Costa del Sol: Whitewashed mountain villages behind Europe's most famous bathing coast

Costa del Sol

Europe's Number One Bathing Coast: Costa del Sol

Europe's Number One Bathing Coast: Costa del Sol

Whitewashed mountain villages behind Europe's most famous bathing coast

The Spanish coast of the Mediterranean Sea from Tarifa to east of Malaga is known as the Costa del Sol. Although the region enjoys 320 days of sunshine per year, it was not developed as a tourist destination until the 1950s, when a construction boom set in which left the coast dotted with highrise hotels and apartment buildings. The hastily created tourist destinations were linked by a high-speed motorway. Fortunately, some of the worst excesses were eliminated in the 1990s. Even so, the back country offers a welcome change from the heavily populated coastal areas: the cheerful tranquillity of old Andalusia can still be found among the white mountain villages surrounded by pine forests and olive groves.

Spain Round Trips Costa del Sol

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Attractions Costa del Sol

Acantilados Maro Nature Park

Panoramic round tour at Cerro Caleta

The natural park stretches from Nerja to Cala de Cazaida. With twelve kilometers of coastline and an area of nearly 500 acres, it includes the cliffs of the coast, smaller beaches and tiny bays, some of which are still largely untouched. Protected and rare plants can be discovered, including white rosemary. Those who want to explore the park can do a short, scenic hike at Cerro Caleta from the car park El Cabuelo at the N 340. (Round trip: 5 kilometers, 1:30 hour, up and down: 280 meters)

Aqueduct in Nerja

Aqueduct and temple with a view

This aqueduct comprises 37 arches and four levels spanning the Barronco de la Coladilla gorge. It was constructed in the 19th century in to supply a mill with water and is still in operation today. The arches were influenced by Moorish architecture and there is a path alongside the sluice offering a marvelous view of the gorge and the surrounding green landscape. A small temple in the middle of the bridge is an inviting place to linger.

Balcón de Europa

Castle ruins with a panoramic view of the ocean

This observation platform has been constructed on the foundations of a medieval castle. The Balcón de Europa hovers 60 meters over the ocean and can be reached by a walk along the promenade in Nerja. There is a swimming cove down below with old watchtowers and a restaurant offering a panoramic view. The fortress upon which the Balcón de Europa was built was destroyed by an earthquake in the 19th century. The current king back then, Alfonso XII held a moving speech at the ruins, which is why there is a monument dedicated to him there.

Church of El Salvador

Baroque church in the old town

This 17th-century Baroque church stands in the historic city center of Nerja. The large tree standing next to it is called “Cerote” by the locals, which means “tree of bad luck.” The building was completely restored in 1997. Its interior is made up of three transepts divided by pillars and round arches. There is also a semi-dome over the cloistered courtyard. Frescoes from the School of Granada dating to the 18th century adorn the prayer niches and feature scenes from the gospels. The mural was painted by Francisco Hernández, a well-known artist from the nearby town of Vélez.

Cueva de Nerja

Stone-age gallery in a stalactite cave

When five young friends climbed through a shaft in 1959 hunting bats, they discovered a forgotten wonderland reminiscent of an underground cathedral. The stalactite cave has a total length of almost five kilometres. After the boys had removed a stalagmite, they came across skeletons and ceramic bowls in the gallery. They were followed by archaeologists who systematically explored the cave. They found paintings the age of which today is dated to at least 20,000 years. The representation of a seal is well recognizable. The Nerja Cave must have been used for thousands of years as a burial place, pantry, but also by hyenas who found shelter here. Part of the cave is open to the public. Concerts take place regularly in a natural amphitheatre.

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Hike in the gorge of the Rio Chillar

Wading barefoot through a mountain stream

This hike starts at the edge of Nerja and will lead you into the gorge of the Rio Chillar. This is the most significant river in the Sierra de Almijara and it has carved out a magnificent gorge that is shaded in summer. Here you can take off your shoes and wade in the river. However, it is better to use the trail during other seasons. (5:46 hrs, 17 km, elevation change: 740 m)


Center of the Costa del Sol

Malaga is the economic center of Andalusia. Every year over seven million tourists land at the airport and flock to the hotels on the Costa del Sol. Basking in over 320 days of sunshine per year, the coast from Malaga to Estepona is the largest single tourist area in Europe. Nevertheless, the city where Picasso spent the first 15 years of his life still has its attractions: the quaint streets around the harbor and in the old town are pleasant places to take a stroll and forget the bland suburbs that one has to pass through on the way into or out of the city.


Seaside resort town on the Costa del Sol

Today, this town on the Costa del Sol is characterized by tourism. The surrounding hotels and discos attest to this fact. Nevertheless, Nerja is relatively quiet compared to Malaga. The historic old town with its whitewashed houses and narrow alleys is closed to cars. If you go on a walk through town, be sure to take a peek at the buildings' inner courtyards, since many beautiful objects, imaginative gardens and examples of fine craftsmanship are tucked away in them. There are also beautiful villages to discover in the surrounding area.


Where time seems to stand still

This white village in the border region between Axarquía and Montes de Málaga enjoys an attractive location on a hill overlooking two small rivers. Its narrow alleys are lined with whitewashed buildings where time seems to stand still. In the middle of town stands the Santa Ana church with its red pillars. The Torre de Salazar tower and the dolmen at the Cerro de la Corona are further points of interest. The typical local dish is call chanfaina, which is a kind of stew that is celebrated every year by a festival.

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