The region of Andalucia contains some of the most beautiful landscapes in the whole of Spain: from snow-capped mountains to dazzling lakes and natural parklands overflowing with flora and fauna.
Perfect for a day trip or a bracing hike, these areas of outstanding beauty benefit from being situated away from the more tourist crowded hotspots – allowing you to disconnect and explore at your leisure.
So if you’re planning a trip to Andalucia and looking for the best things to do, make sure to include some of the following stunning spots on your itinerary.
1. Sierra de Grazalema, Cádiz
Don’t let this natural park’s reputation as the rainiest place in Spain put you off visiting! A little drizzle is a small price to pay for plunging gorges, rugged limestone rock formations and far-reaching forests.
Spanning an area of over 50 thousand hectares, the park is also home to black vulture colonies and rare species of Spanish fir trees.
Also to be found in Grazalema is Andalucia’s largest cave system -the Hundidero-Gato. Its biggest cavern measures a staggering 4km in length, with a 60m tall entrance!
The area is also scattered with some of the most beautiful white villages in Spain. These include Grazalema – situated between the two dramatic peaks of Pico del Reloj and the Pico de San Cristóbal- and Zahara de la Sierra, with its sweeping views over a valley of turquoise reservoirs.
Much of the park is accessible to the public – save for the 3,000 hectares flagged up as a “Reserve Area”, where some of the most delicate ecosystems are located.
Things to do in Sierra De Grazalema
Go For a Hike: Grazalema is famous for its fantastic walking trails which vary in length and difficulty levels. Check out this article for a list of 20 of the best.
Try Some Bridge Jumping: If you fancy getting the adrenaline pumping, why not try bungee jumping from the Nava Bridge in nearby Algodonales? Plummet 30 metres as treetops rush up towards you – under the supervision of an expert guide, of course!
Hire a Bike and get Cycling: With an abundance of quiet back roads and cycling tracks, Grazalema is a bike rider’s paradise. If you don’t fancy tackling the hills, there’s also the option of electric bike hire to save you puffing!
2. La Doñana, Huelva
Any round-up of the most beautiful places in Andalucia would be incomplete without the inclusion of La Doñana National Park.
Home to pink flamingos, wild horses and endangered species such as the Iberian Lynx – Doñana is widely recognised as one of the region’s most impressive nature reserves.
In 1994 the park even garnered UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status for the incredible array of bird, plant and animal species contained within it.
Made up of vast salt plains, rolling marshes and undulating sand dunes, the reserve rambles over 1,300 square kilometres in the provinces of Huelva, Seville and Cadiz.
Things to do in La Doñana
Enjoy a Nature Tour: The park is accessible by boat via the Guadalquivir river from the nearby town of Sanlucar de la Barrameda. Visitors can enter the park in the company of a knowledgeable private guide and spend a half-day exploring the variety of remarkable ecosystems that span the reserve.
Go Horse Riding Along the Beach: What better way to experience the beauty of La Doñana than from the back of a horse during a magical beachside hack? Companies such as Doñana Tour offer guided group hacks for equestrian enthusiasts of all levels. Or if you fancy galloping along beaches and jumping over streams, Doñana Horse Adventure organises activities for the more experienced rider.
Visit the Strangest Town in Spain: La Doñana is home to El Rocio – one of Andalucia’s quirkiest little towns. With its dusty streets and saloon-style bars, this secluded village looks straight from the set of a Western film. Intrigued? Find out more here.
3. Sierra Nevada, Granada
Made up of more than 20 mountain ranges and towering at heights of over 3,000 metres, the snow-dusted peaks of the Sierra Nevada are a must-see when holidaying in Andalucia.
Situated a mere 40-minute drive from the city of Granada and considered by many to be the jewel in the crown of the region, the area is famed for its far-reaching views, vast National Park and collection of secluded mountain villages.
Amongst these are Lanjarón – known for its bottled spring water- and Bubión, both of which are located within in the Alpujarras network and provide the perfect base for a weekend break in the mountains.
For ideas of more towns and villages to visit in the Sierra Nevada, check out this blog post.
Things to Do in the Sierra Nevada
Hit the Slopes: the Sierra Nevada mountain range boasts some of the best snow in Spain and is a popular winter destination for skiers and snowboarders. The Sierra Nevada Ski Resort is located on the slopes of the Pico de Veleta, Spain’s third-highest peak, and is open from late November to early May with trails on offer to suit a variety of abilities. Visit the webpage for more info.
Go Hiking: the Sierra Nevada is a walker’s paradise, with a range of fantastic trails on offer tackling impressive peaks such as Mulhacén and Pico de Veleta. You can choose to attempt these routes with or without a guide, and can find a comprehensive range of maps to follow here.
4. Montes de Málaga, Málaga
Known as the “green lung” of the Costa Del Sol, the wooded hills of Montes de Málaga are famous for containing some of the best walking trails in the province.
Starting a mere 5 km north of Málaga on the slopes of the Guadalmedina river, the natural park shares ownership with the coastal city and the neighbouring municipalities of Casabermeja and Colmenar.
A popular weekend picnic spot for city dwellers, the rolling hills are covered with thick pine forests – originally planted by Málaga council in an attempt to combat flash flooding.
Hundreds of species of plants, animals and birds also call the Montes de Málaga their home – not to mention a scattering of reptiles and amphibians!
Things to Do in Montes de Malaga
Visit an Eco-Museum: Step back in time during a visit to the Ecomuseum Lagar de Torrijos, which you can reach by foot from one of the many hiking trails cutting through the park. This home-winery contains a perfectly preserved mill, furnace and house which visitors are free to explore while learning about how the famous Montes de Malaga wine is produced.
Go For a Hike: One of the best things to do in Montes de Malaga is to spend the day hiking amongst the trees. The park is scored with walking trails, so pack a picnic, lace up those hiking boots and get going!
5. Sierra de Aracena y Los Picos de Aroche, Huelva
This densely wooded Natural Park in the Huelva province covers an expanse of 84,000 acres, the majority of which is carpeted with forests of Mediterranean oak and cork trees.
The park is a haven for nature lovers – birds of prey can often be seen hovering in the skies above while woodpeckers chatter away in the treetops.
You’re also sure to spot black Iberian pigs snuffling for acorns beneath the holm oaks. This decadent diet is said to account for their high-quality jamón – famous for being some of the best ham in Spain!
The park is also home to a collection of sleepy, whitewashed towns and many a secluded rural retreat – which make an ideal base from which to embark on a weekend of hiking or biking amongst the trees.
For those staying in Seville, the parklands are located a mere hour’s drive away along newly renovated roads, making it entirely possible to escape the city for a relaxing day trip.
Things to Do in Sierra de Aracena and Los Picos de Aroche
Visit a Beautiful White Village: If you fancy visiting a town after a hike through the park, there are plenty to choose from in the surrounding area. Amongst the most beautiful are Almonaster la Real, with its 10th century mosque, and Cortelazor La Real – a picturesque town with only 200 inhabitants, located in the centre of the park.
Check out Some Underground Caves: Just outside the town of Aracena you can find Grutas de Las Maravillas caves – an incredible subterranean labyrinth filled with stalagmites and icy blue lakes. Well worth a visit!
6. Sierra de Castril, Granada
Situated just under a two-hour drive from Granada city centre is the natural park of Sierra de Castril. This arrestingly beautiful nature reserve is composed of stunning natural features such as towering limestone cliffs, waterfalls and subterranean caves.
The Sierra de Castril enjoys abundant natural water supplies which in turn create a variety of lush ecosystems, populated by many varieties of plant and animal species.
The park is also home to a diverse range of birdlife – often spotted amongst the tall pines and poplar oaks are Egyptian and Griffon Vultures, along with Golden and Booted Eagles.
Things to Do in Sierra de Castril
Tackle a Hiking Trail: Hikers can request a walking map of Castril Sierra from the tourist office in nearby Castril and tackle routes such as the 12 km Senderismo Río. This gentle hike traces the valley through strawberry and pine trees and offers up incredible views of the surrounding reservoirs – or embalses.
Enjoy some Wild Swimming: The natural park of Castril Sierra is dotted with lakes and reservoirs whose turquoise waters are perfect for a cooling dip after a day’s hiking! Check out the beautiful Embalse Portillo – Castril’s local lake and a popular spot for picnicking and kayaking.
To find further wild swimming spots in Andalucia, check out this blog post.
Go Rock Climbing: The jagged limestone cliffs scattered throughout the park provide the ideal surface for a spot of rock climbing. If you have your own gear, check out this detailed guide to the best climbing spots in the park. Alternatively, hire a guide to show you the ropes (no pun intended!)
7. Cabo de Gata, Almería
Do you like your natural parks with a side of glimmering Mediterranean Sea? Then this is the place for you!
Widely acknowledged as one of the most beautiful places in Andalucia, Cabo de Gata is fringed by stunning beaches – many of which are in possession of the much-coveted blue flag status for excellence.
The park was awarded Biosphere Reserve status by UNESCO in 1997 due to the sheer diversity of its ecosystems and the myriad of species of flora and fauna thriving within them.
Along with silky white-sanded beaches and coral reefs teeming with marine life, Cabo de Gata is also home to Spain’s biggest volcanic rock formation.
This eponymous mountain range is composed of craggy 100 metre high cliffs, with plunging drops to the crystal clear waters beneath.
What to Do in Cabo de Gata
Check Out the Marine Life: The limpid, fish-filled waters of the beaches are a perfect spot to indulge in some snorkelling or diving. Alternatively, try some sea-kayaking or consider hiring a boat to explore the more secluded coves. Find a list of activity providers in the local area here.
Head to the Mountains: The rocky, mountainous regions of the park provide the ideal terrain for a spot of mountain biking. Alternatively, view this rugged landscape from the back of a jeep during a private tour!