Marbella. There aren't many places offering year-round sunshine in Europe that, from beaches and golf to shopping and fine dining, tick as many of the luxury holiday boxes. Sounds tempting?…
Marbella: the perfect spot for a lazy, sun-soaked break in southern Spain. But what is there to do should the pull of the pool begin to wear thin?
From beautiful beaches and natural parks to dazzling white villages and grand, historic cities, there are plenty of great day trips from Marbella to keep you busy.
1. Caminito del Rey
This incredible gorge-clinging walk offers some light exercise, incredible views and is a great day out for the whole family. Tickets need to be bought beforehand – book here.
Distance from Marbella by car: 1 hour 15 minutes
Head inland to the north west of Marbella and you come to a beautiful town perched on a gorge. This is Ronda. See the oldest bull ring, Moorish baths, a lovely old palace or two and, if you have time, whip round a quick wine tour.
Distance from Marbella by car: 1 hour 5 minutes
Crossing the border from Spain to the UK at Gibraltar is certainly a novelty. This slice of Britain in Spain is interesting enough, but scratch a little deeper and there’s a fascinating history to uncover, too.
Don’t miss the caves or the wild apes while you’re on what locals fondly call ‘The Rock’.
Distance from Marbella by car: 1 hour 5 minutes
Known as the ‘Town of Churches’, Antequera has more places of worship than any other town in Andalucia. The fortress at the top of the town (pictured) and cathedral are the highlights, but don’t miss the ancient dolmens on the edge of town, either. Eat at Arte de Cozina (Artedecozina.com) and you’ll have a thoroughly Andalucian day out.
Distance from Marbella by car: 1 hour 10 minutes
5. Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park
With a mix of jaw-dropping 2000-metre peaks and labyrinths of caves, this natural park near Ronda is truly spectacular. There are plenty of opportunities to go trekking, caving, 4×4 touring, mountaineering, mountain biking or horse riding. Nearby villages El Burgo, Istán, Monda, Parauta, Tolox and Yunquera are all worth a visit, too.
Distance from Marbella by car: 1 hour 15 minutes
6. Los Alcornocales Natural Park
Spanning Cadiz and Malaga provinces, Los Alcornocales is very different to the Sierra de las Nieves. Famed for its cork oak trees and humid conditions, it’s actually the rainiest place in southern Spain and so has a large network of rivers and streams. Organise a hike through this park with lunch in one of the area’s pretty, remote villages.
Distance from Marbella by car: 1 hour 25 minutes
Yes, Africa is a realistic day out from Marbella! You can charter a boat and travel to Tangier in Morocco for a day. On top of the fantastic boat ride across the Mediterranean, it’s wonderful for lunch and a spot of souk shopping. (Or see our trusted partner Toma & Coe’s Tangier trip, here.)
Distance from Marbella by car and boat: 3 hours
8. Rio Guadalmina
If you like a bit of adventure, walk the Guadalmina river and jump into rock pools, shower under waterfalls and hike through the gorgeous countryside. A guide can be arranged.
Distance from Marbella by car: 25 minutes
This picture-perfect whitewashed village makes for a lovely day out. Stroll about, take in the views and have a spot of traditional villagers’ lunch. A great contrast to the more sophisticated and cosmopolitan Marbella.
Distance from Marbella by car: 40 minutes
10. Setenil de las bodegas
A trip to Andalucia is as much about hanging out in small towns and villages as ticking off the big historic sights in cities. Setenil de las Bodegas has an incredible street where the houses are built into and under an overhanging rock face (pictured above). An utterly unique place.
Distance from Marbella by car: 1 hour 20 minutes
Five of Andalucia’s finest cities are within easy reach of Marbella. Each has their own allure…
Malaga is a city with A LOT going on. With plenty of great restaurants, historic sights and art galleries to pop in and out of, there’s more than enough to keep you busy all day long. (For more information on Malaga, see our guide.)
Distance from Marbella by car: 55 minutes
If there’s one thing you have to see above and beyond all others in Andalucia, it’s the Alhambra Palace.
A breathtakingly romantic 12th-century Moorish palace, it’s beautiful whether you’re inside, outside or looking onto it from the pretty Albayzin area of town (pictured). Make sure you buy tickets before you go. (See our guide to Granada here.)
Distance from Marbella by car: 2 hours
13. Jerez de la Frontera
A great day trip from Marbella is Jerez de la Frontera. A relativity small city, it’s perfect for strolling old streets lined with handsome palaces or lingering in lovely, historic squares. Don’t miss the Spanish Riding School (Realescuela.org) or one of the Sherry bodegas for a tour and a tasting.
Distance from Marbella by car: 1 hour 50 minutes
Southern Spain’s longest continually inhabited city, Cadiz has great beaches and a lively but laidback vibe. Visit the cathedral, eat in the market and see the city from above via the ‘Camera Oscura’ (Torretavira.com).
Distance from Marbella by car: 2 hours
As the Alhambra is to Granada, so the Mezquita is to Cordoba. A cathedral inside a mosque, it’s a mesmerising building. There’s also a Roman Bridge, a beautiful 17th-century main square, the Plaza de la Corredera, and a network of narrow old streets to explore, too.
Distance from Marbella by car: 2 hours 10 minutes
So, that’s our pick of the best day trips from Marbella. You can plan your day yourself or get in touch with us and we can organise it all for you. One way or the other, though – happy exploring!
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a beautiful villa in Marbella to rent, check out our selection.
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Where is Marbella?First things first, though. Where is it? Marbella is in southern Spain - in the province of Malaga in the Andalucia region, to be exact - on a stretch of coast called the Costa del Sol. Here's a map of Marbella to help you get your bearings:
Where Do You Fly to?It depends on from where you're flying in. The nearest international airport to Marbella is Malaga. Málaga-Costa del Sol Airport (Aena.es) is 51km away and an easy 40-minute car/taxi ride. Virtually all the major airlines fly there direct from the UK and from across northern Europe. The next closest airport to Marbella is Gibraltar (Gibraltarairport.gi), which is just over an hour's drive away. British Airways, Easyjet and Monarch all fly direct from the UK to Gibraltar.
From the USIf you’re flying into Spain from the USA you'll probably have to travel to Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport (Aena.es). From there you'll have to either fly, take the fast speed AVE train (Renfe.com) or drive to Malaga and transfer from there to Marbella. The most convenient way to get to Marbella from Madrid is by the fast speed train taking just 2.5hrs or by flying taking only 1 hour and 15 mins.
how to get there from malaga airport
By CarThe best way to get from Malaga to Marbella is to drive. And if you're on holiday that probably means you're going to need to hire a car. As with almost all international airports, Malaga has a frankly baffling array of different car hire options to pick through. To avoid the scrum of the departures lounge, jump on the complimentary minibus to the offices of Niza, Helle Hollis or Enterprise situated a mere minute outside of the terminal. Inside the terminal you can find Sixt, Hertz and Europcar. If you're unsure of which company to use, click the following link. For a more luxury car hire service we'd recommend Sixt (Sixt.com). They're friendly, totally professional, trustworthy and have a range of high-end rental options, from BMWs, Audis and Porsches to Mercedes and Range Rovers - and even automatics. If you're travelling in a large group, they also have 8-12 seater self-drive minibuses available for hire. Of course if you're looking for ease, our Concierge can make the reservation for you to be dropped directly off at the villa. A car of your choice can be delivered to your villa. Once you've picked up your car/minibus hire, driving from Malaga airport to Marbella could hardly be easier. Directions from Malaga-Costa del Sol airport are as follows:
- Leave the airport and head southeast onto N-348
- At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit and stay on N-348
- Take the Torremolinos ramp to N-340/Cádiz
- Merge onto Avenida de Velázquez/N-340/MA-21
- Take the ramp to E-15/A-7/Benalmadena/Algeciras. Merge onto AP-7
- Pass Torremolinos, Benalmadena, Fuengirola
- Take exit 184 towards Marbella/Casco Antiguo/Avenida del Trapiche
By TaxiFor sheer ease, you can’t beat jumping in a taxi. A taxi rank is situated outside the arrivals sidewalk of Terminal T3, level 0. It's best to ask the driver, beforehand, how much a taxi is from Malaga to Marbella to ensure they don’t overcharge you. There are two transfer prices, and these are dependent on both times of the day and the day of the week. Transfer Price Band 1 is weekdays from 06.00 to 22.00 hrs. Transfer Price Band 2 is weekdays from 22.00 to 06.00 hrs, all day Saturdays, Sundays, public holidays, the August Feria and Holy Week. Band 2 transfer time is more expensive than Band 1. Alternatively, you can pre-order a taxi at Malaga Airport Taxi (Malagaairporttaxi.net) and get a price when booking. The transfer time from Malaga Airport to Marbella takes around an hour, in a taxi.
Other Ways to Get to Marbella
- By bus: It is possible to take a bus (Alsa.com) from Malaga airport to Marbella. But it's a whole lot less convenient than driving via hire car or private transfer.
- By train: There isn’t a train connection from Malaga airport to Marbella.
Distances - how far is marbella from...
- Malaga (city): 61km away and 46 minutes' drive.
- Granada: 187km and just over 2 hours' drive.
- Seville: 258km and 2 hours 45 minutes' drive.
- Gibraltar: 78km and 1 hour 2 minutes' drive.
- Madrid: 584 km and 5 hours 45 minutes' drive.
A Bit of HistoryThe land previously belonged to the Saudi businessman Adnan Khashoggi, who it is said, used the estate as his party house and hunting grounds. The property and land went up for sale and a group of Spanish property developers bought it and put plans together to create a playground for the rich and famous in Marbella. Each villa is unique, with their own styles depending on the specifications of the owner.
Location & Getting There
So where is La Zagaleta?The large estate sits in Malaga province in the south of Andalucia. It’s in the foothills of the Ronda Mountains just 25 minutes from Marbella, 18 minutes from Nuevo Andalucia and the nearest beach. It's 20 minutes from the village of Benahavis, 40 minutes from Sotogrande port, 50 minutes from Ronda, 55 minutes from Malaga airport and just over an hour from Gibraltar airport. La Zagaleta is very easily accessed by car or helicopter. There's heavy security surrounding the estate and entrance is on prior permission only.
What Else is in La Zagaleta?It’s worth noting that all the facilities in La Zagaleta are for exclusive use to villa owners only; they pay an enormous service charge to be allowed to use the facilities.
Golf CourseLa Zagaleta golf club is only open to villa owners and their guests. They have exclusive access to two of the Costa del Sol's best private golf courses, La Zagaleta and Los Barrancos. La Zagaleta golf course - known as the Old Course - is to championship standard with 18 holes, Par 72 over a distance of 4800 - 6000 yards. Designed by renowned golf architect Brad Benz in 1991 and redesigned by Marc Westenborg in 2016, it’s a rewarding course with fantastic views to the coast and flanked by mountains. The New Course, Los Barrancos, is very different to the Old Course. It’s a challenging 18-hole, Par 70 with lots of obstacles over a distance of 4356 – 5381 yards.
The ClubhousesThe hub of the estate is the spectacular Old Clubhouse, or La Zagaleta country club. Measuring 5,100m² it has an indoor/outdoor swimming pool, billiards, bowling alley, tennis courts, gourmet food supermarket, pro-golf shop and restaurants (see below). There's also a nightclub, bars and events space where there’s a full schedule of experiences and parties planned. The New Clubhouse is a thatched lakeside venue. A lot smaller than the Old Clubhouse, it's still just as popular with La Zagaleta residents for events or having a quick drink in the bar.
Horse RidingLa Zagaleta is home to some beautiful stables with indoor and outdoor schooling arenas. Horses can either be kept on a full livery basis, or horses and ponies can be hired for lessons or hacks. ‘The Riding Club’ equestrian centre has a team of instructors and well-schooled horses for all levels of rider including Arab, PRE and, for the children, Farabella horses and Welsh ponies.
RestaurantsWhy leave the comfort of a beautiful villa when you can enjoy a top-quality meal at home? At La Zagaleta there are Michelin starred chefs available for in-house dining throughout the estate. However, for owners the clubhouse has two restaurants: the formal dining Old Course Restaurant; and a terrace bar restaurant that's ideal for light bites and brunches.
Famous ResidentsThere is private security throughout the whole of La Zagaleta - so know one really know who lives or owns houses there. It’s a place where the super-rich and famous go to be away from the limelight. However, it is said that Hugh Grant, Rod Stewart and Vladimir Putin all have house in La Zagaleta.
What to Do NearbyWhen staying in La Zagaleta, the houses are so special that it’s sometimes difficult to tear yourself away from the estate. However, if you do want to see more of the area, here's our pick of easily accessible and great day trips:
- Ronda: historic, boutique wineries and ab-so-lutely beautiful.
- Benahavis village: a great option for restaurants; have a lunch or dinner in this pretty village.
- Granada: a romantic inland city and home to the Alhambra Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Malaga: the birthplace of Picasso with a fort, palace and Roman amphitheatre.
- Cordoba: historic city with a stunning mosque-church at its centre.
- Sevilla: one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.
- Sotogrande: a lovely port, wake boarding lake and polo hub.