Marbella. There aren't many places offering year-round sunshine in Europe that, from beaches and golf to shopping and fine dining, tick as many of the luxury holiday boxes. Sounds tempting?…
‘Tour’. Just the mention of the word might conjure up visions of a guide with an umbrella droning on to a large group of disinterested tourists as they traipse round a series of overcrowded sights.
It’s time to leave those preconceptions behind, though. Because tours have changed.
In southern Spain, at least, tours these days tend to be unique experiences that take you deep under the skin of a place; inspiring, enlightening and helping you to make indelible holiday memories.
We’ve worked hard to find the most enthusiastic, knowledgeable and fun tour guides to give you an access-all-areas insight to Spain. Here are a few of our favourite Marbella tours…
Tapas Tour of Marbella
We can all go wandering around a town or city and trust in a mix of travel guides, social media and (gulp) TripAdvisor to help us find the best places to eat. But it can be hit and miss.
The beauty of a tapas tour is that you only get taken to the best, most authentic places, know exactly what to order in each bar and also have someone on hand to give you an insight into Spanish food, too.
More information: Tomaandcoe.com
Off-road Buggy Tours
Leave city life behind and get into a motor powered (500cc) buggy: four wheels, low to the ground, a roll cage and the countryside to explore – this is a whole lot of fun.
Your guide will take you on a tour where you get to splash through rivers, skid round dusty corners, zoom through valleys and up mountains.
More information: Buggyfunmarbella.com
Marbella Helicopter Tour
Something a whole lot less exhausting but just as exhilarating is seeing the countryside surrounding Marbella from the air – by helicopter, to be exact.
There are lots of tours to choose from. A couple of our favourites are: flying over Ronda (seeing the town and its magnificent bridge perched on the gorge from the air is something else!); taking the helicopter for a romantic countryside lunch; or a tour of Marbella’s ultra-exclusive Golden Mile.
More information: Heliairmarbella.com
Spirit of Jerez Tour
A day trip from Marbella to Jerez is a must for wine-lovers. The home of Sherry, you can forget everything you think you know about classic Spanish vinos and be swept away by the history and culture of one of Spain’s greatest wine towns.
Aside from a guided tour with tastings of the centuries-old Sherry wineries, you get to visit the Royal Equestrian School for which Jerez is also famous. Here you can visit the stables as well as seeing an exhibition of spectacular horsemanship.
Afterwards, there’s even time for a tapas lunch sampling platters of regional specialities. Washed down with a glass or two of Sherry, of course.
More information: Tomaandcoe.com
A Day at an Olive Farm
Spend the day in a beautiful farmhouse (just a short drive from Marbella) learning about organic olive farming. Disconnect and reconnect with nature among fields of olives.
You’ll learn what the different olives taste and look like, and what the difference is between EVVO and lower quality oil.
You’ll also see how traditional methods are still used to harvest this golden oil which is so important to the Mediterranean diet – past, present and future.
After the tour you stay at the farmhouse for an al fresco rustic lunch of local produce, giving new meaning to ‘farm to fork’. There’s even a visit to a 15th-century chapel with its very own mosque.
More information: Tomaandcoe.com
Malaga Cooking Tour
Here at LVC we’ve always thought that there’s no better way to get to know a culture than exploring it through its food. And it’s with this firmly in mind that we’ve chosen this Malaga cooking day tour.
Malaga city centre is only 50mins drive from the centre of Marbella so a easy day trip. Starting the day in a fresh food market in Malaga city you’ll be guided around the meat, vegetables, spices and fish to select what dishes are going to be made for lunch.
Once you’ve stocked up on supplies, you leave the big city behind and are driven out into the countryside north of Malaga to an 18th-century farmhouse.
Here you’re guided through various Spanish staple dishes, before settling down to eat them for yourself in a setting that couldn’t be more quintessentially Andalucian.
More information: Tomaandcoe.com
Morocco Day Tour
One of the great things about visiting this part of the world is that you can easily add another continent to your travel log and nip across to Africa for the day.
This day tour allows you to get under the skin of Morocco’s rich cultural heritage, meander around the Kasbah, the Medina and food markets and be shielded from tourist traps and haggling. Lunch is in keeping with a sensory tour of Tangier keeping your taste buds tickled.
More information: Tomaandcoe.com
Uber-Luxe Moroccan Overnight Trip
For something a little bit special, you don’t get much more VIP than this overnight tour of Tangier.
You’re driven over from Marbella to Tarifa from where you can hop across the Straits, take in the sights, do some shopping, and then settle down to dinner in a private house/mansion that belonged to a Sheikh.
Tour of Gibraltar’s Tunnels
Gibraltar is just over an hour by car from Marbella old town. The little slice of Britain in southern Spain is certainly a curious place… plus, well, it’s got monkeys. So it’s hardly surprising that it so often makes visitors’ to-do lists of things to do when visiting Marbella.
Gibraltar is very small – so why do you need a tour we hear you ask? Well, it’s simply because the interesting part of this British territory is its history.
The Rock is riddled with military tunnels with long and colourful pasts, and the best way to see and learn about them is to go with a guide who can bring it all to life for you.
More information: Gibraltar-sightseeing.com
Moorish Malaga City Tour
With its Pablo Picasso art heritage, shopping, diehard foodie credentials and lovely history-studded old centre, the city of Malaga offers a jam-packed day of sightseeing.
Rather than doing a whole city tour and trying to take it all on in a day, we’ve chosen a specific tour of just the Alcazaba.
Exploring this palace-fort with a guide gives you a unique insight into Moorish Malaga and a bit of general background into the captivating history of Al-Andalus – not to mention some beautiful views of the city.
This tour is only just over an hour long, so you’ve got plenty of time to see at least some of the rest of Malaga. Our top lunch tip is La Terraza de la Aduana: the views are wonderful; the service is excellent and the food’s delicious.
More information: Malagaadventures.com
11. Historic Ronda
Ronda is a inland town, just an hour from Marbella. It has a wealth of historic sights to see from bull rings to palaces. It’s setting is spectacular sitting on a gorge and the old town is charming.
The tour visits all the sights in Ronda with a guide explaining the relevance of each as well as a boutique winery in a ancient monastery.
More information: Tomaandcoe.com
Why Hire a Tour Guide Rather than Going Solo?
A guide takes the pain away from doing the research. They’ll take you to the best places, order the best food and drink and impart as much knowledge as you choose to absorb.
You’ll also get the opportunity to ask any burning questions you have about Marbella, or just Spain generally, with no stone left unturned.
A lot of tours can be private or in small groups so there’s no limitations as to where you can visit and what you can see because of group size. There’s no better way to experience the real Spain than through a local who really knows their stuff.
If this has spiked interest and you want to see the best places to stay in Marbella then our collection of luxury villas are here. And for more reading on things to do while on holiday to Southern Spain then there are lots of fun self-guided day trips to do from Marbella too.
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Where is Marbella?First things first, though. Where is it? Marbella is in southern Spain - in the province of Malaga in the Andalucia region, to be exact - on a stretch of coast called the Costa del Sol. Here's a map of Marbella to help you get your bearings:
Where Do You Fly to?It depends on from where you're flying in. The nearest international airport to Marbella is Malaga. Málaga-Costa del Sol Airport (Aena.es) is 51km away and an easy 40-minute car/taxi ride. Virtually all the major airlines fly there direct from the UK and from across northern Europe. The next closest airport to Marbella is Gibraltar (Gibraltarairport.gi), which is just over an hour's drive away. British Airways, Easyjet and Monarch all fly direct from the UK to Gibraltar.
From the USIf you’re flying into Spain from the USA you'll probably have to travel to Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport (Aena.es). From there you'll have to either fly, take the fast speed AVE train (Renfe.com) or drive to Malaga and transfer from there to Marbella. The most convenient way to get to Marbella from Madrid is by the fast speed train taking just 2.5hrs or by flying taking only 1 hour and 15 mins.
how to get there from malaga airport
By CarThe best way to get from Malaga to Marbella is to drive. And if you're on holiday that probably means you're going to need to hire a car. As with almost all international airports, Malaga has a frankly baffling array of different car hire options to pick through. To avoid the scrum of the departures lounge, jump on the complimentary minibus to the offices of Niza, Helle Hollis or Enterprise situated a mere minute outside of the terminal. Inside the terminal you can find Sixt, Hertz and Europcar. If you're unsure of which company to use, click the following link. For a more luxury car hire service we'd recommend Sixt (Sixt.com). They're friendly, totally professional, trustworthy and have a range of high-end rental options, from BMWs, Audis and Porsches to Mercedes and Range Rovers - and even automatics. If you're travelling in a large group, they also have 8-12 seater self-drive minibuses available for hire. Of course if you're looking for ease, our Concierge can make the reservation for you to be dropped directly off at the villa. A car of your choice can be delivered to your villa. Once you've picked up your car/minibus hire, driving from Malaga airport to Marbella could hardly be easier. Directions from Malaga-Costa del Sol airport are as follows:
- Leave the airport and head southeast onto N-348
- At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit and stay on N-348
- Take the Torremolinos ramp to N-340/Cádiz
- Merge onto Avenida de Velázquez/N-340/MA-21
- Take the ramp to E-15/A-7/Benalmadena/Algeciras. Merge onto AP-7
- Pass Torremolinos, Benalmadena, Fuengirola
- Take exit 184 towards Marbella/Casco Antiguo/Avenida del Trapiche
By TaxiFor sheer ease, you can’t beat jumping in a taxi. A taxi rank is situated outside the arrivals sidewalk of Terminal T3, level 0. It's best to ask the driver, beforehand, how much a taxi is from Malaga to Marbella to ensure they don’t overcharge you. There are two transfer prices, and these are dependent on both times of the day and the day of the week. Transfer Price Band 1 is weekdays from 06.00 to 22.00 hrs. Transfer Price Band 2 is weekdays from 22.00 to 06.00 hrs, all day Saturdays, Sundays, public holidays, the August Feria and Holy Week. Band 2 transfer time is more expensive than Band 1. Alternatively, you can pre-order a taxi at Malaga Airport Taxi (Malagaairporttaxi.net) and get a price when booking. The transfer time from Malaga Airport to Marbella takes around an hour, in a taxi.
Other Ways to Get to Marbella
- By bus: It is possible to take a bus (Alsa.com) from Malaga airport to Marbella. But it's a whole lot less convenient than driving via hire car or private transfer.
- By train: There isn’t a train connection from Malaga airport to Marbella.
Distances - how far is marbella from...
- Malaga (city): 61km away and 46 minutes' drive.
- Granada: 187km and just over 2 hours' drive.
- Seville: 258km and 2 hours 45 minutes' drive.
- Gibraltar: 78km and 1 hour 2 minutes' drive.
- Madrid: 584 km and 5 hours 45 minutes' drive.
A Bit of HistoryThe land previously belonged to the Saudi businessman Adnan Khashoggi, who it is said, used the estate as his party house and hunting grounds. The property and land went up for sale and a group of Spanish property developers bought it and put plans together to create a playground for the rich and famous in Marbella. Each villa is unique, with their own styles depending on the specifications of the owner.
Location & Getting There
So where is La Zagaleta?The large estate sits in Malaga province in the south of Andalucia. It’s in the foothills of the Ronda Mountains just 25 minutes from Marbella, 18 minutes from Nuevo Andalucia and the nearest beach. It's 20 minutes from the village of Benahavis, 40 minutes from Sotogrande port, 50 minutes from Ronda, 55 minutes from Malaga airport and just over an hour from Gibraltar airport. La Zagaleta is very easily accessed by car or helicopter. There's heavy security surrounding the estate and entrance is on prior permission only.
What Else is in La Zagaleta?It’s worth noting that all the facilities in La Zagaleta are for exclusive use to villa owners only; they pay an enormous service charge to be allowed to use the facilities.
Golf CourseLa Zagaleta golf club is only open to villa owners and their guests. They have exclusive access to two of the Costa del Sol's best private golf courses, La Zagaleta and Los Barrancos. La Zagaleta golf course - known as the Old Course - is to championship standard with 18 holes, Par 72 over a distance of 4800 - 6000 yards. Designed by renowned golf architect Brad Benz in 1991 and redesigned by Marc Westenborg in 2016, it’s a rewarding course with fantastic views to the coast and flanked by mountains. The New Course, Los Barrancos, is very different to the Old Course. It’s a challenging 18-hole, Par 70 with lots of obstacles over a distance of 4356 – 5381 yards.
The ClubhousesThe hub of the estate is the spectacular Old Clubhouse, or La Zagaleta country club. Measuring 5,100m² it has an indoor/outdoor swimming pool, billiards, bowling alley, tennis courts, gourmet food supermarket, pro-golf shop and restaurants (see below). There's also a nightclub, bars and events space where there’s a full schedule of experiences and parties planned. The New Clubhouse is a thatched lakeside venue. A lot smaller than the Old Clubhouse, it's still just as popular with La Zagaleta residents for events or having a quick drink in the bar.
Horse RidingLa Zagaleta is home to some beautiful stables with indoor and outdoor schooling arenas. Horses can either be kept on a full livery basis, or horses and ponies can be hired for lessons or hacks. ‘The Riding Club’ equestrian centre has a team of instructors and well-schooled horses for all levels of rider including Arab, PRE and, for the children, Farabella horses and Welsh ponies.
RestaurantsWhy leave the comfort of a beautiful villa when you can enjoy a top-quality meal at home? At La Zagaleta there are Michelin starred chefs available for in-house dining throughout the estate. However, for owners the clubhouse has two restaurants: the formal dining Old Course Restaurant; and a terrace bar restaurant that's ideal for light bites and brunches.
Famous ResidentsThere is private security throughout the whole of La Zagaleta - so know one really know who lives or owns houses there. It’s a place where the super-rich and famous go to be away from the limelight. However, it is said that Hugh Grant, Rod Stewart and Vladimir Putin all have house in La Zagaleta.
What to Do NearbyWhen staying in La Zagaleta, the houses are so special that it’s sometimes difficult to tear yourself away from the estate. However, if you do want to see more of the area, here's our pick of easily accessible and great day trips:
- Ronda: historic, boutique wineries and ab-so-lutely beautiful.
- Benahavis village: a great option for restaurants; have a lunch or dinner in this pretty village.
- Granada: a romantic inland city and home to the Alhambra Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Malaga: the birthplace of Picasso with a fort, palace and Roman amphitheatre.
- Cordoba: historic city with a stunning mosque-church at its centre.
- Sevilla: one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.
- Sotogrande: a lovely port, wake boarding lake and polo hub.