Embedded In The Layers Of Andalusia, Spain

andalusia …one must seek the essence of Andalusia in its geographic reality on the one hand, and on the other in the awareness of its inhabitants. From the geographic point of view, the whole of the southern lands is too vast and varied to be embraced as a single unit. - Antonio Domínguez Ortiz

While most travelers going to Spain head straight to the popular cities of Barcelona and Madrid, journeying farther south offers a unique region of contrasts.

Andalusia (also spelled Andalucia) is a region and autonomous community in Spain. In fact, of all the country’s autonomous communities, this has the highest population and is the second largest in size with 33,821 square miles. It is comprised of eight provinces, including Seville, Malaga, Jaen, Granada, Huelva, Cadiz, Cordoba and Almeria.

While the area mainly experiences a Mediterranean climate, there are still a variety of atmospheres and landscapes in Andalusia. You’ll find the Sierra Nevada, which features the highest altitudes in the Iberian Peninsula, as well as the valley of the Guadalquivir, which is barely above sea level. Visitors will also see the dry Tabernas Desert, Atlantic beaches, Mediterranean coastal cliffs, ancient cities, high-end resort towns, natural parks, wetlands and marsh, olive groves on rolling hills and oak woodlands. Moreover, many iconic Spanish traditions originated in Andalusia, like Moorish architecture, flamenco dancing and bull fighting.

For a more visual idea of this unique region, check out the gallery below.

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[Images via Shutterstock]

Photo Of The Day: Smiling Door In Andalucia

Sometimes, it’s the unexpected details that can lighten up a long day of travel. Take, for instance, this bright green door in Conil de la Frontera, a seaside town in Andalucia, Spain. Wearing a whimsical lopsided smile thanks to some conveniently placed locks and handles, this door probably causes passersby to stop, grin and continue along their ways with lighter springs in their steps. I imagine that Flickr user AlexSven had a similarly amused reaction.

Do you have any photos of fun details from the road? Upload your travel shots to the Gadling Flickr Pool and your image could be selected as our Photo of the Day.

Travel to Spain suffering

It really is a shame: summer travel to Spain is off 6.1 percent this year, as the global economic decline is making the decision to travel tougher for everyone. The country’s Tourism Ministry puts the number of July arrivals at just over 6.6 million. For the entire year (through the end of July), arrivals fell 10.3 percent to 30.2 million visitors. This follows a record 33.6 million for the same period in 2008.

Spain has historically been one of the world’s top three tourist destination in terms of both the number of people arriving and income earned from them; France and the United States are the other two. So, a substantial year-over-year decline is likely to be felt.

Every part of Spain saw arrivals fell except Madrid, where arrivals increased by 6.6 percent. Andalucia saw visits drop by 11 percent, though Valencia had an easier time. Of the regions with falling arrivals, it had the lowest at only 0.4 percent.

Most of Spain’s tourist traffic came from Britain, which sent 1.6 million visitors to the country. France is second, overtaking Germany this year. British share of travel to Spain, 24.5 percent, fell 16.1 percent this year because of economic conditions. Meanwhile, French tourism to Spain increased this year, with visits to Valencia surging 35 percent and Madrid up 23.4 percent.