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Andalucia will make you starry-eyed / Image: Getty Images

For a real snapshot of Spain, you can't do better than Andalucia. This southern region, that includes Seville, Granada and the Costa del Sol, birthed some of the country's most beloved exports (sherry and tapas). It's where you'll witness swishy flamenco dancers in the plaza, or the mighty Alhambra fortress, tinged with pink in the morning sun. In short: Andalucia never fails to impress. Here are the best of its attractions. 

1. Get merry on sherry in Jerez

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Eat and drink your sherry at La Carbona

For unadulterated Andalucia, Jerez is it. This is where in-the-know travellers go to hit all the mainstays of Spain’s southern province – flamenco, horses and, above all, sherry. Jerez is the gateway to the famed ‘Sherry Triangle’, a pointy-shaped piece oSpain where the beloved fermented wine is made at traditional bodegas. Start at Sandeman in town, where you can sample sherries that have been aged for 20 years or more. Others worth a look in are the quaint, family-owned González Byass and the intimateDíe Mérito, whose tranquil courtyard is quintessential Andalucia. Round off your day with, yep, even more sherry at La Carbona, a cavernous restaurant in a former bodega where the meaty dishes are soaked in Jerez’s favourite tipple. Try the Iberian pork loin doused with sherry mole poblano sauce. 

✈ Fly to Jerez – book flights 

2. Plaza hop in Seville

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Las Setas are a space-age spectacle / Image: Turismo de Sevilla

If you want to discover the soul of a Spanish city you need to visit its plazas. That is particularly true in Seville, a place famous for its flamenco, where squares burst with life around the clock. Start at the Plaza de Encarnación, where the incredible ‘las setas (the mushrooms) canopy structure is a modernist marvel. For something a bit more traditional, the Plaza del Salvador – which takes its name from the square’s gorgeous Iglesia del Salvador – is packed with kids running free, chattering locals, and bartenders filling glasses of Cruzcampo quicker than you can say una caña (a small beer). And anyone after something different will love the sprawling, tree-lined Alameda de Hercules in Seville's trendy Alameda district, packed with quirky bars and restaurants. If you’re lucky, you may even experience an impromptu flamenco session.  

✈ Fly to Seville – book flights and holidays

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3. Kick back in Granada’s traditional teahouses

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It's always tea time in Granada / Image: Adobe Stock

Most visitors to Granada make a beeline for the astonishing Alhambra, but beyond the city’s Moorish masterpiece there is a beguiling street life that teems with the same energy as Morocco’s souks or Turkey’s bazaars. In the AlbayzínGranada’s old Arab quarter, street stalls hawking fragrant spices and colourful tapestries line the narrow lanes, while the sweet smell of mint tea pipes from teteríasthe traditional teahouses. When it’s time for a break, duck into Kasbah, a secretive nook of a tetería draped in breezy curtains and decorated with ornate Moorish arches. Elsewhere, the dimly lit Dar Ziryab is an inviting place to recharge over a cachimba (hookah), and Ábaco  is a creaky, two-storey house where locals fuel up on esoteric teas.  

✈ Fly to Granada – book flights and holidays

4. Marvel at the galaxy from Almeria

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Almeria's skies put on an incredible show / Image: Getty Images

Spain’s Cabo de Gata-Nijar natural park is one of Europe’s last remaining wildernesses, and also happens to be one of the continent's best places for stargazingLocated in the coastal province of Almeria, a lesser-known highlight of Andalucia, its lack of light pollution offers spellbinding views of the cosmos. You’ll spot otherworldly geographical features such as the Arrecife de Las Sirenas (reef of the sirens) volcanic chimneys and the soaring pinnacle of extinct volcano La Majada Redonda. To really make the experience special, book a tour with Astronomía Cabo de Gata and learn about everything from the mythological stories of the constellations to how to identify moon craters. You can even request a telescope masterclass with one of the astronomers. 

✈ Fly to Almeria – book flights and holidays

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5. Take a Picasso pilgrimage around Malaga

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The Church of Santiago is a medieval marvel / Image: Malaga City Tourist Board

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was born in Malaga and although he moved away during childhood the southern Spanish city has kept a long vigil for its most famous son. Make a tour of this beautiful port city via Picasso sites like the Casa Natal Museum, which houses important artefacts in the painter’s story, such as family photos, selected artworks and even clothing worn by the infant artist. Next up: the Church of Santiago, a medieval beauty where young Pablo was baptised. Moving into the painter’s school years, pay a visit to the Instituto Vicente Espinel, where he sat his exams in June 1891. Around the marble-columned courtyard you’ll find assorted plaques and photographs celebrating famous pupils, including Picasso, Nobel Prize-winner Severo Ochoa and poet Manuel Altolaguirre. Lastly, take a cheeky selfie with the man himself, rendered in bronze and eternally gazing out with his sketchbook on a bench in the Plaza de la Merced. 

✈ Fly to Malaga – book flights and holidays

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