(Travel + Leisure) -- Southern Spain has many brilliant colors: a flash of red on a whirling flamenco dancer; the peachy pinks of tropical flowers on the walls of an Arabic-style courtyard. There's no more romantic way to see Andalusia than from behind the wheel of a car, discovering the secret gardens and hidden white villages as you go.
Sun-soaked Andalusia makes for an ideal romantic road trip.
Start in the cobblestoned streets of Córdoba, site of the renowned eighth-century Mezquita mosque. Then drive southwest to Seville, and see the labyrinthine 14th-century Alcázar palace, near some of the city's liveliest flamenco bars. East of here are two Andalusian white villages: Antequera lies behind the granite peak La Peńa de los Enamorados, or "Lovers' Rock," named for a centuries-old tale of a star-crossed Christian Romeo and Muslim Juliet. And Iznájar has a 1,200-year-old ruined castle that's perfect for exploring. End the trip to the east, in Granada.
Where to stay
Outside Iznájar, two Belgian expats recently opened Casa Rural El Olivar (6 Cierzos y Cabreras; 34/95-753-4928; doubles from $126). The five-room bed-and-breakfast is surrounded by acres of olive groves. Hospes Las Casas del Rey de Baeza (2 Plaza Jesús de la Redención; 34/95-456-1496; doubles from $312), in Seville, is a 41-room, 18th-century manor furnished with colonial-style beds.
Where to eat
Traditional dishes like serrano suckling pig and sautéed garbanzo beans are specialties at Taberna Salinas (3 Tundidores; 34/95-748-0135; dinner for two $46), in Córdoba. La Finca (Carr. Salinas; 34/95-832-1861; dinner for two $180), at the Barceló Hotel La Bobadilla, is the place to go in the Salinas area for paella. Granadan newcomer Azafrán (1 Paseo de los Tristes; 34/95-822-6882; dinner for two $55) incorporates Moroccan spices like coriander and cumin in its grilled bacalao. Book a table near the windows for a view of the Alhambra walls.
On Thursday evenings, Fundación el Monte (4 Larańo, Tercera Planta; 34/95-450-8200; tickets for two $30), in Seville, presents the rising stars of flamenco singing of love lost and found. In Granada, stop for tea at the Moroccan teahouse Alfaguara (7 Calderería Nueva; 34/95-822-5913), in the ancient Moorish neighborhood of Albaicín. E-mail to a friend
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