Favorite places in Southern Spain in late January?

My husband and I have decided on a trip to southern Spain in late January (Work constraints are dictating the late January timeframe). We will have about two weeks, and have nothing booked yet. I have some guidebooks and will be doing research, but also wanted to get suggestions for some "not so well known" places to explore. We like history, art, architecture, hiking, national parks, and small towns. We've driven in Europe (Lake District, Normandy, Tuscany) before and will probably rent a car for at least part of the trip. I've been to Spain many years ago on a high school trip, so am looking forward to seeing Sevilla and Granada again, but we also want to get out into the countryside and have fun exploring. We like to stay places for three or four nights at a time, and would be happy to rent a place for a week if there are easy day trips from a central locale. Thanks in advance for any suggestions you can give us!

Posted by Cyn
Wheat Ridge, CO, USA
1240 posts

Hi Deanna-since you're skipping Southern France or Turkey for another trip(s), good choice on Spain! We were in northern Spain this past November, and while there were still lots of people at popular sights, it wasn't mobbed. Southern Spain in January will be a lot cooler than when we went in June; it was torrid at the Alhambra the day we went, but still enjoyed it.

We initially flew to Malaga, then used a time-share trade on the coast as our base for visiting Ronda and other villages, plus the Pileta cave. The condo trade was cheap, but it was a little out of the way for all of what we wanted to see and do, and resulted in what felt like really long drives to get home each evening after a day of sightseeing. The timeshare condos were basically full of Brits (English flags and soccer games on the telly all around, Weetabix in the convenience grocery store) who hung out at the pool all day and hung out at the club's disco til well past midnight. The disco thumping and loud music made it hard to get to sleep, and with Spain's late-night dinner schedule, that made getting up and getting out each morning tough. An apartment might have been a better deal, but that was back in 2002 & I don't have any specific suggestions at this point.

We took a train to Granada, staying in Rick's recommended hotel on the Plaza Bib Rambla, and really enjoyed a soak and massage at the Hamam Baths he describes in his guidebook. Flew to Lisbon, Portugal and drove a rental car around there for several days, then drove back to Spain (incurring a hefty Hertz fee for dropping off the car in another country, but we weren't going to backtrack) and visited Sevilla and other towns on the Andalusian Frontera. We checked into a hotel in Arcos de la Frontera but a country-wide strike (imagine . . . a huelga in Espana?!?) had everything closed for three days in the area, so made no visit to Jerez, and only one restaurant was open for the two tables of us tourists in town.

The streets in Sevilla were swarming with kids on motor scooters, weaving in and out of traffic. We ditched the car as soon as we got there, and took a taxi to our Rick-recommended hotel in the old town. His description said the rooms could sometimes be cleaner, and there was a lot dirt on the floors and bedspread - - ever since then we've learned that if Rick suggests a place is cheap but a "little" unkept, it's a dump. Don't know if you'll want calamari and sangria in January, but it was our go-to snack there and was outstanding!

Posted by Deanna
Piedmont Triad, NC
161 posts

Thanks Cyn! Sounds like you had a (mostly) great trip, other than the condo bit! We are looking forward to seeing Granada and Sevilla, and it will be fun to see how much of my Spanish (eight years of study in middle/high/college) I remember!

I've been reading back through this forum, and see tons of posts about Arcos and Ronda, Sevilla and Granada, and Cordoba. Can anyone recommend somewhere other than these places, taking into account the January weather? My sister lived in Rota for a few years, and she mentioned Utrera, so we may check that out as well, but surely there are beautiful places other than Arcos and Ronda, so I'm hoping that all of you can suggest some other places to explore!