The Costa del Sol is an ideal holiday destination for visitors wishing to see the historical beauty of Southern Spain. There are regular coach tour excursions visiting historical cities such as Granada, Cadiz, Ronda and Gibraltar, all varying in distance with the maximum journey being a three hour drive. Slightly closer and only a 10 minute drive from Fuengirola, is the beautiful white washed village of Mijas, located up in the mountains with the most beautiful views of the Mijas Costa coastline. For those choosing to hire a car, roads and directions to all these cultural places are good and easy to find.
Mijas pueblo is a traditional white washed village situated 10 minutes inland from Fuengirola in the mountains. The residents of the village have successfully managed to combine the historical element of the quarters of Mijas with that of a thriving tourist destination. Craft shops with leather, embroidery anglaise and souvenirs are dotted around the winding narrow cobbled streets and built in amongst the locals’ homes. Mijas pueblo is a village with real character and is steeped in history – the Sanctuary of the Virgen de la Peña, the Church of La Concepcion and the quadrangular bullring are just some of its monuments. Between 7-12 September, the festival in the honour of the Virgen de la Peña takes place, and if you visit the village during this time, Mijas pueblo will be lavishly decorated. Around the edge of the village are gardens and a wall, almost acting like a balcony, which offers spectacular views of the coastline and surrounding areas. One of the many characteristics of Mijas Pueblo contributing to its natural charm, are the street stalls selling “almendras garrapiñadas”, hot sugared almonds, and the donkey-taxis located at the foot of the village offering trips around the centre. Mijas pueblo is set in the mountains and offers panoramic views over the coastline below, and there are a lot of steps and quaint walkways to discover, so ensure you wear comfy shoes!
Malaga, is considered the major city of the Costa del Sol and is a city, a seaport and a beachside holiday resort all in one. It is a cosmopolitan city with wide walkways, historical monuments, lively nightlife and fantastic seafood restaurants. Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga, and much of his artwork is on display in galleries around the city including the 16th century Museum of Fine Arts and the Museo Picasso Malaga which opened only a few years ago. One of the main landmarks of the city is La Alcazaba, a fortress dating back to 1065 which is one of the largest Muslim military buildings in Spain and is now an archaeological museum. Nearby, is the “parador”, a state hotel with great panoramic views of the city and which was once a castle that was rebuilt by the Moors. Other historical monuments to visit in Malaga are the cathedral with its Renaissance style, churches and Alameda botanical gardens to name just a few. As well as being a cultural and historical city, Malaga is a great place to shop and dine out. The smaller streets and plazas surround the main shopping area, and Calle Larios is a must, as it is considered the equivalent to Bond Street. One important factor to take into consideration when planning your time in Malaga, is that the city closes for the siesta, so this would be a perfect time to take a long lunch!
Tarifa is most famous for its location as it is situated on the most southern point of Europe. Only 14km from Africa, the mountains of Africa can easily be seen. The second most important attribute to Tarifa is the weather. It is one of the most famous destinations for windsurfers in the world and is considered a surfers paradise because the wind blows almost the entire year. As well as windsurfing, horse riding, rock climbing, diving and kite surfing are extremely popular here. With beautiful countryside and beaches, Tarifa also has many historical monuments including the Gate of Jerez, the church of San Mateo and the Caliphs Castle from the Moorish rule, which help it to retain its heritage.
Cadiz, previously named Gades, is located in the southwest of Andalucia and is the oldest city in Europe. Originally a port trading town for ships sailing to and from America, Cadiz is an enchanting and lively city with narrow streets, beautiful gardens and architecture of a baroque or neoclassical nature. The town is almost entirely surrounded by the sea giving visitors the impression they are on an island. The town centre is very compact with many differing monuments, churches and buildings to visit such as the old prison Carcel Real, Tavira Tower, the Municipal History Museum and the County Council Building. There are also many squares to walk through, one of which, Plaza de Espana, is considered to be the most beautiful village square in Spain. The Baroque Cathedral with its large domes and luxurious interior has a very different style to most Spanish cathedrals and is well worth a visit. Cadiz is a vibrant city with much to see, and during Easter there are festival processions throughout the narrow streets which are wonderful to watch.
Ronda is such a beautiful town and has so much history, it is hard to put into words. Located in the northwest tip of the province of Malaga, Ronda is situated 60km up a long and winding road surrounded by a mountain range called Serrania de Ronda. Without a doubt, it is one of the most visited towns in Andalucia, and with its narrow streets, historic buildings and monuments, pretty squares, picturesque restaurants and whitewashed houses, it is easy to understand what puts it ahead of other tourist places of interest. One of the oldest towns in Spain, Ronda’s cultural heritage is mostly of an Arab style; however, prehistoric remains can also be found here such as the Cave of the Pileta and the Dolmen of the Poplar. During the 18th century, two of Ronda’s most famous monuments were built – the New Bridge and the Bull Ring. The Bull Ring is the oldest in Spain and the largest in the world. Local crafts include pottery, iron works, furniture, carved woodwork and anything to do with horses such as whips, harnesses and saddles. This city is one of the wonders of Andalucia. With so much to see and the friendliness of the locals, it is definitely worth visiting.
The city of Granada, situated in the eastern part of Andalucia, is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains where skiing is popular. Split into two distinct areas, the old and new districts, Granada is steeped in Moorish architecture. Set within hills, the old district with narrow lanes and wonderful landscape is home to the Alhambra, a world heritage site. The Alhambra, a combination of a Moorish fort and palace is one of Spain’s most visited monuments and considered one of the seven wonders of the world. The new district is situated on flat ground where the cathedral is located surrounded by busy roads. Many people who visit Granada fall in love with it and find it an enchanting place to visit.
Gibraltar, located on the southern most tip of the Iberian Peninsula is a rock in the middle of the sea which offers wildlife, architecture, fantastic views of both Africa and Spain, and is steeped in history. You can journey to the top of the Rock by cable car and you can visit the apes on the island, the only free roaming monkeys in Europe. Legend has it, that if the apes ever leave Gibraltar, it will no longer be British soil. Places to visit on the Rock are St Michael’s Cave and the Medieval Castle. The opening to St Michael’s Cave is 350m above sea level and deepens into the Rock, forming an auditorium where sound and light shows occur twice daily except on Saturdays and Sundays. Gibraltar has faced many conflicts over the centuries including World War II, when Winston Churchill believing an attack on Gibraltar was imminent, ordered a network of tunnels to be built within the rock – a city within a city. These tunnels are now open to the public and are worth a visit. Shopping in Gibraltar is very popular as goods can still be purchased VAT free. Shops are normally open until 7pm, but close on a Saturday afternoon and on Sundays. A typical souvenir from Gibraltar is the crystal, and if you visit the Crystal Factory, you will witness glass blowers crafting molten glass into beautiful crystal. One important item to remember to take with you is your passport – you will not be allowed to enter Gibraltar without it!
Tangier is accessible by ferry from Tarifa. The journey on the hydrofoil takes 35 minutes and before you know it, you are in a completely different culture. Historical monuments include towers and mosques, but if you are prepared for the hustle and bustle of the “bazaars” then they are well worth the visit. The bazaars are situated in the Medina, the old quarter and sell local products such as ceramics, metalwork, carpets and leather. There is also a street market to visit and belly dancers are a regular sight within the city. Again, it is important to remember to take your passport!
Seville, located inland from the coast, is situated on the Guadalquivir river which passes through the city. The river leads out onto the Atlantic coast, and Seville’s port is therefore one of the most active river ports in the Iberian pensinsula. There are many historical monuments to visit, including La Giralda, the tower of one the Islamic mosques. Seville is steeped in history with art and literature playing an important role. Famous painters and sculptors such as Velazquez and Montañes originated from this famous city and it is the birthplace of Don Juan. Seville offers plenty to see and do, both day and night with cathedrals to visit, shops to browse and bars and restaurants to drink and dine in. Because Seville is located inland, during the Summer months the heat can be overbearing, so a recommendation is to relax at one of the many open-air bars alongside the river. The flamenco dance is often seen displayed on the streets and one of the first flamenco schools opened in Seville in the 18th century. Shops offer a wide selection of products to purchase from clothing, leather, ceramics, guitars, fans, embroidery and flamenco costumes to antiques and contemporary art.
Cordoba, surprisingly enough, is Spain’s tenth largest city with a population of approximately 320,000 people. Even though it has many residents, Cordoba has the feel of being a small provincial town with a historical centre. At the heart of the city, is the Mezquita, the biggest and most beautiful mosque in Spain constructed by the Moors. Surrounding the Mezquita, are the tiny narrow streets of the Jewish Quarter and one of the few remaining synagogues still standing in Spain since the Jewish evictions. Cordoba is a fantastic city to visit, with its beautiful Alcazar gardens, quaint old squares with orange trees, the Roman bridge and Arab waterwheels. The Roman bridge crosses the Guadalquivir river and offers a stunning panoramic view of historical Cordoba, particularly at sunset.