For the food and wine traveler, southern Spain offers no end of pleasure. From the lively tapas bars of Sevilla and the sherry bodegas of Sanlúcar to the bountiful seafood stalls of Cádiz, gastronomic delights await the adventurous. Vast olive groves and vineyards blanket the region’s hillsides, and in its cellars hang what some experts call the best ham in the world.

The Moors, who ruled here for 700 years, called it al-Andalus. Today, we know this land as Andalusia, an arid, sun-swept region where the Moors left their mark on the food, art and architecture—most notably, in Córdoba’s world-famous mosque, or Mezquita. Andalusians live life outdoors, strolling the wide plazas that grace the region’s large cities, pausing for a café con leche in a sidewalk café, and navigating the quiet back streets where hidden tapas bars welcome the tired and thirsty with a glass of chilled fino sherry. Whitewashed houses with flower-filled courtyards line the narrow streets in Andalusia’s villages, while its cities supply diversions like flamenco dancing, late-night dining and—not for the faint hearted—the ancient sport of the bullfight.

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