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?…
As Europe’s most popular holiday destination, Andalucia is not in the business of disappointing its visitors – no matter what interests they might have. Most would immediately associate Andalucia with week-long, sun-drenched escapes spent lazing on the beach or by the pool, but a week’s holiday doesn’t necessarily have to include such slothful yet satisfying pastimes.
Thanks to the diverse landscape and 800km-long coastline that southern Spain boasts, the range of thrilling activities on offer is broader than just about anywhere in Europe. That’s right: even adrenaline junkies can be guaranteed of the perfect getaway. From kite-surfing and jet-skiing to quad-biking and snowboarding, there are plenty of white-knuckle activities to get stuck into, if you dare!
Possibly now even more popular than surfing, kite-surfing certainly guarantees thrill-seekers an experience they won’t quickly forget. After learning to fly the kite (harder than you might think), learners strap into the kite-surfboard and ride the waves to their pumping heart’s content. Quite a bit of upper body strength is needed to be able to hold on for longer than a few minutes, but with enough practice anyone old enough to do it can succeed.
Who? Freedom Kite School – Kitesurfestepona.com.
If you love a good buzz but would rather have an engine do all the hard work for you, then jet-skiing is definitely worth considering. As you might expect there are the usual and obligatory safety measures to complete (and fully understand) before you are permitted to hop on this high-speed joy-wagon, but when the moment comes there’s no hanging around, as you’re propelled forwards at break-neck speeds into the tide.
It’s a bumpy ride, but well worth picking up a few bruises for.
Who? Marbella Jet Ski – Marbellajetski.com.
With so many mountains to climb it’s no wonder Andalucia is regarded the world over as a rock-climber’s paradise. Beach-goers may not be as enthusiastic but anyone looking for a little excitement away from the waves might want to consider an afternoon scrambling up the side of a large cliff or rock either in the Malaga or Granada province of the region.
Be sure to have fun and give it your all if you go rock-climbing but if you’re even slightly squeamish when it comes to heights, just remember: Don’t. Look. Down.
Where? El Chorro
Who? Rockbusters – Rockbusters.net.
Andalucia has a well-deserved reputation for having some of the best mountain-biking trails in all of Europe, from technical and bumpy downhills to tame cross-country routes. Thanks to the abundance of sunshine the region receives, conditions are nearly always perfect for some biking, no matter what time of year.
The terrain is perfect for hairy off-road excursions, which will leave you breathless and with adrenaline flowing through your veins, not to mention a wide grin from ear to ear. Just bear in mind the aches and pains that’ll hit you the next day.
Where? Serrania de Ronda, Sierra de Nieves and Grazalema Natural Park
Who? Andalucian Cycling Experience – Andaluciancyclingexperience.com.
Contact: +34 677 028 469
For a truly alternative driving experience, waste no time in climbing aboard a hulking quad bike and letting rip in the Andalucian countryside. Beginners and advanced riders alike can be guaranteed of a fantastic day out thanks to the endless scenes of breath-taking beauty and wealth of terrains suited to all levels.
It may be a little unnerving to begin with, but as soon as you find the rhythm and get used to the roar of the engine beneath you, you’ll fly like the wind…
Where? Sierra de Las Nieves, Marbella
Who? Quad Mountain Adventures – Quad-mountain-adventures.com.
Skiing & Snowboarding
Sierra Nevada, Andalucia (Source: Melissa Ramirez [CC BY-SA 3.0 es], via Wikimedia Commons)If you’re holidaying in Spain during winter and willing to make the 2-3 hour trip across the region to the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada, you can spend the day either skiing or snowboarding at the impressive, 100km2 boasting Sierra Nevada ski resort. There are pistes suited to all levels – from greens right through to blacks – a snow park, halfpipe, boardercross and of course plenty of cosy restaurants to settle down in if you’re only there to watch!
The views on a clear day are unsurpassable, and it is even possible to see the peaks of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains towering on the other side of the Mediterranean.
Where? Sierra Nevada, Granada
Who? Sierra Nevada Ski Resort – Sierranevada.es.
If you’re looking for an activity suitable for all the family – the very young and elderly included – then take a look at our post on family-friendly things to do on the Costa del Sol.
Alternatively, if you want someone else to take care of the organising, leaving you more time for having fun, then get in touch with our concierge manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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.