Where do I start? ‘La Costa del Sol’ automatically springs to mind when holidaymakers think of Andalucia, but it really is so much more. For me, it is a place where I discover myself. I’ve been over to Andalucia eight times now, and every trip has been unique. From rooftop bars to hillside views, ancient bridges, colourful patios, tropical blue lakes, endless mazes of white streets, wine tasting and relaxing on the beach. This is the Andalucia many do not know.
Let’s begin with Málaga. A bustling, traditional and cultural city where many stop briefly before transferring to their beach resort, but the city itself is often left unexplored. I love losing myself in the old streets, coming across colourful pretty squares with fountains, admiring the port and Roman theatre from rooftops and finding typical quaint Spanish bars that have been around for centuries. Whether I go at Xmas and admire the Christmas lights along Calle Larios or relax on a hotel rooftop by the pool with a cocktail in the spring. The city pleases all tastes.
Famous for Picasso, Malaga paints a colourful picture of Spain’s history. Stroll around the Alcazaba, which was founded around the 11th century, explore Málaga’s old town, watch the cathedral glow at night and dominate the city’s squares, and visit the Teatro Romano.
A definite drinking stop is the Antigua Casa de Guardia, an iconic wine bar founded in 1840; a little gem that has frozen in time, still using its barrels and counters from back in the day. The staff even write down your order on the counter in chalk. Enjoy a few tipples of Malaga’s vino dulce; your taste buds will be thirsty for more. Málaga is accessible by bus from most towns and coastal resorts, so there really is no excuse not to spend a day there.
Setenil de las Bodegas
I immediately fell in love with Setenil de las Bodegas. I really have never been anywhere quite like it. I kept asking myself, “was the rock there first or the house?” After some research, I found out the houses were built into the cliffs.
I went on a tour trip to Setenil from Benalmadena. It was very close to Ronda. The passengers from the bus stuck together and went in search of the famous street, but I wanted to see more. I found a path and followed it alone. I climbed steps and more steps and then found myself at a viewpoint overlooking the town. A wave of whitewashed houses, orange trees and a stunning hillside in the distance where an Arab fortress used to stand stood in front of me. I was speechless.
I had just under ten minutes to run back to the coach; I was really pushing it! I ran down the steps, over a bridge, then I was completely lost. Luckily I speak Spanish. ‘’Perdón, ¿dónde está la calle con las casas en la roca?’’ Phew. I got back in time. It was worth going off the beaten track.
Frigiliana, a hilltop town near Nerja really is a gem. I went in December and I had the whole town to myself. An explorer’s paradise. I love following hidden paths and not knowing what’s around the corner. It’s typically Spanish with whitewashed houses, local ceramics on sale in the local shops, views overlooking the valley and endless flowers brightening the streets. Frigiliana has earned a reputation for being one of the most beautiful towns in Spain. It certainly is!
Frigiliana is easily accessible by bus from Nerja.
Almuñecar is a very interesting coastal town situated on the Costa Granadina. Almuñecar has links to Christians, Romans, Muslims, Visigoths, Phoenicians, and even parts of the town were defended in the Napoleonic wars. Two miles from the town, a stunning Roman aqueduct stands proudly.
Almuñecar is a contrast of old and new. Each historical period shines through in its own right. The beachfront is modern, but just around the corner, you’ll find a beautiful old town and a castle overlooking the Mediterranean. Not forgetting the remains of a salt factory built during the Phoenician period in the 4th century and later used by the Romans.
Salt was unbelievably shipped from here to all parts of the Roman Empire. Almuñecar is, without a doubt, one of the most interesting places I have been to. Last but not least, there is a beautiful animal park that mustn’t be missed which is very close to the salt factory remains.
Lastly, Parque Loro Sexi (Sexy parrot park) boasts endless species of parrots and other animals just below the city walls. It really is not to be missed! I saw two parrots kissing. It certainly lives up to its name!
Despite being a well-known resort among holidaymakers, Nerja has retained its typical Spanish charm. Nerja’s labyrinth of whitewashed streets will leave you unable to trace your steps. Each stunning cove is carefully sheltered beneath the cliffside. You can walk along a narrow peaceful street and find some steps. Once followed, you’ll find yourself in a beautiful cove.
Nerja is the most natural seaside resort I have visited. If you keep following the narrow streets, you can go even further to a bigger beach, Playa Burriana, which is home to a long sandy beach and many bars and restaurants. Nerja appears to be two seaside resorts in one. You can find a secret cove to read your book in or find a bigger beach and enjoy a cocktail.
Nerja is famous for ‘el Balcón de Europa’, which offers magnificent views over the Mediterranean. Nerja truly is an unspoilt paradise. There are many tiny hidden streets around the church in the main square where you will find endless ceramic flower pots scattered across the walls. These streets appear to lead to dead ends, but if you persevere, you’ll find yourself at several hidden viewpoints with the ocean beneath your feet. Nerja is full of secrets yet to be discovered.
Ronda is an extraordinary mountaintop city in the region of Andalucía. It is well known for its colossal bridge, which dominates the valley, a rocky gorge and waterfalls that can be found directly below. The bridge conveniently splits up the new town from the old town; both sides are worth a visit.
The stunning monument took forty years to build, but sadly fifty workers lost their lives during the construction. During the Spanish Civil War, around five hundred Falangist supporters were shockingly thrown to their deaths into the gorge from the cliffside.
Although I am a tourist, I hate being one. I feel like I have to be different and go where nobody else goes. So instead of just stopping at the bridge, I walked and walked and walked. I followed every path I saw. I went down to the very bottom of the gorge, meandering the ancient pathways, walking beside waterfalls and even came across bridges that I didn’t even know existed. I went past farmland and admired views over the valley.
The Romans actually produced wine in Ronda; the landscape is indescribable. I continued downwards and found myself surrounded by stunning yellow flowers. I kept going and going and going and then found myself looking at the bridge from a distance. The views were hard to take in. It really was breathtaking.
On the way back up I decided to explore the old town. It was stunning. The more you explore, the more beautiful things you will find. I had walked for so long in the heat that when I sat down for food, I saw my bright red face in a mirror in Montaditos. It was truly worth the effort.
Ronda is also home to palaces, churches, Roman Baths and even a stunningly intact bullring and museum. Visiting Ronda will leave you speechless.
Lying just thirty minutes from the Malaga coastline, Antequera is found on a hilltop hidden away from tourists. Although it is nicknamed the heart of Andalucia and is nestled between Granada, Malaga, Seville and Córdoba, no one knows about it. Antequera is well deservedly in this article as it really is an undiscovered gem that more of us need to enjoy.
When I went, I explored the town endlessly; I was completely alone so, once again, I had the whole town to myself. The most beautiful part of the town is at the highest point. Go to the old town and follow the steps up to the top. Once you’ve climbed the cobbled streets, you’ll find yourself at the top of the hill overlooking a sea of whitewashed houses and in front of Colegiata de Santa Maria la Mayor. I followed a little path at the side of the church and found myself surrounded by a huge deep valley. The views were magnificent. If I had more time, I would have explored more and gone down deep into the valley, but I had to head back. One day!
Antequera is also home to Roman baths, countless ancient churches, Roman mosaics, a bullring, an Alcalzaba and much more. Hikes in the local area are also highly spoken of. There is something for everyone.
Mijas (pueblo) is found high up in the hills not too far away from Benalmadena and Mijas Costa. Mijas’ streets blossom with Andalucian charm. If you're lucky enough, you'll come across a local flamenco show in the town's main square. Mijas is also known for its donkey taxis and shops selling local food products, leather and stunning ceramics scattered around the town.
Thanks to its location, the sea views are some of the best you will discover in the region. For a bit of tranquillity away from the nearby bustling Costa del Sol, Mijas is certainly the place to relax. (Mijas is easily accessible by bus from Benalmadena, Torremolinos and Fuengirola)
Andalucía is Spain’s biggest region and is home to so many stunning places. So many of us have not yet discovered its true beauty. The region offers so much and caters for all interests, whether it be eating out, hiking, exploring, sunbathing or shopping. Next time you visit Andalucia, visit somewhere new. Be different and don’t go where the tourists go. You will have a completely different experience from which the memories will remain in your head for years to come.
DISFRUTA DE TU VIAJE
7 Places You Need To Visit In Andalucia
Setenil de las Bodegas