The Costa Del Sol is the name given to the almost 300 kilometres of coastline stretching from Gibraltar in the west to La Herradura in the east. It falls within three provinces of Andalucia which are Cadiz, Malaga and Granada. It is the stretch within the Malaga province, between Estepona and Nerja, which is the best known. Airports servicing the area are at Malaga and Gibraltar. Away from the coast the scenery is mainly mountainous with pretty Spanish villages, valleys full of orchards and spectacular views.
The coastline itself consists of a series of large beaches, coves hidden amongst cliffs, leisure marinas and fishing ports. Bathers can be found on the beaches of the Costa del Sol all year round. It is protected from north winds by high mountain ranges and has a mild climate with sea breezes and scant rainfall. The weather allows sub-tropical vegetation to grow and flourish. There are many different types of palm trees, cypresses, oleander, hibiscus and other very colourful plants. Oranges, lemons and olives grow in abundance and many town and village streets are lined with fruit bearing orange trees.
Malaga, the fifth largest city in Spain, is situated virtually in the centre of the Costa del Sol but with the major tourist areas to the west. As with the whole of this coastline, Malaga has been influenced by the different cultures which have populated it. Founded by Phoenicians in the 7th century, it later became a Roman municipality until it was conquered by the Moors and finally reconquered by Christians in 1487. With such a varied history it is no surprise that the city contains a wealth of interesting features including fine gardens, a magnificent cathedral, the Alcazaba (11th century Moorish castle) and numerous museums and galleries.
West of Malaga
Each town on the Costa del Sol has a different character depending on its history in the days prior to tourism and the type of development since. Torremolinos, the first resort heading west from Malaga, was the pioneer for resorts in the area and many people still associate it with its reputation of 20 years ago. Whilst it still has discos and high rise apartment blocks, the old fishermen’s quarter has been developed into an area of wonderful shops and restaurants.
Heading further west, Benalmadena Costa is a modern resort built as an extension of the older towns of Arroyo de la Miel and Benalmadena Pueblo. Between them these three areas provide every facility including an excellent leisure marina, a modern seaside area and a typical white Spanish village.
A little further west is the town of Fuengirola, with a long seafront promenade, an older town and all the attractions associated with a good holiday resort. Mijas is another white village, famed for its donkey taxis, that has now spread down to the coast at Mijas Costa.
Continuing still further west is the town of Marbella, oozing flamboyance. Unlike many of the other towns along the coast, this was never a little fishing port but has always been a thriving trading town. Along with Puerto Banus and Estepona, Marbella has been very successful in attracting upmarket guests with exclusive developments, luxury hotels and five star shopping.
East of Malaga
The area to the east of Malaga, Axarquia, is less over developed. The Axarquia retains all the charm of yesteryear thanks to the presence of breathtaking cliffs interspersed with tiny, attractive coves where bathers can flee the crowds to be found to the west of Malaga. These isolated havens are becoming known to more and more people and yet the area still offers an ideal location for those in search of greater tranquillity. The Axarquia is one of the few areas to still feature unspoilt beaches that have managed to escape the all-consuming urban development that has invaded other parts of the Mediterranean coast.
Travelling eastwards from Malaga, the Axarquia starts at La Cala del Moral and continues to the border with the province of Granada. The route along this coastline provides a picturesque contrast between sea and mountains, passing through Rincon de la Victoria, Benajarafe, Almayate, Torre del Mar and Torrox to the main resort of Nerja. This is a pretty town surrounded by mountains and beaches and known for its protected climate, clear air, caves and magnificent views.
Another outstanding feature of this coastline is its numerous golf courses. The Costa del Sol, often referred to as the Costa del Golf, is compelling for golfers who can find everything needed for just a round or two or a full golfing holiday.
Finally, the Costa del Sol is rightly acclaimed for its way of life, with plenty of small bars to relax in, superb food, wonderful people and numerous fiestas.
Archidona is situated 50 kilometres from Malaga and 20 from Antequera, with a population of 8,500. It lies at the foot of the Sierra de Gracia, which reaches 943 metres altitude. It is surrounded by mountains and nature reserves, of note the Lagunas Grande y Chica (Big and Small Lakes) which is a humid area of salt water, rich in sulphates and of high ecological value.
The town was first settled by the Turdulo tribe around 1500 BC, and later by the Phoenicians, Romans and Moors.
Archidona hosts an annual Feria del Perro (Dog Fair) in the first week of June which is attended by 25,000 people and 4,000 dog entrants. Other festivities include Carnaval for a week in February, Easter week parades and an August Fair.
Sightseeing in Archidona
Plaza OchavadaPlaza Ochavada – Baroque architecture, built in 1786 by local master builders Antonio Sevillano and Francisco Frias.
Plaza de la Victoria – the centre of life around which stand the town hall, an old granary with Baroque entrance and the Iglesia de la Victoria.
Hermitage of the Virgen de Gracia – originally a Moorish mosque.
Church of Nazarene – built in the 18th century with an interesting main entrance and clock tower, it houses an exceptional 16th century Granada school carving.
Church of Santa Ana – 16th century, it has a triangular tower and rich interior decoration.
Convent of Minimas – Baroque brick tower with a green and white ceramic spire.
Calahonda is comprised of new developments, lying on the coast between Marbella and Fuengirola. The town is rustic in style with limited high rise buildings and lots of green areas.
There are three main commercial centres with shops, restaurants, bars, banks and three 24 hour medical centres. The Costa del Sol Hospital is a few minutes from Calahonda. Schools for all ages are either in or close to the town, with the English International School only five minutes drive away. There are tennis courts, a fitness centre, a marina (Cabopino), a range of water sports and ten golf courses within a 10 kilometre radius.
Casares is located half way between the Costa del Sol and the Serrania of Ronda mountains at 410 metres above sea level. It has a population of 3,100.
Casares is a beautiful white village of urban Arab design. Lying within the foothills of the Serrania of Ronda, it has an impressive natural environment with a varied countryside of hills, Spanish firs, orchards and cereal fields.
First settled in Palaeolithic times, Casares was later inhabited by Iberians, Phoenicians, Romans and Arabs. Money was minted here during the Roman era and the town derived its name (Tower of the Cesars) following a visit from Julius Cesar. Sightseeing should include the old Roman spa from the Hedionda, the Ferrete caves once inhabited by Palaeolithic man, the natal home of the lawyer Blas Infante (1885-1936) and the ruins of an Arab fort.
Estepona is located on the coast 83 kilometres to the west of Malaga, and has a population of 37,000. Bordered by steep mountain slopes, it lies in the foothills of the Sierra Bermeja and has a wide coast of sandy beaches 22 kilometres long. There are two golf courses within 6 kilometres and another five within 15 kilometres.
Estepona has a charming marina and a large fishing port, and an old quarter with quaint cobbled streets and leafy plazas. From the town it is possible to see Gibraltar and the North African coast. The surrounding countryside is a mixture of forest with Spanish fir and pine trees and Mediterranean scrubland. Estepona is of Phoenician and Iberian origin but aquired importance under Roman and Muslim rule, as reflected in the urban layout of narrow streets and white-washed houses. A major attraction is Selwo Adventure Park, a natural park with wild animals in almost total freedom.
Sightseeing in Estepona
The Church of the Virgen de los Remedios (Iglesia de la Virgen de los Remedios) – 18th century, formed by three vaulted naves and a dome over the transept. The entrance is a mix of rococo features and colonial architecture.
The Clock Tower (Torre del Reloj) – the only remains of a church ordered to be built by Henry IV in 1474.
Watchtowers (Torres Vigías) – there are several of these with Phoenician-Roman origin, restored under Arab rule. One of these, the Torre Salavieja, is located beside the marina.
Iberian Village (Poblado Ibero) – remains of an Iberian village, including an aqueduct, are found on the hillside of Torrón.
Roman Villas (Villas Romanas) – there are several sites of Roman towns located in the district; outstanding are those at Torres and in the Antena Park.
The Casa de la Cultura is a beautiful building in the old town which houses exhibitions and is a useful information point.
Fuengirola is located on the coast 27 kilometres to the west of Malaga. It’s urban development extends for 7 kilometres, along a narrow coastal strip with beaches and promenade. The town has a population of 43,000.
Fuengirola was originally settled by Phoenicians followed by Carthaginians, Romans and Arabs. Roman archaeological remains, including parts of an aqueduct, can be found nearby. The old centre of the town is still a labyrinth of well maintained narrow streets in Moorish style.
Attractions of the town include the Fuengirola Zoo, water park Acuatico, and an attractive marina with a sailing club and active fishing port. Also there are no less than twelve top class golf courses within 3 to 10 kilometres.
Sightseeing in Fuengirola
Sohail Castle (Castillo de Sohail) – originally built by Muslims between 1090 and 1114, it was destroyed in 1487 during Christian reconquest. Pirate attacks obligated its restoration for sea defense.
Roman City of Seul (Ciudad Romana de Seul) – a settlement located around Sohail Castle. The archaeological site includes the remains of a salted meats factory and a group of well preserved sinks.
Secretary’s Estate (Finca del Secretario) – a Roman site dating from the 1st to the 4th centuries. A statue in white marble, called ‘the Venus of Fuengirola’, from the 2nd century was discovered here and is on display in the Cultural Centre.
Thermal Springs of Torreblanca (Termas Romanas de Torreblanca) – a Roman site situated at the entrance to the Torreblanca urbanisation. In addition to the thermal springs there is a fish salting factory from the 4th century and a necropolis with 32 Visigoth tombs.
Roman Temple (Templo Romano) – a temple located on the seafront made from white marble extracted from quarries at Mijas.
Parish Church of the Virgen del Rosario (Parroquia de Virgen del Rosario) – has an interesting Baroque facade.
Open Museum (Museo Abierto) – an outdoor site containing a series of murals by contemporary artists.
La Herradura is situated 60 kilometres to the east of Malaga. It lies at the eastern end of the Costa del Sol and has a two kilometre stretch of beach within a beautiful bay from which the town takes its name (herradura means horseshoe). Golf courses within easy reach along the coast are 30 kilometres to the west at Torre del Mar or 25 kilometres to the east at Motril.
In the old area of the town, narrow streets climb a gentle hill from the beach, bordered by whitewashed houses and leading to flower filled plazas. Regulations in La Herradura prevent high rise construction in the newer developments to the east of the old town.
Marbella is situated 50 kilometres to the west of Malaga. It’s municipal boundary has 25 kilometres of coastline. It has a residential population of 85,000 and a summer population of 200,000. Marbella has been developed as a luxury resort with well kept ornamental parks, ten golf courses and another fourteen within 20 kilometres, and three marinas. The beaches are well maintained and sandy. It is the home or second home to many film stars and multimillionaires. Driving west from the centre takes you along the ‘Golden Mile’, so called because of the many palatial beachfront villas. This is the location of the five-star, luxury Marbella Club Hotel, built in the 1950s, which was the starting point for Marbella’s famed reputation.
At the western end of the Golden Mile is the marina of Puerto Banus, home to the rich and famous and the place to see and be seen.
Marbella was populated early by man, with the findings of Palaeolithic and Neolithic archaeological remains in the Pedro Redondo Cave and the Coto Correa site. Roman and Visigoth remains are abundant throughout the area and include the Paleochristian Basilica Vega de Mar and a Roman villa at Cilmana which has very good mosaics. The name of the town was derived from its Arabic era when it was called ‘Barbella’.
Sightseeing in Marbella
San Juan de Dios Hospital – built between the 15th and 16th centuries in late Gothic style.
Town Council (Ayuntamiento) – a 16th century Renaissance building constructed by catholic monarchs.
Church of the Encarnación (Iglesia de la Encarnación) – built in 1618, enourmous with Basilica floor-plan, Rococo facade and organ.
House of the Corregidor (Casa del Corregidor) – 16th century Mudejar style.
Municipal Museum (Museo Municipal) – has Mudejar coffered ceilings and fresco paintings from the 16th century.
Bazán Hospital – in Renaissance style, it houses the Contemporary Spanish Recording Museum (Museo del Grabado Español Contemporáneo).
Mijas is located 31 kilometres to the west of Malaga. It has three urban nuclei: La Cala on the coast, Mijas Pueblo which is 8 kilometres inland and 428 metres above sea level, and the more modern Las Lagunas. Together they have a population of 35,000.
La Cala has 12 kilometres of beaches with fine sand and a blue flag indicating that it is one of the cleanest beaches in Europe. Mijas Pueblo is a pretty village with typical Andalucian white houses covered in jasmine and bougainvilla, small squares, picturesque streets and panoramic views. Situated on mountain foothills, it is surrounded by pine trees and overlooks the Mediterranean. Las Lagunas is the modern district of the municipality where there are industrial and commercial areas, health and sports centres, schools and a library. Mijas has six golf courses and another five within 10 kilometres.
The town was originally founded by Romans who named it ‘Tamisa’ and during the later Arab occupation it was renamed ‘Mixa’. The main activity in the past was quarry mining in the pine covered mountains to the north.
Within the pueblo, the Church of Inmaculada Concepción is 18th century with three naves and a priceless Mudejar coffered ceiling, built on the previous site of a mosque. The village’s Casa Museo, opened in 1995, recreating a traditional village house. The unusual rectangular bullring can be entered via the Bullfighting Museum. There are plenty of craft shops, bars and restaurants.
Free guided walks, with places limited to fourteen, are available each Saturday morning from Mijas Pueblo or La Cala. To participate call a few days in advance on 952 485 900.
Nueva Andalucia is a new area built in traditional Andalucian architecture, lying on the coast between Marbella and San Pedro in the heart of the Costa del Golf. Its Centro Plaza is a popular commercial centre with shops, offices, bars, restaurants and a gymnasium.
A casino and many sports facilities have been provided. These include four golf courses one of which, La Dama de Noche, is floodlit for playing at night. There are another twelve golf courses within 10 kilometres. Several schools are located at Nueva Andalucia, including the international Aloha College.
San Pedro de Alcantara
San Pedro de Alcantara lies on the coast, 10 kilometres west of Marbella and 20 kilometres east of Estepona. A new promenade stretches from Puerto Banus through San Pedro, flanked by bars and restaurants. There are several beach clubs including Bora Bora, one of the best on the coast situated next to the remains of a necropolis, and the Guadalmina Beach Club located next to third century Roman baths.
In town, the central square is a main meeting area and is surrounded by narrow streets with shops and bar cafes. San Pedro has three golf courses and is within 1 to 13 kilomteres of another twelve.
Sotogrande is a luxury 5,000 acre resort with more than 20 kilometres of coastline on the Costa del Sol, a few kilometres north of Gibraltar.
A stylish, purpose built resort, Sotogrande has developed into a real community with its own schools, shops, sports facilities, marina, sailing club, three world class golf courses on site and three more within 15 minutes drive, banks, restaurants, hotels, bars and beaches with stunning views over Gibraltar and North Africa.
Torremolinos is situated on the coast 8 kilometres to the west of Malaga and 6 kilometres from Malaga airport, in the foothills of the Sierra de Mijas mountains. To the north, pine forests cover the slopes. Since the 1960s Torremolinos has been developed for the northern and central European tourist industry and is now a large complex of hotels, appartments and facilities servicing tourists whose priorities include sun, beaches and nightlife. The tourist boom began in the late 1950s when Torremolinos was still a fishing village, to it’s present day status with a residential population of 35,000 and a summer population of 150,000.
Populated since prehistory due to the mildness of the climate and an abundance of natural springs, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and Arabs have all settled here. The principal activity of milling flour gave the town its name (mills of the tower). There were 19 flour mills that used water power.
There is a tremendous variety and number of restaurants, cafes, bars and discotheques as well as an important conference centre and seven golf courses within 1 to 12 kilometres.