The Costa del Sol in South-East Spain has long been one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world for those looking to enjoy some Spanish sunshine and the beautiful waters of the Mediterranean. Indeed, 2018 was a record year for visitors to this part of the world, with an estimated 12.5 million tourists arriving during the calendar year. With so many visitors, you would expect that the area was little more than phalanxes of apartment blocks and hotels looming over packed beaches.
While that description could describe some of the more over-touristed areas along this coastline, there are still some jewels to be found in this popular part of Spain. If you plan on making the trip, make sure to take in one of these six must-visit towns on the Costa del Sol.
One of the northernmost towns along this stretch of coastline, Nerja will reward any visitors who choose to base themselves in this idyllic beach town during their stay. This is no cheap and tacky resort town dominated by high-rise buildings. Instead, Nerja is comprised of a lovely old town looking down over the ocean and across to the African continent. Down at sea-level there are more white-washed buildings and a series of beaches separated from one another by picturesque rocky outcrops. Further inland are the famous Nerja Caves, featuring stalactites and stalagmites and an atmospheric chamber where music concerts take place. Visitors can also take a guided tour to see cave paintings dating back to the Paleolithic era.
Not a town, Málaga is very definitely a city, albeit one that is often ignored in favour of touristic hotspots in Andalusia like Seville, Cordoba and Granada. Ignore Málaga at your peril though, since Pablo Picasso’s home town has a lot to offer besides some (often crowded) beaches. Picasso’s name lives on in the museum and house in his name, both of which can be visited for a reasonable fee. Málaga is the hipster capital of the region and boasts numerous trendy bars and cafes on its winding streets, not to mention a beautiful old town, La Manquita cathedral and ruined citadels on the hills above the city which hark back to Moorish times.
While many former fishing villages along the Costa del Sol have lost their soul in pursuit of tourist dollars, Estepona remains a shining exception. Tourists can certainly enjoy expanses of sandy beaches dotted with sardine-cooking chiringuitos (beach bars) but there is a lot more to this little town that that. Estepona has retained the charms of its old town featuring white-washed buildings decorated with colourful flowerpots. Down every street you can enjoy enormous murals – almost 50 in total – and sculptures scattered about the town are a feast for the eyes. In fact, this town is so lovely that we decided to make it our home!
As is the case with a number of towns along the Costa del Sol, there are two ‘Torrox’s – one inland village on the foothills of the mountains, and another ‘Torrox Costa’ which offers beachy entertainment for tourists. Combining the two makes for a rewarding visit, as you can get the best of both worlds. Torrox Costa offers secluded beaches, bars, restaurants, cafes and everything you expect from a visit to the Spanish seaside – without the hordes of visitors. (Or at least not as many hordes). Torrox old town is a charming white-washed village perfect for walking around when it’s not too hot and stopping off for a drink and tapas in one of the local cafes.
The district of Mijas is another which is divided into coastal and inland sections. A 12km along the coast close to neighbouring Fuengirola offers all that sun-seekers would desire. Further inland – quite a lot further than the distance between the different parts of Torrox – you will find Mijas Pueblo. This beautiful white-washed village is one of the jewels in the crown of the Costa del Sol and will definitely reward the effort of a village. Buses are few and far between so organised coach trips or car journeys are your best means of transport to this elevated village. The town is quite a delight, and famously allows visitors to take donkey-rides around the most scenic spots.
Rincón de la Victoria
This is another once sleepy fishing village which has expanded in size to accommodate people looking to live or vacation on the Spanish coast. Rincón de la Victoria still remains resolutely a Spanish town, not one overrun by English and Irish pubs and tacky souvenir stalls. Many Spanish people choose to make this their weekend and summer getaway, or to commute the 12km from here to Málaga city. Although the regular population of 30,000 swells to 90,000 during high season of July and August, this town is still a nice destination for tourists looking to experience an authentic slice of Spanish life on the Costa del Sol.
Hopefully this article will inspire you to venture – at least slightly – off the beaten track to explore some different destinations along the beautiful Costa del Sol.
Guest Author: David from How To Traveller
I am David from Ireland, and along with my Brazilian wife Danya we have created the How To Traveller blog. This blog is a mix of information on ex-pat life in Spain, information on our home town of Estepona and travel stories. www.howtotraveller.com