Staff Review

An Exploration of Andalucia


9 Aug 2016

by The Kirker Team

Kirker Holidays

Landing in the sweltering heat of the Andalucian sun can be a baptism of fire for even the most hardened traveller. However, within a few minutes of picking up our hire car, the exemplary air conditioning had helped to ease any discomfort - and so our driving tour of Spain's largest region begins, with a brief visit to the high perched Parador Gibralfaro in Malaga. A former refuge for miners looking to excavate minerals from the cliffs around the city, the hotel itself boasts wonderful views across Malaga and its harbour. The views can be taken in from the panoramic terrace, which wraps around the property - and also from the balcony of your bedroom where one can sit back with a cool drink and watch the world go by.

Our journey took us on along the Avenida Atlantica past the popular coastal resorts of Benalmadena, Estepona and Marbella. Estepona is a particularly pleasant, upmarket coastal town, ideal for families looking to relax and enjoy some well-deserved sun. The Kempinski Bahia de Estepona and the Grand Hotel Elba are favourites for Kirker families due to their well-run children's clubs and the large array of services provided for adults.

The final leg of this part of our journey took us inland towards the more authentic, rural Andalucia. The glistening hilltops signified our arrival in the land of the famous 'pueblos blancos' - the white villages which are a continuing legacy of the region's agrarian roots, where visitors and residents could quite easily pass the day sitting on the shady terrace of a local 'taperia' sipping local sherry or 'vino tinto.' About 90 minutes' from Malaga is the glorious town of Ronda, united by a beautifully carved stone bridge over the famous gorge. It is well worth a visit or even a couple of nights' stay, perhaps in the local Parador which overlooks the gorge. We settled for the night in the idyllic Fuente de la Higuera - a family run converted farm house in the peaceful countryside but a mere fifteen minutes' drive from the centre of Ronda. This property offers wonderful value in comparison to some of its more glamorous competitors on the coast and the pretty lavender garden bordering the restaurant terrace leading down to the swimming pool would win over the hearts of any guest.

Jerez was our first stop the next morning - a modern, working town which may lack the beauty of Ronda, but is famous for its wealth of 'bodegas' where sherry tasting is a must. The perfect place to stay in this area is the Casa Vina de Alcantara, situated ten minutes outside the town, a glorious country house owned by the prestigious sherry-producing Gonzalez Bias family (also proprietors of the Casa No 7 in Seville). The house is elegantly decorated and possesses some well-kept gardens with a pool surrounded by a pine forest.

This afternoon took us through the port of Cadiz; home to the striking Parador Atlantico, along the coast to the upmarket resort of Sancti Petri and stopping for some lunch in the sleepy hillside village of Vejer. As evening arrived, we were making our way down the lengthy driveway of the stunning Hacienda de San Rafael situated in rural las Cabezas de San Juan, 25 miles outside Seville. The Hacienda is one of my favourite luxury retreats on the entire continent - a converted farm house built around a cobbled courtyard with large flower filled gardens in which you can relax or enjoy one of the open-air swimming pools. The rooms around the courtyard are duplex plan, traditionally decorated and each has a private terrace where you can take your breakfast each morning.

Seville should always be at the top of anyone's wish-list, such is its wealth of Christian, Visigothic and Moorish architecture. Our residence was the picturesque Casas del Rey de Baeza - a collection of 18th century town houses based around three courtyards where a pleasant ten minute stroll will take you to the magnificent city cathedral, 'La Giralda,' and the Alcazar Palace. All of the Kirker properties are ideally situated in the old quarter north-east of the Guadalquivir river and most, such as the 4* Dona Maria or the beautifully constructed 5* Alfonso XIII have an open air swimming pool to bathe in after a hard day's sightseeing.

After exploring the streets of Seville, our tour of Andalucia took to the great city of Cordoba, one and half hours north-east of Seville. Cordoba is a city comprised of a veritable warren of streets and stone courtyards, all meandering their way towards the colossal Mezquita. The Mezquita itself is an architectural testament to the struggle for superiority between Christian and Muslim Spain and our 4* Hotel Conquistador, situated just outside the Cathedral walls is the most suited hotel to explore this UNESCO site. Otherwise, Kirker clients may wish to stay in the 16th Century Palacio del Bailio - a sister hotel of Las Casas del Rey de Baeza - located just outside the artistic quarter. This hotel merges contemporary and classical design superbly and the original Roman ruins underneath the hotel are visible from the breakfast courtyard.

The Moorish city of Granada is set against the stunning backdrop of the 'Sierra Nevada' mountain range and must always be considered by anyone looking to tour the region. The iconic Alhambra Palace and Generalife gardens overlook the city and this is where we ended our day after leaving Cordoba. We made good use of the Kirker Granada card which enabled timed access to the 'Palacio Nazaries' and the palace gardens before having a well-earned glass of lemonade looking out over Andalucia from the terrace of the 4* Hotel Alhambra Palace. This is a perfect location for exploring the palace, but visitors to Granada are encouraged to stay in the city below as opposed to high up within the walls of the Alhambra so as not to miss out on the wonderful array of restaurants and bars in the city. Furthermore, there is a regular daily shuttle service from the centre of town up to the Alhambra. The 3* family-run Casa Morisca proves itself to be an ideal property for an inexpensive getaway with its delightful central courtyard, small fountain and its proximity to some wonderful regional restaurants.

The Kirker Andalucian Trilogy (Seville, Cordoba and Granada) is an extremely popular combination to get a good flavour of the region. This holiday includes a stay in the 4* Palacio de los Patos in Granada, which makes for a grand and suitably fitting end to an insightful tour of Andalucia.

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Our expert reservations team regularly travel to a wide range of destinations to explore new cities, visit hotels and to research museums, galleries and restaurants so that we can offer the most up-to-date advice and recommendations.


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