Looking to get off the beaten track in Andalucia? We’ve scratched beneath the surface of this exciting, historic area of Spain, asked local experts and come up with a list of little-known things to…
Sotogrande has friends in high places. From musicians and A-list movie stars to former UK prime ministers – and even a royal polo fan or two – it’s been the luxury resort of choice for some of the world’s more discrete rich and famous types for many years now.
It’s an unusual place, too. It’s not a ‘town’ in the strictest sense of the word, but is actually a privately owned, and rather exclusive residential complex. As a result, it keeps itself to itself a bit, and can be just a little hard to get to know.
From golf to gastronomy via polo and playas, in our Sotogrande guide we’ve tried to lift the lid on some of its best bits – so you can really get the most out of your next visit.
Location & Getting There
First things first: where is Sotogrande? It’s about an hour’s drive from Malaga airport – if you take the Autopista rather than crawling along the old N340, that is. Gibraltar International Airport is even nearer at about 25 minutes by car. Driving from Sotogrande to Marbella only takes about 35 minutes.
Golf is always going to be one of the main draws for many visitors to Sotogrande. Which is hardly surprising given that there are no fewer than five golf courses to choose from in the immediate vicinity, and a couple of those are amongst the very best in Spain.
La Cañada and La Almenara are both excellent and suitable for high to mid-handicappers, while La Reserva, the Real Club de Golf and world-famous championship course, Valderrama, are really best left for only the most accomplished golfers.
(For more golf inspiration, see our pick of the best Costa del Sol golf courses.)
As the name suggests Playa de Sotogrande is the main beach, stretching away directly from the estate itself. For ease, comfort and a range of facilities, this is the place to head. It’s also home to the ultra-stylish and adults-only Trocadero Beach Club, which if you book in advance makes for a great base camp for the day.
On the other side of the port, Torreguardiaro is another good bet for a nearby strip of sand to stretch out on for the afternoon. Here, too, there’s a good beach club – Chambao – to try.
Ever so slightly further afield, Playa Guadalquiton is a wilder choice, and one of the quieter, less developed and more attractive stretches of sand you’ll find between Malaga and Gibraltar.
For something a little different – and a whole lot luxe-ier – the La Reserva resort (Lareservaclubsotogrande.com) is home to Spain’s first, and to date only, private beach. A manmade sandy lagoon in the hills above Sotogrande, it’s a spectacular spot (see the video below to get a flavour) that’s packed with facilities including paddleboards and kayaks if you fancy getting a bit of exercise.
With warm, shallow waters and shady chill out areas, La Reserva’s inland beach is ideal for families (although there’s also an adults-only pool) and it comes with a full complement of restaurant, bar and even a rather nifty beach boutique.
Sotogrande is at the far westernmost end of the Costa del Sol, and unlike most of the rest of the region, is in Cadiz rather than Malaga province. As a result, the beaches of the Costa de la Luz – which are some of the most beautiful in the whole of Spain – are just over the other side of the Rock.
Restaurants & Bars
In the heart of the port, Belgian-owned Mytilus (Plaza de Los Naranjos, 8) is one of the best restaurants in Sotogrande. In amongst a heavy meat offering (we can heartily recommend the Chateaubriand) delicious Belgian dishes like moules frites make an appearance.
Next door to the polo ground, La Cancha II (Haciendas de San Enrique, s/n, 11312 San Enrique de Guadiaro) is another of the area’s best places to eat, specialising in the finest Argentine beef in a gorgeous setting next to lush, green polo fields.
For something more relaxed, Inboca Gastrobar, PuraTapa (both of which are on the Avenida del Mar) and its sister bar down in the Marina, Bokana, are a few of the best places to head for tapas.
A little outside the resort, just up the road towards San Roque, La Finca (Ctra. Nacional 340, Km 127) offers some excellent Thai fusion cuisine in a pleasant courtyard setting.
In the summer, Sotogrande after dark is all about the beach clubs. The coolest hang-out of the moment is definitely the Trocadero Beach Club (pictured – Grupotrocadero.com). With loungers, large Moroccan lanterns, rugs, cushions and parasols set against a backdrop of seafront palms swaying in the breeze, it may well be the most Instagrammable spot in Sotogrande.
There are a few other options worth dropping into if you want to make the most of the cool sea air in the evenings. El Octogono (Paseo del Río, 0, 11310 Torreguadiaro) doubles up as a great place to play padel or tennis; Bunker Beach Club (Paseo del Parque, S/N) at the easternmost end of Guadalquiton is a lovely spot and often has live music on in the evenings; finally, up the other end of the resort on Torreguadiaro beach, Chambao (Playa Torreguadiaro, s/n) is another attractive place for drinks and sea views.
A couple of relaxed bars in the port worth checking out are The Hairy Lemon and Ké bar. A couple of real Sotogrande nightlife institutions – which are practically next door to one another in the heart of the port, handily enough – they’ve been the meeting place of choice for a quick bite, a drink and a spot of people watching for the sizeable expat community for years now.
From Monaco to Puerto Banus, where there are yachts there’s luxury shopping. And Sotogrande’s no different, with plenty of choice for a bit of light retail therapy.
The pedestrianised Blue Sotogrande shopping quarter is the place to start. Here, Itsomi (Local 14, Ribera del Marlin) does a lovely line in beachwear, jewellery and accessories, Patricia Darch (Local 32-33, Ribera del Marlin) is an interior design showroom and De Gruyter (Ribera del Marlin 35) is an ultra-chic furniture store.
El Mercado de Levante is a fab Sunday market of artisan stalls and interesting pop-up shops, which in the summer months also opens up on Wednesday and Thursday evenings.
There are also a couple of nearby shopping centres to choose from in Mar y Sol and SotoMarket.
Other Things to Do
Golf, shopping and dining aside, Sotogrande itself is not exactly overflowing with things to do in the sightseeing sense of the word. Which is kind of understandable – it’s a luxury resort where people are supposed to come to kick back and relax, after all.
The surrounding area itself, though, is absolutely packed with sights and attractions. If you don’t fancy another day’s sunbathing, there are countless great day trip options right on the doorstep, from Gibraltar, Marbella old town or Ronda (see the day trip provided by tour company Tomaandcoe.com) or one of the beautiful nearby white villages like Casares (pictured above), Jimena de la Frontera or Gaucin.
A fishing trip is also a brilliant day out. You’re right at the mouth of the Mediterranean, where it meets the Atlantic, and the variety of fish you can catch ranges from swordfish and tuna to mackerel and even conger eel. Dean’s Charter Fishing (Deansfishingholidaysinspain.com) runs a tight ship and conforms to the required ‘catch and release’ regulations.
If that seems a little bit too much like hard work, you can charter a yacht for the day with Yachting Sotogrande (Yachtingsotogrande.com).
The absolute best way to see the Sotogrande resort is by a Mini Moke beach buggy. There’s a great company called The Jolly Mile (Thejollymile.com) where you can hire a cooler-than-cool Mini Moke and drive around visiting all the hot spots.
When to Go
As with the rest of the Costa del Sol, while it may be at its liveliest during the summer months Sotogrande’s very much a year-round destination. The weather is superb, with an average of +300 days of sunshine per year and winter temperatures that rarely drop much below the high teens or early twenties celsius.
A couple of dates do stand out, though. First: the polo. Sotogrande’s ‘other’ sport after golf is a big deal. The polo season runs from June to early September and takes place at the exclusive Santa Maria Polo Club adding a real dash of international glamour to the high summer months. (You can find out more with our Sotogrande polo guide.)
Another great time to be in Sotogrande is when the Sunset Valley Weekend festival (Sunsetvalleyweekend.com) is on. Taking place from 10-12 August in the Santa Maria Polo Club, the line-up tends to be 80s Spanish old favourites and 60-70s retro classics.
Where to Stay
There are undoubtedly some decent Sotogrande hotels to stay at. But we’re the Luxury Villa Collection, and we’re going to stick our neck out here and say that they’re not a patch on our handpicked selection of villas.
Villa Artea is a sleek, modern design villa that’s all clean lines, white-on-white minimalism and chic open-plan living spaces. Villa Karima (pictured above) is something else. A 16-bedroom pleasure palace of staggering proportions and a dizzying list of facilities, it’s more like its own self-contained luxury resort than anything resembling a standard ‘villa’.
Array (  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 139603 [post_author] => 5 [post_date] => 2020-12-11 09:50:40 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-12-11 09:50:40 [post_content] => Looking to get off the beaten track in Andalucia? We’ve scratched beneath the surface of this exciting, historic area of Spain, asked local experts and come up with a list of little-known things to see and do for our guide to hidden Andalucia...
If the bird's eye view of the inside of the cathedral looks spectacular, then to cap it off you emerge outside with 360-degree rooftop views of Malaga. [email protected]
Visit Malaga Cathedral's Roof
The top tip of Lindsay Gregory, Director of The Luxury Villa Collection: “Stroll around Malaga historic centre, take a hammam at Mammam Al Andalus and finish with cocktails at a rooftop bar.” https://malaga.hammamalandalus.com/en/
RELAX IN A HAMMAM
A rather lovely town with a Moorish fortress complex and no fewer than 30 churches. Don’t miss having tapas in the impressive Plaza de los Escribanos.
Meander in Antequera
Just outside Antequera, these are some of the largest and most complete megalithic structures in Europe. Museosdeandalucia.es
Visit Three 5000-year-old Dolmens
The ruins of a 9th-century church carved out of rock are the highlights of a larger fortified town complex. Anything 9th century and still standing is incredible in our books.
Wonder at a 9TH Century Church – Bobastro
A house with a garden in the Albayzin (the oldest part of Granada city) is known as a Carmen. These Carmens look out towards the Alhambra Palace, often have wooden balconies, plant-filled patios, babbling water features and decorative tiles.
Nose Around the Carmens of Granada's Albayzin
This 17th-century abbey and college comes complete with holy caves/ancient catacombs. The view of Granada alone is worth the walk.
Visit the Abbey of Sacromonte, Granada
This village has stately houses gripping onto the edge of a gorge, cobbled streets and spa credentials. Our top tip is to escape the summer heat in Granada and visit Alhama – it has a unique microclimate where summer nights cool to a comfortable level.
Take a day trip to Alhama de Granada and its Natural Hot Springs
Once part of several fortifications, the castle that sits on this tiny island dates back to the 13th century.
Find Out the Mysteries of the Island of Sancti Petri, San Fernando, Cadiz
This pristine white village, sitting high on a rocky hilltop, really comes into its own at sunrise and dusk. Aside from the dramatic light, there are lovely boutique shops, great restaurants and, during the summer, look out for their candlelight festival.
Experience the Beautiful Light in Vejer de la Frontera
While it's got a great beach with some decent Atlantic surf, it’s the laidback-hip bar vibe in El Palmar that makes it stand out from other stretches of southern Spain's coast.
Surf and Sip in El Palmar
David, chef at De Tako's top tip is, “One of the best ways to experience a country is through its food and an even better way is to enjoy perfectly cooked food is in an incredible setting surrounded by friends". We entirely agree – hire a private chef at your villa for the ultimate in convenience.
HIRE A Private Chef
One of our top hidden foodie treats in Andalucia is delicious Retinto beef from Cadiz. Much is spoken about fried fish, olives and olive oil, jamón ibérico and Sherry but this meaty option is also a real gastro-standout.
Taste Riotinto Beef
Hire a boat and hit the sea - you’ll almost inevitably come across a pod of dolphins in the Mediterranean.
Take to the Sea – Dolphin Watch
This forgotten about 12th-century arched gateway and wall was the main entrance into Seville, and is certainly off the beaten path.
Puerta de Macarena/Walls of Seville
You'll never have experienced a bar like Garlochí, a homage to Easter in Spain. All year round there's incense burning and procession music playing – they call it the cathedral of bars. Don’t miss their signature cocktail: Grenadine, whisky and Cava.
Drink at a Bar Dedicated to Easter in Sevilla
There’s a succession of beautiful waterfalls running over some interesting limestone formations in Sierra Norte de Sevilla Nature Park.
Wild Swimming at Cascadas de Hueznar in Seville Province
Fiona Flores Watson, Telegraph Travel Writer and Seville resident recommends: “The summer outdoor concerts held in the Alcazar Palace… a magical setting for live jazz, flamenco or classical music by moonlight.” Alcazarsevilla.org
SEE LIVE MUSIC IN THE ALCAZAR PALACE
The castle of Castillo de Almodovar del Rio was built in 740. You can join theatrical tours, do some medieval combat training or spooky storytelling. Castillodealmodovar.com
Visit Highgarden, the Tyrell’s House in Game of Thrones
Manni Coe of Toma & Coe Tours' top tip is: “One of the most consistently excellent restaurants I know in Andalucia is located on a little-known street, in the little-known town of Lucena. It's called Tres Culturas and it's also a handy stop off en-route to Cordoba." Tresculturasrestaurante.com
TRAVEL TO EAT AT TRES CULTURAS
In the Sierra de Cazorla natural park this castle was built at the start of the 16th century. A beautiful monument in an even more beautiful part of the world.
Marvel at the Castle of Iruela, Jaen
The colours of autumn over the vast landscape of rural Huelva is the perfect way to disconnect. Local people flock here to experience the change of the season.
Reconnect with Nature and See Autumn in Aracena
This breath-taking beach near the charming village of San Jose feels like another world.
Genoveses beacH in Cabo de Gata, Almeria
A bit of a cheat but do a tour…
Our top 5 are: Most unusual is in Segura de la Sierra in Jaen province: this square bullring is the old courtyard of a castle and was built in the 18th century. Ronda bullring is the second oldest and the biggest. Seville bullring is the oldest; Antequera's is famed for appearing in Madonna’s Take a Bow video; Mijas has spectacular views and is simply charming. Archidona usually erects a bullring inside its eight-sided main square during the summer season. Like this and want to know more about visiting southern Spain? Check out our 50 things to do in Andalucia and our guide to the five best cities to visit in Andalucia [post_title] => Hidden Andalucia [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => hidden-andalucia [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-01-31 15:25:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-01-31 15:25:18 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://theluxuryvillacollection.com/?p=139603 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 133379 [post_author] => 5 [post_date] => 2020-10-03 15:27:14 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-10-03 15:27:14 [post_content] =>
See Andalucia through its Bullrings
(As of Nov 2020)Since the global pandemic reached our countries in early 2020 there has been restrictions in one way or another on the way we live our lives. With the sheer amount of press on Covid-19 it’s difficult to see the wood from the trees. So we wanted to reach out to our guests and give you a clear idea of what it’s really like to be in southern Spain in 2020. As we become used to Covid-19 not going away we’re getting better at carrying on with our lives but with safety measures in place. Obviously, those who are at high risk may adopt a more stringent approach to their activities but for the rest of us we’re getting out and about responsibly. While we at The Luxury Villa Collection welcomed guests during 2020 we realise that clarity on what it's like in southern Spain is needed.
What restrictions are there in southern Spain?Shops, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, events, museums and art galleries all have capacity limits to ensure social distancing can be adhered to safely. Businesses all have hand sanitizer at the door so customers can clean their hands upon entering and leaving an establishment. As of 25th October there is a curfew between 22.00hrs and 07.00hrs. Further restrictions have been put in place to limit the movement of people outside their municipalities. Face coverings must be worn at all times if over 6 years old, other than:
- People playing sports do not have to wear a mask whilst engaged in the sporting activity.
- Masks do not need to be worn by customers who are eating, drinking, or smoking.
- In the sea or swimming pool.
- In a designated household sunbathing area on the beach.
Do I have to wear a face covering?The use of face coverings is mandatory for anyone over the age of 6 years old at all times unless during one of the points stated above. This includes in all forms of indoor and outdoor public spaces even if social distancing can be applied. For countries that haven’t adopted this measure, face coverings seem a huge inconvenience but what they have allowed people to do is enjoy their holiday as normal with face coverings and social distancing being the only restrictions.
Are restaurants open?Yes, restaurants and cafes are open with limitations place upon their capacity to ensure tables are spaced out enough so customers can remove their face coverings while drinking or eating. Serving staff and chefs must wear masks at all times.
Are Beaches open in Andalucia?Yes. Once on a beach in your own sunbathing area and in the sea you may remove face coverings. The sunbathing areas must be 2 metres apart and social distancing must be adhered to in the sea. Some beaches have allocated sunbathing areas others are flexible but there are personnel checking that people adhere to social distancing rules while enjoying the beach. No distancing is necessary within your family unit. The norms that local governments put in place over summer 2020 worked to great effect and people could enjoy the beaches of the Costa del Sol, Costa de la Luz and Costa Tropical.
Are tourist sights open?Yes. Restrictions on numbers being allowed into famous landmarks, tourist attractions and galleries has meant some sights have never been so quiet. Achieving the perfect photo of the Alhambra Palace or Real Alcazar de Sevilla without other sightseers is actually possible.
Does a face covering need to be worn while driving?When driving alone or with your household no face covering needs to be worn, but if there are passengers or a driver from a different household then everyone must wear a face covering.
What’s the general mood in southern Spain?Summer 2020 saw fewer parties for sure: the dancing all night in a club and watching the sunrise from a buzzing rooftop bar was and is not on the cards at the moment. However, long lunches beside the sea, visiting theme parks, historic sights, galleries and museums, beach days and outdoor activities are all there being enjoyed. It's really business as usual with the some sensible parameters in place. Some of our guests used our villas with entertainment rooms, cinemas, spas and abundance of space to organise private experiences from chefs to talks to spa treatments and live music. Bringing the wonderful Spanish culture into the safety of their private villa.
What is State of Alarm and What Does it Mean?The phrase state of alarm sounds very official and, well, alarming however, it is really just an administration step for the government and helps regional governments put in place restrictions. This phase allows the government (if necessary) to limit the movement of people at specific locations and times, temporary use private industries (such as private hospitals), limit the use of services and ensure the supply of necessary goods and services. In 2020 during Covid19, the state of alarm has meant limiting the movement of people between different provinces and curfews been implemented (from 23.00-06.00hrs). In no circumstances does state of alarm mean visitors aren't permitted to travel back to their home country.
Air travel – Is it safe?So far there has been little evidence of in-flight transmission of coronavirus, but there have been a couple of examples of transmission early on in the pandemic before more stringent controls were in place. Shaun Fitzgerald, Royal Academy of Engineering visiting professor at the University of Cambridge said, aircraft ventilation systems are unique, the “replacement rate” - the number of times a volume of air equivalent to the volume of the cabin is removed each hour - can be four minutes in a aircraft. Compare this to 20 or 30 minutes in an indoor environment on the ground and it’s very brisk. The air filters themselves on aeroplanes are sophisticated and much more effective than filters found in indoor venues on the ground. Most airlines say face coverings are mandatory, limit food and drink services and don’t allow queuing for the toilet. The airports themselves are being diligent ensuring social distancing is in place as well as temperature controls in some. As from October 2020 if traveling from Europe or the UK:
- You must complete a health control form - which includes a HCF - a negative PCR test within 72hrs of your arrival to Spain.