Looking to get off the beaten track in Andalucia? We’ve scratched beneath the surface of this exciting, historic area of Spain, asked local experts and come up with a list of little-known things to…
Spain is a country where history and gastronomy merge, and nowhere is this truer than in the southern region of Andalucia. Many threads of influence and tradition run through Andalucian cuisine – from the Phoenicians, who first arrived on these shores almost 3,000 years ago, and the Romans who introduced wheat, olives and vines to the area, to the Moors who imported their expertise of almond growing, saffron and rice.
In years gone by, food often defined where we were from, but now food-lovers’ travel choices are influenced because of a region’s gastronomy. We no longer just eat to live – many of us live to eat. So here we’ll share with you a local’s guide to many of the authentic foods of the Axarquia, a mountainous coastal region in the eastern corner of Malaga province. That way, you can really experience the local culture via its cuisine.
We’ll start our journey in Malaga, a city whose history can be traced back more than 2,800 years, making it one of the oldest in the world. Malaga has undergone a cultural renaissance over the past few years, and rather than being just ‘the place where the airport is’, the city is now one of Spain’s unmissable destinations. You’ll discover ancient architecture, a well-established international art scene, important cultural and religious festivals, tapas bars and elegant fine-dining as well as the warm, clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea lapping at Malaga’s long, sandy beaches.
Why not give your senses a treat and head to the Atarazanas market? Here, the Moorish arched entrance and the huge, colourful stained-glass window tell the history of the origins of this bustling marketplace. As you wander around, take in the dazzling displays of freshly-caught fish with their scarlet gills and scales glistening under the spotlights. You can marvel at the kaleidoscope of colours of the artistically displayed fresh fruit and vegetables and savour the counters of aromatic cheeses, spices, artisan bread, marinated olives, dried fruits, nuts, chorizos and ham – all perfect for a gourmet picnic. Or you could try a skewer of fresh tuna or salmon at one of the tapas bars inside the market, where the fish is so fresh it almost melts in your mouth.
From Malaga, consider heading east along the sub-tropical coast of the Axarquia, past orchards of mango and avocado trees, where you’ll be spoilt for choice with an array of chiringuitos (beach bars) stretching for miles. It’s hard to resist the smell of espetos de sardinas (sardines) being cooked on skewers over a wood fire on the beach; so simple yet totally delicious. Alternatively, you could choose one of Malaga’s favourite dishes, boquerones (anchovies), either deep-fried in olive oil, or marinated in vinegar, salt, garlic and olive oil. Boquerones en vinagre are a favourite in many places serving tapas.
Most of the white villages of the Axarquia have an association with a particular fruit or traditional product and host an annual gastronomic festival to celebrate. Periana, for instance, is known for juicy peaches, and Canillas de Aceituno is renowned for the best oven-roasted kid for miles around. Elsewhere in the region, Torrox hosts the Migas festival each December (you can read more about this on Eastofmalaga.net), when more than 40,000 people feast on the traditional Andalucian peasant dish (fried breadcrumbs liberally laced with garlic, small pieces of chorizo, ham or peppers).
The mountain village of Frigiliana, once voted the prettiest village in Andalucia, boasts the last remaining factory in Europe producing miel de caña (literal translation: sugar-cane honey, but in reality this is molasses). Production began at the Ingenio Nuestra Señora del Carmen (Mieldelatorre.com) almost three centuries ago, and the same traditional recipe without additives is still used today. Miel de caña is delicious when drizzled over berenjenas (deep-fried egg-plant) or cod fritters.
A product that is 100% ‘made in Malaga’ is the crumbly Algarrobo cake, a perfect accompaniment with your morning coffee. The ingredients are all sourced within the province, and this gastronomic delight consisting of olive oil, almond flour, aniseed, sugar and cinnamon is put together with love at the Carmen Lupišñez factory, within the village of Algarrobo. You can buy a packet of these cakes at any of the local street markets and little grocery stores for just a couple of euros. Perfect to pop in your suitcase to take back home!
If you’re lucky enough to be travelling to the Axarquia during January, you will see the delicate pink almond blossom on trees throughout the region. First introduced by the Moors many centuries ago, the almond is an important ingredient in local cuisine, from sauces, stews or simply roasted and salted. As you’re wandering around Malaga city you’ll be sure to see a small table at the side of the street where a vendor is selling roasted almonds in a paper cone. You might also like to try ajoblanco (Malaga’s answer to gazpacho) – a refreshingly cold, garlic and almond soup.
As you travel around this region you will see the dry, steep terraced land that is perfect for cultivating vines and, in particular, the sweet moscatel grapes which enjoy the sun and the influence of the sea. No mechanical devices are used for picking – these grapes are all hand-picked to make the local sweet (high-proofed) aromatic wine. Served cold, these wines pair well with blue cheeses, many desserts, chocolate, and are the perfect choice for your sobremesa (the time after a meal when you sit around the table and enjoy a drink with friends).
The mountain village of Competa, which lies in the foothills of the impressive Sierra Almijara and Tejeda mountains, hosts the annual Noche del Vino (not only a night of wine, but a whole day of it!) Every year, thousands of people descend on the village to witness the ritual treading of the grapes and share in the fun and festivities to herald the start of the grape harvest.
Whilst you’re in the area, you might also like to take a tour of one of the excellent wineries nearby. Bodegas Bentomiz (Bodegasbentomiz.com) near Sayalonga supply their Ariyanas wines to many of the finest restaurants in the world, and you can enjoy a tasting or a delicious winemaker’s lunch at their contemporary headquarters.
Welcome to La Axarquia – the authentic Costa del Sol.
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If the bird's eye view of the inside of the cathedral looks spectacular, then to cap it off you emerge outside with 360-degree rooftop views of Malaga. [email protected]
Visit Malaga Cathedral's Roof
The top tip of Lindsay Gregory, Director of The Luxury Villa Collection: “Stroll around Malaga historic centre, take a hammam at Mammam Al Andalus and finish with cocktails at a rooftop bar.” https://malaga.hammamalandalus.com/en/
RELAX IN A HAMMAM
A rather lovely town with a Moorish fortress complex and no fewer than 30 churches. Don’t miss having tapas in the impressive Plaza de los Escribanos.
Meander in Antequera
Just outside Antequera, these are some of the largest and most complete megalithic structures in Europe. Museosdeandalucia.es
Visit Three 5000-year-old Dolmens
The ruins of a 9th-century church carved out of rock are the highlights of a larger fortified town complex. Anything 9th century and still standing is incredible in our books.
Wonder at a 9TH Century Church – Bobastro
A house with a garden in the Albayzin (the oldest part of Granada city) is known as a Carmen. These Carmens look out towards the Alhambra Palace, often have wooden balconies, plant-filled patios, babbling water features and decorative tiles.
Nose Around the Carmens of Granada's Albayzin
This 17th-century abbey and college comes complete with holy caves/ancient catacombs. The view of Granada alone is worth the walk.
Visit the Abbey of Sacromonte, Granada
This village has stately houses gripping onto the edge of a gorge, cobbled streets and spa credentials. Our top tip is to escape the summer heat in Granada and visit Alhama – it has a unique microclimate where summer nights cool to a comfortable level.
Take a day trip to Alhama de Granada and its Natural Hot Springs
Once part of several fortifications, the castle that sits on this tiny island dates back to the 13th century.
Find Out the Mysteries of the Island of Sancti Petri, San Fernando, Cadiz
This pristine white village, sitting high on a rocky hilltop, really comes into its own at sunrise and dusk. Aside from the dramatic light, there are lovely boutique shops, great restaurants and, during the summer, look out for their candlelight festival.
Experience the Beautiful Light in Vejer de la Frontera
While it's got a great beach with some decent Atlantic surf, it’s the laidback-hip bar vibe in El Palmar that makes it stand out from other stretches of southern Spain's coast.
Surf and Sip in El Palmar
David, chef at De Tako's top tip is, “One of the best ways to experience a country is through its food and an even better way is to enjoy perfectly cooked food is in an incredible setting surrounded by friends". We entirely agree – hire a private chef at your villa for the ultimate in convenience.
HIRE A Private Chef
One of our top hidden foodie treats in Andalucia is delicious Retinto beef from Cadiz. Much is spoken about fried fish, olives and olive oil, jamón ibérico and Sherry but this meaty option is also a real gastro-standout.
Taste Riotinto Beef
Hire a boat and hit the sea - you’ll almost inevitably come across a pod of dolphins in the Mediterranean.
Take to the Sea – Dolphin Watch
This forgotten about 12th-century arched gateway and wall was the main entrance into Seville, and is certainly off the beaten path.
Puerta de Macarena/Walls of Seville
You'll never have experienced a bar like Garlochí, a homage to Easter in Spain. All year round there's incense burning and procession music playing – they call it the cathedral of bars. Don’t miss their signature cocktail: Grenadine, whisky and Cava.
Drink at a Bar Dedicated to Easter in Sevilla
There’s a succession of beautiful waterfalls running over some interesting limestone formations in Sierra Norte de Sevilla Nature Park.
Wild Swimming at Cascadas de Hueznar in Seville Province
Fiona Flores Watson, Telegraph Travel Writer and Seville resident recommends: “The summer outdoor concerts held in the Alcazar Palace… a magical setting for live jazz, flamenco or classical music by moonlight.” Alcazarsevilla.org
SEE LIVE MUSIC IN THE ALCAZAR PALACE
The castle of Castillo de Almodovar del Rio was built in 740. You can join theatrical tours, do some medieval combat training or spooky storytelling. Castillodealmodovar.com
Visit Highgarden, the Tyrell’s House in Game of Thrones
Manni Coe of Toma & Coe Tours' top tip is: “One of the most consistently excellent restaurants I know in Andalucia is located on a little-known street, in the little-known town of Lucena. It's called Tres Culturas and it's also a handy stop off en-route to Cordoba." Tresculturasrestaurante.com
TRAVEL TO EAT AT TRES CULTURAS
In the Sierra de Cazorla natural park this castle was built at the start of the 16th century. A beautiful monument in an even more beautiful part of the world.
Marvel at the Castle of Iruela, Jaen
The colours of autumn over the vast landscape of rural Huelva is the perfect way to disconnect. Local people flock here to experience the change of the season.
Reconnect with Nature and See Autumn in Aracena
This breath-taking beach near the charming village of San Jose feels like another world.
Genoveses beacH in Cabo de Gata, Almeria
A bit of a cheat but do a tour…
Our top 5 are: Most unusual is in Segura de la Sierra in Jaen province: this square bullring is the old courtyard of a castle and was built in the 18th century. Ronda bullring is the second oldest and the biggest. Seville bullring is the oldest; Antequera's is famed for appearing in Madonna’s Take a Bow video; Mijas has spectacular views and is simply charming. Archidona usually erects a bullring inside its eight-sided main square during the summer season. Like this and want to know more about visiting southern Spain? Check out our 50 things to do in Andalucia and our guide to the five best cities to visit in Andalucia [post_title] => Hidden Andalucia [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => hidden-andalucia [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-01-31 15:25:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-01-31 15:25:18 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://theluxuryvillacollection.com/?p=139603 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 133379 [post_author] => 5 [post_date] => 2020-10-03 15:27:14 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-10-03 15:27:14 [post_content] =>
See Andalucia through its Bullrings
(As of Nov 2020)Since the global pandemic reached our countries in early 2020 there has been restrictions in one way or another on the way we live our lives. With the sheer amount of press on Covid-19 it’s difficult to see the wood from the trees. So we wanted to reach out to our guests and give you a clear idea of what it’s really like to be in southern Spain in 2020. As we become used to Covid-19 not going away we’re getting better at carrying on with our lives but with safety measures in place. Obviously, those who are at high risk may adopt a more stringent approach to their activities but for the rest of us we’re getting out and about responsibly. While we at The Luxury Villa Collection welcomed guests during 2020 we realise that clarity on what it's like in southern Spain is needed.
What restrictions are there in southern Spain?Shops, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, events, museums and art galleries all have capacity limits to ensure social distancing can be adhered to safely. Businesses all have hand sanitizer at the door so customers can clean their hands upon entering and leaving an establishment. As of 25th October there is a curfew between 22.00hrs and 07.00hrs. Further restrictions have been put in place to limit the movement of people outside their municipalities. Face coverings must be worn at all times if over 6 years old, other than:
- People playing sports do not have to wear a mask whilst engaged in the sporting activity.
- Masks do not need to be worn by customers who are eating, drinking, or smoking.
- In the sea or swimming pool.
- In a designated household sunbathing area on the beach.
Do I have to wear a face covering?The use of face coverings is mandatory for anyone over the age of 6 years old at all times unless during one of the points stated above. This includes in all forms of indoor and outdoor public spaces even if social distancing can be applied. For countries that haven’t adopted this measure, face coverings seem a huge inconvenience but what they have allowed people to do is enjoy their holiday as normal with face coverings and social distancing being the only restrictions.
Are restaurants open?Yes, restaurants and cafes are open with limitations place upon their capacity to ensure tables are spaced out enough so customers can remove their face coverings while drinking or eating. Serving staff and chefs must wear masks at all times.
Are Beaches open in Andalucia?Yes. Once on a beach in your own sunbathing area and in the sea you may remove face coverings. The sunbathing areas must be 2 metres apart and social distancing must be adhered to in the sea. Some beaches have allocated sunbathing areas others are flexible but there are personnel checking that people adhere to social distancing rules while enjoying the beach. No distancing is necessary within your family unit. The norms that local governments put in place over summer 2020 worked to great effect and people could enjoy the beaches of the Costa del Sol, Costa de la Luz and Costa Tropical.
Are tourist sights open?Yes. Restrictions on numbers being allowed into famous landmarks, tourist attractions and galleries has meant some sights have never been so quiet. Achieving the perfect photo of the Alhambra Palace or Real Alcazar de Sevilla without other sightseers is actually possible.
Does a face covering need to be worn while driving?When driving alone or with your household no face covering needs to be worn, but if there are passengers or a driver from a different household then everyone must wear a face covering.
What’s the general mood in southern Spain?Summer 2020 saw fewer parties for sure: the dancing all night in a club and watching the sunrise from a buzzing rooftop bar was and is not on the cards at the moment. However, long lunches beside the sea, visiting theme parks, historic sights, galleries and museums, beach days and outdoor activities are all there being enjoyed. It's really business as usual with the some sensible parameters in place. Some of our guests used our villas with entertainment rooms, cinemas, spas and abundance of space to organise private experiences from chefs to talks to spa treatments and live music. Bringing the wonderful Spanish culture into the safety of their private villa.
What is State of Alarm and What Does it Mean?The phrase state of alarm sounds very official and, well, alarming however, it is really just an administration step for the government and helps regional governments put in place restrictions. This phase allows the government (if necessary) to limit the movement of people at specific locations and times, temporary use private industries (such as private hospitals), limit the use of services and ensure the supply of necessary goods and services. In 2020 during Covid19, the state of alarm has meant limiting the movement of people between different provinces and curfews been implemented (from 23.00-06.00hrs). In no circumstances does state of alarm mean visitors aren't permitted to travel back to their home country.
Air travel – Is it safe?So far there has been little evidence of in-flight transmission of coronavirus, but there have been a couple of examples of transmission early on in the pandemic before more stringent controls were in place. Shaun Fitzgerald, Royal Academy of Engineering visiting professor at the University of Cambridge said, aircraft ventilation systems are unique, the “replacement rate” - the number of times a volume of air equivalent to the volume of the cabin is removed each hour - can be four minutes in a aircraft. Compare this to 20 or 30 minutes in an indoor environment on the ground and it’s very brisk. The air filters themselves on aeroplanes are sophisticated and much more effective than filters found in indoor venues on the ground. Most airlines say face coverings are mandatory, limit food and drink services and don’t allow queuing for the toilet. The airports themselves are being diligent ensuring social distancing is in place as well as temperature controls in some. As from October 2020 if traveling from Europe or the UK:
- You must complete a health control form - which includes a HCF - a negative PCR test within 72hrs of your arrival to Spain.