I want to start by saying that just because I had a good experience in Spain during the pandemic, does not mean that I’m telling you to go against the advice of your own government.
I personally weighed up the risks for myself. I live in London where the cases have been quite high, I have no serious medical conditions and my age makes it statistically lower for me to be severely affected by it.
The start of my Andalusian trip
The trip was meant to be a short 5-day holiday in Malaga with one of my best friends, but after the UK government advised against all travel to Spain, the girls holiday sadly turned into a solo trip!
I’ve travelled by myself a number of times now and I sometimes even prefer it to travelling with other people (I hope none of my friends read this), so that wasn’t a problem.
I actually cancelled my hostel when the news first came out and decided it was too risky to go as my travel insurance was now void. As the day of departure grew closer I just kept on getting sadder.
Probably going against all of my mums’ maternal instincts, it was actually her who told me I should still go as she knows how happy travelling makes me. I’m sure a lot of you can relate to the happiness travelling can bring.
So I rebooked my hostel and boarded a flight for the first time in over 7 months. Yes, I did nearly cry with happiness when taking off.
An insight in my 2-week Spain itinerary
So you may have noticed there that the title actually says 2 weeks rather than the original 5 days. I couldn’t help it, I had to extend!
Day 1-5: Malaga, a charming port city rich with history
The first week of my trip was spent in Malaga, a port city in the south of Spain that I wasn’t too optimistic about.
Malaga has a reputation of having been diluted by tourism, losing the Spanish charm that other gorgeous cities exude. Boy was I wrong!
As soon as I got off the bus I was met by a charming cathedral, narrow streets lined with restaurants and bars and predominantly Spanish people just going about their day.
I spent my stay at the Urban Jungle Hostel, a perfectly located, modern, clean and sociable hostel that made it easy to meet people even during a pandemic. The rooftop bar and chill out area was the perfect spot every evening to grab a drink before venturing out to sample some delicious food.
I really did try my very hardest to eat at a different place each time but there were three places that just kept on calling me back; Casa Lola, Lolita Taberna Andaluza and Avokate. All of which were pretty cheap and within a short stroll from the hostel, so you could crawl back after too much tapas or avo.
If you want to really immerse yourself in Spanish culture, then you can grab some churros from Amaros on your way to the beach.
To my surprise, there’s actually quite a lot to do in Malaga. I spent my time going to Malagueta beach, which isn’t the nicest beach but it satisfied my beach cravings, hiking to El Castillo De Gibralfaro, looking around Alcazaba and just admiring the city.
So what were my overall thoughts on Malaga? It was a place that I could have stayed for at least a month. It felt homely, safe and a place where you easily slipped into everyday life alongside the locals. The food was to die for, there was still nightlife (despite the pandemic) and the people I met were amazing.
Day 6-7: Granada, one night is not enough
This is one thing I wish I could have changed about my itinerary. I had been told by so many people that Granada is beautiful and that I had to visit Alhambra.
So that’s exactly what I did, but I stupidly didn’t give myself enough time to fully immerse myself in the city and see what it can truly offer. For that I apologise to Granada (I will be back)!
The bus from Malaga to Granada only takes 1 hour 45 minutes. It was a super comfortable journey and only cost me €12 each way.
For my one night in Granada I stayed at El Granado hostel, and this was probably the first time I really noticed a big difference between travelling in a pandemic and normal times. Despite being one of the prettiest hostels I’ve stayed in, it broke my heart to see that the hostel was pretty much empty.
The staff told me of stories where the hostel rooftop would be packed and how laughter would drift from the rooms. At this point I couldn’t help but wonder how long it will be until scenes like this will be occurring again.
No queues for Alhambra palace
Moving away from the doom and gloom. One positive of there being fewer people, was that the usually packed Alhambra was empty! I got the first tickets of the day at 8:30am, but this meant I avoided the scorching sun and annoying photobombers in my pictures.
Alhambra should be on every person’s bucket list! It is stunningly beautiful. The intricacy of the architecture, from the walls to the grand arched ceiling, are astonishing and beyond admirable. The fact that such a majestic palace could be built in the 13th century just adds to the grandeur of the place.
Another great thing about Granada is that they do Tapas properly! It used to be customary for tapas to be served for free whenever you bought a drink, as the tales say it was used to protect your drink from flies or to keep you sober after one too many cervezas. Buy a few drinks at a number of bars and you can essentially get a free dinner.
Day 8-10: El Chorro, the most surprising part to of the trip
After my quick stop in Granada, I headed back to Malaga to meet a friend I had made earlier in my trip in order to begin the next adventure.
We set off early to El Chorro, a small village a few hours from Malaga that boasts stunning turquoise lakes and the famous Caminito del Rey. Unfortunately we were too late to get any tickets, so if you’re planning a visit, make sure you book at least a month in advance! The Caminito del Rey is an amazing walkway attached to the side of the steep cliffs towering over El Chorros lakes. We saw people doing it and couldn’t help but be jealous!
To get to El Chorro we took on the winding mountain roads on a motorbike. It took way longer than using the motorway by car or going by train but the views were panoramic, breathtaking and showcased nature at it’s finest. If you can do this, you have to!
When we finally arrived it was to the best surprise ever! We were staying at El Nido del Chorro, a newly renovated family-run hotel overlooking one of the lakes, and we had the whole hotel to ourselves. Even the owner left to go back to her own house.
This meant we had the run of the hotel, the pool, the bar, the kitchen – everything! I guess that’s another plus of travelling during a pandemic.
What made El Chorro so special?
El Chorro somehow still seems to be a hidden gem within Andalusia, a place that you want to tell everyone about but also keep as your little secret.
The lakes are a vibrant blue I’ve never seen before and the views of the Andalusian countryside after our tiring hikes made us forget about our tired legs and beating hearts. It’s truly a place to escape and relax.
Tip: You could go straight from Granada to El Chorro if you have a car as it’s only a 2 hour ride away. If you’re reliant on public transport it may be easier to spend the night in Malaga. It’s only a 40 minute train ride from Malaga to El Chorro, costing just €7.
Day 11-14: Tarifa, the place of chilled vibes and watersports
Tarifa, a town famous for windsports, wasn’t even on my radar until a random girl I met told me about how amazing it was. So of course, I had to add it to my itinerary and I’m so glad I did.
So we mounted the motorbike and headed back to Malaga once again! The only disadvantage about Tarifa was that it wasn’t the easiest to get to from Malaga. There’s a 4.5 hour bus but this included multiple transfers and wasn’t really an option. Then I was introduced to Blabla Car, a carpooling app that allows you to share rides with people going the same way as you.
Rather recklessly of me, I booked a car to Tarifa for €11, but there was no ride coming back. I left this problem for later and decided that was a bridge I would cross when it came to it. (It worked out fine).
If you’ve ever been to Canggu in Bali, Tarifa felt to me like the Spanish version of this. A laid-back vibe oozed from the brunch cafes and hipster clothing shops that lined the streets, the travellers coming back from the beach, tired after a day in the water and the vibrant nightlife.
I stayed in Tarifa Kite Hostel, which was recommended to me by a number of people. I heard it’s quite the party hostel normally. It was still pretty lively even during COVID, so I can only imagine how mental it can get.
A kite surfers haven
Tarifa gives you the opportunity to try a whole host of new activities, predominantly kitesurfing and windsurfing. The beaches are packed with them!
A word of warning though, it’s not cheap! I paid €120 for 2 hours of kite surfing and I didn’t even get in the water. Now I don’t know whether that’s because I’m just absolutely terrible at kitesurfing or that’s just how your first lesson goes, but I couldn’t justify spending any more money. Other people did though, and they loved it.
As my time in Tarifa drew to a close, those holiday blues every traveller is familiar with began to creep in, heightened by the fact that I knew I had to quarantine for 2 weeks when I returned to the UK.
Was it worth travelling during the coronavirus pandemic?
For me, 100% yes! I had been desperately struggling with not being able to travel at all over the 6-month lockdown and being in Spain brought me back to my happy place, an environment where I can be unapologetically me and meet incredible people.
From what I had seen, I felt that Spain was dealing with the virus well. You had to wear masks everywhere outside apart from when you were sat at a table in a restaurant or a bar, there was hand sanitiser available almost everywhere and people just seemed to be taking it seriously, which can’t be said for London.
Did I feel safe staying in a hostel?
It was great to see that all of the hostels had increased their cleaning standards, making sure that surfaces were frequently disinfected and staff wore face masks. The Urban Jungle Hostel was also doing 50% occupancy in rooms to help maintain social distancing.
Is a hostel the best place to be during a pandemic? Of course the answer is no. Being around so many people and sharing facilities is not the ideal situation, but how long until this will be okay again, no one really knows.
What would I change about my itinerary?
It’s a common problem with travelling that you often feel like you don’t have enough time! For sure I felt that on this trip.
Ideally I would have had at least another week to properly dedicate enough time to each of the places, but that just wasn’t possible.
Staying within the time constraints of two weeks, I would suggest reducing your time in Malaga and donating those days to Granada.
Here’s my recommended itinerary if you want to spend two weeks in Andalusia:
- Day 1 – 4: Malaga
- Day 5 – 7: Granada
- Day 8 – 10: El Chorro
- Day 11 – 14: Tarifa
People who have never travelled might not have the burning desire and addiction to be free and exploring the world, so whether you decide to pack your bags or not, can only be decided by you.