Costa del Sol Places to See
There is lots to keep you occupied in and around Marbella but no doubt you’ll want to explore a bit further. Puerto Banús marina is one of Costa del Sol places to be seen and celebrity-watch and Marbella is also a must – in particular Marbella Old Town ‘casco histórico’, a rabbit-warren of narrow, flower-filled streets, the famous Orange Tree Square ‘plaza de los naranjos’ with its 16thC town hall, the remains of the Arab castle and city walls. Marbella has two municipal markets for fresh fish, meat, fruit and vegetables, cheeses, olives, flowers and much more. Excellent shopping, boutiques and great leather goods, belts, shoes and bags.
Costa del Sol Places to See A Bit Further away…
Most people flying into Málaga leave the airport, turn right or left along the coastline and ignore the city itself. That’s a shame because Málaga is a vibrant city undergoing something of a renaissance in recent years and The New York Times included it in its 50 ‘must see’ cities in 2016. Settled by the Phoenicians nearly 3,000 years ago, followed by Carthaginian, Roman and Arab rule, it is one of the oldest cities in the world. Visit the Roman amphitheatre and the Arab fortifications of Gibralfaro, stroll through the historic city centre, take in the Pompidou and St. Petersburg Russian art collections and the museum honouring Málaga’s most famous son, Pablo Picasso, before coming right up to date at Muelle Uno, the new waterfront mall by the port. After a busy day, finish off with an evening session in the ultimate in relaxing experiences at the Hammam Al Andalus. Click here for more information
El Caminito del Rey:
Recently re-opened after years in disrepair the Caminito del Rey is often called “the scariest pathway in the world”. This would be a great day trip to take in the Ardales National Park, including the Guadalhorce Lakes where you can canoe, kayak and cycle, and El Chorro gorge. Stunning scenery and some good restaurants lakeside make this one of the Costa del Sol places to see. There is a limit of 1,100 daily visitors so book in advance here.
Leaving Villa La Sorpresa, turn right on the main road and a 40 minute drive through the mountains takes you to the fortress town of Ronda, dramatically located on the Tajo gorge. Originally settled by Celts about 3,000 years ago, the Phoenicians followed and by Roman times it was an important settlement. Julius Caesar granted it city status. Ronda’s bullring is the oldest in Spain and if you have seen the film ‘Carmen’ with Plácido Domingo you’ll spot lots of Ronda landmarks. There’s much to see in the town itself but two nearby Costa del Sol places to see are also worth a visit. Acinipo is about 20 minutes from the centre of Ronda and it was an important Roman town for about 700 years. Click here for more information. You can visit the baths and amphitheatre. For evidence of even earlier human habitation, go to La Cueva del la Pileta near Benaoján, south west of Ronda. Call in advance for guided tours of the cave art, some of which is thought to be 20,000 years old. Click here for more information
The UNESCO World Heritage sites in Andalucía:
Spain has 45 UNESCO World Heritage sites, the third highest in the world and with seven sites Andalucía has more than any other Spanish region. There may soon be eight as the Medina Azahara near Córdoba will be Spain’s candidate when more sites are considered in 2018.
The easiest Costa del Sol places to see to get to from Villa La Sorpresa are:
Settled by the Romans and known as Hispalis, Seville is Andalucía’s largest city and Spain’s only river port; Columbus’s departure for the New World was from Seville as was Magellan’s journey, which led to the first circumnavigation of the world. Recaptured from the Arabs in 1248 it was already an important trading city but flourished even more as the Spanish empire grew and Seville became one of the world’s richest cities. Three sites have World Heritage status:
· The Cathedral, the third largest in the world, which houses the tomb of Columbus.
· The Alcázar, the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe.
· The Archive of the Indies, the repository housing the documents that record the Spanish Empire in the Americas and the Philippines. The building is one of Seville’s fine renaissance structures.
By car you should be in the city centre in less than two hours, either going via Ronda or down the coast to Algeciras, then via Jerez so it’s an easy day trip. Like most Spanish cities, the historic city centre of Seville is flat and compact and there’s no need for a car so an alternative is the AVE high-speed train from Málaga. Lot’s of people stay away from Seville in the heat of summer but although it is often over 40ºC in July and August it’s a dry heat and Seville is a city that really knows how to live even when it’s at its hottest. Seville claims to be the birth place of tapas, although Granada would disagree but whoever is right, there’s nowhere better for a tapas crawl in the evening, going from bar to bar, sampling the best on offer.
Another of the Costa del Sol places to see, after the fall of Córdoba in 1236 there was only one seat of Arab rule for the last 250 years of occupation and that was Granada, until it too fell in 1492. Some claim that the Alhambra is Spain’s most visited building, more than 2.3m go every year, and it is best to plan ahead if you intend going: everything you need to know is on this multi-lingual site here.
Three sites have World Heritage status:
· The Alhambra
· The Generalife
· The Albayzin quarter
Via Málaga by car the journey is about two hours. The AVE high-speed rail line is due to open before the end of 2016 but as the route is via the Antequera hub the journey time won’t be much reduced. The summer months are hot but not as extreme as Seville or Córdoba. However, it’s very different at other times of the year given the altitude, 750m or 2,500ft above sea level. Spring and autumn are chilly and winter is freezing, serious wrapping up is needed.
The ski resort of Pradollano is Europe’s most southerly and one of the highest, with pistes between 2,100 and 3,300m. The altitude means one of the longest skiing seasons, usually open by December 1st and not closing until May. It’s a very Spanish resort, packed at weekends and on bank holidays so aim for a mid-week trip to avoid queues. There are 106kms spread over 120 pistes and even though the 2015/16 wasn’t one of the snowiest there were still 200cms of the white stuff on the upper slopes and 400 – 500cms is the norm. Here’s a recent independent review of the resort plus the official site and an unofficial English version. When the snow has melted the mountain biking and moto-cross season takes over.
The first traces of human presence date back to the Neanderthals, the first recorded settlements were Carthaginian and the Romans conquered Córdoba in 206BC. Under the Arabs it was thought to be the most populous city in the world, with as many as 500,000 inhabitants, before being re-conquered by Ferdinand III in 1236. If you are staying at Villa La Sorpresa in early May then you can catch the flower festival in which the patios, the traditional inner courtyards of Córdoba are opened to visitors. Residents of Córdoba compete with each other to produce the most beautiful displays and the patios literally drip with flowers. Click here for more information.
Centred on the Mosque/Cathedral the historic city centre has World Heritage status. The Medina Azahara, about 13kms to the west of Córdoba and often called the medieval Versailles, was constructed from 936 as the administrative centre and palace of the Arabs but its use was short-lived, abandoned in 1010. Assessment of its candidacy for UNESCO World Heritage site status will begin in 2017, with the decision due in 2018.
Perhaps too far for a day trip by car as the journey time from Villa La Sorpresa, straight up the motorway from Málaga, is nearly three hours, much easier on the high-speed train with the fastest train taking only 57 minutes. Summer temperatures about the same as Seville.
The other UNESCO sites in Andalucía are:
Doñana National Park, one of the places protecting the Iberian lynx. On the Europe to Africa migration route just about every bird lands to feed and rest, making Doñana a bird-watcher’s paradise. Here is a useful resource to help you plan a trip, guided tours are recommended.
Other recommended Costa del Sol places to see are the towns of Úbeda and Baeza in Jaén province, for fine examples of Arab and renaissance architecture and prehistoric cave paintings at various sites in the provinces of Granada, Almería and Jaén, which are collectively known as Rock Art of the Mediterranean Basin.