Searching for a destination that's not mobbed by river cruisers? Head to Andalusia in southern Spain — the land of flamenco, tapas, and matadors — along the Guadalquivir River. Only one major line, CroisiEurope, offers sailings here, with itineraries that typically depart from Seville, cross the Gulf of Cádiz, and ascend the Guadiana River along the Spain-Portugal border. Excursions to Córdoba and Granada leave from Seville, and some cruises also offer extensions to Gibraltar.
Voyages are available late April through November, but if you book during the summer months, expect some fierce heat and sun.
What We Love
Doñana National Park: At the mouth of the Guadalquivir River, the scenic wetlands of this UNESCO World Heritage Site are home to an impressive 300-plus species of birds such as the Spanish imperial eagle.
Whitewashed Towns: The stark white buildings of ports such as Alcoutim, Portugal, and Cádiz, Spain make for great photo ops against the brilliant blue sky.
Best Known For
Moorish Architecture: Fantastical Muslim-inspired architecture appears everywhere on these routes. Highlights include Seville's Alcázar palace, Córdoba's Mezquita (a mosque turned cathedral), and Granada's Alhambra fortress and palace complex.
Flamenco and Fado: Cruises offer excursions to foot-stamping Spanish flamenco shows, and host soulful performances of fado (Portugal's answer to blues music) on board.
Shop for Cruises
Seville: With vestiges from the Roman, Moorish, Gothic, and Baroque periods, Seville’s sights are worthy of several days of exploring. Don't miss the UNESCO-designated Alcazar with its gorgeous gardens, and the massive cathedral. Shore excursions to Granada and Cordoba — known for its immense mosque —also depart from this port.
Cádiz: Almost completely surrounded by water, and guarded by 126 watchtowers, this ancient city offers beaches, a boggling fish market, and the Museum of Cádiz, with a collection ranging from Phoenician artifacts to puppets. Nearby, Jerez is famous for sherry production.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
You May Feel the Motion of the Ocean: The Gulf of Cádiz is off the Atlantic Ocean, so expect some rocking during the crossing.
Gayle Keck is a San Francisco-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times.