If you saw those pictures of people in swimsuits frolicking on the beaches around the coasts of southern Spain last week, in temperatures of up to 28C, you may well be fancying a little winter jaunt to Andalucia. Looking out at a cold, grey day, this sounds very tempting indeed, and perhaps even preferable to a summer visit, when temperatures are increasingly becoming too hot to handle. So get yourself on a plane to Malaga or Seville for an instant mood booster (other airports in Andalucia have few or no flights until Easter).
While it is usually warm enough along the coast to have lunch on terraces by the beach, it gets a bit chilly inland and there are a few rainy days a month too. You shouldn’t let that put you off an uplifting break in Seville or Cordoba though, as you won’t have to grapple with tour groups and will feel like you are in a glorious Andalucian city rather than a theme park.
Don’t be surprised to see snow on the mountains, particularly in the Sierra Nevada in Granada province, where the ski season stretches from late November until late April.
While enough of the Costa del Sol functions all year round to keep visitors amused – golfers love this quieter time of year – a lot of the large hotels on the Costa de la Luz on the Atlantic close over the winter and quite a few bars and restaurants in resorts shut up shop for a few months, too.
There is still plenty of self-catering accommodation available, though, and you are never going to have to look too hard for somewhere to have a coffee or a meal in Andalucia. Package holidays aside, this is a great time of year on the Costa de la Luz with the best conditions for kite and windsurfing around Tarifa.
A road trip around the region while the white villages aren’t teeming with tourists isn’t a bad idea either. You could plot a route staying in half a dozen paradors (paradores.es) – there are 16 to choose from in Andalucia, in hilltop castles, city-centre palaces and modern buildings by the beach. Some close in winter but reopen in February or March. Book 15 days in advance to get a 15 per cent discount.
If you want to find a bargain holiday in Andalucia, whether in a city, by the beach or in the mountains, the winter months are the quietest and cheapest time to go. Bear in mind that Easter is early this year, at the end of March, and Spanish people often take the whole week off, so avoid travelling from March 22 when fares and hotel rates soar – unless you are keen to experience the religious processions.
February 28 is Andalucia Day and a bank holiday, when entry to a lot of museums is free. If you are looking ahead to next winter, December 6 and 8 are public holidays and people often take a couple of extra days off for a Christmas shopping trip, so expect higher rates and less availability in city hotels on those dates.
Double rooms at the gorgeous Casa 1800 Sevilla boutique hotel in Seville are available for £98 room only in February, whereas in July rates start from £197.
Tui (tui.co.uk) is offering one week B&B at the Plaza Cavana hotel by the beach in Nerja, where you can gaze at the Med from your balcony, for £643 per person (based on two sharing), leaving on February 22nd from Gatwick – almost half the cost of the same package in August.
For a quick blast of Mediterranean joy, book a cheap flight to Malaga (from as little as £50 return from the UK in February) to stroll by the sea, eat tapas and mooch around the shops.
What to do
You may have tried and failed to get tickets to visit the magnificent Alhambra in Granada (tickets.alhambra-patronato.es) during the summer but there is usually no problem in winter (although advance booking is still advisable). Wandering through the sensual halls, courtyards and gardens can be particularly powerful on a bright yet bitterly cold day.
The Picasso as seen by Otero exhibition, with photographs of the everyday life of the artist, runs until August. At the Picasso Museum in Malaga (museopicassomalaga.org), The Echo of Picasso exhibition, which runs until March 31, explores how the great painter and sculptor influenced other artists over the decades.
Join the locals
A lot of Spaniards unsurprisingly live a bit more frugally in the first few months of the year. People who live on the coast in Andalucia sensibly take advantage of the lack of crowds, making the most of warm days with big family picnics on one of their local beaches – with no parking hassles either if they need to drive.
Or they might fancy heading into the hills for a hike or bike ride (or just a long lunch in a traditional restaurant on a village square, which is usually good value at this time of the year), maybe in the Sierra de las Nieves national park above Marbella, the Sierra de Aracena in Huelva or the Sierra de Cazorla in Jaén.
This story was first published in December 2022 and has been revised and updated.