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SPAIN, A COUNTRY OF CONTRASTS – PT2

Spain is a country of cultural and geographic contrasts united by the friendliness of our people and our great gastronomy.

To discover the best of Spain's south, we have prepared this route for you and your travel companions to enjoy.

THE SOUTH OF SPAIN

"Southern Spain"works as a kind of shorthand for Andalucía's sunbleached villages, radiant beaches, exuberant social culture, and exquisite palaces, gardens, and fortresses. Our excursions through Southern Spain start in Córdoba, where eons of history have coalesced in the city's architecture, vineyards, and olive groves. Be sure to visit the Mezquita de Córdoba (Great Mosque of Córdoba), the Roman bridge, built in the 1st century BCE and spanning the Guadalquivir river, and the Renaissance architecture of the neighboring towns Úbeda and Baeza, both of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and about 90 minutes from the city. You will see the same grandeur in Granada, our next stop, however here, embodied in the Alhambra palace and fortress complex, that grandeur becomes otherworldly. Set aside time to see its halls, courts, arabesques, and inscriptions. Escape into nature at Granada's Quaternary Geological Park, a must if you are into hiking and 4x4ing. The Sierra Nevada National Park, just an hour south, is a windfall for cyclists and Mulhacén, inside the park and the highest mountain on the Iberian peninsula, is a haven for skiers and snowboarders nearly year-round. One-hour east of the Sierra Nevada is the Desierto de Tabernas, Europe's only desert and a place of magnificent tranquility. From here, get yourself to the Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve about 40 minutes from Almería and home to volcanic rock formations and some of the best snorkeling and diving. Málaga lies along the coast about two hours west and is brimming with castles (visit the Alcazaba) and museums (visit the Picasso Museum) and, about an hour inland, surreal formations and landscapes at El Torcal de Antequera. Make your way to Ronda for a stroll through one of Hemingway's most favorite cities, then Sevilla for tours of the Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, the so-called verdant palace and UNESCO World Heritage Site, and La Giralda, the bell tower of Catedral de Santa María de la Sede, also a World Heritage Site. Now, set off for Cádiz - wonderful throughout the year though especially fantastic during Carnaval de Cádiz. Held in February and arguably Spain's most famous carnival, the streets of Cádiz's compact city center are filled with music, street performances, along with creative and topical costumes worn by revelers. Dressing up is just about mandatory and parties run well into the next morning so be prepared. If you want or need to escape the crowds, the city's beaches are never far from wherever you find yourself.

Join us for part one of our journey, which takes you through the natural splendor of Northern Spain.