Gourmet Highlights of Andalucia

Gourmet Highlights of Andalucia

"You are what you eat", as the saying goes and there is no better way to learn about a country and its culture than through its food and drink. Andalucia, still one of Spain’s largest food-producing regions, is steeped in culinary and gastronomic traditions. This itinerary gives you privileged access to some of the key items in these traditions: fine sherry wines, cured Iberian ham, artisan cheeses, convent-made sweets, and the “liquid gold” of olive oil that is perhaps the hallmark of the region’s landscape and cuisine. With a self-drive rental car and route notes for walks in countryside you will have a freedom to roam plus insider insight.

Day 1 Sevilla

Arrival in Sevilla, capital of the region of Andalucia. First, a walking tour of the old Santa Cruz district in the city centre, a fascinating warren of narrow streets and flower-filled plazas, taking in the city’s two main monuments, the extravagant Gothic cathedral and slender Giralda tower, and the sublime Muslim-Christian fusion of the Alcazar palaces and gardens. Then, in the evening, a lively stroll around the centre, taking you to three distinctive bars on a Tapas Tour. Overnight.

Day 2 Sevilla

This morning collect your hire car and begin your explorations further afield with a trip to the “capital” of Iberian ham, the town of Jabugo, in the Sierra de Aracena. Here you will join a tour given by the experts themselves, a family-run firm who breed Iberian pigs to try various cuts of the wonderful ham, accompanied by regional wines. Afterwards, you will have our recommendations for a meal at a local restaurant and route notes for a walk in the environs of the attractive town of Aracena, before you head back to Sevilla. Overnight.

Day 3 Sevilla - Arcos de la Frontera

Distance: 90kms
Head south into the fertile plains of the Guadalquivir river – rice and citrus fruits grow here among other things – and to the enchanting hill-top town of Arcos de la Frontera. Drive the short journey to Jerez de la Frontera, the city that gives us the name “sherry”, and where you will be shown around one of the most prestigious bodegas, where Very Old & Rare sherries and brandies are aged in the unique multi-layered “solera” system. After sampling them there is an additional treat: a private art collection that includes works by several Spanish masters such as Goya, El Greco and Velazquez. Back to Arcos. Overnight.

Day 4 Arcos de la Frontera - Ronda

Distance: 85kms
Today you follow the “Route of the White Towns”, those quintessentially Mediterranean towns of whitewashed houses that cluster around hilltops once sought after as natural fortifications. Your destination is Ronda – the “Queen” of these “Pueblos Blancos” and one of the most stunningly situated towns you will find, straddling a deep and narrow gorge by means of an imposing late 18th century bridge. En route you may like to stop in El Bosque where you’ll have the chance to sample the local cheeses in its Museum of Cheese and could then see where the bread that accompanies it comes from with a visit to an old water-driven flour mill the Molino de Abajo. Route notes for a circular walk in the adjacent Grazalema Natural Park are provided, as well as restaurant suggestions for your evening in Ronda. Overnight.

Day 5 Ronda

Explore Ronda this morning on your own, where you will find a city whose long history includes important Roman and Arab settlements as well as the fascinating links of its nobility with the Americas. You’ll undoubtedly want to visit its showpiece monument, one of the oldest bullrings in Spain, the spiritual home of bullfighting and a place sought out by the rich and famous in times gone by, and step inside the former city jail. Late morning drive the short distance to Bodega Descalzos Viejos, a boutique winery set on an escarpment outside Ronda with superb views back to the town from its terraced gardens. The rest of the day is free to drive to other pueblos blancos, such as Setenil de las Bodegas (where houses are encrusted into the rock face). Overnight.

Day 6 Ronda - Granada

Distance: 195kms
Perhaps the most spectacular of all white towns of this region is Zahara de la Sierra, well worth a stop to walk through it, ascend to a medieval castle for magnificent views over itsreservoir and countryside, and then call in on a still-working 18th century olive mill, where you can taste its superb extra virgin oil (visit costs 6€ pp, please pay on-site). As you head towards Granada, a stop in the ancient city of Antequera is highly recommended and in you have route notes for a self-guided walk of its many convents and monasteries, with particular focus on those which maintain the tradition of making traditional sweets and pastries, on sale to the public via a turntable (to preserve the cloistered nuns’ anonymity). On to Granada, where you will enjoy a guided gourmet tasting accompanied by regional wines, by way of a further education in Andalucia’s gastronomy. Overnight.

Day 7 Granada

An expert local guide will take you around the Alhambra and Generalife Gardens and in the afternoon you might like to stroll in the Albaicin quarter, where the bulk of the city’s population lived in the 13th to 16th centuries and a cat’s cradle of winding streets that open out to views of the Alhambra framed by the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada. The Albaicin is indeed the venue this evening for a dinner in a private house, prepared by an engaging expat resident who will demonstrate recipes that demonstrate the fusion of Moorish and Spanish culinary traditions. Overnight.

Day 8 Granada - Córdoba

Distance: 180kms
Your last drive takes you through one of the most emblematic of Spanish landscapes – groves of olive trees stretching to the horizon. In the attractive village of Zuheros, at the edge of the Natural Park of Sierra Subbetica, you will learn all about the cultivation of olives in a private visit to a smallholding which in 2 hectares contains no fewer than 11 varieties of olives. After a guided tasting of various olive oils you will be the guest of your host and his wife in their village house for a simple lunch of dishes made with olives and olive oils. Cordoba awaits you in the late afternoon and evening, with an expert local guide showing you its historic centre, including its unique Mosque-Cathedral. Overnight.

Day 9 Córdoba

Return your rental car at the office in the station building and end of services.