Enduring luxury: a long-term Winter rental in Andalusia

Recent years have witnessed the stellar rise of experiential travel, immersive cultural explorations and a “slow-life” approach to vacationing. To be sure, some will aim for immersive and life altering experiences within the one or two week period afforded them by the workplace and other life restrictions; however, by definition, a slow-life approach requires time, and can one really “live like a local” in an introductory, short stay? This kind of so-called “immersion” is more akin to a quick bath!

Within Europe, Andalusia is truly one of the most desirable and fascinating destinations for a long term winter stay. Why so alluring? The sweet scent of orange blossom, the glimpse of a white village perched spectacularly atop a ridge, the thrash of a flamenco guitar; memories of Andalusia are as evocative as they come. Visiting a place as culturally rich as Andalusia in any season leaves most visitors hungry for more. So, when you’ve already experienced the powerful sun and lively fiestas of southern Spain in the height of summer, immersing yourself into Spanish life with a wintertime visit offers an experiential vacation second to none.

Winter in Andalusia provides a different flavour, a different pace, and a unique slant on a region perhaps better known as a sun seeker’s paradise. Fortunate travellers experiencing Andalusia after the throngs of tourists retreat find themselves able to enjoy a restful ambience that is worlds away from the hustle and bustle of Spanish life in summertime. The temperatures remain high, the sea is at its warmest, and a certain calm falls over the picturesque towns and villages. If during summertime visitors trample through the palace gardens of such sites as the Alhambra, in winter you can enjoy this beautiful monument and others in relative and reflective silence…An easy lilt accompanies a warm lemony sun, still high in the Andalusian sky; the mood of Andalusia in winter is recuperative, relaxing and compelling.

Average temperatures upwards of 20ºC on the Andalusian coast make the region one of the best places in mainland Europe for winter rays, with the best climate in Europe. With perpetually beautiful, clear sunny winter days, it’s almost as if springtime and autumn merge into one with no “winter” season at all, certainly not the sort of cold winter to which Brits and most western Europeans are accustomed.

But what to do during your long term visit?

Winter in Andalusia holds a truly special lure for those travellers seeking the real life experiences which initially compelled them to travel. With off-peak air fares, discounted car hires and the benefit of low season accommodation rates, travellers not tied to the school holidays enjoy a rather privileged position. Winter visitors to Andalusia can immerse themselves in transformative travel experiences by choosing a long term winter stay: study Spanish, experience local life, live and eat like a local, discover the ancient traditions of the region and truly delve under the surface of life here in this stunning and unique region…at an easy pace.

This temperate winter clime contrast the brutal heat of summer, at which time hiking and wildlife explorations are all but impossible, if not clearly dangerous. The landscapes of rural Andalusia are breath taking and one of the best ways to appreciate their diversity and beauty is on foot. Travellers wishing to explore the countless areas of natural beauty and UNESCO World Heritage sites by enjoying a winter hiking expedition will delight in the opportunities available. A labyrinth of lanes run through lush forests and from village to village, while shepherds’ tracks zig-zag up into the mountains and back down again, where wildlife and birdwatching pay dividends. All this appears even more enchanting in winter when the warm sun throws a unique golden light over all, augmenting the entire area with its touch of Midas. The wintertime conditions are ideal, and the more well tread destinations all the more enjoyable in winter for being less well tread at that time.

Winter markets also take on a different flavour, marking the change of seasons as much as the colours of the landscapes. Now the stalls burst with Iberian charcuterie, hearty beans, dark curling spinach, little tender skinned marrows, aubergines, pumpkin, yams and large purple onions. Fragrant spices and deep ruby wines jostle for attention alongside thick haunches of tuna and hand-made cheeses. Naturally, the winter months and cooler waters are best for the fresh shellfish and mollusks from the abundant Mediterranean. The winter cuisine shifts accordingly, somehow offering a sense of seclusion and more authenticity than its summer counterpart. This is evident in local restaurant fare and farms alike, giving winter dining and culinary explorations a unique seasonal twist.

And a winter visit to Andalusia doesn’t mean forgoing the joys of freshly fallen snow. The Sierra Nevada mountains above Granada are the second highest mountain range in mainland Europe and host an impressively long ski season running from November right through to April. The resort regularly hosts world class events such as the FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Cup Superfinals and the World Championships. From the highest station at 3300m, you may forget that you are in Spain at all, yet the resort sits within 30 minutes of the coast and it’s a common experience to hit the slopes in the morning and the beach in the afternoon. The Sierra Nevada present a truly unique skiing opportunity in the heart of the Mediterranean – who doesn’t like to get a tan whilst skiing?!

The luxury of time

It’s oft been said that, ultimately, the greatest luxury is time – free time without obligation, time to do whatever one wants with a distinct lack of hurry. This applies at least as much to travel as it does to every day life. Travel should be more like a gradually intensifying love affair, rather than a rush to the finish. And Andalusia offers all of the allure and sensuality of an exotic and mysterious lover, with open arms and a suggestive promise of so much more to yet be discovered… if only you have the time.

Alan Hazel is Owner and Director of Cortijo El Carligto.

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