Complete your luxury villa stay with ideas for activities and sports, from adrenaline fueled action to experiences you wont ever forget

Polo – Sotogrande’s Summer Sport

The European polo season has begun and the 10 goal world-class players are looking forward to play and to chalking up some serious goals. As spectators, on the other hand, we can’t wait to see the fast-paced, warrior-like tournaments and talented, agile ponies – not to mention, of course, dressing up to the nines, getting the fizz in, and everything else that goes on at a day at the polo.

Where is the Polo in Sotogrande?

Polo match in Sotogrande, Spain

The Santa Maria Polo Club in Sotogrande – which is just over the border of Malaga province into Cadiz province in southern Spain – is a famed location on the polo high goal tournament circuit.

Holding 20 tournaments this year, Sotogrande is the location in Spain. Santa Maria Polo Club with its magnificent manicured grounds is perfect for the big games of the summer. The Gold Cup and Silver cups, which attract the best polo teams in the world, are the major dates in Spain’s polo diary.

Address: Sotogrande, A-7, 11310 San Roque, Cadiz; telephone: 956 61 00 12. Santamariapoloclub.com.

Other Polo Clubs in Sotogrande

Dos Lunas Polo Club Match, Spain

Dos Lunas Polo Club has two polo fields; address: 11349 San Martín del Tesorillo, Cadiz; telephone: 956 61 80 52. Doslunas.es.

Polo Valley Polo Club for polo tuition; 29692 Casares, Malaga; telephone: 951 97 95 58. Polovalley.co.uk.

Ayala Polo Club has three fields; Hacienda de San Enrique, Km 1, 11312 San Enrique de Guadiaro, Cadiz; Telephone: 670 96 18 41.

When to Go to the Polo in Sotogrande?

2-4th June – XVIII Andrés Paradé Memorial Tournament

9-11th June – IV Doña Maria de la Mercedes Memorial Tournament

16-25th June – II Patrick G. Hermés Cup and XIV Conde de la Maza Memorial Tournament

30th June – 2nd July – XIII Copa de Jerez Tournament

7-9th July – XXIV Enrique Zobel Memorial Tournament

14-16th July – IV Manuel Prado Tournament

26th July – 27th August – 46th International Polo Tournament (the main event)

What to Expect?

An exciting day out for everyone, it’s great for families, couples or groups of friends. There’s plenty to do at Santa Maria Polo Club during the tournament – a shopping village, bars, lots of socialising and after parties with live music and DJs. Friday and Saturday nights are the busiest during the month long tournament.

Santa Maria Polo Club In Sotogrande, Spain

What to Wear?

If you’re a guy you can’t go too far wrong with adopting the Nacho Figueras look, basically. Ladies keep it comfortable, classic and elegant. By all means go casual with linen but a touch of formality wouldn’t be out of place, either. This isn’t Ascot, though, so keep the hats at home.

Polo Elsewhere in Europe

Since its heyday in the 20s and 30s polo is having a major resurgence. Urban polo clubs are popping up across the continent, and more and more variations of the game are becoming popular (snow polo is even played in St Moritz, Courcheval, Kitzbuhel, Klosters, Megeve and Val D’Isere during the winter months).

In Europe, England, France and Spain are the main players for polo. For the biggest tournaments the season starts in early May in England, then France and Spain in July and August. The high goal season in England includes the Cartier Queen’s Cup at Guards Polo Club, and the Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup at Cowdray Park. Once the Gold Cup is won the focus is on mainland Europe until the end of August.

Polo match close up

Haven’t Experienced a Polo Match? The Need-to-Know Polo Guide for Newbies

A polo field is 15 acres – so pretty large – but given that there are 8 horses per game sometimes topping 35mph the space soon gets eaten up. Teams are of four: player 1 is offence, 2 is defence (they really cover the ground and is the hard worker in the team), 3 is often the captain (and chief strategist) and 4 is defence, the person who can hit the ball the hardest.

Polo is incredibly fast-paced and the ball can reach speeds of 100 miles per hour. A polo chukker (or period of play) is seven minutes and most are played to six chukkers. After the first seven minutes horses can be changed for fresh legs as many times as a team wishes and are ready waiting for players throughout the game.

Fast, exciting and fun, there’s quite nothing like a polo game.

It’s free entrance to see the polo in Sotogrande and it’s a fun thing to do while visiting this part of southern Spain. If you fancy experiencing it for yourself, check out our handpicked selection of luxury villas in Sotogrande. Our concierge can help with any aspect of planning a day and night at the polo – just get in touch.

when is the best time to visit Andalucia

When’s the Best Time to Visit Andalucia?

Let’s get one thing clear from the start: it’s never exactly a bad time to visit southern Spain, as on any given day of any given week all year round, there’s something going on. However from full-on fiestas to solemn religious ceremonies, via annual harvests and music festivals, we’ve picked out a few of the very best times to visit.

Planning a Visit around the Weather

Weather-wise, when’s the best time of year to visit Andalucia? It’s a question that gets put to us a lot here at the Luxury Villa Collection. And the answer we always have to give is… it very much depends.

Andalucia’s a big region – four times as large as that default indicator of size, Wales – plus, it’s also an area of huge geographical diversity. So while you may have lovely winter sunshine and 20 degrees down on the coast, the snow might well be falling on the mountains inland.

Let’s focus on the positives, though, and the average temperatures in the region’s most sun-soaked province, Malaga:

Weather in Malaga, Average Temperatures

Traditional & Religious Events

Easter (Semana Santa) in Andalucia

Carnival – Cadiz; 2nd to 12th March 2017: The weekend before Lent is a massive party weekend in southern Spain and nowhere does it bigger than the city of Cadiz. It’s a noisy, messy affair where everyone takes to the streets in fancy dress and parties until sunrise.

Semana Santa – Seville; 9th to 15th April 2017: With the sound of brass and the scent of incense on the night air, every Easter the streets of Seville are filled with the processions of Semana Santa (or Holy Week). While Seville undoubtedly puts on the biggest and grandest display of devotion, other places of note include all the big cities – Granada, Malaga and Cordoba especially – while the small town of Velez-Malaga is a spectacular and lesser-known alternative.

Las Cruces de Mayo – Granada; 2nd to 3rd May: Another city, another full-scale party dressed up as a religious occasion. While the crosses which are displayed in squares throughout the city are undoubtedly lovely, Granada’s Las Cruces is, in reality, just a great excuse for a party. And why not?

Patios de Cordoba; second and third week of May: North, south, east or west, spring is one of the best times to visit Spain, wherever in the country you might be thinking of heading. Nowhere is that more the case than in Cordoba. In May, some of the oldest and most beautiful patios of the town’s historic centre are decked out in their full floral finery and opened up to the public. Unmissable.

El Rocio Pilgrimage – Huelva; Pentecost/depending on Easter: One of the region’s most impressive devotional displays, up to a million people have been known to make the journey to this remote church to see the Virgin make her spectacular appearance in the early hours of Pentecost Monday. With El Rocio sitting right in the heart of the Doñana National Park, it makes for a great excuse to explore one of Spain’s great natural wildernesses, too.

Music & Nightlife Events 

Flamenco festivals

Beach club opening parties, Marbella and Puerto Banus; mid-late April: Something of a curtain-raiser for summer on the Costa, the beach clubs throw everything they’ve got into their annual opening parties. Nikki Beach, perhaps the best of the bunch, gets their season underway this year on 28th April with most of the others falling either side of it.

Granada international festival of music and dance; 17th June to 8th July: While the flamenco on display during Granada’s annual festival is fantastic (2016 headliners include Eva Yerbabuena and Miguel Poveda), it’s undoubtedly the setting that steals the show. Sitting under the stars in the gardens of the Generalife accompanied by some top-class dance and exquisite views of historic Granada is an unforgettable experience.

Starlite Marbella; 13th July to 26th August 2017: Marbella‘s music festival is now a firm fixture on the Andalucia events calendar. 2017’s big international names include Elton John, Pretenders, and Anastacia, while Dani Martin, Malú and Morat top the line-up of Spanish performers.

Flamenco festivals; June-September: while Andalucia’s greatest art form is very definitely a year-round affair (check out our guide to Flamenco), it really heats up every year along with the summer temperatures. Malaga’s summer alone is studded with superb flamenco events from Alhaurin de la Torre (June) and Alora (July) to Antequera and Ronda (both August) before, finally, the main event of the Malaga Bienal Festival takes place in early to mid-September.

Ferias

Spain as a whole celebrates more local virgins’ and saints’ day than you can shake a stick at. But if there’s a capital of the religious holiday, it has to be Andalucia. Aside from the religious elements, they mean one thing: letting your hair down and partying in a colourful blur of flamenco dresses, fairgrounds, dancing and drinking under the stars.

Ferias are held from April until September and are one of Andalucia’s greatest spectacles. In terms of city ferias, a few of the main ones of note are:

  • Seville’s Feria de Abril: 30th to April to 6th May 2017
  • Feria de Caballo in Jerez de la Frontera; 13th to 20th May 2017
  • Feria de Nuestra Señora de la Salud, Cordoba; 20th to 27th May 2017
  • Feria de San Bernabé, Marbella; 6th to 12th June 2017
  • Feria de Malaga; 12th to 19th August 2017

Gastronomy, Food & Wine Events

Down in Andalucia, the seasons – and the harvesting of the fruit of land and sea – still have a huge impact on people’s everyday lives. Spring sees olives, oranges, avocados, asparagus and the Almadraba fishing of bluefin tuna in Cadiz. By the late summer the region is exploding into wine harvests, while come the autumn the almonds and figs are bursting.

There are simply too many food and wine festivals in the region to name them all, but here are a couple that come with the LVC seal of approval:

Las Fiestas de la Vendimia y Otoño, Jerez de la Frontera; 1st to 18th September: One of the oldest ferias in Spain, Jerez’s annual Sherry shindig is a blur of wine crushing, bodega visits and tastings, flamenco, horses and general festivities.

Axarquia food festivals; August to September: this mountainous region to the east of Malaga has been getting something of a name for itself in recent years for its cluster of food-related festivals – and all the singing, dancing and general celebrations that comes with them.

  • Dia de Morcilla (blood sausage), Canillas de Aceituno; 29th April 2018
  • Dia de la Cereza (cherry), Alfarnate; 23rd June 2018
  • Fiesta del Gazpacho; Alfarnatejo; 5th August 2017
  • Noche del Vino (sweet wine), Competa; 15th August 2017
  • Fiesta del Ajoblanco (cold almond soup), Almachar; 2nd September 2017
  • Dia de la Pasa (raisin), El Borge; 17th September 2017

Sporting Events 

Polo at Sotogrande

Moto Grand Prix – Jerez Motor Racing Circuit – 22nd to 24th April 2016: one of the biggest events on the Spanish motorsports calendar roars into Jerez every April. The second race of the Moto GP season is a big deal in Spain, and the atmosphere track-side over the course of a long weekend in April is one of the liveliest around.

Golf on the Costa del Sol: while the region’s +300 days of sunshine mean that golf is very much a year-round sport in Andalucia, the best times of year to book a golf holiday are probably spring and autumn, when you get the sunshine without the searing summer temperatures. (Have a look at our pick of the best golf courses on the Costa del Sol.)

Land Rover International Polo Tournament – Sotogrande; 28th July to 29th August: Sotogrande’s Santa Maria Polo Club hosts one of the highlights of the polo calendar every summer. One of the most prestigious events in Andalucia, it’s an occasion in which to see and be seen – obligatory glass of bubbly in hand – as much as it is to watch what’s going on out on the field.

Sanlucar Horse Racing, Sanlucar de Barrameda; 10th to 27th August: This hell-for-leather horseback sprint along the Sanlucar sands goes all the way back to 1845. The setting’s superb and the atmosphere’s lively (with more than a drop or two of Manzanilla being supped). Best of all, though, you get right up close to the action and feel the thundering of hooves underfoot.

Ski season in the Sierra Nevada: Europe’s most southerly ski resort opens for business every year with the first snows in December, before closing up again in late April (or even on occasions in late May). Which means that you can literally spend a morning on the slopes before dropping down to the coast and hitting the beach in the afternoon.

Nature & the Great Outdoors

Cherry Blossom in Andalucia

Flamingo migration at Fuente de Piedra; late February: For many of us bird-watching is not exactly the stuff of riveting holidays. However, seeing the flamingos at Fuente de Piedra is a little different. To catch a glimpse of them, as a vivid flash of pink against the blue sky, before they descend on the salt lakes of is one of the most beautiful natural spectacles in Europe.

Arrival of the cherry blossom, Axarquia; March (depending on the weather): Andalucia’s cherry blossom season may not be quite as well-known as Japan’s, but it’s still pretty spectacular. Alfarnate’s Ruta de las Pilas, a 12km round trip through the orchard-lined countryside, is one of the very best ways to experience it.

Beach weather; May onwards: While you can obviously stretch out on the sand at any time when the sun’s shining in southern Spain, locals tend not to venture onto them until summer has really kicked in. May and October can regularly touch on 30 degrees Celsius – more than warm enough for most of us to get the beach bag out, in other words.

Cork oak harvest – Los Alcornocales Natural Park; June-August: The serious business of the cork harvest is still carried out by hand and mule every summer in the cork forests of Los Alcornocales. A morning winding your way through the sun-dappled trees, stopping off to watch the trees being painstakingly stripped of their bark along the way, can be neatly finished up with a long, leisurely lunch in a stunning mountain town like Gaucin, Jimena de la Frontera, Ubrique or Zahara de la Sierra.

Our guide to when to visit Andalucia is far from definitive. There’s simply SO much more to see and do in this fabulous region of Spain – to the extent, in fact, that we’ve missed out, not just one but two, entire provinces in Almeria and Jaen.

So what’s stopping you? See the best of southern Spain from one of our luxury 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.

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.

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.

Best Beaches in Malaga

In recent years, Malaga has grown into a chic, contemporary and culturally vibrant hub where there’s always something going on. From the Picasso and Thyssen museums to the graffiti-adorned Soho District there’s so much to see in the way of stunning, intelligent art. Music-wise, top bands and artists regularly put on sell-out shows across the city. What’s more, the eating and drinking scene in Malaga is as enjoyable and unpretentious as any you’re likely to find in Andalucia, with as much emphasis placed on tradition as there is on innovation.

But Malaga’s charms certainly don’t begin and end with the city itself. Stretching away in both directions are some of the finest strips of sand to be found anywhere in southern Spain. And with this in mind, we’ve put together our pick of a few of the best Malaga beaches, broken down into six different categories. Some are within walking distance of the city itself; others are further along the Costa del Sol. All are absolutely fantastic.

Beaches for the Stressed & Overworked

maro beach, playa, malaga

Maro Beach (Source)

It almost goes without saying that it’s hard not to relax on a beach when you’re used to the daily grind back home. There are, as ever, though some beaches that are particularly suited to unwinding. Playa del Campo de Golf, on the outskirts of Malaga city, is a good bet if you’re looking to flit between quiet sunbathing and a round or two of golf on the neighbouring Parador Hotel’s golf course (Golfenparadores.es).

However, if you really want to drift off into a world of your own, the most idyllic spots tend to be beaches near Malaga like Maro or El Cañuelo, to the east of the city on the way to Nerja, where you’ll find little else other than the soothing sound of waves to disturb your gentle dozing.

El Cristo in Estepona, to the west, also offers a perfect package of peace, tranquillity, beautiful surroundings and some superb snorkelling opportunities.

Beaches for Surfers

kitesurfing, malaga

Kitesurfing in Malaga (Source)

Thanks to the strong levante and poniente winds that periodically lick the south coast of Spain, surfing, kitesurfing and other water sports have become very popular in Malaga province. A couple of the best spots include Benalmadena, a few kilometres to the west of Malaga, El Castillo, just below the castle of Fuengirola, and El Chaparral, between Fuengirola and Marbella, where the swells reach perfect size for beginner-intermediate surfers on a windy day.

Surfing equipment is usually available for hire or purchase at reasonable prices from local surfing businesses (Yumping.com), and lessons are offered too.

Beaches for Explorers

baños del carmen, malaga, beach, playa

Baños del Carmen, by Tyk [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Occasionally, sunbathing may get boring and cold water or choppy waves may make swimming seem off-putting. In such cases, it’s nice to be able to wander off and look for something else to do. Baños del Carmen offers this alternative, since it’s home to Malaga’s first ever public and mixed bathing spa, El Balneario Nuestra Señora del Carmen (Wikipedia.org). The historical landmark, which opened all the way back in 1918, has survived years of redevelopment planning (just) and makes a peaceful seaside setting even more appealing.

If underwater exploration is more your thing, you can go scuba diving in numerous locations along the Costa del Sol, such as Torremolinos and Benalmadena to the west, La Cala del Moral to the east and Nerja further to the east. There are diving schools in these areas that offer exciting courses and opportunities to explore the coast’s coral reefs and wrecks.

Beaches for Kids

If you’re travelling as a family then you’ll doubtless want to make sure that your kids are kept entertained for as long as possible as you relax. Several Malaga beaches, such as Playa de San Andres, Pedregalejo and La Malagueta boast children’s play areas that can keep the little ones busy for hours.

What’s more, the safety measures in place across all of Malaga’s city beaches are reassuringly rigorous and up-to-date. La Malagueta is the first beach in the world to use the ‘orange point’ lifesaving device (Sos-orange.com), which is essentially a rope powered by an electric motor that is used to haul people (not necessarily kids, of course) back to safety if they swim themselves into trouble.

Further afield, again in Nerja to the east of the city, you can rent kayaks from Burriana Beach and paddle down to Maro, passing caves and waterfalls as you go.

Beaches for Naturists

cala del pino, beach, playa, malaga

Cala del Pino (Source)

While most will prefer the crotch-covered safety of popular beaches, others may be happy to to let it all hang out on one of the coastline’s selection of nudist beaches, which, naturally (pardon the pun), are fewer in number.

Malaga city’s only nudist beach is Guadalmar, which can be found by the mouth of the Guadalhorce river in the San Julian neighbourhood. Further west is Benalnatura, a quiet corner of Benalmadena sandwiched between two apartment blocks and hidden among palm trees. The facilities are rather good, with showers, toilets, a barbecue area and even a chiringuito (beach restaurant) that only serves naked patrons. The beach is clean and well looked after by a devoted nudist association.

Going east, beyond Nerja and Maro, is Cala del Pino, a tiny and well-hidden strip of sand reached via a steep path among jagged rocks (it is advised not to be naked at this time) from the coastal A-road. When there’s no wind to disturb the normally crystal-clear water, snorkelling conditions are perfect, with many brightly coloured fish and underwater rock formations to swim amongst. However, word of secluded idyllic beaches gets around, and this treasured stretch has begun to fill up fast in the summer months.

Beaches for Partygoers

nikki beach, marbella, beach club, playa

Nikki Beach, Marbella (Source)

The Costa del Sol is well known for its bouncing nightlife, and its beaches have a big part to play in that. La Malagueta – Malaga city’s largest and busiest beach – not only offers an ample selection of buzzing bars and clubs but also hosts the closing ceremonies of the annual feria during the first two weeks of August. Things get incredibly noisy, colourful and generally pretty chaotic but for keen partygoers it’s a must to put in the diary.

For wild shenanigans elsewhere, you could spend the afternoon knocking back mojitos in chiringuitos in Las Acacias, or jump in a taxi and head for Marbella’s famous Nikki Beach Club (Nikkibeach.com). The private parties held at this beach club are famously stylish and full of wild, carnival-inspired entertainment, which for many can be the highlight of a holiday.

 

Like our pick of a few of the best beaches in Malaga and looking for a fabulous place to stay in the area? Check out our collection of luxury Malaga villas to rent.

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.