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A Guide to Ronda in a Day

From poets to presidents, visitors to southern Spain have been making a beeline for Ronda since before Roman times.

The wandering Romantic writers of the 19th century waxed lyrical about the virtues of ‘La Ciudad Soñada’, the enchanted city; in the 20th century, Orson Welles and Ernest Hemingway came, saw and drank the bar dry.

The town is set on a rocky outcrop surrounded by lush, fertile plains that give way to sun-dappled cork forests and craggy mountains. Exposed and windswept in winter, broiling under a never-ending azure sky in summer, it has a wonderfully romantic, if slightly lonely, feel.

On a practical level, in spite of its rather isolated feeling location it’s actually easily reachable from Marbella or Malaga for a day trip. Here’s our guide to things to do in Ronda in a day to help you enjoy it…

Exploring on Foot

Ronda isn’t a large town, by any means, so the best way to get around is on foot. Take your time and try to explore without too much of a fixed agenda – even if time is ticking on a day trip. One of the most special things about Ronda is the myriad of little historic touches you can stumble across over the course of a day’s wandering – with an elaborate ironwork balcony or heavy studded wooden door here, and a tinkling fountain or a shady bougainvillea-filled square there, it all adds up to a marvellously photogenic sort of place.

Things to See & Do

Puente Nuevo

Puente Nuevo in Ronda

The most iconic monument in Ronda, the bridge that joins the spectacular gorge was reconstructed in 1759 to replace the previous bridge that fell down in 1749. The bridge took 42 years to complete and many workers died during the construction. In the centre of the bridge there’s a room which used to be the town’s prison and now holds a small exhibition on the bridge.

There are two ways to enjoy Ronda’s gorge: from above and from below. Try and see Puente Nuevo from as many different vantage points as possible, from the bottom of the gorge 120 metres down, from a restaurant (see below for a few great picks) and on the drive into Ronda.

Top tip: Take in the sunsets at the Mirador de Ronda or while walking through the Alameda del Tajo park – it faces west, so the views of the sun melting into the horizon are truly stunning.

La Casa del Rey Moro & La Mina

La Casa del Rey and La Mina in Ronda

One of our favourite Ronda sights – as it’s just so romantic – is the Casa del Rey Moro. While the name suggests it was the house of a Moorish King, the house which stands (only just) today was built in the 18th century with Moorish-style gardens being added by the renowned French landscape gardener Jean Claude Forestier in 1912.

Its real draw is a ‘water mine’ carved out of the bare rock in the 1300s as a way of getting water to the town when under siege by invading Christian armies. After winding your way down through 300 steps and a couple of interesting caverns, you finally emerge at the foot of the gorge on the banks of the babbling river. It’s a beautiful spot.

Opening times: Open every day from 10am-8pm.

Address: Calle Cuesta de Santo Domingo, 9, 29400 Ronda; Telephone: +34 952 18 71 19.

Plaza de Toros

Plaza de Toros, Ronda

Whether you approve of its purpose or not, Ronda’s bullring is well worth a visit. Bullfighting is synonymous with Andalucia. It’s inarguable. And to really get under the skin of the culture of the region, at least a moment should be spent studying it. There are few better places to do so than in Ronda.

Built in the 18th century and founded by the Royal Cavalry of Ronda it’s the home of modern bullfighting. The iconic – and very lovely – bullring has a museum full of interesting and insightful exhibits on the history of bullfighting.

Carrying on with the bullfighting theme, just outside Ronda is the Reserva Tauro Ronda farm where you can learn more about how the bulls are bred and raised. If you would like to have a personal visit with the Torero who owns the farm please do contact our Concierge who can arrange this with our private guides.

Top tip: If this is your first time experiencing bullfighting we would also recommend picking up ‘Death in the Afternoon’ by Ernest Hemingway as a holiday read.

Opening times: Open every day from 10am-8pm.

Address: Calle Virgen de la Paz, 15, 29400 Ronda; Telephone: +34 952 87 41 32; Rmcr.org.

Palaces & Gardens

Palacio de Mondragón

Ronda, Palacio de Mondragon

Once again, this palace is a mishmash of the Moorish and the Christian. While only part of the original Moorish architecture remains as the palace was remodelled in 1491, you can still expect arches, exposed decorative carvings and tiles, courtyards and a water garden at the rear of the palace that’s a miniature replica of one in the Alhambra.

Opening times: Monday to Friday from 10am till 7pm (6pm winter); Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays 10am till 3pm.

Entrance fee: 3.50€ individual; 2.75€ for a group of 10 or more, OAP or student under 26; children under 14 enter free.

Address: Plaza Mondragón, s/n, 29400 Ronda; Telephone: +34 952 87 08 18.

Arab Baths

There are a few places to see intact Moorish baths in Andalucia but Ronda is, in our opinion, possibly the best. Because the whole complex is so well preserved you can visit them from above and within as well as get a real sense of the working parts of a Moorish bath in the 11th century.

The word ‘baths’ is somewhat of a misnomer as the Moors used steam for cleansing and purifying, before entering the mosque which was almost invariably next door. There were however two small cold pools for cooling the blood – and catching up on the latest gossip as much as anything else – before heading back into the hot rooms.

Opening times: autumn and winter: Monday to Friday 10am till 6pm; Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays 10am till 3pm. Spring and summer: Monday to Friday 10am till 7pm; Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays 10am till 3pm.

Entrance fee: 3€ per individual; 1.50€ if part of a group of 10 or more, and children; free on Sunday.

Address: Calle Molino de Alarcon, s/n, 29400 Ronda.

Museo Lara

Museo Lara, Ronda

The Museo Lara contains an ambitiously broad collection ranging from the Spanish Inquisition to film and pottery via pretty much every other type of historical objet you could imagine. It’s ideal for a fun family visit, too, with gory torture weapons, swords and weird and wonderful witchcraft pieces scattered amongst the varied assortment of other bits and bobs. The museum takes about an hour to visit and is also housed in a handsome traditional townhouse with central patio.

Opening times: 11am – 8pm (7pm winter).

Entrance fee: 4€ standard; 2€ for students, pensioners and groups of 10 or more.

Address: Calle Armiñán, 29400 Ronda; Telephone: +34 952 87 12 63; Museolara.org.

Churches

Iglesia de Santa Maria La Mayor

As is so often the case in Andalucia, the roots of this church run deep: the Christians built on a mosque; the Moors built on Visigoth foundations; and the Visigoths erected their church on the remains of a Roman temple which probably stretched back to around 45BC.

Little is left to show from that ancient past, as the building that stands today was largely built in the wake of an earthquake in the late 16th century. These days, though, with its mishmash of Gothic and Renaissance styles it’s still a very pleasant place to nip into and escape the heat of the day.

Opening times: Mon-Sat 10am-8pm; Sundays closed.

Address: Plaza Duquesa de Parcent, 0, 29400 Ronda.

Iglesia del Espiritu Santo

Building work on this church began shortly after the town fell to the Catholic Kings in 1485. And if on first inspection it appears rather plain and austere-looking it’s because, joined to the city walls, its architects had to bear in mind a possible military function.

Look a little closer, and there’s plenty to enjoy inside and out, too: the main entrance is surrounded by a Mudejar-style alfiz, the typical panel that wrapped around the top of mosque doorways, while the ceilings are soaring vaulted affairs.

Tucked into the far southernmost corner of the old town, the location means you can also check out the impressive Almocabar gate, another dramatic relic from Ronda’s Moorish past.

Opening times: Monday-Saturday 10am-2pm; Sundays closed.

Address: Calle Espíritu Santo, 15, 29400 Ronda.

Restaurants & Places to Eat

Busy tapas bar

Restaurante Bodega San Francisco

Bodega San Francisco is a typical-in-every-way Andalucian tapas bar. As soon as you cross the threshold you couldn’t be anywhere other than southern Spain. It’s traditional in all the right ways – namely décor, service, food and drink. Order tapas from the bar or a plate of cold cuts and wash it down with a bottle from an extensive list of local Ronda wines. This is a local haunt, and while there’s seating outside, it’s inside where the charm and atmosphere lies (not to mention the air-conditioning!)

Address: Plaza Ruedo de Alameda, 27, Ronda; Telephone: +34 952 87 81 62; Bodegasanfrancisco.com.

Tragata

With its mismatched seating, industrial-style metal tables, quirky basket lights and bare bulbs hanging over the bar, Tragata has a pronouncedly modern look and feel compared to most other more traditional Ronda restaurants. The food follows suit, too, with Asian and Moroccan flavours rubbing shoulders on the menu with imaginative takes on classic Spanish dishes. It has an invitingly lively vibe inside, whether you choose to sit at the bar or high tables, and outside on long summer evenings it’s very pleasant indeed.

Address: Calle Nueva, 4, 29400 Ronda; Telephone: +34 952 87 72 09; Tragata.com.

Abades Ronda Restaurante

Adades-Restaurant-Ronda

Set on the gorge with a huge terrace, this restaurant has some of the best views in town. The service is pleasingly formal, while the food is excellent and elegantly presented (with mouth-watering tenderloin of acorn-fed Iberian pork being a particular favourite on LVC’s last visit). An extensive wine list with a good choice of cavas caps off an inviting all-round offering.

Address: Paseo Blas Infante, 1, 29400 Ronda; Telephone: +34 952 87 13 67. Abadesronda.com.

Like our guide to things to do in Ronda and tempted by the idea of spending a day (or more) in the town? Check out our selection of nearby villas.

Exploring the Wines of Andalucia – More Than Just a Sweet Affair

Wines in La Axarquia

Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Cava and Albariño are the big names in Spanish wine. It’s well known that to the north of Spain the land is ideal for vineyards. While in southern Spain with its hot climate and mountainous terrain it was left for fortified wines. However, not any more…

Up until 2000 Andalucia was famed only for its excellent fortified wines from Cadiz, Cordoba and Malaga provinces. However, in recent years small providers have been working hard in Granada, Malaga, Cadiz and Huelva producing dry whites, sparkling wines, rosés and reds that are starting to give the well-known wine regions of the North a run for their money.

Here at the Luxury Villa Collection we have discerning tastes when it comes to what ends up in our glass at the end of the day. And although there are a lot of new bodegas (wineries) in Andalucia, not all Andalucian wines are good. We’ve had great fun (hiccup) picking the best bodegas to visit.

Malaga Province

Axarquia Region

This mountainous region to the east of Malaga is famed for its avocados, mangos and sweet wine. Its white villages are pretty, charming, authentic and home to many food-related fiestas throughout the spring and summer.

Bodegas Bentomiz

bodegas bentomiz with mountains

Address: Finca El Almendro, Pago Cuesta Robano, 29752, Sayalonga, Malaga

What: The bodega building itself is a handsome, modern, slate affair which is strikingly bold in its very rural setting. Wine tastings are paired with nibbles of food, but the set course lunches they offer are exceptional so don’t miss them. The chef (and owner) has been trained by one of the best chefs in the province.

Products: Aromatic red, rosé, white and sweet wines under the Ariyanas label.

We love: Their 100% Moscatel de Alejandrí­a, sweet Terruño Pizarroso (a typical Malaga wine) and their rosé, Ariyanas Romé Rosado, is absolutely perfect on hot evenings.

Point of difference: They cork with reusable glass stoppers – very chic and a useful memento.

More information: Bodegasbentomiz.com 

Ronda 

Ronda has a wine-making heritage which goes all the way back to Roman times, and has been recently revived. There are 18 wineries (on our last count) so more than enough to warrant a private chauffeur and a whistle stop tour of a few of them.

The town itself is in a magical setting and packs quite a punch in terms of sightseeing credentials, so coupling up a day wine tasting with cultural sights is ideal. Whether you choose to wine taste before or after visiting the town there’s plenty to enjoy from palaces and pretty squares, to a traditional bull ring and the famous old bridge.

Descalzos Viejos

descalzos viejos wine barrels

Address: Finca Descalzos Viejos, Pdo. de los Molinos, Apartado de Correos 365, 29400, Ronda, Malaga

What: A restored convent building steeped in history. With its frescos, vaulted ceilings and atmospheric feel it’s not only one of our favourite bodegas in Spain, but anywhere else in the world, too.

Products: Red and white wine as well as a sweet wine called Dv Mí­nima – which is absolutely delicious. All wines have the D.O. Sierra de Malaga seal of approval.

We love: There are no set tours; each tour is specific upon request.

Point of difference: The vineyards are in the gorge of Ronda, making it a spectacular setting and within easy reach of the town for a spot of sightseeing.

More information: Descalzosviejos.com

Joaquín Fernández

Horse Riding Through A Vineyard in Spain

Address: Finca los Frutales, Paraje Los Frontones, 29400, Ronda, Malaga

What: An organic winery created in a self-sustainable ecosystem.

Products: Red, rosé and a blush wine.

We love: The rural setting and the in-depth explanations provided in to mixing traditional methods with new technology and organic procedures.

Point of difference: You can go on a horse riding tour through the vineyard – that’s pretty special.

More information: Bodegajf.es 

Cadiz Province 

Cadiz province is very much the Andalucia wine heartlands. Home to the Sherry Triangle – Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlucar de Barrameda and Puerto de Santa Maria – in Cadiz province it’s all about sweet and dry Sherry. If you’re not familiar with Sherry, don’t let that put you off – it’s an incredibly versatile, rich and complex wine. Some of these wineries have been producing wines for hundreds of years, and with this heritage comes quality. On a tasting in Cadiz province you will be taken on a journey through history and will know your different Sherries at the end of it, from sun-drenched sweet Pedro Ximénez to the salty dryness of Manzanilla.

Puerto de Santa Maria 

On the Atlantic coast the old town of Puerto de Santa Maria is filled with cobbled streets, traditional fish restaurants and an imposing Moorish fortress.

Bodegas Gutierrez Colosia

wine barrels gutierrez colosia

Address: Avda. Bajamar, 40, 11500 El Puerto de Santa Marí­a, Cšdiz

What: One of the area’s smaller wineries, Bodegas Gutiérrez Colosí­a is family owned and a beautiful example of a typical southern Spanish bodega.

Products: Sherries – Fino, Amontillado, Pedro Ximénez, Oloroso, Palo Cortado – and Brandies.

We love: It’s very atmospheric and romantic; they offer great tapas and the family have a real understanding of flamenco (a show can be arranged).

Point of difference: Beside the Guadalete River in the charming El Puerto de Santa Maria it makes for a wonderful day out.

More information: Gutierrezcolosia.com

Sanlucar de Barrameda 

Sitting alongside the Guadalquivir estuary, the town of Sanlucar old quarter (Barrio Alto) is delightful. The town is famed for its wide, golden beaches, seafood, beach horse racing and its salty Manzanilla wine.

Barbadillo

wine barrels in barbadillo bodega

Address: Luis de Eguilaz, 11, 11540, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Cádiz

What: Barbadillo is one of the oldest and largest family bodegas in Andalucia as well as being home to the Manzanilla Museum.

Products: White, red and sparkling as well as Sherries (Manzanilla, Oloroso, Amontilado, Palo Cortado, Creams, Pedro Ximénez) and Brandies.

We love: The Cathedral of Manzanilla, where the barrels are kept – it truly is enormous. The beginner’s wine tasting course gives a good understanding of Sherry and gets you prepared to sound like you know what you’re talking about even if this is your first foray into Sherry.

Point of difference: Barbadillo has 17 wine cellars covering 75,000 m2!

More information: Barbadillo.com

Jerez de la Frontera 

A visit to Andalucia wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Jerez – the home of the Spanish Riding School, the Buleria (a type of flamenco) and Sherry. It’s a beautiful city with great restaurants, a wonderful food market and many, many wineries.

Las Bodegas Marqués del Real Tesoro y Valdespino

Manzanillla La Guita bottle & barrels

Address: Ctra. Nacional IV, Km. 640, 11408 Jerez de la Frontera, Cádiz

What: Many famous Sherry household names (La Guita and Real Tesoro for instance) sit under the Estévez Group who own the cellars of Marques del Real Tesoro y Valdespino.

Products: Cava, Brandy and Sherries (Manzanilla, Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso, Palo Cortado, Cream, Pedro Ximenez).

We love: The modern art gallery which is part of the cellar – look out for the Picasso prints as well as works from Dali, Botero and Miro.

Point of difference: Three very unique experiences in one: a vineyard and winery, art gallery and stud to the rare, black cloaked, pure breed Spanish horses (pure Andalucian horses are usually grey and these are black).

More information: Grupoestevez.es

More Details – When Should You Visit?

The vineyards and wineries are open all year round. However, the harvest is carried out mainly in August and September (sometimes stretching to October depending on the weather). So to see the fields and hills full of harvesters and the grapes being selected and crushed September is the time to book. If you want to visit some of the boutique bodegas around the Malaga or Ronda area then do contact our Concierge who can organise an excellent guided tour in small private groups with a door to door service.

Enjoy exploring the wines here in Andalucia – and don’t worry: all the bodegas ship abroad.

Like our guide to exploring Andalucia’s wine? Try out some of the wines mentioned at one of our pick of the best restaurants in Malaga and Marbella.

Things to Do in Granada in a Day

When visiting Granada, the Alhambra palace is always going to be high on any visitor’s itinerary. With its intricate carvings, magical gardens and marvellous views of the city you’ll need at least two or three hours to take in this breathtaking monument. Make sure you book well in advance (Alhambra-patronato.es) to avoid disappointment.

Ideally, any visitor should really allow at least three days to properly explore the city, but if you’re only visiting on a whistle-stop tour, here are a few unmissable things to do in Granada in a day…

One: Walk from Plaza Nueva to Sacromonte

granada, sacromonte, alhambra

Granada seen from The Sacromonte Barrio (Source: FlickrCC SnippyHollow)

A stroll from the city’s central and crowded Plaza Nueva up to the iconic gypsy barrio, Sacromonte, is the best way to discover Granada’s historic area either before or after you’ve seen the Alhambra. Along the way, you’ll find plenty of interesting sites such as El Bañuelo – a free to visit, Arab bathhouse dating from the 11th century – and Paseo de los Tristes, probably the city’s most popular spot to grab a coffee or a tapas and admire the view of orange trees and Alhambra towers looming above.

Once you’ve reached the top of Cuesta de Chapí­z – a steep hill that will leave you gasping for breath – take a left past Jardines de Zorraya (a well-known Flamenco venue) and carry on until you reach Plaza Larga. This is a bustling square filled with fruit markets, timeworn cafes and nattering old Spanish ladies. Pure Granada.

From Plaza Larga take the right turn up Calle Agua del Albayzin, which will take you the rest of the way to Sacromonte. A great place to stop and admire the view is Sacromonte’s tiny Chiringuito, which offers cheap beer and soft drinks. With the Alhambra perched on one side of the valley and the Albayzin tumbling down the other, there really is no better view in town.

Two: Explore the City Centre

cathedral, granada

The Cathedral of Granada (Source: FlickrCC maveric2003)

Back in the city centre, if there’s time, head to the Corral del Carbon (Alhambra.info). This building dates back to around 1336, when it was used as an inn for merchants of the silk trade, but over the years has had many uses. There would probably have been hundreds of these buildings in Spain but, sadly, very few still stand today. For this reason it has great historic significance and is an excellent example of a Moorish-dating construction in superb condition.

Those with an interest in Royal Spanish history would enjoy a visit to the Capilla Real, where the Catholic Kings Isabel and Ferdinand are buried. The mighty Cathedral also forms part of the sample complex and can be visited alongside the Royal Chapel.

ferdniand, isabel, reyes catolicos, granada, capilla real, royal chapel

Catholic King & Queen Ferdinand and Isabel at The Royal Chapel (Source: FlickrCC z_wenjie)

Close to the Cathedral, Plaza Bib Rambla was once the entrance to the city of Granada. Still an important place for festivities and markets, this picturesque square is a great place to stop off for a cool beer or a coffee in the heat of the day. The nearby streets of the Alcaiceria where silver and exotic silks were once traded still have the feel of a Moroccan souk today.

Three: Grab a Tapa

tapas bar, calle navas, granada

A Busy Tapas bar on Calle Navas, Granada (Source: FlickrCC daquellamanera)

Come lunchtime you’ll want to make the most of Granada’s tapas scene, famed for its agreeable pricing structure; that’s to say, tapas come for free with any alcoholic or soft drink. One of the best spots to find a wide selection of tapas bars is Calle Navas, just up from the Town Hall. The street is quite narrow and some of the outdoor furniture virtually blocks your path as you weave your way through the standard bundle of bodies. The atmosphere is electric and the food made fresh.

Four: Explore the Albayzin

albayzin, albaicin, granada

The Albayzin Barrio, Granada (Source: FlickrCC julianrdc)

Also not to be missed are the Arab tea shops and hookah bars along Caldereria Nueva, close to Calle Elvira. This is in the lower part of the Albayzin and is an emblematic part of Granada.

If you continue up Caldereria Nueva and follow the cobbled path that leads upwards at the top, you will eventually arrive at el Mirador de San Nicolas, easily the city’s most popular viewpoint since it is directly opposite the Alhambra behind which the Sierra Nevada mountains are visible. The view is best on a clear winter’s day, when the mountains, underneath a bright blue sky, are covered in snow.

Five: Dine in Style

For something completely different and indicative of Granada’s modern-day attractions, the Panoramic 360º (Panoramic360.es) revolving restaurant is worth splurging on if you still have time at the end of your day. It is the only one of its kind in Spain, and can be found on the outskirts of the city past the Palacio de Congresos. This unique setting offers diners views of the Sierra Nevada mountains, the Alhambra, Albayzin and Sacromonte barrio, as well as a panoramic view over the city of Granada itself.

Planning a daytrip to Seville, too? Have a read of our post on ‘Seeing the Best of Seville in a Day‘ to get some ideas.

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.

Planning the Perfect Destination Wedding in Spain

There’s no denying the increasing popularity of destination weddings, nor the recent explosion of wedding services here in Spain – why spend time worrying about the Great British Weather and crazy expenses, when you can whisk yourselves off to the glorious sunshine for a wedding to remember for all the right reasons?

We recently caught up with Lucy and Jesus in Benalmadena Pueblo, who just launched the latest addition to the Spanish wedding scene, swapping their high-paced London lifestyles for the utterly gorgeous Boutique Wedding Co…

Tell us a bit about your wedding planning service

We offer couples getting married in Spain an alternative type of bespoke wedding planning service; we don’t offer packages or try to shoe-horn our clients into an existing services, everything we create is unique to each couple. We want to help create the dream Spanish wedding day from start to finish, delighting our couples and their guests with a perfectly planned, organised wedding, executed with style, grace and taste!

What made you become wedding planners in Spain and not London for example?

We both love Spain so much and have a lot of history here. Jesus is from Cadiz and I have travelled here for the past 23 years as I previously lived in Southern Spain and Barcelona.

For us it was about launching a business in the place we love the most in the world, and the fact that Andalusia is such a perfect place for a destination wedding is just the icing on the cake! My father has lived in the white hill top village of Vejer de la Frontera for 20 years, and with Jesus’s family here, it also makes great sense from a family perspective too!

Through the Boutique Wedding Co. we are getting a chance to share our love of Andalucia with our clients, make their wedding dreams come true and take them on an adventure to one of the most beautiful and culturally rich places in Europe!

What are the main challenges couples face when trying to arrange a wedding in Spain?

There can be all kinds of challenges when organising a wedding in Spain if you are not from the area, but it will be more than worth it! The key things we hear about from exasperated couples are:

1. The first challenge is obviously the language barrier, even if a couple chooses a venue with an employee that speaks English, they may not speak enough to really understand their dreams and design objectives for their wedding day.

2. Secondly, searching for a venue in which to hold a wedding ceremony or celebration can be a real headache, because unless you know the area really well it can be hard to shortlist different locations and types of venues, and there is just never enough time to visit them all.

3. Similarly, co-ordinating with suppliers (often in Spanish) and getting everything scheduled for the correct timings is a difficult task in your own country let alone from 2,000 miles away.

4. Understanding the laws of marriage in Spain and dealing with the paperwork is a huge challenge, Spain is famous for its frustrating bureaucracy so it helps to have someone to hold your hand through this bit.

5. Finally, if you are getting married abroad then just co-ordinating your friends and family and actually getting them to the destination to celebrate your special day is a challenge in itself, even just for the time it takes to organise when you could be spending time trying on dresses and choosing colour palettes 😉

So what should couples look out for in the ideal wedding venue?

Spanish hacienda wedding in Marbella

(c) Romance Weddings, Styling by The Boutique Wedding Co.

The ideal wedding venue from the perspective of The Boutique Wedding Co. should be luxurious, spacious (enough room to allow the bride and groom some privacy from the rest of the group), preferably with great views or in an extra special location.

The best venues have at least 3 distinct entertainment areas, terraces or courtyards, like the wedding photographed here that we did at Hacienda Madronal. That way, you can celebrate the different elements of your wedding day, letting it all flow with ease. In Summer, a swimming pool is a must, and ideally we need to be able to play music till at least midnight.

Being within an hour an a half of your chosen airport, as well as in being in an area with interesting things to see and do is also a bonus, but equally there are some more remote venues that are just like Paradise for weddings!

Finally, it doesn’t hurt to to have a Plan B with a roof on it if you are getting married outside of June, July, August and September, it does sometimes rain in Spain!

And if the happy couple want more than just the wedding?

Customer service and quality should be top of the list for any wedding planner, because its not only about the wedding day, its also about creating a whole wedding experience. Most of our clients come to Spain for a week or more, to fully enjoy their time away. An extended stay on the Costa gives anxious brides time to relax and prepare for their wedding day, and a little time to explore too.

Through The Luxury Villa Collection Concierge we can offer tours, trips, experiences and even arrange for sports activities, Yoga, Meditation or Pilates classes at the venue. We can also assist with all the little details from booking the wedding party’s travel and accommodation to arranging trips, tours, restaurant bookings and transfers.

Many of our luxury wedding venues have a strong ecological and foodie ethos, so we can also provide top class chefs and wedding feasts prepared from locally produced and organically grown food – some villa even have their own produce such as wine, cheese and Olive Oil.

Spanish hacienda wedding in Marbella

(c) Romance Weddings, Cake and Dessert station- Omaya at Marbella Cake Couture

To round up, here are some top tips for planning a destination wedding in Spain:

1: We would definitely recommend that you plan ahead, Getting married in Spain has become very popular and the best wedding venues get booked up 12 – 18 months in advance, especially in peak months like May and June.

2: Consider your guest list – the range of wedding an celebration villas on offer in Spain is as varied as the people who choose to visit, but it’s important to consider the mix of people you expect to join you – for example, will the children need to be entertained if you get married on a mountain hilltop, or will Grandad be able to afford the only 5 star hotel within a 20 mile radius of your luxury villa? Is there space for everyone to be comfortable under the same roof for a few days, or maybe there is an option to rent some cheaper apartments nearby?

3: Summer weddings in Spain get extremely hot! Coming along in full suit jackets and ties to a 3pm wedding in August might not be the best idea, and this is the reason why a lot of Spanish weddings take place later in the evening and celebrate into the night. You do need to think about guests being comfortable (and yourselves!) so it may be a good idea to let your guests off the “formal attire” hook slightly.

4: Know the legalities – make sure you do your research in advance to make sure you know all about the paperwork and legal requirements of getting married in Spain so when your big day comes around, all the boring stuff has been confidently dealt with.

5: The top tip would be would be to hire a wedding planner to manage as much or as little as you like – many wedding planners will offer flexible packages and your sanity will thank you for it later!

Find out more about The Boutique Wedding Co. at their website http://www.boutiqueweddingsinspain.com/  and if you are looking for the perfect luxury villa for your Spanish wedding, Check out our collection of wedding villas in Spain.

Have you recently got married in Spain? What was your experience like, were there any venues or suppliers you would recommend? Please leave us a comment below about your own Spanish wedding dreams and tips!

luxury villa el madronal, benahavis

El Madronal: Marbella’s Secret Hideaway

Marbella’s well known for attracting A-list celebrities and VIPs, and the paparazzi are often out in force snapping shots of the latest famous arrival. Getting away from the paparazzi in the resort itself can be challenge, but there is somewhere you can stay in complete privacy and still enjoy all that Marbella and Puerto Banus have to offer.

El Madronal Marbella

Sublime setting for Villa Cezanne

This peace and quiet can be found in an idyllic country retreat in the foothills of the Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park, yet just a short drive from Marbella and the coast. It might be close in distance but this tranquil refuge is a world away from the glitz and glamour in bustling Puerto Banus. Here, you’ll find yourself in the heart of typically Mediterranean landscape with the Mediterranean and Strait of Gibraltar stretching beneath you.

El Madronal gated development sits above the Guadaiza River valley on the mountain side forested with pines, cork oaks and aromatic shrubs. Carpetted in wild flowers in spring and in a riot of colour in autumn , it’s home to a long list of fauna – wild boars, deer and mountain goats – as well as numerous species of birds.

This natural paradise rubs shoulders with neighbouring La Zagaleta, one of the richest postcodes in Spain, and has been earmarked by the rich and famous as somewhere to get away from prying eyes (and the cameras) since the 1950’s when the first millionaires built their exclusive retreats here. The development has been designed to provide space and privacy. Plots are at least 2,600 square metres so there’s plenty of scope for spacious houses and large gardens. All come with sweeping views – on clear days, you can see the different peaks that make up the Rif Mountains in Morocco on the other side of the Mediterranean.

El Madronal villa

The Peaceful Surroundings of El Madronal

Luxury is key to describing homes in El Madronal – alongside spacious living go sumptuous furnishings and fittings, infinity pools, manicured gardens, state of the art technology, staff accommodation and room for several cars. All within natural surroundings where the silence is only broken by birdsong.

High security on the complex translates into total privacy. Numerous high-profile politicians, executives and businesspeople have escaped from their daily grind here for a welcome break. And plenty of celebrities have taken holidays in El Madronal far from the long lenses of the paparazzi. But discretion is absolute so you never know who’s staying until they’re long gone – as fans of One Direction has just discovered.

Celebrity homes on the development include the estate belonging to the film star Madeleine Carroll, known as the ‘iceberg maiden’ and star of Hitchcock’s ’39 Steps’. Her magnificent El Madronal home was one of the first to be built and she spent her retirement here. You can get a taste of a Hollywood retreat by renting the large country mansion, Hacienda Madronal 2.

Luxury private villa Hacienda Madronal 2 in Marbella

Luxury Andalucian Hacienda Owned by A-list celebrities in El Madronal

El Madronal was also home to El Cortijo recording studio where singers and musicians have taken inspiration from the tranquil surroundings to compose and produce. Icelandic star Bjork composed her iconic track ‘So Broken’ here in 1997; Cher, Roxette and Mariah Carey stayed while they worked on albums as did the Swedish group The Cardigans.

As well as relaxing and soaking up the panoramic views from your terrace and pool, you may want to explore some of Andalucia during your stay at El Madronal. The bright lights of Marbella and Puerto Banus are, of course, just a short drive away as are some world-class golf courses and sandy beaches. But venture a little further afield and you can sample some of the very best Andalucia has to offer.

Continue up the mountain road and you’ll find yourself in Ronda – one of southern Spain’s most stunning white towns with its plunging river gorge, typical Andalucian architecture and monuments such as the Arab Baths and one of the oldest bullrings in Spain. Be sure to try some of the local Ronda wine at the excellent restaurants and tapas bars in the town or visit one of the vineyards.

Ronda, Idylicc place to visit during Andalucia holidays

Stunning Ronda, just half an hour from El Madronal

The vibrant city of Malaga is also just a short drive away with plenty of things to do and see including the Moorish fortress, Baroque cathedral and art museums including the Picasso Museum. Leave some time for shopping – don’t miss the local produce at the Atarazanas market – and go then for a leisurely lunch at one of the many fine restaurants in the old quarter and on Muelle Uno in the port where you’ll find Juan Carlos Garcí­a’s Michelin-starred restaurant.

With its unique location and magnificent properties, El Madronal allows you to enjoy the best of both worlds on holiday – you can relax in total peace and quiet or pop out to nearby resorts and tourist attractions. And as one of the most private places in Spain, no one need ever know you’re there.

For places to stay in and around El Madronal please take a look at our collection below, or contact us today for an availability check and quotation.

 

Villa Azure luxury villa Zagaleta Marbella
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Villa Azure

Villa Azure is a stylish contemporary 5/6 bedroom luxury villa for rent in La Zagaleta with concierge, indoor pool and panoramic views above Marbella.
Casa Alegre, Benahavis
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Casa Alegre

Casa Alegre is the epitome of rural Andalusian elegance, a Benahavis luxury country villa full of handmade luxuries and one-of-a-kind antiques in a tasteful mountain home by the river. 5 Bedrooms sleeping 10. Prices from £4,950 to £8,950 per week, staffed property.
The Retreat modern luxury villa Ronda
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The Retreat

A stylish Spanish Cortijo with endless panoramas, scenic countryside, luxury amenities, character antiques and five-star service. Plenty of space for large families, destination weddings or events. 6+1 bedrooms sleeping 14. Prices from £6,000 to £9,600 per week, fully staffed.
Villa Cezanne Benahavis Marbella luxury villa
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Villa Cezanne

Villa Cezanne is a picture-perfect modern villa, with breath-taking Mediterranean panoramas, 4 bedrooms, 3 living rooms, office, bodega and games room, sleeping 11. Prices from £6,400 to £9,950 per week.
Finca La Buena Benahavis Luxury Villa
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Finca La Buena

Set on 600 wooded acres in Benahavis near Marbella, Finca La Buena is a traditional Spanish manor farmhouse steeped in class and elegance, worthy of the Aristocracy, and yet welcoming and homely. 10 Bedrooms sleeping 19+3. Prices from £20,500 to £26,700 per week, fully staffed.
Villa Vivaldi La Zagaleta luxury villa
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Villa Vivaldi

Villa Vivaldi is serenely removed from the hustle of Puerto Banus, offering a luxury villa rental in exclusive La Zagaleta. This classical yet modern 7-bedroom villa blends fine art, elegant style and refined luxuries with incomparable Mediterranean vistas.
luxury castle rental villa Marbella
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Hacienda de Madronal 2

Hacienda Madronal 2 is a 7 bedroom luxury estate set in private woodland, once owned by a Hollywood actress and a Rock Star. The Hacienda sits in the beautiful Madroñal area to the north of Marbella, with stunning views of the coastline and wooded hilltops. Located just an hour from Malaga and 45 minutes from the stunning hilltop town of Ronda. 7 bedrooms sleep 13, with prices from £4,350 to £9,400 per week.
wedding villa venue marbella
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Hacienda de Madronal 1

Hacienda Madronal 1 is a 9/10 bedroom luxury estate set in private woodland in the beautiful Madronal area to the north of Marbella, with stunning views of the coastline it is the perfect location for Spanish weddings and family gatherings. Located just an hour from Malaga and 45 minutes from stunning hilltop town of Ronda. Sleeps 18-20 guests. From £6,000 to £12,500 per week, staffed villa.
Luxury 7 bedroom villa near Marbella
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The Madronal Collection, Villa 2

7 Bedroom Luxury Madroñal Villa With Indoor Pool & Self Contained Apartment. Sleeps 18. From £8,365 to £23,075 per week.

 

Seeing the Best of Seville in a Day

Staying in a villa on the Costa del Sol offers the perfect opportunity to see the best of the Andalucian cities like Seville and Granada, as they can easily be reached in a day.

Thanks to the excellent Andalucia road network it’s perfectly possible to spend a day in Seville while staying on the coast.  To get the most out of your trip you will want to know the best things to do, so here are five must-sees for visiting Seville in a day.

Our Top Tips For a Day in Seville

Seville is the quintessential Andalusian city where fine monuments, haunting flamenco and fragrant orange blossom come together to make it one of Spain’s most romantic cities. The capital of Andalucia and home to the regional government, Seville is a bustling metropolis with a long list of cultural and leisure attractions.

Divided by the winding Guadalquivir River, Seville has a skyline is dominated by the Moorish Giralda tower (the city’s symbol) and the ultra-modern Pelli Tower (Andalusia’s tallest building). Seville is somewhere to take your time over as you soak up the atmosphere in the Santa Cruz and Triana districts, stroll along the river or explore the Arenal, home to the world’s most famous bullring La Maestranza.

It’s worth dedicating a couple of days to this lively city if you can, and we would be happy to assist with arranging “A Spoily Sleepover” in the city with our private guides. But if you only have a day to spend in the city, here are five unmissable things to do in Seville.

Alcšzar

This Moorish-style palace is Seville’s answer to the Alhambra in Granada. The fine rooms and patios were commissioned by Pedro I, the Christian king who reigned in this part of Andalusian during the 14th century. The craftsmanship is on a par with the Alhambra since the building was done by Moorish workers based in Granada. Admire the delicate stucco and decorative tiling throughout as well as the characteristic keyhole arches and courtyards.

Highlights in the Mudejar masterpiece – still used by the Spanish royal family as a residence – include the intricate Patio de las Doncellas, sumptuous Sala de los Embajadores where ambassadors were received and the antique and tapestry-packed Royal Chambers. The gardens are a treat for the senses with bougainvillea, orange blossom and fountains at every turn.

Cathedral

Visit Seville in a day

The Iconic Giralda Tower in Seville

Everything about Seville’s Cathedral is big -it’s the largest in Spain and the third largest in the world. Started in the early 15th century, it’s also the world’s largest Gothic building. This giant ochre structure was built on top of the Moorish mosque, completely demolished except for the minaret.

Inside this vast place of worship, admire the main chapel whose altarpiece is the largest in the world, the monument to Christopher Columbus (it contains some of his remains – the whereabouts of the others is much debated), the Royal Chapel with the tombs of several monarchs and the Orange Tree Patio whose central fountains were originally used for ablutions by worshippers at the mosque.

Next, climb the minaret, the original 12th Moorish tower with its later additions of 24 bells and the weather vane in the form of a bronze statue of Faith. Known as the Giraldillo (small turning object), the vane gave its name to the Giralda Tower, the city’s most famous landmark. The ascent to the top is unusually via ramps, built to allow soldiers on horseback to climb the tower. The panoramic views of Seville are well worth the climb and give you a good idea of the city’s layout.

Santa Cruz

This corner of the city is a maze of alleyways, squares and whitewashed houses. Lose yourself as you wander round the narrow streets, pausing to admire the typically Andalusian wrought-iron grills and flower-filled balconies, dip into the curio-packed antique shops or enjoy a fino sherry and tapa at one of the outdoor cafés.

If you have time, visit the Casa de Pilatos (so-called because the 16th mansion is supposedly modelled on Pontius Pilate’s house in Jerusalem) with its exceptional Andalusian tiles, Renaissance architecture and lovely patio.

Santa Cruz is also home to a must for flamenco fans – the Flamenco Museum where displays explain the background and art behind Spain’s best-known music. Shows and classes are also held here.

Parque de Maria Luisa

This lovely park brings some welcome respite from Seville’s hustle and bustle. If you don’t fancy exploring the park on foot, hire a horse and carriage to take you round. Small cafés provide perfect stops for refreshment.

The park, a mixture of formal gardens and parkland, was redesigned for the 1929 World Fair (Seville also hosted the event in 1992) and houses several pavilions including the magnificent Plaza de España. Here, each of Spain’s provinces is represented in a tiled mosaic and you can hire a rowing boat to sail along the small canal.

Hotel Alfonso XIII

Hotels reach a new dimension at this emblematic venue, built also for the 1929 World Fair in the Mudejar style. Walk through the doors and you leave the busy city behind and enter a slice of history, but, although the essence is traditional, a recent head-to-toe renovation means all mod cons are available too. The central glass and brick courtyard is perhaps the architectural highlight and perfect for enjoying a leisurely cocktail after a day’s sightseeing.

Visit the Hotel Alfonso XIII on a day in Seville

The Hotel Alfonso XIII is a highlight in Seville

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.

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