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?…
Planning a trip to Spain’s southernmost region and wondering what to see and do? From Huelva in the west to Almeria in the east, via the Golden Triangle of Seville, Cordoba and Granada in between, we’ve picked out just a few things that you absolutely can’t miss.
You don’t become the most visited sight in Spain for no reason. And Granada’s Alhambra Palace and its adjoining summer palace and gardens, the Generalife, are magnificent from inside and out. The history is fascinating, the architecture is astounding and the situation stunning.
It can be hard to put into words what makes this UNESCO-protected neighbourhood quite so special. Its warren of narrow streets and quiet, shady plazas are home to houses seemingly built one on top of another like an Escher sketch, keyhole doors, trickling fountains and cascading bougainvillea… it’s mystical and magnificent in equal measure.
Skiing in the Sierra Nevada
Skiing in southern Spain might seem like quite a novelty, but it’s possible from December to late April. The Sierra Nevada ski resort is only 20 minutes from Granada city centre. Once there, take the gondola up to Borreguiles, and enjoy the sun from the 124 pistes.
Plaza de España, Seville
Anibal Gonzalez’s Art Deco meets Neo-Mudejar masterpiece was the architectural highlight of Seville’s 1929 Iberian-American Expo. More recently, it’s also played a starring role as the location in many a Hollywood movie, popping up most famously in Lawrence of Arabia and Star Wars: Episode III.
Barrio de Santa Cruz, Seville
Seville’s oldest neighbourhood is quite simply one of the most beautiful urban areas to be found anywhere in the world. Expect vibrant coloured houses, picture-perfect squares, narrow cobbled streets and an astonishing Moorish palace, the Alcazar, sitting at the heart of it.
The Watchtowers of Cadiz
The skyline of the ancient port city of Cadiz is dotted with watchtowers. Used by merchants and traders to watch as their boats came in after long and risky Atlantic crossings, there are 126 in total that come in five different shapes. The city is also a real foodie hotspot – just ask Rick Stein – so dining out after a day of trying to spot them all is a delight.
La Caleta Beach, Cadiz
Move over Barcelona and step aside Valencia, there’s a city beach to give you a run for your money. On the Atlantic, but shielded from the wind and with crystal clear water, it’s La Caleta beach. Eat your way around this city by night and relax on its pristine sands during the day. Oh, and the sunsets are absolutely mindblowing here, too.
Vejer de la Frontera
A splash of dazzling white against a brilliant blue sky, Vejer de la Frontera in Cadiz province is one of the most picturesque towns in the whole of Spain. The light is spectacular, the dining scene is excellent, the nearby beaches are wonderfully unspoilt and the views are… astounding. (See our full pick of white villages.)
Kite Surfing in Tarifa
With the wind rolling in from the Atlantic, Tarifa is a kite-surfing mecca. After a day out on the waves, the lovely old town is laidback with a wonderfully romantic feel – slightly lonely, detached and wind-beaten – while it’s a great place to get some top-class seafood.
Beaches of the Costa de la Luz
When it comes to beaches, the Costa de la Luz’s are pretty hard to beat. Golden sand, clear sea, hip beach bars and, for much of the year, very little in the way of other people to have to share them with, they’re the best to be found anywhere in Spain.
There’s far more to Sherry than merely drinking the stuff. Visiting the bodegas of El Puerto de Santa Maria, Sanlucar de Barrameda or Jerez de la Frontera is a must-do for any wine-lover.
Setenil de Las Bodegas
There’s no two ways about it, Setenil is one peculiar place. Its defining feature is a street of typically whitewashed Andaluz-style houses that, built in the narrow cave underneath a rocky outcrop, looks for all the world as if the earth is trying to swallow it up.
Malaga has more than 30 museums, with heavyweight art galleries such as the Thyssen and Pompidou rubbing shoulders with quirky little places like the Museum of Glass. Throw in some superb dining and a vibrant nightlife, and it’s the stuff that dream city breaks are made of. (See our pick of the best art in Malaga.)
Whether you come at it from above or below, Ronda’s gorge is one of Andalucia’s most iconic sights. It’s spanned by the 18th-century Puente Nuevo, which took more than three decades to build and has a small prison cell at its heart.
Ronda Bull Ring
Love it or loathe it, bullfighting is an important part of Andalucia’s past, present and, for the time being at least, its immediate future. Questions of ethics aside, Ronda’s sweeping, double-colonnaded bullring is one of the most impressive buildings in the region. (See our guide to what to do in Ronda.)
Golf on the Costa del Sol
With over 70 courses, not for nothing is Malaga’s sun-soaked coast often referred to as the ‘Costa del Golf’. Quantity is more than matched by quality, too, with the likes of La Zagaleta, La Quinta, Finca Cortesin, Sotogrande’s Real Club de Golf and Valderrama all sitting somewhere between world-class and competition standard. (See our pick of the Costa del Sol’s best golf courses.)
Caminito del Rey, Ardales
For many years, in an advanced state of disrepair and clinging to the sides of a high gorge, this walkway was known as the ‘Most Dangerous Path in the World’. Since it was repaired and opened to the public back in 2015, the danger factor may have gone but the beauty of the surrounding scenery certainly hasn’t.
Caves of Nerja
These vast caverns on the eastern Costa del Sol are well worth a visit for their fascinating stalactites and stalagmites and intriguing prehistoric findings. In the summer, they make for a dramatic backdrop for the ballet, classical and flamenco concerts that are held here.
From perfectly preserved citadels in the towns and cities to lonely piles of crumbling rocks in the middle of nowhere, southern Spain isn’t short of a Moorish castle or two. Almeria’s 11th-century Alcazaba, though, is the biggest of the bunch and, rising above the city in a series of impressive battlements and towers, one of the very best.
Almeria’s ‘Mini-Hollywood’ has been the location of countless films, chief amongst which were the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone. It now makes for the perfect setting for small (and not so small) members of the family to play out their Clint Eastwood-style gun-slinging fantasies.
From the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada to Europe’s only desert, Andalucia is nothing if not geographically varied. A nature reserve spread out across nearly 300 square kilometers of harsh, arid land, Tabernas is one of the region’s most striking corners.
Doñana National Park
Covering a whopping 530-odd kilometers, this UNESCO World Heritage Site – and the largest nature reserve in Europe – is one of Spain’s great wildernesses. Mostly made up of marshland, it’s a top destination for birdwatchers, particularly, who come for the +300 species that can be spotted here.
Patios of Cordoba
Nothing better represents Andalucia than a plant-filled central patio. Every year in May, Cordoba has a Patios Festival where the doors are thrown open to some of its most beautiful examples.
Cordoba – By Night
There are few more romantic sights anywhere in southern Spain than Cordoba lit up at night. Standing on the far side of the river your eyes pass along the wonderful Roman bridge, and over the sparkling water of the River Guadalquivir before settling, finally, on the burnished majesty of the Mezquita. Stunning.
The least visited of Andalucia’s provinces, Jaen is the land of olives. Driving through its mile after rolling mile of dusty groves, hazy in the heat of the summer sun, is one of those quintessentially Andalucian experiences.
Across the Region
Andalucia’s greatest art form is not to be missed. But to see the real deal can be a challenge. Leaving aside the big cities’ tourist traps, you can pay to see one of the greats in a theatre and, without a doubt, you’ll see technically excellent flamenco music and dance. Authentic flamenco is more, though… it’s local, soulful, passionate and of the moment. (See our guide to where to find great flamenco.)
Eat Like a Local
Eating and drinking are not so much a pastime as a way of life in Andalucia. Stopping off in a tapas bar for, say, a slice of two of Jamón Ibérico and a glass of Sherry is as important for getting under the skin of the place as visiting any historic monument.
Inspired by our pick of the best things to see and do in Andalucia? Check out our guide to when to visit the region.
Array (  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 78708 [post_author] => 5 [post_date] => 2019-12-02 11:31:07 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-12-02 11:31:07 [post_content] => 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? Perhaps the best part of all is just how easy it is to get to...
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.