever been to this region of Spain? Do you make it a point to revisit countries or cities you’ve already been to? Why or why not?
I was a guest of Minube, but all opinions and mouth-watering pictures of beaches are mine.