Costa Del Sol. The Coast of the Sun. The southern coast of Spain is littered with beach side towns and bordered by rolling hills and jagged mountains housing quaint hinterland villages.
Brits flock to the balmy coast every summer to bask in the warm, glowing rays, over-crowding the beautiful beaches with their pasty bods whilst the hilltop towns lap up their panoramic views over the med and steer clear of a vast amount of the hustle and bustle.
Rich with Andalucian culture and a warm heritage, these towns are a must do for any visitor exploring this coast line. Delicious food created from local produce will have your mouth watering, witness mountain village life how it has been for centuries as locals stroll to the central fountain to collect their weekly water and scrub clean the towns walk ways with so much pride and soul to preserve their beautiful villages.
The below three villages were the stand out to me when travelling through this chilled part of Spain. I hope in your travels here, you experience the same beauty that I did.
Hidden in the hills behind Marbella, Ojen is a picturesque little mountain village characterised by white washed houses with sun kissed terracotta roofs. You would imagine cobblestoned streets, but no. The streets are also terracotta tiles. The local women of this sleepy village line the alley ways on their hands and knees as they scrub tirelessly ensuring the tiles are clean. They repeat this ritual daily. The village has a rustic Mediterranean ambiance about it.
Built into a cliff side and cascading down the mountain, Ojen is quite steep to explore but worth the effort to push yourself to weave and navigate through the narrow streets. A gorgeous little church marks the centre of town with lemon trees twisted into vines that encompasses the church walls. Their branches drooping with heavy, fat, juicy lemons. Vibrant bougainvillea’s hang in the streets, contrasting against the pure white walls.
A fountain flows through the centre of the main square with the ice cold spring water flowing down from the surrounding mountains. This is the village’s water supply. Local men and children line up with empty bottles and barrels to fill, stocking up for the week ahead.
The towns’ cemetery is also white washed. Each grave showcasing a plaster cast of the deceased and the head stones overflowing with vivid flowers that dance in the ocean breeze. The view from Ojen, is breathtaking. Panoramic vistas spanning the valley below and continuing out to the Mediterranean Sea beyond.
There is a local tapas bar, El Caldero, just behind the main square which will get those taste buds working overtime. The food here is traditional tapas and it is very well done. The swordfish here is strongly recommended.
Mijas, another mountain village, a little larger than Ojen, but a little more sheltered. Still offering the sweeping panoramic views, Mijas is a little more touristy. Although stunning, this town is geared for the tourists. The cobble stoned streets are filled with colourful shops bursting with costumes, accessories, and intricately painted handmade pottery.
Many foreigners have settled here to absorb what is seemingly a well persevered Andalucian lifestyle. The handful of locals still living in Mijas, live by the relaxed Spanish way of ‘mañana’ and embrace the Spanish fiestas that punctuate the calendar.
You will hear the sound of donkeys eeyoring as you wander the buzzing streets. One of draw cards for Mijas is its donkeys. You can sit atop a donkey and explore the quieter streets of Mijas. The donkeys happily trot around, each one identified by individual number plates they have attached to their foreheads with colourful tassels that dress their headpieces and saddles.
Exploring for even 10-15 mins on a donkey is great. It will show you the secret nooks and crannies of Mijas you may not otherwise discover. You may come across rural farm houses with chook pens and breathe in the delicious aromas of toasted almonds floating on the breeze.
Also centred with a sweet little church, this chapel is built into the rocks and is almost completely overgrown with ivy. Stunning. There is an old bell at the top which rings on the hour. The chapel is so small, that inside there are only about 5 pews. Simply gorgeous. It is like a cave that has been carved and dug out of the rock, clinging to the edge of the cliff, again, offering stunning views.
Ronda, sitting on the edge of a plateau of rocky outcropping, hemmed by dramatic sheer cliffs. You wouldn’t want to be one of the many houses clinging to the edge if there were an earthquake! Rhonda is the largest of these three towns but definitely a must see. It is also one of Spain’s oldest cities dating back to Islamic times.
Ronda’s old town has retained a vast majority of its historic charm and its dramatic escarpments and gorge views through the centre of the town are what draw the tourists. Streets are cobblestoned and wind between handsome mansions.
Plaza Duguesa de Parcent is Ronda’s heart and beautiful soul boasting a convent, two churches and a belltower. This is a vast leafy square which draws the locals.
Ronda is also known for its shopping as well as a base to explore further into the surrounding winelands and other smaller white washed villages. You can easily explore its central sights on foot; however, taking the foot trails up and down the cliffs requires good knees and hips!
All of the above towns can be reached from the major coastal cities along the Costa Del Sol either by local buses or organised tours.
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This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.