City Life: Fiesta and flamenco
The sultry Andalucian province of Seville is the very soul of southern Spain: whitewashed villages decked with orange blossom; long hot afternoons in peaceful plazas; tapas and sherry after an evening stroll; passionate nights of flamenco and fiesta.
The city of full-blooded Sevillanos is rich with Moorish influence and Catholic ceremony, and filled with cathedrals, ornate palaces and foot-stamping flamenco clubs. Equally wild and untamed, the pristine beaches of the Costa de la Luz stretch for miles along the coast. Yet only an hour's drive away, you can calm your heartbeat in the chestnut woods and sleepy pueblos blancos of the sierras.
It's worth hiring a car to visit Seville, the mountains and the beautiful beaches of the Costa de la Luz.
The nearest airports, with regular flights year-round, are Jerez (30 minutes) and Seville (45 minutes).
Super-fast AVE trains run from Madrid to Seville (two and a half hours; €65). The region's local train network is limited and services can often be slow and infrequent.
Country code for Spain: 34. Seville: 95.
The Sun Also Rises or Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway; Don Juan by Molière.
Do go / Don't Go
The Seville region can be very hot in summer. Spring has fine weather and several of the year's most important festivals, while autumn is warm and peaceful. The region enjoys plenty of sunshine, even in winter.
Freshly grilled fish and squid from the Costa de la Luz is delicious. The region is famous for its tapas, including smoked serrano ham, roasted peppers, peppery cheeses and fat, juicy olives. Sanlúcar's wonderful manzanilla sherry is the perfect accompaniment.
Cabs are cheap and can be hailed in the street. They display a green 'libre' notice or green light at night.
Ten per cent in restaurants is appreciated; otherwise, a couple of euros with drinks or tapas is sufficient.
Jodhpurs and riding boots. Your hotel can organise horse riding with the local stables (€85 for two and a half hours). It's possible to trek along the beaches or through the Sierras de Gacalemo.
Jerez is famous for its beautiful dancing horses. If you miss the main Thursday show at the Royal Riding School (www.realescuela.org), the morning practice sessions are open to the public.
Calle Sierpes, north of the Giralda in Seville, is great for leather goods. Try Nicole Miller or Loewe near Plaza Nueva. You can buy manzanilla sherry from the bodegas in Sanlúcar. Your hotel can arrange a private visit to the 200-year-old Hidalgo bodega.
Seville cathedral's 90-metre tower - the Giralda - was once the minaret of the city mosque, and has super views from the top. The Torre Tavira in Cádiz has a great view out to sea.
Over 100 operas are set in and around Seville. You can visit the sites associated with the most famous - Bizet's Carmen - including Plaza de España, the tobacco factory (now the university), and the bullring.
Late February/early March The International Flamenco Festival in Jerez is a riot of energetic dancing (www.flamenco-world.com). Late April Seville's April Fair is one of the greatest ferias in Spain, with flamenco, bullfights and equestrian parades. Early May The Jerez Horse Fair showcases the finest Spanish horsemanship (www.turismojerez.com). August Horse races take place on the beach at Sanlúcar on the second and fourth weekends. September Jerez's month-long Autumn Festival covers everything from grape-treading to fireworks. Second week of October Sanlúcar has a tapas festival along Calzada del Ejército. Visit www.andalucia.org for more details.