Suzannah Ramsdale grabs a spring break to a hideaway spa resort near Granada
Why go? Home to some of the most atmospheric cities in Spain – Seville, Córdoba and Granada – Andalucía is a good choice for an impulsive short break or a longer holiday touring around its lively beaches, whitewashed villages and olive-dotted hills.
When? There are plenty of flights to Málaga so if the forecast’s looking good just book and go. Spring and autumn are the best times to visit when the weather will be warm but not stifling – or if you like to roast on a sun lounger July and August are guaranteed to be hot, hot, hot with the average temperature in Seville hitting 34°C.
Breakfast served with sunshine: a deluxe room at Hotel Barceló La Bobadilla
Stay at: Hotel Barceló La Bobadilla (barcelolabobadilla.com) is a magnificent five star hotel set in 1,000 acres of olive groves and rolling hills near Loja. Easily reached driving north from Málaga, it sits at the end of a long private drive and has 70 individually decorated rooms with a traditional Spanish style featuring terracotta tiled floors and a balcony or garden terrace. It’s the sort of place where you can happily hide away for a few days, enjoying the spa, outdoor pool, three restaurants and sports facilities, or use it as a base for exploring. An extensive treatment menu includes massages featuring hot stones, bamboo canes and oriental chimes (from £44), plus ayurvedic therapies. Double rooms cost from £228 including breakfast and spa admission. Check out the hotel’s special packages, which include a Wine & Spa programme available till the end of April where you can do a tasting of Andalucian wines and enjoy a slimming red grapes massage.
Cool pool: the U-Spa at Hotel Barceló La Bobadilla
You really must… Visit the Alhambra (alhambra.org), a Moorish palace-cum-fortress set on the hills overlooking Granada. It takes around 50 minutes to drive there from Loja, which is known as the City of Water because it has nearly 2,000 springs, and also worth exploring with a historic fort at the top of the town. The rugged countryside around here is also a great place to go riding – Hotel Barceló La Bobadilla has six Andalusian horses and two ponies with rides costing from £10 an hour.
Dine at: La Finca, Barceló La Bobadilla’s à la carte restaurant, is the only five-fork restaurant in Granada province, serving Mediterranean haute cuisine. Be sure to try some Riofrío, the world’s only organically farmed caviar, produced in the Sierra Nevada.
Riding high: the best way to see Andalucía is from the back of a horse
Bring home: Some sherry, of course, which is produced in nearby Jerez.
Book now: Monarch (monarch.co.uk) has flights to Málaga from five UK airports, from £80 return including taxes. Private transfers to Hotel Barceló La Bobadilla take 45 minutes and cost £85 one-way (book with the hotel), or hire a car (rentalcars.com).
Info: Andalucía (£13.99; Rough Guides) is a comprehensive guide, or see andalucia.org.