Irene was the June winner of the Irish Travel Trade News ‘Budding Travel Writers’ award with this piece on her trip to Andalucia.
Day 1: Malaga
After checking into our rooms at Hotel Tryp Alameda, we set off for lunch at Strachan Restaurant off Larios Street in the city centre. The city was busy setting up for the annual Easter festival, which sees people from all over Spain and abroad come to watch the processions and colourful floats parade through the streets.
After a delicious lunch, which included paella, octopus and a variety of desserts, we had a guided visit of the Cathedral, Alcazaba, Roman Theatre and Gibralfaro Castle, from where we had the best panoramic views of the city and port.
We dined at Bodegas El Pimpi on a combination of traditional, local and modern cuisine. Malaga has numerous restaurants that offer fish, tapas and local wines and beers.
Day 2: Malaga
The city markets' colourful displays of fruit and vegetables, olives and fish, and a sampling of fresh strawberries, preceded an interesting guided
tour of Picasso's Museum and the Carmen Thyssen Museum. A stroll along the port brought into view huge cruise ships, luxury yachts and old war ships.
Later, we made our coach transfer to Ronda, my favourite destination on this trip.
Day 3: Ronda
A guided tour of the city included the most important museums and monuments, such as the House of Saint John Bosco, with great views of the city. We stopped for refreshments at the House of the Moorish King, and admired the views of the New Bridge and the gorge. There is so much to see; the Gate of Philip V, San Sebastian Minaret, Arab Baths and the Plaza De Toros.
Later we drove out to the countryside to a local winery, Bodega Joaquin Fernandez, where we were treated to a country-style show-cooking and wine tasting - a must-do for every visitor. Then on to Antequera where, on checking-in at the Coso Viejo Hotel, we had some free time to check out the sights, shops and bars in this beautiful ancient city.
Day 4: Antequera
Any visitor to Antequera must go to the upper part of the city where they will be dazzled by the overwhelming monumental site of the Alcazaba. The ancient Moor castle offers views of the vast and varied landscape, including Lovers Mountain, shaped like a face, and the city below - with its 27 cathedrals!
We travelled outside the city to El Torcal Natural Park, the most important karst park in Europe - a must-see for those interested in archaeology, flora and fauna. The dolmens of Antequera archaeological site are one of the finest and best-known examples of European megalithic architecture. We dined at Arte de Cozina restaurant, enjoying a delicious last supper of typical Andalucían dishes washed down with plenty of local wines. A few of us also went to the local 1980s disco in the town centre, which was, surprisingly, a brilliant night!
Day 5: Malaga
I headed straight for the coffee machine and downed a few espressos before our coach arrived to bring us to Malaga Airport. I was sad to be leaving such an amazing place and vowed to come back some day. I would definitely recommend Andalucía for everyone: people sometimes forget that there is much more to the destination than sandy beaches and blue seas.
The Costa del Sol also offers the beautiful countryside, cities and culture of Andalucia. Go and see what I have seen, it's an unforgettable experience!