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?…
If you enjoy getting out on the bike, Andalucia is the perfect holiday destination. With year-round sunshine and plenty of undulating coastal roads, challenging mountain climbs, city tours and family-friendly cycle paths, Andalucia has something for everyone of the two-wheeled inclination.
The region is a magnet for cyclists so you won’t be alone. There’s plenty of evidence of other cyclists online – on Strava.com, Mapmyride.com and Endomondo.com. And as well as giving you an idea of the best routes in your area, some have details of local cycling groups – perfect if you don’t fancy riding solo.
To whet your wheels, we’ve pulled together our favourite cycling routes in Andalucia. As well as a family route, there are some more challenging road biking rides – all showcasing this region at its finest. You will be handsomely rewarded for your efforts. And you’ll no doubt want to come back and do them again and again.
Via Verde de la Sierra
Distance – 35.6km
Elevation – 473m
‘Via Verdes’ are unused Spanish railways lines, which have been transformed into car-free routes for cycling, hiking and other leisure pursuits. Surrounded by breath-taking scenery and, for the most part, flat, they’re ideal for family or group rides with less confident cyclists. If you want to do this as a day trip with your family, Toma & Coe can organise it all for you.
The award-winning Via Verde de la Sierra in Cadiz is 35.6km of spectacular cycling. Running from the village of Olvera through to Puerto Serrano, it’s truly a taste of authentic Andalucia. A total of thirty tunnels provide cooling interludes as you pedal across bridges and viaducts through valleys, meadows and riverbanks. And with points of ecological interest along the way, there’s plenty to see too.
Approximately halfway through the route, you’ll find the visitor’s centre for the Peñón de Zaframagón nature reserve, which houses one of Europe’s largest resting colonies of Griffon Vultures. And further on, just past Coripe station, is the Chaparro de la Vega – a 700-yr old holm oak with branches that spread over 28m.
Pitstops: With eateries either in Olvera or Puerto Serrano, it’s advisable to bring food, water and snacks. Bike hire is available in Olvera by companies including Sesca. And these will provide a taxi back from Puerto Serrano in case you’re not quite up to the gentle uphill back to Olvera. You’ll need to order in advance though.
Table Mountain & The Montes de Malaga
Distance – 79.3km
Elevation – 1,524m
During the weekends, you’ll see numerous lycra-clad ciclistas climbing the A-7000 or A-7001 to reach the Montes de Malaga. This route goes further east, rewarding you with incredible views of the Almijaras, Sierra de Loja and Antequera as well as the Montes de Malaga. Heaven.
Starting in Rincon De La Victoria, warm up the legs for 20km along the N340 coastal road seafront before heading inland at Torre del Mar on the N340a.
On reaching Velez-Malaga, find the quieter A-725 and, just before Trapiche, turn left and cross the A-356 to reach the MA-3113. From here, you start a gentle ascent through the valley. Passing the quaint little pueblos of Triana, Benamargosa and Salto del Negro, you soon turn left onto the MA-3105. And from here, there’s a challenging climb to the Moorish village of Comares atop Table Mountain. Cycle up through the village walls and reward yourself with panoramic views from the Balcon de la Axarquia.
Getting back onto the MA-311 (where the MA-3105 ends), wind your way up the hill and drink in the views, before reaching a plateau where the Montes de Malaga come into sight. After a delightful swoosh on top of the world, descend into the valley, taking care to turn left before Olias and right at Totalan to come back to Rincon de La Victoria at the end of the MA-3202.
Pitstops: There are plenty of chiringuitos for a cuppa, fuel or end of ride copa in Rincon de La Victoria and Benajarafe. For home-cooked Spanish cuisine en-route, try the restaurants near the Balcon de la Axarquia in Comares, or the well-known Table Mountain restaurant in Los Ventorros just past Comares.
Exploring Moorish Pueblos on the Ruta del Mudejar
Distance – 73.1km
Elevation – 1,723m
Starting in Caleta de Velez, spin the legs along the N340 coastal road before pedalling inland through Velez-Malaga and Trapiche. Past these, you ascend gently through the valley before turning right onto the Ruta de Mudejar – a tourist route celebrating five Moorish mountain pueblos in this part of the Axarquia.
From here, there’s a steady climb to Canillas de Aceituno. Then an undulating winding road takes you through the mountains to Sedella, Salares, Canillas de Albaida and finally Competa. Then you descend into Torrox before making your way back to Caleta de Velez along the coastal road.
Along the way, you’re rewarded with incredible views – the Montes de Malaga and Antequera as you climb out of the valley. Once Canillas de Aceituno is in sight, the mighty Maroma comes into view. And as you descend towards Torrox, the eastern Sierra de Almijara crowd the skyline.
Pitstops: Stop for refreshment or something more substantial in the bustling villages of Canillas de Aceituno or Competa. And perhaps a celebratory cerveza and tapa on the beachfront promenade at Caleta de Velez.
Riding The Coastal Route to Cerro Gordo Natural Park
Distance – 63.5km
Elevation – 1,170km
The N340 coastal road east of Malaga has some of the finest cycling in Europe. Sandwiched between the expansive Mediterranean and the Almijara mountain range, the views are truly awesome. And with the added bonus of a sea breeze, riding these undulating roads is a dream.
The stretch between Caleta de Velez and La Herradura passes tourism hotspots El Morche, Torrox Costa and Nerja before reaching the picturesque Cerro Gordo Natural Park. Here, the road becomes quieter, framed by dramatic cliffs, secluded beaches and rocky outcrops.
The Cerro Gordo turn-off is signposted, just before you enter a tunnel. Take this right and do the short but exhilarating climb to the viewpoint. From here, you can see Torre del Mar and, on a clear day, the mountains of Malaga. To the other side, you’ll see the secluded horseshoe bay of La Herradura – if you’re lucky with the Sierra Nevada peaking over the top.
Pitstops: The town roads are lined with bustling cafes and restaurants and you’ll find chiringuitos in Torrox Costa and just before Nerja. There is a lovely Mirador restaurant on Cerro Gordo, but don’t count on it being open.
Climbing the Rio Verde to Meson Los Prados
Distance – 65.1km
Elevation – 1,555m
Don’t be fooled by the length of this ride. Cyclists come from all over to cycle this route, which is in part categorised as HC (hard as nails) by Strava. But it’s not just about the challenge. The views are truly spectacular. And when you ride it, you’re likely to see plenty of other cyclists adding it to their ride portfolio.
It’s a ‘there and back’ on the old ‘main’ road between Almuñecar and Granada. It’s easy to find (once you’ve survived ‘death by roundabout’ in Almuñecar). You just find the A4050 for Jete and Otivar. Then you follow it to the top.
As you climb, the views change from lush avocado groves carpeting the valley, to dramatic mountains and rocky outcrops, to a shaded forest on the plateau at the top.
NB: Adding to this route’s exhilaration quotient, the road is vertiginous and hairpins sharp in parts. There are sometimes fallen rocks near the top. So take care when descending.
Pitstops: There are plenty of good restaurants and eateries in Jete and Otivar. There is also the well-located Meson Los Prados restaurant – frequented by cyclists – at the top.
Malaga to Cadiz: The Ronda – Grazalema Loop
Distance – 69.3km
Elevation – 1,467m
If you’re staying along the Costa del Sol, a trip to Ronda will be high on your wishlist. This ride starts and ends there, giving you a chance to wander around the historic town and check out the views from its jaw-dropping gorge. It also crosses into Cadiz, to the pretty village of Grazalema, which nestles in the foothills of the Sierra de Pinar. In fact, if you are staying in Cadiz province, you could even start and end from there.
After leaving Ronda, the ride climbs steadily on the A-374 – a reasonably busy road with good-sized hard shoulder. Then, after 10km, take the left fork onto the A-372 and follow this to Grazalema. This beautiful undulating road has cork forests, the occasional mountain goat and incredible views across the valley.
After taking a look (and perhaps refuelling) in Grazalema, take a left and then descend the valley on the CA-9123. Shortly after, turn right on the A-2300* and make your way towards Montecorto. From here, you can get back onto the A-374 and make your way back to Ronda. Or you can bypass this for 6km on the more scenic MA-8404 before making your way back to the A-374 and climbing back to Ronda for a celebratory cerveza.
*Take a left here to make the ride a solid 100km, circling the delightful Zahara-El Gastor Reservoir Strava.com
Pitstops: There are lots of great places to dine or buy artisan delicacies in Ronda and Grazalema. Take the 100km option and you could fuel up while drinking in the dreamy views of the reservoir at El Mogote another place in Algodonales.
NB: If leaving from Ronda, be aware that the town adds 12km and a good 280m climb to the ride. So parking and starting on the outskirts near the A374 will give your legs a break.
Thanks to the abundance of cyclists, cars usually give you a wide berth with road signs on popular routes advising a healthy 1.5m clearance. But despite this, you should keep your wits about you. Gradients can be extreme – so take care when descending, particularly on hairpin bends. Also, it’s illegal to cycle more than two abreast and to run traffic lights. So follow the rules to avoid any hefty fines.
Before getting started, be aware that; although the sun shines (almost) daily, you’ll need to adapt your rides, clothes and gear according to the time of year.
When the sun is ‘hot n’ high’ in July and August, it’s best to go out on the bike earlier in the morning. Wear sun cream; carry plenty of water; and choose routes with lots of shade from forests and groves. Or cafes and restaurants…
It’s warm, sunny and perfect for cycling during April, May, June, September and October. Despite this, it’s still worth slapping on the sun cream and bringing plenty of water. In fact, it’s good to make sure there are water sources en-route too. Most towns and villages have fuentes (fountains), but not all of them. So fill your water bottle at every opportunity. And because you’re likely to sweat, bring electrolyte drinks or gels as well as snacks.
From November to March, the weather can be temperamental. Although it’s warm in the sun, the wind is chilly – particularly in the mountains. So make sure you bring lots of warm layers and a windproof mac. And check the weather forecast for rain. Because when it rains, it really does rain.
Do our cycling routes tempt you to try them? Our concierge can arrange guides, bike hire and support vehicles for your cycling holiday, contact us for more information.
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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.