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Andalucía under a winter sun

Spain andalucia grazalema Los Frailellicos walk chris bladon 125

As 2018 became 2019, the sun shone down on southern Spain. From the ancient olive groves of the Sierras Subbéticas to the thick chestnut forests of Aracena, from the festive streets of Cádiz to the noisy tapas bars of Seville, winter might just be the most wonderful time of the year in Andalucía.

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Spain andalucia ibex el torcal copyright chris bladon pura aventura 3

I'm not sure the Spanish ibex are particularly bothered which day the calendar indicates. There's always a spring in their step, as this chap nimbly demonstrates on the limestone rocks of El Torcal, just off the road between Málaga and Granada.

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Spain andalucia casa olea watchtower walk olives sunset copyright chris bladon jan 2019

Winter time is olive harvest time in Andalucía. Spend a day walking through the olive groves between late October and early March and you stand a decent chance of encountering the aceituneros at work, gathering up the yearly harvest.

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Spain andalucia casa olea moorish watchtower walk copyright chris bladon pura aventura 3

Even on New Year's Eve, temperatures in central Andalucía can reach the 20s, making it ideal for a walk up to a ruined Moorish watchtower with Ruby, the lodge's rescue dog.

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Spain andalucia stargazing at casa olea astro andalus

Wrapping up warm for stargazing under a clear night sky.

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Spain andalucia sheep cortijo zuheros walk copyright chris bladon pura aventura

Our favourite walks in Andalucía are wonderfully peaceful any day of the year. But there's something magical about being out in a t-shirt in January, when you've woken up to frost on your windscreen and the country you've left behind is shivering under grey skies.

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Spain andalucia papa noel zuheros chris bladon

Papa Noel hanging out in the white village of Zuheros.

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Spain andalucia alcala la real chris bladon pura

Despite being the base from which the Catholic Kings launched their assault on Granada to complete the Reconquest in 1492, and despite offering stunning views across to the Sierra Nevada mountains, Alcalá la Real's fortress receives barely 5% of the visitors that Granada's Alhambra receives. On this New Year's Eve, we probably saw six other people there.

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Spain andalucia priego de cordoba c chris pura

Just look at that sky. New Years Eve in Priego de Córoba.

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Spain andalucia ejica chris bladon

The famous church bell towers of Ejica look glorious under the winter sky too.

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Spain andalucia almonaster la real c chris bladon

Known as the 'Mezquita in miniature', Almonaster's hilltop mosque-cum-church is one of our favourite Reconquest era monuments, tucked up to the west of Seville and visited by precious few. The light, even on a cool January afternoon, is just beautiful.

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spain andalucia almonaster mezquita inside chris bladon

Long shadows below the Islamic arches of Almonaster's Mezquita.

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Spain andalucia alajar linares walk copyright chris bladon 2

Stands of Mediterranean cork oaks are a common feature of Aracena's landscape...

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Spain andalucia alajar linares walk copyright chris bladon 3

... So too are the Ibérico pigs which snaffle for acorns from the holm oaks on the walking trails near Linares.

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Spain andalucia linares arrieros fire chris

After a good morning's walk through the peaceful beauty of the Sierra de Aracena, there's nothing like a five-course tasting lunch, great company and red wine by the fire to while away the afternoon.

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Spain andalucia italica ruins copyright chris bladon pura1

Itálica's amphitheatre, looking splendid in the morning sun. One of the great Roman cities of Hispania, Itálica's remains can easily be visited on the drive south from Aracena to Seville.

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Spain andalucia italica tiles chris bladon

As well as the Gladiatorial arena, another Itálica highlight has to be the elaborate tiled floors from the villas, including the incredible House of Birds, depicting 35 different species.

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Spain seville giralda cathedral chris bladon pura

This is the scene that awaits us in Seville, with the beautiful Mudéjar-style Giralda Tower framed by plump oranges. May I remind you, this is early January.

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Spain seville plaza de espana chris bladon pura 2

The late afternoon winter light of Plaza de España is a photographer's dream.

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Spain seville setas chris bladon pura

There's definitively no better place to watch the sun slip below the Sevillan horizon than from the Setas (Mushrooms) walkway.

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Spain seville tapas santa cruz chris bladon

The tapas bars of Seville's old Santa Cruz barrio are lively on any day of the year. But on the eve of the Los Reyes (Three Kings Parade), there's an even more palpably festive spirit.

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Spain seville three kings parade chris 2

Each 5th January, towns and cities across Spain celebrate Los Reyes Magos - the arrival of the Three Wise Men. It is they, not Santa Claus, who bring the presents to the children up and down Spain. We'd timed our own arrival in Seville to coincide with the colourful, joyful parades.

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Spain seville three kings parade chris 1

Being surrounded by chanting, smiling, festive Sevillanos as passing floats hurl their treats out to the outstretched limbs of the masses is one of my favourite memories from this trip. As the only tourists in sight, I felt like we were part of a very local, very special community. Thinking back to the energy and sense of togetherness always brings a smile to my face.

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Spain seville rosca bread chris bladon

Rosca de Reyes - Three Kings Bread - is traditionally eaten on Epiphany, 6th January.

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Spain seville christmas decorations chris bladon

Seville all dressed up for Christmas

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Spain andalucia cadiz seafront c chris bladon pura

Cádiz was at its beautiful and peaceful best in January. This historic port city - one of the oldest in Europe - is as relaxing a city as we know in Andalucía. But you do have to pick your moment; when the cruise ships are in, the city can very quickly get to feeling overrun. Not today, not in January.

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Spain andalucia jerez christmas chris bladon

Celebrating Christmas amid the atmospheric sherry bodegas of Jerez.

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Spain andalucia jerez locals churros chris bladon

The chilly morning didn't put off locals from getting their Churros treats.

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Spain andalucia arcos de la frontera chris bladon 4

Arcos de la Frontera is one of my favourite white villages in Andalucía. No doubt it can get a little busy in peak times, but today we kicked around it with a handful of visitors and locals unfussedly going about their lives.

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Spain andalucia zahara de la sierra c chris bladon pura

Winter light at its best of Zahara de la Sierra.

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Andalucia grazalema early morning ice chris bladon

From early morning ice...

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Spain andalucia grazalema los frailecillos walk chris 3

... to warming midday sun in the limestone valleys of Grazalema. More t-shirt walking weather.

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Spain andalucia grazalema iris planifolia chris bladon

Iris planifolia adorn the walking trails of Grazalema.

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Spain andalucia grazalema fire chris bladon

After a long winter walk, it's a treat to curl up in front of a roaring fire at our cosy countryside retreat.

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Spain andalucia ronda white houses chris bladon

You shouldn't come to Ronda and expect to have it to yourself. It can get extremely busy, very quickly. But with few crowds to contend with today, we were able to wander through the peaceful streets at our own pace.

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Spain andalucia ronda mondragon palace chris bladon

There are always some lovely quiet corners to enjoy in Ronda, no matter how many visitors are lining up for a selfie on the Puente Nuevo. The Palacio Mondragón is one such peaceful pocket. This cliffside 14th century Moorish palace was the bit that brought me closest to the true scale of history in this grand old town.

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Spain andalucia aracena chris jan 2019 16

Over to you? If you've been inspired by this little ramble through Andalucía and want to plot your own wintery wanderings, this self-drive trip is a pretty good starting point. When you're ready to set some plans into motion, or want to throw around some ideas, do please let us know.

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Spain andalucia grazalema Los Frailellicos walk chris bladon 125
Spain andalucia ibex el torcal copyright chris bladon pura aventura 3
Spain andalucia casa olea watchtower walk olives sunset copyright chris bladon jan 2019
Spain andalucia casa olea moorish watchtower walk copyright chris bladon pura aventura 3
Spain andalucia stargazing at casa olea astro andalus
Spain andalucia sheep cortijo zuheros walk copyright chris bladon pura aventura
Spain andalucia papa noel zuheros chris bladon
Spain andalucia alcala la real chris bladon pura
Spain andalucia priego de cordoba c chris pura
Spain andalucia ejica chris bladon
Spain andalucia almonaster la real c chris bladon
spain andalucia almonaster mezquita inside chris bladon
Spain andalucia alajar linares walk copyright chris bladon 2
Spain andalucia alajar linares walk copyright chris bladon 3
Spain andalucia linares arrieros fire chris
Spain andalucia italica ruins copyright chris bladon pura1
Spain andalucia italica tiles chris bladon
Spain seville giralda cathedral chris bladon pura
Spain seville plaza de espana chris bladon pura 2
Spain seville setas chris bladon pura
Spain seville tapas santa cruz chris bladon
Spain seville three kings parade chris 2
Spain seville three kings parade chris 1
Spain seville rosca bread chris bladon
Spain seville christmas decorations chris bladon
Spain andalucia cadiz seafront c chris bladon pura
Spain andalucia jerez christmas chris bladon
Spain andalucia jerez locals churros chris bladon
Spain andalucia arcos de la frontera chris bladon 4
Spain andalucia zahara de la sierra c chris bladon pura
Andalucia grazalema early morning ice chris bladon
Spain andalucia grazalema los frailecillos walk chris 3
Spain andalucia grazalema iris planifolia chris bladon
Spain andalucia grazalema fire chris bladon
Spain andalucia ronda white houses chris bladon
Spain andalucia ronda mondragon palace chris bladon
Spain andalucia aracena chris jan 2019 16

As 2018 became 2019, the sun shone down on southern Spain. From the ancient olive groves of the Sierras Subbéticas to the thick chestnut forests of Aracena, from the festive streets of Cádiz to the noisy tapas bars of Seville, winter might just be the most wonderful time of the year in Andalucía. I hope it inspires. If it does - you'll find a trip idea to get you started on the last image. Enjoy!

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