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Off the beaten track in ANDALUCIA early spring 2024 - trip report


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We spent ten nights in Andalucia at the end of February-beginning of March 2024. We flew into Malaga and picked up a rental car at malagacar.com. There was a little traffic around the airport but once we passed Malaga and were heading towards Osuna, the roads were quiet.

We spent three nights in Osuna in a spotlessly clean and quiet studio apartment a short walk from the centre and the supermarkets. Saturday was just arriving, shopping, eating. On the second day we visited Ecija, an easy drive through the countryside on empty roads, Ecija is famous for its bell towers and we went on a Sunday, It was a relaxing place for strolling around and there were some great palacios, although the weather was a little grey and cold. Day 3 was dedicated to Osuna itself.

Off the beaten track in Andalucia early spring 2024 - Trip report

I loved Osuna, the clean and bright streets, the historical centre with its low white-washed houses with window bars and wood doors, a very pretty place. The weather was again cloudy with a little rain and quite cool.
Day 4, the weather had cleared. It was cold and sunny. First, we visited Estepa, and loved it for the contact with friendly people, the quiet, the area of monuments at the top of the hill and the kind Senora Carmen who explained to us the church of the same name.
Off the beaten track in Andalucia early spring 2024 - Trip report
Then we moved on to Antequera. We had tapas for lunch at Cerveceria Casa Diego. We'd already visited Antequera twice on previous trips and eaten a couple of times at Casa Meson Diego.
Off the beaten track in Andalucia early spring 2024 - Trip report
The afternoon was dedicated to El Torcal, an old friend from previous trips. It was fantastic to return. I hadn't booked our accommodation for that night until the last minute, in doubt between returning to Torcal or returning to Cordoba, according to the weather, so we ended up in Archidona, where the main attraction seemed to be the octagonal square. We could easily have missed Archidona. I was tired and had a meltdown trying to park, the apartment was freezing, we ate too much fried fish in the evening and regretted it!
Day 5 we drove up to Lucena, mainly because I'd originally wanted to use it as a base to tour the area. I think it was the right decision not to stay there. The main church was nice but there are prettier towns in the area - Osuna, to start with! In the afternoon we went to Cabra, which we liked, a medium-sized town but attractive. That evening we arrived at our accommodation near Priego de Cordoba. I was not hopeful about this accommodation but I couldn't have been more wrong. A fantastic place, we had a studio flat, warm and cosy with a view over the countryside. We stayed three nights.
Off the beaten track in Andalucia early spring 2024 - Trip report
Day 6 was dedicated to Priego de Cordoba, which lived up to expectations and and Day 7 to Alcalà la Real which didn't. Well, not as a town, but the Fortaleza made the trip worth it.
Off the beaten track in Andalucia early spring 2024 - Trip report
In general the Subbetica region was disappointing from a nature point of view. Yes, the towns are beautiful but the landscape consists in olive groves and olive groves and olive groves. I'm not quite sure why it's considered a 'natural' park area. The weather those days was cold morning and evening but pleasant enough to eat outside in the sun during the day.
On Day 8 we headed for the sea, stopping at Iznacar on the way, a beautiful pueblo blanco.
Off the beaten track in Andalucia early spring 2024 - Trip report
It was a pity the weather was cloudy again. Alhama de Granada is hardly mentioned by websites and blogs but we liked it a lot, the ochre sandstone of the historical buildings and the gorge. We could easily have spent longer there and there looked to be good hikes.
Off the beaten track in Andalucia early spring 2024 - Trip report
From there we drove down towards the coast, to Algarrobo Costa, a bit of a shock to be surrounded by buildings and people. Day 9 was spent relaxing, we just walked along the coast, it was sunnier but there was a strong wind.
Day 10 we drove east to visit some places missing from a previous trip to Almunecar, in particular the Acantilados Maro-Cerro Gordo and to have lunch in a Ciringuito in Salobrena we remembered from that previous trip.
Day 11 was our last day. We left the apartment early, drove to Malaga and parked and spent the day there before dropping off the rental car at 15.30 to go to the airport. We had already visited Malaga for a week in March 2018 and ten days in November 2019.

The itinerary was chosen with the following factors in mind:
- we'd already seen some beautiful places in Andalucia - a week in Seville, 8 days in Granada, two trips to Malaga and an extended road trip from Italy which allowed us to visit places like Arcos de la Frontera, Ronda, Tarifa, Caidz, Sanlucar de la Barrameda, Ubeza, Jaen, another ten days between Almunecar and Nerja.
- we love Andalucia
- we were tempted to return to Seville or Malaga but we wanted to visit less touristy places
- we were flying in and out of Malaga because it was convenient and for the rental car.

It was a relaxing trip. All the places we visited were quiet, very few tourists, friendly and welcoming people, those working in tourism and others too. It was easy to find somewhere to eat tapas or a racion which was good but cheap. Driving around was easy, empty roads, considerate drivers. Parking was usually no problem. Weather was coldish night and morning but pleasant enough to be out all day (suitably dressed). We saw some nice places although nothing absolutely unforgettable in the way that Setenil de las Bodegas or Ronda or Cordoba are stunning.
We moved around a lot more than we usually do. We prefer to base in one place and day trip, but it worked out ok for once.
If you too love Andalucia and are happy to rent a car, have seen the 'big' destinations and want to see places that aren't overrun with tourists this itinerary could be of interest to you.
These are the places we loved:
El Torcal de Antequera - always unbeatable for the stunning natural landscape
Osuna - intact historical centre, small town feel, would make a good slow travel base
Alhama de Granada, small but splendid, very few tourists, good hikes in the area (which we didn't do)
Priego de Cordoba - a popular destination and rightly so, but very quiet in March
Iznacar - a typical picturesque pueblo blanco
Estepa - off the beaten track, small, friendly people, views and churches
Also interesting: Ecija, Alcala la Real for the fortress, Cabra,
Not as special: Lucena, Archidona.
Disappointing - the nature of the Subbetica natural park
what I really dislike about this trip report is that now I'm dreaming about returning to Southern Spain again!
we loved our day hike in El Torcal, as well as everything else about our October trip. sorry we didn't get to Priego de Cordoba, and glad we didn't spend our countryside days in Subbetica, but it's clear that there is so much more to explore.....

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