In Andalusia, the southern part of Spain that simmers with history and warm ocean currents, there is something called Duende. It has been described as a “mysterious power that all may feel and no philosophy can explain.” Dictionaries have trouble pinning it down, defining it as either a goblin or as a form of charm or magnetism. Spain’s greatest poet, Federico Garcia Lorca, defined it like no other, saying, “The Duende works on the body of a dancer like the wind works on the sand. People recognize it with unfailing instinct when it appears.”
To have Duende, then, is to have a certain magic. And Andalusia has that certain magic.
Andalusia is the sun-drenched birthplace of the cultural traditions that define, ignite and excite Spain. Flamenco’s first steps landed here as the traditional dance of Andalusian gypsies, and bullfighting’s red cape first whipped in the wind in the Andalusian town of Ronda as part of a ritual to honor feast days. Even tapas, the delicious Spanish entry onto the world menu, got its start in Andalusia, originating in the 19th century as small saucers set over wineglasses in taverns to keep the aroma in and the flies out.
Andalusia’s background is distinctively Moorish, reflecting centuries of occupation that linger romantically in the arts and eyes of the local people. For more than seven centuries, between 711 and 1492 A.D., the Moors created the most sophisticated civilization of the Middle Ages in Andalusia. Cities and villages mirror this past, preserving the monuments of the era that are now celebrated treasures, like the prominent Mezquita mosque in Cordova, the Alhambra palace in Granada, and the great Gothic cathedral in Seville.
While Andalusian provinces share this entrenched history, they also share the welcoming sun and resort-lined shores. This is the idyllic icing on the cultural cake, according to travel agents, who often boast about the miles of golden sand beaches and natural ports along the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. These jovial beaches seem to smile as you look down from your airplane window on approach for a smooth landing in Seville, Andalusia’s capital and the third-largest city of Spain.
Seville is beloved by travelers all over the world, thanks to such photogenic monuments as Giralda, the Arabian bell tower; Torre del Oro, the cathedral with the Tower of Gold; and the old Barrio Santa Cruz, a honeycomb of cobbled streets lined with cafes and orange trees. Spend just one hour inside this illustrious city and it’s easy to see how these very streets inspired the legendary Don Juan to begin his conquest of women’s hearts across Europe.
Conquering travelers’ hearts is the city of Grenada, the Moorish Jewel, located at the doorstep of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Here you can walk through beautiful gardens and charming narrow streets filled with flowers while admiring remarkable Moorish architecture. The sparkling gem of Grenada is the Alhambra, a series of palaces and gardens built in the 14th century. This impressive compound overlooks the city below, with the massive Palace of Charles V at its center.
At Andalusia’s geographical center stands Cordova, a surprising town that was one of the most important capitals in all of Europe 1,000 years ago. Centuries of mingling cultures have only enriched this beautiful city, leaving a myriad of monuments for treasure hunters to seek. All will want to seek out Cordova’s great Mosque, now a museum called Mezquita, a masterpiece of Muslim art and the most original building of all Spain.
The great Mosque is impressive, and so are the great beaches of Costa del Sol, one of Europe’s most popular Mediterranean holiday spots. Since the 1960s, Costa del Sol’s sleepy towns and fishing villages have transformed into tourist centers, where the beaches cater to sun soakers, water sport enthusiasts, and celebrity watchers. While high-rise hotels dominate some of the coastlines, travel agents know about the unspoiled resort areas where you still can enjoy a sun and sea holiday whilst soaking up the pure Andalusian flavor.
Malaga is the capital of the Costa and the birthplace of Pablo Picasso. As Spain’s second largest port, Malaga mixes a distinctive cosmopolitan flavor with traditional Andalusian charm amid its maze of medieval streets. To the west of the capital, holiday playgrounds like Torremolinos, Benalmadena, and Fuengirola are popular to those who like to lose themselves in foam parties, while a short hop inland lies the delightful village of Mijas, a traditional Andalusian pueblo backed by wooded mountains and spectacular views to the coast.
From cities and mosques to beaches and sun, Andalusia always has the Duende, that certain magic. Travel agents are often said to possess certain magic when it comes to producing great deals to exotic destinations tailor-fit to your traveling needs as if out of thin air. It’s not magic, but years of experience and reliable sources that will allow travel agents to help you discover the beauty and the magic of Andalusia.