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Marbella best spas

Seven of the Most Indulgent Spas in Marbella

To spa before the holiday or to spa during? That is the question.

While prepping for holidays it’s tempting to have a session or two to get your body smooth, relaxed, beach ready and primed for the perfect tan. But the LVC answer has always been before AND during. And with the summer just around the corner, we’ve whipped up a wonderfully indulgent pick of the best of what’s on offer near Marbella.

Women being massaged

Firstly, you should know that when we spa, we absolutely do not mess around. We have very high standards. The overall experience is the key: our criteria includes everything from expecting a beautiful spa area, relaxing mood and serene facilities, seamless service, divine products, world-class expertise and intelligent spa treatments. We’re wanting a holistic approach with perfect relaxation areas that invigorate the senses, recharges the energy levels and balances mind and body.

So here’s our pick of the best spas near Marbella that fit the bill…

Saltwater indoor pool at Thalasso Spa

Marbella Club Thalasso Spa

Address: Bulevar Principe Alfonso von Hohenlohe, 29600 Marbella.

What: Thalassotherapy (the use of seawater, sea products, and shore climate in treatments). We’re all about bathing in the goodness of seaweed at the minute and love the way Thalasso Spa uses what Marbella has in abundance with its coastal location. There’s also a seawater pool, hammam steam baths and wood-burning Finnish sauna.

Products: Babor, Marjana Cosmetiques, Thalio, Natura Bissé.

We love: The Intensive body treatments which include body wraps and a specific-to-your-needs massage.

Point of difference: Med view seawater indoor pool – seriously, it’s wonderful.

Who’s it for: Single girls’ spa day treat, couples, star-spotters.

More information: Marbellaclub.com or ask our Concierge to book your dream treatment.

Pool at Six Senses Spa Marbella 

Six Senses Spa at Puente Romano Beach Resort

Address: Bulevar Principe Alfonso von Hohenlohe, s/n, 29602 Marbella, Malaga.

What: Facials, massages, hammam, manicures and pedicures, hydrotherapy pool, cold plunge pool, experience showers, herbal steam room and a sauna set in a beautiful facility.

Products: QMS Medicosmetics and The Organic Pharmacy (We know! We love The Organic Pharmacy, too).

We love: Vitamin C and Papaya Enzyme Peel 50 minute Facial. You’ll feel like you have new skin and fine lines diminished.

Point of difference: Signature Senses Facial by QMS Medicosmetics has been developed exclusively for Puento Romano Six Senses Spa.

Who’s it for: Everyone. This is one of our all-time favourite spas in Marbella. It has a wonderfully calming feel and is great for groups, frazzled mothers and couples.

More information: Sixsenses.com os ask our Concierge for further details and reservations.

 Finca-Cortesin-Thai-Massage

Finca Cortesin Spa

Address: Calle Casares, 2, 29690 Casares, Malaga.

What: A huge area full of natural light to spa in. Heated saltwater pool, saunas, Turkish baths, showers, relaxation lounge, Japanese bath (water maintained at a constant 10ºC) and a -12º snow cabin.

Products: Biologique Recherche.

Point of difference: Thai massages and a very attentive team to serve you. They’ll supply reading material, delicious tea or thirst-quenching drinks before you’ve even thought about wanting them.

Who’s it for: Couples and people needing to get away from it all for total relaxation. Oh, and ageing rock superstars, too – Axel Rose is known to spend weeks there.

More information: Fincacortesin.com or again, our Concierge has direct contacts with the spa to ensure the best slots.

Treatment Room at Kempinski Spa Marbella

Kempinski Spa at Hotel Bahia

Address: Kempinski Hotel Bahia, Carretera de Cadiz, Km 159, 29680 Estepona, Malaga.

What: Indoor relaxation pool, Finnish sauna, steam room, ice fountain, heated benches and a relaxation area.

We love: Their treatments and specially created spa menu for men – so many spas overlook the men. Our favourite is the Niance Men Revitalize facial.

Products: Niance and Thémaé.

Point of difference: Quartz Sand bath spa table (the only one in Spain). Try it, it’s dreamy.

Who’s it for: People who might want a quick spa circuit and treatment or who like to spa-light. This Marbella spa is easy come easy go and very accessible.

More information: Kempinski.com or get in touch with our Concierge to assist.

 Dipping pool at Healthhouse La Dunas Spa

Healthouse Las Dunas

Address: Urbanizacion Boladilla Baja, Crta. Cadiz km 163500, 29689, Estepona, Marbella.

What: A real focus on healthy lifestyle with treatments using mainly aromatherapy and hydrotherapy. There is a designated swimming lane, sensation path, vitality pool with jacuzzi, warm cave, cold cave, salt cabin, caldarium, snow cabin, sauna, steam bath and flotarium.

We love: Their Spa & Yoga sunset sessions with a 1 hour yoga class and 30 minute massage as well as access to the whole spa – an ideal treat.

Products: Algologie.

Point of difference: This is a wellness facility with luxurious surroundings; it particularly focuses on weight loss.

More information: Healthouse-naturhouse.com or contact our Concierge as the first step to feeling wonderful!

Dipping Pool At Villa Padierna Spa

Villa Padierna Thermae Spa

Address: Urb. Los Flamingos Golf, Ctra. de Cadiz, Km. 166. 29679 Marbella – This one is perfectly located for our Los Flamingos villas

What: Elegant Romanesque-inspired spa facilities with luxurious surroundings. Four steam rooms with different essential aromas and temperatures (one with sea salt, one Greek sauna, two Finnish saunas), a very atmospheric dynamic swimming pool, a flotarium and a Laconium as well as a treatment room with oxygen bubbles (yes, the ultimate treatment room).

We love: The facials,. Choose from a personalised treatment, the Michelle Obama or Sophia Loren. Well it if works for them…

Products: Piroche Cosmétiques, Carita, Micro Puncture Lab©.

Point of difference: The Roman plunge pool is pure elegance. This luxurious spa is the best for celebrity spotting, too.

More information: Villapadiernawellness.com or contact our Concierge who looks after our guests just next door.

Outside The Barbers Shop in Puerto Banus

The Barber Club Marbella

Address: Boulevar Principe Alfonso, 015, 29601, Puerto Banus, Marbella

What: A men’s barbers, coffee lounge and spa treatment club. Modern, fashionable and cutting edge, this place offers men’s facials, tanning, massages and grooming.

We love: That men are taking care of themselves – swoon.

Products: Penhaligon’s, Uppercut, Creed.

Point of difference: It’s all about the men and that’s unique in Marbella.

More information: Thebarberclubmarbella.com.

Want to wrap a trip to one of our favourite Marbella spas up into the perfect pamper day? Check out our essential guide to Marbella shopping.

To make sure your stay in southern Spain is as healthy and relaxing as possible, why not consider one of our retreat villas?

Mountain Views from La Zagaleta

Eight of the Best Costa del Sol Golf Courses

With more than 50 courses in just a shade over 100km, not for nothing is the coastline west of Malaga known as the ‘Costa del Golf’.

A golf holiday here offers something for all abilities, too, from gentle municipal hacks to tournament courses for seasoned scratch handicappers.

So without any further ado, here’s the LVC pick of a few of the best Costa del Sol golf courses…

Marbella Golf & Country Club, Benahavis

sea views marbella club

We begin appropriately enough, at the beginning, with the grande dame of Costa del Sol golf courses: Marbella Golf & Country Club. It may not be the oldest course in the region (that honour goes to the Malaga Parador which dates back to the 20s), but founded in 1954 and part of the resort of the same name, it very definitely leads the way in the old-fashioned glamour stakes.

And the course? Designed by Dave Thomas, set back a little from the coast to the north of Benahavis, its gently undulating fairways wind their way between well-placed water features upwards towards the mountains.

Stunning setting aside, the course is both in consistently great nick and challenging, with a mix of elevated tees keeping even low-handicap players guessing for distance and club selection. A major selling point of Marbella Club is the gap between tee times (a generous 12 minutes minimum) which means that the tension when you shank one into the rough is slightly reduced. A class act.

The 19th hole: Tie in tee times to coincide with an evening table booked at Juan Galvez’s The Grill, the hotel’s fabulous (and heavily meat-centric) restaurant.

Address: Carretera Benahavis, Km 3.7, 29679, Malaga; Tel: +34 952 88 06 08; Marbellaclubgolf.com.

La Quinta Golf & Country Club, Nueva Andalucia

5th hole la quinta marbella

La Quinta ticks a lot of boxes. A mature and well-kept course that was designed by Spanish pros Antonio Garrido and Manuel Piñero, it perhaps plays a little easier than some of the others on this list. That’s not to say it’s not a high quality course – nor that it doesn’t have its challenges in the form of some tricky fairways and cavernous bunkers – merely that it’s suitable for mid-handicappers.

The course is made of three nine-hole loops – San Pedro, Ronda and Guadaiza – which can be mixed and matched as you see fit. As a result, along with a scenic driving range, it makes for a good warm-up round at the start of your golf holiday. 

The 19th hole: Soothe stiff backs with a post-round soak, steam and massage in the hammam-inspired La Quinta Spa.

Address: Avenida Tomas Pascual, s/n, 29660 Marbella, Malaga; Tel: +34 952 76 23 90; Laquintagolf.com.

Finca Cortesin, Casares

finca cortesin clubhouse

A fairly new addition towards the western end of the Costa del Sol in Casares, Finca Cortesin is a sophisticated luxury resort that mixes indulgence with style and taste throughout.

Two things stand out about the golfing here, though: first of all, despite only having been built in 2006, it’s a mature course with fairways lined with lots of old cork and olive trees and some spectacular scenery; secondly, at nearly 7,000m it’s an absolutely monster. Weak drivers need not apply.

The 19th hole: play an early morning’s round and spend the afternoon stretched out by the pool, before heading down to their beach club for sundowners.

Address: Carretera de Casares, s/n, 29690 Casares, Malaga; Tel: +34 952 93 78 00; Fincacortesin.com.

La Zagaleta, Benahavis

la zagaleta fairway

Winding its way up into hills and woodland above Marbella, La Zagaleta country club has two courses, La Zagaleta and Los Barrancos. Both are amongst the very prettiest of this very pretty bunch, with many holes snaking their way through tree-lined valleys criss-crossed with occasional streams. This is the real joy of playing here: not only does nature start as soon as the fairway stops on many holes, but at almost no point do fairways run alongside one another. They feel like golf courses that are integrated into the surrounding natural landscapes rather than imposed on it.

There’s just one potential hitch: it’s a members’ only affair. So unless you’re fortunate enough to have friend who’s in the club you won’t be getting in.

The 19th hole: forget about that disappointing scorecard by heading for the clubhouse’s bowling alley, exclusive for residents of La Zagaleta with prior arrangement (check out our villas in La Zagaleta).

Address: Carretera Ronda Km 38.5, Benahavis, Malaga, 29679; Tel: +34 952 85 54 50; Lazagaleta.com.

Real Club Valderrama, Sotogrande

valderrama water hazard

Valderrama Golf Course has in the past picked up the accolade of the best golf course in mainland Europe. The list of competitions it’s held over the years is a long one taking in the Andalucia Masters, the Volvo Masters and the first Ryder Cup to be played on European soil. Suffice to say that, whichever way you come at it, it’s one of the best places to play golf in Spain for the serious golfer.

And the emphasis here is very much on Serious with a capital ‘S’. The greens are lightning fast, the fairways at times breathtakingly tight, and the rough unforgiving. But the thing that sets Valderrama apart is the fact that there’s not a single dull hole – whether they’re winding their way through the cork woods, both visually and in terms of the challenge they throw up, each offers something slightly different, right up to the famous 17th with its death or glory tee-off.

The 19th hole: start by booking an afternoon tee time. Then, at the end of your round, step off the 18th green, walk to the clubhouse, order yourself a glass of fine champagne and watch as the shadows lengthen over the fairways. Drink it all in. You’re surrounded by a piece of golfing heritage.

Address: Avenida de los Cortijos, s/n, 11310 Sotogrande, Cadiz; +34 956 79 12 00; Valderrama.com.

For accommodation that is as equally refined, choose Villa El Chorrito Sotogrande neighbouring Valderrama golf club.

Los Flamingos, Benahavis

views los flamingos golf benahavis1

Los Flamingos is Malaga golf ground zero. Right in the heart of the action, and part of the exclusive Villa Padierna resort complex, there are three courses sitting side by side: Alferini, Tramores and Los Flamingos.

Of the three, Alferini is the trickiest – long with punitive rough and countless challenging approach shots. Tramores is a short, friendly warm-up course (an extended pitch and putt, if you like) that’s ideal for grooving your swing. Los Flamingos, though, is probably the most inviting for the average golfer. Designed by Antonio Garcia Garrido, it’s a mix of gently rolling parkland and hillier holes. After a tight front nine, the back nine opens up a bit making for a very pleasant day of golf in the Andalucian sunshine.

The 19th hole: while it’s nowhere near as relaxing as a cold beer or two back in the clubhouse, the Michael Campbell Golf Academy is a great place to hit the driving range, take a lesson (private and group tuition is available) and iron out any kinks in your swing.

Address: Villa Padierna Golf Club, Urbanizacion Los Flamingos Golf, Carretera de Cadiz, Km. 166. 29679 Marbella, Malaga; Tel. +34 952 889 157; Villapadiernagolfclub.com.

Choose one of our Los Flamingos Golf villas for a convenient stay that’s also within easy reach of the coast’s restaurants and bars.

Los Naranjos, Marbella

9th hole los naranjos

This Robert Trent Jones Sr-designed course celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2017. Like the other courses he turned his expert hand to on the Costa del Sol, Valderrama, Sotogrande and Las Brisas, it’s as pleasant to play as it is to look at. Aesthetically, the 9th is a particular highlight: having successfully navigated a lovely right to left dogleg, you can lean on your putter and admire beautiful views of La Concha.

In terms of difficulty, it’s something of a course of two halves, with the back nine a more leisurely walk in the park(land) after the challenging terrain – plus tricksy water features and bunkers – of the front nine. It sits firmly in the mid-range end of the spectrum, though, and for higher handicappers is nowhere near such a daunting day out as some of the championship courses on this list.

The 19th hole: the club is Swedish-owned and there’s been great excitement about the appointment of a Scandinavian chef to head up the recently refurbished restaurant in the clubhouse. Locals have been booking the morning tee times to align their rounds with a spot of lunch.

Address: Plaza de Cibeles, s/n, 29660 Marbella, Malaga; Tel. +34 952 81 24 28; Losnaranjos.com.

La Cala Golf, Mijas

sunset la cala golf

Why settle for one course when you can have three? Variety, after all, is the spice of life. Beyond the fact that La Cala Golf takes in 54 holes, each course offers a very different set of challenges to keep your golfing holiday from getting samey.

Campo Asia is the oldest of the three and, with its tight approaches punishing any lapses in accuracy, is not to be entered into lightly for all but the lowest handicappers. Campo America is a long course offering stunning views to the Sierra de Ojen and down to the sea – and slightly more forgiving fairways if you’ve allowed yourself to get distracted by them. A gentler, more leisurely round can be had at Campo Europa. While it’s on the long side, the fairways are broader and flatter and the greens are bigger than handkerchiefs.

Away from the three main courses themselves, there’s even a six-hole par three to warm up – perfect if you’ve just stepped off the plane and need to get your game in order.

Address: Urb. La Cala Golf s/n, Mijas Costa, 29649 Malaga; Tel. +34 952 669 016; Lacala.com.

The 19th hole: The clubhouse is one of the most attractive parts of La Cala. The Laurel Restaurant is a great start to an evening out, with a nice line in drinks and snacks as you watch those coming in struggle with the difficult 18th. You’re part of a luxury resort here, though, so you can also nip off for a quick ‘Back Into Balance’ massage if your back’s starting to creak after all the golf.

Costa del Sol Golf Holiday Need-to-Knows

When’s the best time of year to play? With over +300 days of sunshine per year, it’s never exactly a bad time for a Costa del Sol golf holiday. Autumn and Spring, though, are perhaps the most popular seasons as the temperatures are pleasant, without ever hitting the scorching summer highs. 

How much are green fees on the Costa del Sol? It very much depends. At the upper end, the green fees at Valderrama won’t leave you with much change from €400, whereas a round of golf at Los Flamingos or Los Naranjos might set you back somewhere in the region of €70-80 in low season.

How do I find the best Costa del Sol golf deals? Whether it’s making sure you get the most favourable tee times or booking you the best caddy, the LVC concierge team are on hand. Ask and you shall receive.

Like our pick of the best golf courses on the Costa del Sol, and now looking for a suitably indulgent place to stay? Check out our collection of luxury golf villas.

After something a little less energetic from your holiday? Stretch out on one of our pick of the best Marbella beaches instead.

cycling, mountain biking, andalucia, costa del sol

Top Activity Holidays in Andalucia

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!

Kite-surfing

Kitesurfing in Spain

Kitesurfing in Spain (Source: Kitesurf Tour Europe)

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.

Where? Estepona

Who? Freedom Kite School – Kitesurfestepona.com.

Contact: info@kitesurfestepona.com

Jet-skiing

jet-skiing in spain

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.

Where? Marbella

Who? Marbella Jet Ski – Marbellajetski.com.

Contact: Daniel@marbellajetski.com

Rock-climbing

Rock-climbing in El Chorro

Rock-climbing in El Chorro (Source: Jerome Bon)

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.

Contact: info@rockbusters.net

Mountain-biking

cycling, mountain biking, andalucia, costa del sol

Mountain-biking in Andalucia (Source: Juan Pablo Olmo)

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

Quad-biking

quad-bikin, quad bike

Source: “Polaris Scrambler” with Wikimedia Commons license.

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.

Contact: info@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 concierge@theluxuryvilla.co.

Costa del Sol family days out

Top Family-Friendly Things to Do on the Costa del Sol

The Costa del Sol is a land where summers seem to go on forever. There’s always a school holiday just around the corner for most of us, and if you’re determined to spend it in a sun-soaked holiday hurrah then there’s nowhere better than the southern Spanish coast for a complete package of great weather, gorgeous food, low-cost flights and plenty of things with which to keep the whole brood occupied.

So if you’re looking for a stylish and lavish getaway that’s also fun for all the family, check out a few of our suggestions for the best things to do on the Costa del Sol with children…

Adventure Sports & Excursions

el caminito del rey, andalucia, malaga, spain

El Caminito del Rey (Source: Fotagrafí­a Viajera/Travel)

You don’t have to be adrenaline-fuelled extreme sports fans to go off and have a proper adventure on the Costa del Sol. There are plenty of exciting yet totally safe activities for everyone to enjoy. Canyoning and off-roading on quad bikes or mountain bikes, for example, are very popular guide-led extreme sports in Malaga province, and could be perfect for families with older children. Safety standards are high and necessary precautions always taken.

Alternatively, if adrenaline sports are a bit too much, there are many walks and hikes in the area, including the gravity-defying and recently reopened Caminito del Rey in El Chorro (Caminitodelrey.info), which is now not only safe and suitable for all ages but free of charge to enter during its promotional period.

But the adventures don’t stop there. Offshore, there are dolphins and whales to be spotted on daily maritime excursions (like those run by Firmm.org). Which child (large or small) wouldn’t enjoy that?

Cooking Workshops & Tapas Tours

rolling dough, cooking

(Source: Ginny)

The Mediterranean diet is famously healthy and delicious. And nowhere is this truer than on the Costa del Sol, where the perfect climate allows vegetables to grow in abundance and all sorts of fish to flock to its warm waters. Fantastic restaurants abound, as do bespoke cookery courses, such as Annie B’s Kitchen (Anniebspain.com). Based a little further up the southern Spanish coastline in beautiful Vejer de la Frontera, Annie offers family packages that involve shopping for fresh ingredients, chopping, preparing, cooking and, of course, devouring the mouth-watering end product. Fine wine (for parents) and tapas tours are also available.

Nature Reserves & Biospheres

el torcal, andalucia, spain

Rock formations of El Torcal – Image Credit: Jebulon [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Venture inland slightly and you’ll soon become lost (only slightly) within the mountain ranges of Malaga province. There are several popular spots for walking, wildlife and birdwatching where the terrain is flat and unchallenging.

Guadalhorce Nature Reserve (Andalucia.com) is one such example. To the west of Malaga, the area is made up of ancient wetlands and lagoons teeming with wildlife such as flamingos and turtles. You can reach it either by driving or taking the No.10 bus to the small town of Guadalmar. It’s a great way to escape the city crowds and enjoy some peace and quiet in a beautiful and natural environment.

Another popular site is the prehistoric El Torcal Natural Reserve (Torcaldeantequera.com), where kids go wild for the bizarre rock formations and the possibility – however minute – of actually discovering dinosaur fossils. There are three routes that you can follow – red, yellow or green – though the red route is restricted in order to protect flora and fauna. The green route is the easiest but the yellow, which is only slightly steeper/rockier, is more spectacular. The area can be found to the north of Malaga city, along Villanueva de la Concepcion.

Theme Parks & Water Parks

Baby elephant at Selwo

Fun for all the family at Selwo

Given its popularity as a family holiday destination, the Costa del Sol inevitably has more than its fair share of amusement parks. And while they can be busy places, they also guarantee a fun day out for the family, particularly in shoulder season when queues are shorter. From adventure theme parks to zoos (Bioparcfuengirola.es) and safaris like Selwo* (Selwo.es) and Lobopark (Lobopark.com) up in Antequera, there are plenty of options to choose from.

(*If your family’s got a member with a really wild streak, they’ll love the newest addition to the LVC collection, Villa Kenia, which is just next door to Selwo.)

Tivoli World (Tivoli.es) is perhaps the largest of the region’s theme parks and, with its count of over 300 rides and attractions, is undoubtedly one of the best things to do on the Costa del Sol with kids. Recently, ‘Tivoliandia’ was added to the park, which offers rides better suited for little ones and the elderly.

Unsurprisingly, there are rather a lot of water parks on the Costa del Sol, and they fill up daily during the summer. Outside of the height of summer prices can drop and they are much quieter as Spanish families tend not to bother with beaches and water parks in ‘cold’ months. Over in Torremolinos Aqualand (Aqualand.es) has the most extensive selection of slides to choose from.

Like this pick of things to do with children, and thinking about a family holiday on the Costa del Sol? Take a look at our collection of family villas.

Nine of the Best Restaurants in Marbella

It’s probably fair to say that Spain’s foodie credentials need little introduction. However, we know what it’s like to try and distinguish the good from the, well, not so good on holiday.

So to help you sort the wheat from the chaff, here’s a Luxury Villa Collection edit of the very best Marbella restaurants that our Concierge would be happy to book for you.  Whether you love the informal sharing of a plate of Jamon Iberico or some El Buli-esque molecular gastronomy, there should be something here that gets your taste buds tingling…

Best for Special Occasions

Paco Jimenez

View of Plaza de los Naranjos from Paco Jimenez

View of Plaza de los Naranjos from Paco Jimenez

This small restaurant is dripping with authentic Andaluz atmosphere. Although the address is Plaza de los Naranjos – the historic main square slap-bang in the middle of Marbella’s old town – the dining room is romantic, traditional and unassuming. If you want bling and glitz then this isn’t the place for you. However, if it’s an intimate meal you’re after then it certainly hits the spot. The food is uncomplicated but delicious with sensible portions and a good wine menu. The restaurant is on the second floor of an old central patio-ed style Andalucian building. (There’s a rather good art gallery below, actually.) Be warned, though – there’s only a brace of tables for two on the balcony overlooking the square, so book early if you’re planning a special meal a deux surrounded by the intoxicating smell of orange blossom.

Address: Plaza de los Naranjos, 10, 29601 Marbella, Malaga. Pacojimenezmarbella.com.

Best Traditional Tapas

Taberna la Niña del Pisto

taberna nina del pisto, marbella

Taberna La Niña Del Pisto

This tapas bar serves up a wide range of deliciously simple, home-spun classics from the province of Cordoba. Expect all the traditional dishes that Spanish food fans have come to know and love – salmorejo (a thick, cold soup served with jamon and boiled egg), berenjenas con miel (lightly fried aubergine drizzled with honey), snails in a spicy sauce, local cured cheese and bull’s tail stew. A must for anyone looking to adhere to a strict ‘carbs in Marbs’ policy.

Address: Calle de San Lazaro, 2, 29601 Marbella, Malaga.

Bar El Estrecho

This Marbella dining stalwart was founded in 1954 and is still family run to this day. It lives up to its name – ‘estrecho’ meaning narrow – and the space on offer can be at something of a premium on weekends, particularly. You can stand at the bar, or if you prefer a table for your assortment of mouth-watering tapas and a seat for you, too, then there’s a very informal dining area. This is more towards the spit and sawdust end of the Marbella restaurant spectrum than the gourmet, but it makes for an authentic and fun pit-stop in the historic old town. There are no surprises on the food front but a good selection of the likes of croquettes, seafood (think fresh clams, prawns, and octopus) and pork dishes.

Address: Calle de San Lazaro, 12, 29601 Marbella, Malaga. Barelestrecho.es.

Best Gourmet

Local boy Dani Garcia has two eateries in Marbella – the eponymous Dani Garcia and BiBo. The restaurants sit next to each other, and offer cuisine to delight the eye and tackle even the most discerning of taste buds, serving up Michelin-starred food which is innovative and intense at times but most definitely Spanish.

Dani Garcia – Cocina Contradicion

meat dish dani garcia marbella

Fine Dining at Dani Garcia

The food is theatrical, the service is first-class and the prices are to match. The restaurant offers a 19 course (we kid you not) tasting menu at €168, a short version at €75 and a full a la carte selection (where you can select half-portions). Molecular gastronomy is the name of the game here, for the most part, created before your eyes in the open kitchen. This allows Garcia to go wild with both the flavours and the presentation, and every plate on our last visit was met with a ‘Wow’ and a ‘Oooh’. Simply sensational.

Address: Hotel Puente Romano, Bulevar Principe Alfonso von Hohenlohe, s/n, 29602 Marbella, Malaga. Grupodanigarcia.com.

BiBo

For a quicker or lighter bite, BiBo is ideal. It’s a buzzy and bustling but relaxed bistro with four different areas: the terrace, Grandma’s table, the Raw and Oyster Bar and the Cocktail bar. While the food’s invariably delicious, the haute-ness has been dialled down a notch or two compared to sister joint Dani Garcia. There’s a choice of stone-baked pizzas, burgers (Garcia’s bull burger is a signature dish that has been copied all over Spain), stuffed whole chickens to share and sushi, along with tapas, steak and fried fish dishes. To cap it all off, the cocktails are quite simply the best in Marbella.

Address: Hotel Puente Romano, 29602 Marbella, Malaga. Bibodanigarcia.com.

Best for Kids

It’s worth pointing out at this point that the Spanish love children and in the vast majority of establishments won’t even blink at the sight (and sound) of a large, unruly brood crossing the threshold. However, a restaurant being supremely relaxed about it is one thing; offering high-chairs, children’s menus and changing facilities is something completely different.

The Funky Forest

funky forest, marbella

The Funky Forest

This has made the LVC cut of best Marbella restaurants because the concept is one of the most family-friendly in Andalucia- namely, ‘A place to play, create, stimulate, share and enjoy.’ The Funky Forest is based outside the centre of Estepona (just up the road from Marbella) and offers everything a parent would ever want in a restaurant. It offers cooking, music, recycling, language, theatre and dance classes for children. As well as being situated in a pine forest it has a great faux grass area for safe, playful tumbles with a swing and even a bouncy castle. The food is child-led so it’s more of a lunch spot for the adults to take a breather while the kids have fun playing with the resident rabbits and all the other children.

Address: Avenida de Bel-Air, 29688, Malaga. Funkyforest.es.

Early Bites 

The Spanish eat late. There’s no getting around it. If you haven’t been able to quite slip into the rhythm of Spanish dining times then here’s the best place to get some early dinner… 

Beckitt’s Bar & Restaurant

beckitts marbella

Table for Two at Beckitt’s Restaurant

Earlier seatings aside, if you’re also longing for something home-from-home then Beckitt’s is almost certainly the best restaurant in Marbella. Situated on a corner with terrace tables it offers an early bird menu (before 8pm) at €25 per head. It’s famed for its steaks and its rib-eye, Angus fillets of beef are consistently top quality. It gets lively at the weekends with live music so if you’re wanting a quiet, romantic meal perhaps try one of our others. It’s great for a boisterous family meal, though, and can accommodate large groups.

Address: C/ Camilo José Cela, 4, 29602 Marbella, Malaga. Beckettsmarbella.com.

Best of the Rest

Skina

Despite its generally low-key vibe and unpretentious dining room Skina is an excellent restaurant. No bravado, no tricks, just the best produce cooked perfectly plate after plate. Barcelona born chef Jaume Puigdengolas keeps the menu enticing with new creations, so even regulars will never get bored. Booking is essential as the dining room is limited. The sommelier has selected local wines that are from small bodegas as well as the larger, better known winemakers. One of our favourites, Bodegas Bentomiz, is among their chosen wines.

Closed Sunday & Monday
Address: C/Aduar 12, Casco Antiguo, Marbella. Phone: +34 952 765 277, Restauranteskina.com

Restaurante Messina

The modern and contemporary dining room is comfortable and doesn’t interfere with the food. It might lack a bit of atmosphere if it’s quiet but more often than not it’s full with happy diners. We loved that the sommelier, who is truly passionate about Spanish wine, would recommend local wines when appropriate too. The food is excellent and easily Michelin Star-worthy. The kid with creamy Payoyo cheese is melt-in-the-mouth delicious.

Address: Av. Severo Ochoa, 12, 29603, Marbella. Phone: +34 952 86 48 95. Restaurantemessina.com

This is by no means an exhaustive list of great places to eat – there are so many other mouth-watering options for you to discover in and around the town, just ask our Concierge for ideas and assistance with reserving the best tables. Aproveche!

Appetite whetted? Try them all out from the comfort of one of our nearby luxury Marbella villas.

For more of the best dining on the Costa del Sol, check out our pick of top places to eat in Malaga.

Gourmet Treats for an Andalucia Holiday

Who doesn’t love to try out new flavours and foods while travelling? indulging in the local cuisine is a huge part of the holiday experience, and never more so than in Spain where you can have the whole foodie world on a plate.

Here is our pick of some of the best local gourmet delights you can try while on holiday in Andalucia:

Sherry

The world famous pre-dinner drink originates from Jerez de la Frontera (the city is European Wine Capital 2014), home to household names such as Domecq and Harveys, and from a few other places inside the “Sherry Triangle” in Andalucia.

Sherry comes in several different varieties that pair beautifully with different kinds of food and is enjoying a real renaissance among wine circles lately.  Here is a quick guide on what to try:

Fino: light-coloured and very dry, this sherry comes from Jerez itself. Served cold and drunk as you would a good white wine, it goes perfectly with shellfish, jamí³n ibérico (see below) and mild cheeses.

Manzanilla: similar in colour and taste to fino, it too is served cold and best accompanies fish and shellfish. Fino and manzanilla are the least alcoholic of the sherry types and should not be kept once opened.

Amontillado: amber-coloured and smooth and rich in taste, amontillado goes well with white meats, oily fish and cured cheese.

Oloroso: dark and with a strong scent, this is also a dry sherry but with a more intense taste than fino. The intensity suits red meats and strong cheeses.

Palo seco: also dark, palo seco is strongly scented and flavoured. Good with game, foie gras and strong cheeses.

Pedro Ximenez: dark and sweet with a rich syrupy texture, Pedro Ximenez has a strong and intense flavour that pairs well with strong cheeses and desserts

Goats’ cheese from Ronda

The mountains that surround Ronda are some of the most beautiful in Andalusia. They’re also home to numerous goat herds who live at high attitude in wet conditions (the village of Grazalema near Ronda has the country’s highest rainfall) meaning excellent pasture and by extension, delicious cheese.

Most goats’ cheese from Ronda is made using traditional methods and brands to look out for are Flor de Ronda and Queso Payoyo.

Queso fresco: This ‘fresh cheese’ is a lowest-fat version, pure white and has a creamy, texture. It’s ideal in salads and on canapés with quince jelly or anchovies.

Rulo de cabra: You buy a slice of this from a roll with a thick white rind. This version combines superbly with apple and caramel in a green salad or an accompaniment to foie gras.

Queso semi-curado o curado: A harder type of cheese, semi-cured and cured goats’ cheese has a stronger taste than the fresh and usually has a dark yellow rind. This is best cut into small slices and eaten as a tapa, perhaps with cured ham (see below).

Queso Payoyo: Unique to this part of Andalusia, this strong cheese is fast gaining popularity in gourmet bars where it’s often served as a tapa.

Jamí³n ibérico de bellota

Andalusian cured ham is a highly prized gourmet treat especially when it comes to jamí³n ibérico de bellota. This creamier version than the regular cured ham comes from black pigs bred in the western area of Andalusia around Huelva. The pigs roam free around large oak-filled pastures all year and in the autumn, their diet consists almost entirely of acorns – look for the “Pata Negra” black label around the hoof.

The legs of ham are cured for 24-48 months and the end result is an intensely-flavoured meat that’s dark red in colour. Served in wafer-thin slices as a tapa, it’s a great accompaniment to a glass of fino sherry or intense red wine.

You can buy a whole leg (if kept in dry conditions, it will last for as long as it takes you to eat it!), although cutting ham is a fine art and probably best left to those in the know; pre-packed slices – open the packet a while before you plan to eat it to allow the ham to breathe; and off the leg in all good food stores – they slice off the amount you need.

As a general guide, the more expensive per kilo, the better quality the ham.

Olive oil

The backbone of all Mediterranean cooking, olive oil is one of Andalusia’s main exports and olive groves cover hectares of the region, particularly in the provinces of Cordoba and Jaen. Olive oil features at every meal in Andalusia – from the breakfast drizzle of toast to the evening salad dressing via biscuits and pastries.

Not only does olive oil taste good, its monounsaturated fat content make it a healthier substitute for butter and margarine. The best olive oil is unrefined and known as ‘virgin’ or ‘extra virgin’, and almost green in colour with an intense flavour. Indeed, the strongest extra virgin brands taste so strong they’re almost bitter.

When buying olive oil, go for the very best. Perhaps a good virgin oil for general use and a more expensive extra virgin for salad dressings and an occasional drop on pasta and rice dishes. You’ll find the best brands in good supermarkets and specialist shops such as D’Oliva in Marbella 

Convent cakes and pastries

In many convents in Andalusia, the nuns who live there are famed for their cake and pastry-making skills. They offer a range of homemade wares, known as dulces de convento, from simple magdalenas (plain sponge cupcakes) and almond biscuits to elaborate marzipan sweets and traditional Christmas delicacies.

At the entrance to the convent, there’s usually a list of produce, prices and opening times, a bell and a small sliding or revolving tray. You place your money on the tray, ring the bell and your purchases are delivered back on the tray. But don’t expect to see or hear the nun behind the convent walls!

We would love to hear about your own gourmet tips for Spain, so leave us a comment and let us know what you’ve tried and what you loved!

 

 

Spanish Summer Holiday Reading

Perhaps one of the best things about taking a villa break in the Summer is the chance to indulge in a couple of good books in a way that we rarely have time for during the rest of the year.

Our good friend Molly has kindly shared a couple of her top recommendations for this year’s Spanish summer reading list.  We would love to hear what you think of these books so please do leave us a comment if you have read them.

Three Novels set in Spain

1. Voices of Angels by Hannah M Davies

Andalucia novels

The Cabo de Gata in Andalucia, setting for the novel “Voices of Angels”

The main character of this novel, Lizzie is an English schoolgirl, misunderstood by her classmates. Having a bit of a schoolgirl crisis she flies out to Spain to spend the summer holidays away from it all. Her stay is with her Expat grandmother who lives in the countryside of Andalusia.

As I live in Andalusia I was curious to read this debut novel written by Hannah M Davis. It is quite a while since I was hooked on a book. After the first ten pages I couldn’t put it down. I already wanted to know what was going to happen next.

This story has a great balance of romance, mystery and drama. Soon after the opening page of the novel we discover that Lizzie has a unique gift. She can see when people are going to die. We experience the emotions that she goes through as we witness what this psychic power has in store for her.

As different plots in the story unfold, the tale becomes quicker moving and intense. The main characters of Lizzie, Rafa and Ariadne are well developed and you feel an involvement as a reader. I was satisfied with the description of Andalusia that the author depicts. The hills around Malaga, the beaches of Cabo de Gata and the characters in Andalusia really are true to life. I could even relate to some of the situations in the story. Even the hot summer sun and dust thrown up along the olive grove dirt tracks can almost be felt as you are turning the pages.

If you want a short intriguing novel and love Spain this is for you.

2. The Seamstress by Maria Dueñas  (Spanish title Tiempo entre Costuras)

Spanish summer reading, The Seamstress by Maria Duenas

The Seamstress by Maria Dueñas – Perfect Spanish Summer Reading

This novel is about a young woman, who is swept off her feet by a handsome man.

Set in Madrid, the main character´s hometown, it turns out that he is not as wonderful as she first thought. Although the tale begins in Madrid, it has many twists and turns and soon leads us to Tetuan, Morocco.

She ends up in Morocco alone and penniless. The war is raging in Madrid preventing her return. In the novel there are many interesting characters, providing depth and richness to the story.

As well as the trials and tribulations the protagonist experiences, the political situation in Spain at the time provides a dramatic backdrop to this captivating novel. (We are taken through streets of Tangiers, Tetuan, Lisbon and Madrid with wonderful descriptions, the destroyed and desolate city of Madrid is also a feature towards the end of the book.

The novel has romance, mystery and intrigue as well as historic references to some of the key characters in Spain at the time.

3. The City of Sorrows by Susan Nadathur

Novel set in Seville, Andalucia; City of Sorrows

Spanish Summer Reading: The City of Sorrows by Susan Nadathur

This recently released novel had me intrigued from the first page. How could a young Indian student, a wealthy Andalusian business man and a local gypsy who works as horse trainer be connected? The story begins in India but swiftly moves to Spain and is set in beautiful Seville.

The story begins with Rajiv a young Indian who defies his father when trying to set up an arranged marriage in his local village and leaves for other opportunities in Spain. Initially his adjustment to Andalusia is difficult but he soon fits into the lifestyle and makes friends.

Andres, a more complex character seems to have it all, from a wealthy family, he works with his father and is often aggressive towards his family and colleagues. As the novel moves forward his rage intensifies at the same time as we learn more of his past.

Diego, a gypsy living in a neighbourhood on the edge of Seville seems to have the world against him. Nothing seems to be going his way. We see a happy family man distraught with grief give into a darker life that he previously led at the stables.

The three stories are carefully intertwined by the author and will have you turning the pages quickly to discover each characters path. With the descriptions of Triana and the traditional Easter processions in Seville it really makes a captivating and intense read.

 

Reviews by Molly Sears-Piccavey

Molly Sears-Piccavey has lived in Spain since 1998, initially in Barcelona, but now lives in Granada. Working in Communication and PR, she uses her spare time to read books, she is a also a busy Blogger and a frenetic twitterer. Molly speaks fluent Spanish and English as well as some French and Catalan.

Have you read any of these books, or have a recommendation of your own to share? Leave a comment below

 

costa del sol white villages

Exploring the White Villages behind the Costa del Sol

To really get to know Andalucia it’s often best to head away from the crowds and instead seek out the quiet solace of village life. This is the perfect accompaniment to a relaxing villa break here in Spain.

In “Los Pueblos Blancos” you can escape the daily grind, and take a step back in time to a place where gentle fountains animate quaint town squares, and the slow pace of life is often interrupted only by children kicking around a ball, or by the town’s old folk enjoying animated debates at their favourite bench.

When you choose to spend a villa holiday on the Costa del Sol you can find a surprising number of charming sleepy villages within easy reach, just waiting to be explored. Here is a quick run through of some of our favourite white villages in Andalucia:

Casares

Casares is fifteen kilometres inland of Estepona, to the west of Marbella, in the Mšlaga province of of Andalucí­a. It is perched on the side of a mountain close to the Sierra Crestellina national park, approximately a twenty five minute drive from Estepona.

It is a breathtaking village which has been described as ‘sugar cubes’ on the side of the mountain and looks particularly stunning when lit up at night with the blue/green street lights. The best view is from the approach into Casares so be sure to take the time to stop and take in the sights before you get there.

Casares has a spectacular 12th century Moorish castle, several churches and chapels, each one as beautiful as the previous one, a visitor centre, fountain and is close to the Baths of La Hedionda which are Roman baths and sulphur springs said to have been used to cure a skin infection of Julius Caesar! It is known as the ‘Hanging Village’ due to its precarious location on the Cliffside. There are many great restaurants and tapas bars and lots of village shops to explore, if you are lucky you will see some eagles soaring above the cliffs around Casares.

As well as the national festivals such as of Andalucí­a day on the 28th of February, the Easter festivities and the Three Kings parades on the evening of the 5th of January, Casares has its annual feria in the second half of July and a second feria in the first week of August so it’s a great time to visit around then.

Frigiliana

Frigiliana is to the east of Mšlaga and only a ten minute drive from the coastal town of Nerja in the area of  Andalucí­a known as the Axarquia.

Voted most beautiful village in of Andalucí­a for several years running, the village’s cobbled streets gently wind up through the beautifully maintained white houses of the old town, splashes of colour wherever you look from the balconies and doorsteps full of beautifully kept flowers. The houses are painted every year and it is traditionally the women of the village who carry out this work.

Frigiliana has a great infrastructure including many shops, bars and fabulous restaurants, several hotels and a working molasses factory right in the centre of town. The streets are hilly here and there are beautiful mosaic covered steps leading to the tiny narrow residential streets from the main road.

The very famous Frigiliana festival, Festival de las Tres Culturas, is celebrated at the end of August each year, drawing crowds of hundreds to watch the fabulous concerts and many other festivities. There are also other fiestas throughout the year including Saint Sebastian day in January, the patron saint of Frigiliana. The day of the cross is in May each year and the annual Frigiliana feria is in June.

Gaucin

North of Casares, also to the west of Marbella, in the Mšlaga province of of Andalucí­a, is the white village of Gaucin. It is approximately nineteen km from Casares and a thirty minute drive from the coast.

Gaucin is around 600 metres above sea level in the Sierra del Hacho and has great views over Gibraltar and Morocco. It is surrounded by cork forests and because of this the local shops sell many items made from cork to tourists. The surrounding mountains provide a fabulous backdrop to the pretty white village, with contrasting colour from the wild poppies, orchids, olive groves and almond blossom.

At the very top of the village is a medieval castle, Castillo del Aguila or Eagle’s castle, where you can see eagles over the mountains as the name suggests. It is a sleepy, laid back town with a few similarly laid back bars and restaurants serving the traditional fayre of the area. The narrow winding streets of Gaucin have always been an inspiration for artists and photographers and there is a large artistic community here.

Among the many festivals of Gaucin, of particular note are the release of two bulls on Easter Sunday which are left to run around the village and chased by the more adventurous or crazy villagers. The annual feria is in August, around the fourth, and involves three days of live music, eating, drinking and dancing.

Iznšjar

Located north of the Costa del Sol in the Cordoba province of Andalucí­a is the beautiful town of Iznšjar. It is around one hour drive from Mšlaga and one hour from Granada.

Iznšjar has a unique location overlooking the Embalse de Iznšjar which is the largest lake in of Andalucí­a and has a lovely clean, sandy beach which is very popular in the summer months with whole families arriving in their cars, driving straight onto the beach, unpacking gazebos and tables and spending the day there swimming, sunbathing and eating. The village is nestled on a rocky outcrop with amazing views of the lake below. It is dominated by a majestic Moorish castle which is sadly in ruins but is lovely to walk to and the views from there are spectacular.

The village offers bars, restaurants and a lakeside hotel as well as a municipal museum. On the lake you can go fishing, learn to sail and you can rent out pedalos and kayaks from the campsite right on the beach. The lake is clean and safe to swim in and there are several beach bars to shelter from the sun in the hot afternoons.

The local festivals of Iznšjar include a fabulous carnival, with parades and dressing up, in February. The patron saint of Iznšjar, San Marco, has a special day on the 25th of April where the whole town heads off for picnics in the countryside. The feria is around the 7th of September every year and usually lasts for three days and includes a candlelight procession through the town.

Jimena

Jimena de la Frontera is in the province of Cadiz in Andalucí­a, it is about a thirty minute drive west of Gaucin and directly north of La Linea and the border of Gibraltar.

The village is surrounded by the Alcornocales Natural Park and is overlooked by a Moorish castle which was built around 750 A.D. It has been occupied since prehistoric times and here you can see cave paintings, at the archaeological site of La Laja Alta, which are the only examples of maritime cave paintings from the Bronze Age in Spain.

Transport links make Jimena easily accessible from all directions and the road and rail network is much improved in recent years. There are several beautiful churches and other buildings to visit. Other activities in the area include bike riding, horse riding and hill walking due to the proximity of the beautiful Natural Park.

As well as the national festivals of Spain, Jimena has several of its own throughout the year. The Carnival with parades of floats is in February, the agricultural fair is in the second week of May every year. There is an annual music festival in the second week of July and the Jimena feria is generally in the first week of September.

Mijas

Mijas pueblo (village) is a short twenty minute drive from Mšlaga airport in the Mšlaga province and is only fifteen minutes from the coast at La Cala de Mijas and Fuengirola.

Mijas is situated in the Sierra de Mijas mountains and is surrounded by beautiful pine forests. It has the best of both worlds with its white village charm, winding cobbled streets, breathtaking views and close proximity to the sea. If bullfighting is your thing, Mijas has its own bull ring which is still in use and is also used for horse displays. There is an auditorium which is used for concerts throughout the summer and there are also two museums to visit.

As well as being close to the coast, Mijas has its own fabulous infrastructure which includes shops and a wide and varied range of restaurants, all the usual supermarkets and other food shops and, perhaps best of all a chocolate factory!

Special festivals in Mijas include Mijas International day which is a multicultural festival giving people from all over the world the opportunity to tell others about their culture and lifestyle, it is usually held in the first week in May. San Juan is celebrated on the night of the 23rd of June and is the celebration of the longest night of the year with festivities including dancing and fireworks. 

Ronda

Ronda is in the Mšlaga province of Andalucí­a and is a one hour twenty minute drive from the airport at Mšlaga. It is situated north and inland of Marbella and Estepona.

The village of Ronda is third only to Seville and Granada in the most visited places in Andalucí­a. It is famous all over the world for being perched on the edge of the El Tajo gorge and offers fabulous views and countless photo opportunities. It is the modern birthplace of bullfighting and its bullring ‘Plaza de Torros’ is now a museum and attracts many thousands of visitors each year.

Ronda is accessible by road and rail, the drive to the village from the coast or from further inland is quite spectacular.  There are two tourist offices here and a whole host of fabulous shops selling traditional, and not so traditional, Spanish crafts and other goods.

The ‘Fiesta de la Virgen de la Paz’ is the celebration of the patron Saint of Ronda and is held on the 24th of January every year.  The feria is around the 20th of May and the main events of the year are held in the first week in September with the International Folklore Music and Dancing Festival and other festivities.

Viñuela

Viñuela is another white village in the Mšlaga province of Andalucí­a. It is inland of Velez Mšlaga, to the east of Mšlaga city, and is approximately fifty minutes from Mšlaga airport.

The stunning village of La Viñuela is set in the breathtaking landscape of the Axarquia and situated next to the man made reservoir of Lake Viñuela which provides the majority of drinking water for the local area. There are many luxury villas nestled in the hills with beautiful views over the lake and the lake itself boasts pretty beaches and non motorized water sports for all. There are picnic areas and barbecue areas all around the lake and the surrounding pine forests provide shade and a peaceful atmosphere for visitors.

La Viñuela was named after the local grape vines from which a delicious sweet wine is still produced today. The town is also famous for its local olive oil which is of particularly good quality. There are many arts and craft shops here including basket making and leather goods. There are also archeological sites in the village dating back to prehistoric, Roman and medieval times.

In May in La Viñuela there is a pilgrimage from the village to the hamlets of Los Gomez and Los Romanes for the Romeria which is a traditional gypsy festival. The annual feria is in mid July and there are three more ferias locally in early August, mid August and mid September.

Our readers would love to hear about your favourite white villages to visit from the Costa del Sol, just leave your comments below.

If you love the idea of exploring authentic Andalucia, then here are our top villa recommendations from our Andalusia Collection

Visiting Malaga in a day, Costa del Sol

Must-Sees for a Day in Malaga

One of our favourite places to spend a leisurely day out on the Costa del Sol is Malaga, a city that is full of charm and character, and surprisingly easy to visit.

Since the Picasso Museum opened ten years ago, Malaga has become a vibrant, happening city whose cultural attractions now rival those in Seville, Andalusia’s better known capital city.

Recent upgrades have turned what used to be a somewhat shabby historical centre into a chic and fashionable cultural capital that’s overflowing with things to do, which is now firmly on the Spanish map.  Visitor numbers and hotel occupation are at their highest ever and Malaga is now a definite must-see on any Costa del Sol to-do-list.

Getting around Malaga

Malaga is Spain’s sixth largest city, but it’s compact with most attractions within easy reach of the centre. And it’s mainly flat making it ideal for sightseeing on foot or bike. Several companies offer rental bikes and cycling tours round Malaga including Bike2Malaga, or there’s the open-top Malaga Tour Bus whose routes gives you a good overview of the sights including the Gibralfaro Castle overlooking the city.

Taxis are plentiful and usually easy to find in the centre either at Taxi ranks or flagging down a passing cab showing a green light, though with much of the city centre pedestrianised it can be quicker to walk than take a taxi.

Top tip for visiting Malaga in a day

Pick up an audio guide from the Tourist Office in Plaza de la Marina (guides are free but you need to show your passport and a credit card). The six themed guides walk you round the main sites in Malaga and each tour lasts around two hours, excluding time for visits to museums etc.

You can also book a private tour guide through The Luxury Villa Collection for a bespoke day in the city with a local expert. Our Art in Malaga or Malaga Tapas tours are both excellent ways to see a side to the city you might miss with a guidebook.

What to See in Malaga

Modern Art: Take in some contemporary art in Malaga’s up-and-coming Soho District situated between the river and port. Begin at the Contemporary Art Centre (Cacmalaga.org) housed in a 1940’s market where the permanent and temporary exhibitions showcase the latest trends in modern art. Entry is free and guided tours are available in English.

Before you leave the CAC behind, admire the two massive murals that backdrop the museum. Painted by graffiti artists Obey and D Face in late 2013, these are a taste of the street art that characterises the narrow streets in the Soho District with galleries and small restaurants and bars. For coffee and snacks, try Picnic (Barroso 10) or Señor Lobo (Somera 10).

If you’d like a further dose of cutting-edge art, head for the Pompidou Centre on Muelle Uno on the Port. The iconic multi-coloured cube gives you a taster of what’s inside where the permanent collection of very, very modern art is guaranteed not to leave you indifferent. Don’t miss the museum shop, packed of fun and unusual gift ideas.

Indoor Market: Malaga’s largest and most colourful market, is the Mercado de Ataranzas, whose recently restored building contains the original 14th-century Moorish gateway plus some stunning stained glass windows. Take your time to browse the stalls for fresh local produce including olives, dried figs and raisins, and Malaga sweet wine.

Calle Larios: Next stop is Malaga’s most famous street, the pedestrianised Calle Larios, which is also its busiest and has become the vibrant central spine of the city.

Some sort of cultural display usually lines this pedestrian street and musicians, magicians and human statues always provide entertainment. Admire the 19th-century architecture as you make your way to the Plaza de la Constitución square at the top. Pop into the Café Central to see the tiled board explaining the ten types of coffee you can ask for in Malaga.

‘One-armed Lady’: Stop to admire Malaga’s unfinished Cathedral, known as ‘La Manquita’ as it only has one finished tower. Interior highlights include the Pedro de Mena choirstalls and two giant 18th-century organs. And if you fancy a tour of the Cathedral rooftops, book your place at the Palacio del Obispo or online (Museosmalaga.net). It’s 200 stairs up, but the panoramic views of the city below you make the climb more than worth it.

Museum of Malaga: The newest arrival on the Malaga cultural scene – it opened in mid-December – this giant museum ranks as the fifth largest in Spain and houses a unique collection of priceless archaeological pieces plus Spain’s largest exhibition of 19th century Spanish art. Look out for the opening of the top-floor restaurant (due mid-2017) with some of the best dining views in town. Find them on their Facebook page.

Romans Meet the Moors: Take a stroll round Malaga’s best-preserved and largest Roman monument, the Theatre, now restored to its former glory. From here, visit the Alcazaba fortress, not in the same league as the Alhambra in Granada, but the ruins give you an excellent idea of an 11th-century Moorish palace and there are lovely views over Malaga.

Picasso Museum: This is one of the best museums to get an overview of all the Malaga-born artist’s styles from adolescence to his last days. All the works were donated by the Picasso family and the permanent works are complemented with excellent temporary exhibitions. Tours are available in English (Museopicassomalaga.org). The 15th-century palace also houses Roman and Moorish remains in the basement.

Museo Carmen Thyssen Malaga : Over 200 works, mainly Spanish paintings from the 19th century, from the Baroness Thyssen’s private collection (Carmenthyssenmalaga.org) are on show in this restored Baroque palace. Temporary exhibitions are worth visiting too as they often include paintings by the world’s masters.

Sky-high: Take a ride on the Malaga Ferris Wheel (find it to the right of the port entrance) for some more great views of the city. Time your twirl for sundown to make the most of the last light over the sea, port, mountains and Costa del Sol beyond.

Gibralfaro: If you’re feeling energetic, walk up the (very) steep pathway to this Moorish castle perched over Malaga’s old quarter. If not, take the tour bus or a taxi. Admire the sunset over Malaga and the Mediterranean while sipping a drink on the terrace at the Parador hotel.

Meal stops – a few of our favourites

El Palmeral, Palmeral de las Sorpresas (just inside port, near Plaza de la Marina) – Open all day for food and drink, specials here include innovative starters and traditional mains (the fideuš is excellent). Sit outside for prime views of the port and pergola walkway. Palmeralmalaga.com

El Pimpi, Granada 62 (near the Roman Theatre and Picasso Museum) – A long-running favourite with locals, this labyrinthine restaurant also has a great outdoor terrace overlooking the Roman Theatre. While the food’s can be so-so, the setting and general atmosphere more than make up for it. Elpimpi.com

Eboka, Pedro de Toledo (off Císter, near the Cathedral) – One of the newest restaurants in town and it’s already difficult to get a table without a reservation. Eboka takes traditional Spanish dishes, gives them a new twist and accompanies them with the perfect wine – ask Antonio the manager for advice on pairing. Ebokarestaurante.com

Mixtúrate Gastrobar, Casas de Campos 4 (in Soho, one block from Hotel Room Mate Valeria) – Brazil meets Asia in Malaga at this funky new restaurant in the heart of Soho where all the dishes are a feast for the senses. Don’t miss the dessert tray – take your pick of the Kilner jars and lick your lips to the very last spoonful. https://www.facebook.com/pg/mixturategastrobar/about/?ref=page_internal

For more restaurants in Malaga see our top picks here, and for additional ‘must sees’ in Malaga, check out the Guide to Malaga travel app Guidetomalaga.com.

Like the sound of these things to do in Malaga – and looking for a beautiful place to stay nearby? Check out our collection of luxury villas near Malaga.