Have you been to London and Paris and want to see something new? Are you interested to learn about the stunning architecture that resulted from Christian and Muslim culture mixing? My next Explorer trip is taking me to the Iberian peninsula, starting in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. From there it’s off to Faro on the popular Algarve coast and across the border to the beautiful cities of Seville, Cordoba, Granada and Malaga in the South of Spain with a quick visit to the wildly popular Costa del Sol.
Lisbon rarely makes it onto a Top 10 list – but it has a lot to offer: You can explore the rich history in the old town, visit museums or stroll down the cobblestone streets – they are lively day and night! And you can take great day trips down the coast to the famous resort towns of Estoril and Caicais or the royal mountain retreat of Sintra! From there, it’s all by train and bus across the Southern half of the Iberian peninsula.
The Algarve is a very popular beach destination, especially with visitors from the UK. So much so that some people claim the Algarve made a deal with the devil.. of mass tourism that is. And towns like Albufeira are a mixed blessing. But Faro is a beautiful, quiet town and you can still find beaches without the crowds to relax and enjoy the sand, sun and sea! After that, I’ll say “Goodbye” to Portugal and “Hello” to Spain.
My first stop is the ancient city of Seville with it’s reputation for sultry Flamenco, vibrant nightlife and lots of great food – the home of Tapas! Seville also has amazing historic buildings, from the massive Cathedral to the palace and countless museums – including the old monastery where the holy inquisition to its start!
Cordoba is another old city and it shows the mix of Islamic and Christian history better than any other place with its stunning Mosque-Cathedral! The largest of its kind, it grew over centuries, incorporates elements of the different dynasties and served different faiths! It is monument to a time when Cordoba was the most populous city in the world in the 10th century!
Granada earned its place on my itinerary as the home to the Alhambra, the huge fortress and palace built by the Moorish rules of the time and later converted to the Royal Palace of Ferdinand and Isabella. This is were Christopher Columbus got his commission to explore the world for Spain! And while all the cities offer great tapas, none of them make tapas free with every drink – so you can eat and drink your way through town for some fun evenings!
Malaga made a late entry to my trip, courtesy of the many convenient budget flights to cities all over Europe. And those are due to Malaga being the main entry point to the Costa del Sol, the destination for beach lovers on a budget from all over Europe. And, if the Algarve made a deal with the devil of mass tourism, the Costa del Sol sold its heart and soul… and first born son… yet, Malaga is worth a stop all on its own!
Six very different cities, lots of history, stunning architecture, great food and fun and some sun and beaches thrown in for relaxation. I will write about each of the destinations, the hotels I stayed and restaurants I enjoyed the most, as well as my favorite things to see and do. So, come back to the blog to find the best destination for you and how to make the most out of your visit!