If possible, aim to coincide with the freshness, the clarity and the wildflowers of spring. April and May are picture-perfect, March and June also well suited for cooler- or warmer-blooded people. The high peaks are snow-covered, the temperatures lower down are a pleasant 20-30 celsius, and the sea is moving slowly from downright cold (March) to refreshing (June). But Easter festivals may mean availability is limited, so book ahead!
A good alternative is autumn (September / October), when the first rains have refreshed the soil, the crowds have left and the sea is still pleasantly warm. Again, expect 20-30 celsius, clear days and occasional rainstorms – but few wildflowers.
Wintertime (November to March) is increasingly popular among those on a short sun-hunt from northern Europe. The big cities are lively (cosy tapas bars, indoor concerts), the prices and availability are favourable, the air can be delightfully crisp and clear – but be prepared for some heavy rainshowers, especially away from the coast, and some snowfall above 1000m altitude.
Do try and avoid, if possible, the heat, the crowds and the high prices of midsummer (July and August). Temperatures, especially in Seville (Spain’s hottest city), can soar to over 40 celsius; but if you head up to the hills (eg Aracena, Alpujarras), you can expect a more bearable 30 celsius, with cool mountain nights.
As well as minor local festivals, the following public holidays and major festivals occur in Andalucia:
New Year's Day: January 1
Epiphany: January 6
San Cecilio gypsy festival, Granada: February 1
Carnival festivities (especially Cadiz):week before Lent
Semana Santa (especially Seville): week before Easter
Feria de Abril (Seville fair): two weeks after Easter, but always in April
Good Friday through Easter Monday
Labour Day: May 1
Pampaneira Carnival (Alpujarras): May 3
Corpus Christi: June - early or mid
Dia de San Juan: June 24
Dia de Santiago: July 25
Feria de Malaga: August 13-21
Assumption Day: August 15
Vendimia sherry harvest (especially Jerez): around September 5-12
Feria de Ronda: September 1-15
Discovery of America Day: October 12
All Saints: November 1
San Martin (pig slaughter & ham-making in rural towns): November 11
Constitution Day: December 6
Immaculate Conception: December 8
Christmas: December 25, December 26
Note: flight, boat, train and bus timetables change constantly, and airlines come and go, so please do not rely solely on this information for your travel planning. Check with relevant companies, or a flight search engine like Skyscanner, first.
Average flying times: London to Malaga: 2.5 hours; Los Angeles to Madrid: 13 hours (then 1 hour to Malaga); New York to Madrid: 7.5 hours (then 1 hour to Malaga); Sydney to Madrid: 29 hours (then 1 hour to Malaga).
From the UK:
There are regular scheduled flights from London airports to Malaga, Seville, Gibraltar and Jerez. Charter flights, often at night, restrict you to 7 or 14-night stays, but these fly from nationwide airports to Malaga.
easyJet operates several direct flights a day to Malaga from Luton, Stansted, Bristol and Liverpool. Ryanair flies to Seville from Stansted, Dublin and Bristol and to Jerez from Stansted. It also operates flights to Malaga from Bournemouth and many European cities.
Iberia flies to Seville and Malaga from Heathrow. From Manchester you can fly via Barcelona. British Airways flies from London Heathrow to Malaga and Gibraltar. BMI Midland flies from East Midlands airport to Malaga. Monarch flies from Gatwick to Malaga and from Luton to Gibraltar and Malaga.
Avro is probably the best online source for charter flights ex-UK. It sells seats from many regional airports to Malaga and also Almería (east of Andalucia), mostly flying at weekends on Monarch, Futura and other airlines.
From North America:
There are some direct flights to Madrid, which has a high-speed ‘AVE’ train link to Seville (2.5 hours); otherwise you’re best off flying via London.
Iberia flies to Madrid from Chicago or Miami, and, using a codeshare with American Airlines, from other US and Canadian airports. It also flies to Barcelona from New York. British Airways offers good deals via London, including Washington to Malaga and New York to Seville.
From Australia and New Zealand:
There are no direct flights to any part of Spain, but there are reasonable connections via London, Frankfurt and other European cities to Malaga or Seville; or, if you’re visiting other parts of Spain, to Madrid and Barcelona.
There are numerous internal flights from most major cities in Spain, including Air Europa.
From the airports:
Chances are you’ll be hiring a car (see below) from your arrival airport. If you’re taking transport to a city centre hotel with luggage, your best option is a taxi. Otherwise, from Malaga airport take the electric train to the city (8 km / 20 minutes), alighting at RENFE for onward trains, or to Guadelmedina for the centre; from Seville take the express bus to the Puerta de Jerez for central hotels (12 km / 30 mins).
If you prefer to travel overland, you can take a train from London to Malaga via Barcelona (the approximate journey time is 32 hours). See Seat 61 for details.
If you're driving from the UK, take a ferry from Portsmouth or Plymouth to Bilbao or Santander (the journey time is 24-30 hours) – but don’t forget you still have to cross the whole of Spain (over 1000km / 600 miles).
Spain is one of the cheapest places in the world to hire a car - see our car rental recommendations.
Driving can be a little hectic in city centres (especially Seville), with narrow, twisty lanes and unpredictable one-way systems. But in the countryside, roads are generally empty and reasonably well-maintained. UK, EU, US and Canadian driving licences are valid for up to 3 months. Driving is on the right. Speed limits are 60 kmh (towns) / 90 kmh (country roads) / 120 kmh (motorways) – though you may find yourself being overtaken if you stick to them. Petrol stations are often closed on Sundays and holidays. Hire cars should have the fuel type written in Spanish on the filler cap, but if not, 'unleaded' is sin plomo, ‘diesel’ is gasoil.
If bringing your own car, make sure you have a green card and a ‘bail bond’ in your insurance cover. Beware petty car theft in cities, notably Seville. Let your car get dirty, leave the glove box open, remove all valuables.
BY BUS & TRAIN
There are good bus and train (RENFE) links throughout Andalucia, with little to choose between them in cost or speed. The former are generally more frequent and convenient (stopping closer to your exact destination), the latter more romantic and relaxing (but many hilltowns have stations several miles below, on the plain).
A high-speed ‘AVE’ train links Seville to Cordoba, and continues on to Madrid (3 hrs Seville-Madrid). There is also the Talgo 200 train which runs from Madrid-Malaga (4.5 hrs) Madrid-Cadiz (5 hrs), Madrid-Algeciras (6 hrs) and Madrid-Huelva (4.5 hrs).
Regular buses and trains (typically 6-12 daily) link Seville, Cordoba, Malaga, Cadiz, Huelva, Granada, Gibraltar / San Roque, Algeciras. Local services connect these cities to towns, including Arcos and Ronda (beautiful rail journey from San Roque), Antequera (dramatic rail journey from Malaga through the Chorro gorge), Aracena, Jaen, Baeza, Ubeda etc.
You can search train timetables etc on www.renfe.es.
Good value within the cities, and easy to hail on the streets or from a phone. There are taxi ranks at major hubs.
Citizens of EU countries, USA, Canada and New Zealand who hold valid passports do not require a visa to visit Spain for periods of less than 90 days. Australians can stay up to 30 days without a visa.
No vaccinations are required. There are good, English-speaking doctors and dentists throughout Andalucia, and some British expat doctors along the Costa del Sol. EU citizens are entitled to reciprocal medical care in Spain (take a recently-stamped E111 form), but additional medical insurance is recommended. In summer, take mosquito repellent and use strong suntan cream. Avoid the midday sun in July and August and drink plenty of water. Water is generally safe but if not fed by a natural spring, is heavily chlorinated. Cheap bottled mineral water is widely available.
Spaniards love children so you are likely to receive a warm welcome. Babysitters are available at most hotels/villas. However, the locals invariably take their babies and children with them to dine in the evenings. Traditional Andalucian restaurants are usually very accommodating. Not all hotels and restaurants have sufficient high chairs, so if you own the screw-on type, take it with you.
You shouldn't have a problem with fussy eaters as you'll find plenty of familiar foods in the restaurants and supermarkets (pizza, pasta, yoghurts, simple grilled fish, chicken and meat with chips are readily available).
Nappies, baby food and formula milk can be bought locally but if you have a preferred brand take a supply. If you require a child seat for the car, pre-book with the hire company.
In restaurants, service charge is usually included in the price but people often leave tips as well. 10-15% is about average. Tax or IVA is 7% which will be included in the bill. 10% is the norm for taxis.