Here at Oliver’s Travels we want to make sure you enjoy the best break you can at one of our luxury villas in Spain and for us there’s truly nothing better than an authentic experience that goes beyond tourist traps and well-trodden routes. And so, to make sure you see, taste and experience the very best, we’ve been reaching out to experts in the (almost literal) field and asking them for their experiences and recommendations of some of the world’s favourite holiday destinations.
This time we’re talking to Rosa Lara, who arranges magical bespoke day trips and tours in one of the most beautiful regions in Spain – Andalusia.
Tell us a bit about yourself! What do you do, how long have you lived where you are and what makes you an expert in the region? Do you have any special connection there?
I’m originally from Córdoba in Andalusia, probably one of oldest cities in the whole of Spain and one of the most important in terms of the country’s culture and history. I did my degree in translation at Granada University and then specialised in export commerce where I’ve worked for about 14 years.
I speak fluent English and French, a bit of Italian and I love tourism and travelling. I started Just Explore Holidays & Tours as a personal challenge because I want other people to explore this beautiful side of Spain! They say that home is where the heart is, and mine definitely belongs here. I feel passion and love for what this region has to offer and I would like to share the most authentic side of Andalusia to people who are curious and interested in discovering its most exciting places in a new and unique way. As local travel agents, I believe we can add a very personal touch to every single trip that we customise, so the whole experience becomes unforgettable.
Why should people travel to your region at least once in their life? What might they find surprising on their first visit?
Andalusia is without any doubt the most quintessential part of Spain. Invaded by several civilisations, Andalusia has a rich legacy that has to spread across the world. This is a region full of traditions and customs, a land of flavours, songs and dances where you will really feel alive!
When you visit Andalusia for the first time you will be surprised at quite how diverse the region is, how much the landscape changes, how mountainous and how flat it can be in a very short distance. But probably the most amazing thing that you will find is how different the Andalusian people look, far away from the stereotype of dark skin, dark hair, dark eyes… Andalusia has always been a land of fusion and mixed cultures and you will notice that by yourself!
And what makes people come back time and time again?
Andalusia is like love at first sight – you can never get enough.
Summarize the region for us in three words!
Magical, vibrant and authentic!
Have you had any famous visitors or well-known events (historical or otherwise) take place in the region?
Due to the fabulous locations, long days and incredible light, Andalusia has been chosen as a filming location by some of the most well-known producers from the film industry. Famous westerns and action films like Lawrence of Arabia, Cleopatra, Doctor Zhivago, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, James Bond or Exodus have been shot in different locations all over the region, and out most recent filming adventure has been the shooting of the fifth season of Games of Thrones last October!
Time for some travel inspiration – can you give us your recommendations on:
- The first thing to do – you should drop your bags and…
Go to a local bar to order a “caña” (a small cold beer), a “fino” (sherry wine) or a “tinto con limón” (red wine and lemonade) and some “aceitunas” (olives) or “jamón” (Iberian ham)
- Your favourite restaurant and/or bar, and why – is there something served there that visitors should really try?
Even though it’s hard to pick one, I would recommend to stop at el Bar Santos just in front of the Great Mosque in Córdoba, to try their amazing Tortilla de Patatas (Spanish potatos omelette). This is a must if you are in Córdoba and you want to try something authentic!
- An activity that really takes in the best the area has to offer.
Andalusia is worldwide famous for its gastronomy and especially its olive oil, so I would highly recommend a visit to an olive mill to learn about the production and taste a real extra virgin olive oil.
- Something free to do – perhaps that people can’t do anywhere else!
Easter in Southern Spain is a unique experience that you will not be able to do anywhere else. Full of ritual and pageantry, incense and solemnity, this evocative celebration last for the entire Holy Week. This traditional event dates back to the 1500s. Ornate statues and sculptures depicting the Passion of Christ are carried on processions throughout narrow streets full of expectant crowds. These procession aren’t all about spirituality, either – it’s about tradition, culture and a very dramatic sensation that will make you feel the real essence of this region.
- The best activities and things to do for families
Outdoors picnics, walking, cycling and skiing. Andalusia has several natural reserves with mountains, lakes and rivers where you can practise water sports, ski and make the best of the beautiful weather spending a family day out in the countryside, by a lake or on the beach.
- Your best-kept secret of the region
An incredible white sand little cove on the East side coast, part of the Cabo de Gata natural park, called Cala del Plomo. You can only get there walking through the desert but when you finally get there, it’s like a little paradise that suddenly belongs to you.
What would your perfect day in the area comprise of?
Sun, blue sky, a nice lunch in the Albaycin quarter in Granada, overlooking the Alhambra Palace. This is my closest idea to perfection being in Andalusia!
What’s the one experience that really captures the essence of the region for you, and why?
Even though it’s overly popular with tourists, it’s a must and needs to be done: a good flamenco performance! You will feel the passion, the pain and the joy that this region has experienced through its history in every step.
If you feel like strapping on your dancing shoes (or doing any of the other wonderful activities Rosa Lara suggests!) then check out our range of luxury holiday homes in Andalusia and find a villa that’s tailor made for you! But why only enjoy accommodation that’s perfect for you? Email Rosa Lara at Just Explore and get a tour that tickles your fancy too!