Insider’s Guide to Andalucia

The activity secret of inland Andalucia is the Via Verde de la Sierra cycle and hiking track, linking the provinces of Cadiz and Seville. A 36km railway line begun in 1926 but never finished, it runs from Olvera to Puerto Serrano, passing three excellent restaurants, the world's largest colony of griffon vultures and some of Andalucia's best scenery. Bikes can be hired at either end.

A few miles south of Cadiz, is Spain's best kitesurfing spot, El Palmar. This little-known beach, a great alternative to Bolonia further south, is within spitting distance of Cabo Trafalgar, site of the battle, and is almost completely unspoilt. Finca las Brisas has bungalows 200m from the beach from €330 a week.

The home of the former king of Romania in the Hornachuelos natural park near Cordoba is opening as a luxury hotel this year. Palacio de Moratalla is where he fled when Nicolae Ceausescu toppled him in the 1950s. And in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, north of Cadiz, the 12th-century palace of the ‘Red Duchess’ (the Duquesa de Medina Sidonia), DuquesaMedina. The lesbian, left-wing duchess lived here when not in prison or fighting for workers' rights. It now has an atmospheric 10-room hotel (doubles from €70) and a cafe.

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