The city of Malaga, birthplace of Pablo Picasso, sits to the east of the Costa del Sol. While seen by most as the gateway to the westward beaches, this laid back place also offers some genuinely interesting historical attractions, such as the Roman Theatre and Moorish Alcazaba castle, and its coastal setting is striking.
Photo: Pamela J. Salwiński
With roughly 320 days of sunshine a year, the Costa del Sol well deserves its nickname, "the Sunshine Coast." It's no wonder much of the coast has been built up with resorts and high-rises. Don't despair, though; you can still find some classic Spanish experiences, whether in the old city of Marbella or one of the smaller villages like Casares. And despite the hubbub of high season, visitors can always unwind here, basking or strolling on mile after mile of sandy beach.
Technically, the stretch of Andalusian shore known as the Costa del Sol runs west from the Costa Tropical, near Granada, to the tip of Tarifa, the southernmost point in Europe, just beyond Gibraltar. For most of the Europeans who have flocked here over the past 50 years, though, the Sunshine Coast has been largely restricted to the 70-km (43-mile) sprawl of hotels, vacation villas, golf courses, marinas, and nightclubs between Torremolinos, just west of Málaga, and Estepona, down toward Gibraltar. Since the late 1950s this area has mushroomed from a group of impoverished fishing villages into an overdeveloped seaside playground and retirement haven. The city of Almería and its coastline, the Costa de Almería, is southwest of Granada's Alpujarras region and due east of the Costa Tropical (around 147 km [93 miles] from Almuñécar).
Photo: Francisco Rodriguez
Venture inland and you’ll find a rugged mountains sprinkled with charming ‘pueblos blancos’, or white towns. Most famous of these is the remarkably pretty clifftop town of Ronda and its gorge-spanning 18th-century stone bridge, or perhaps rustic Benahavís, a place known as ‘the dining room of the Costa del Sol’ because of its concentration of excellent restaurants.
Following winding roads north, it’s easy to find yourself in remote villages with their authentic charm untouched as well as a fascinating array of historic (and prehistoric) sites, stretching back to Bronze Age burial mounds to Roman ruins, Moorish citadels and medieval churches and baroque bell towers. You may even stumble across vast lakes home to flamingos or tiny spa towns favoured by the travelling Lord Byron.
Top Things To Do
Pay a visit to Malaga's Roman Theatre
Marvel at Malaga's Moorish Alcazaba Castle
Discover Malaga's famous Picasso Museum
Soak up the sun on some of the Costa del Sol's inviting beaches
Pay a visit to Ronda and be in awe of its 18th-century stone bridge