What’s the first thing that comes into your mind when you think about the Costa Del Sol? Ah yes, the good old ‘Brit Abroad’, as much a part of our national heritage as The Queen or English Tea. Older men parading around the sun drenched promenades of Spain, wearing their sunburnt beer belly’s like a badge of honour, whilst hunting out the next ex-pat greasy spoon where they can get their fry-up fix. Pubs offering 2-4-1 deals on Fosters during the Man Utd game. Endless bric-a-brac shops that feel like they’ve been picked up directly from Bognor Regis and dumped into the sunshine. But believe it or not, it needn’t be that way.
Since my mum and her boyfriend recently moved to a small town near Malaga called Torre Del Mar, I’ve been exploring an alternative side to the much maligned region. It is an area steeped in history and natural beauty, if you care to look past the usual spots. That’s not to say the odd home comfort here and there is anything to be sniffed at. Here are my top 5 places to visit for a very different visit to the sunshine coast…
Alhama De Granada
A mountain oasis located deep into the hilly countryside, about 50km from the city of Granada; the small fortress town is steeped in history and previously occupied by the Moors back in the 14th century. It’s picturesque beyond belief, a far cry from the built up beach resorts which dot the nearby coast. Alhama De Granada makes the perfect getaway from the madding crowds of sunshine tourists. The thermal springs are worth a visit if you’re not quite hot enough, and the Ochoa Paco square is a fantastic place to stop for a drink after a busy day of exploring.
A small mountainside village dotted with quaint white houses and narrow winding streets, about a 20-minute drive up into the hills from nearby Torre Del Mar. With eye-catching architecture, and bags of character to boot, this is an essential pit-stop on any Costa Del Sol trip. A must visit is the small family run tapas restaurant ‘Casa Marie’ – where they serve extremely reasonably priced, home-cooked varieties of tapas and main dishes to hungry locals and tourists alike on a daily basis. It can get quite rowdy here during siesta, especially on a Friday, where hordes of local workers stop by for a quiet cerveza (or two)
Hidden (ish) beaches around Nerja
Fancy playing sardines? On a beach? Welcome to Torremolinos! The Costa Del Sol isn’t all about overcrowded playas, full of dudes trying to sell you sunglasses or (weirdly) hoodies (exactly what you need in 30 degree heat) – there is so much coast to explore.
If you head towards Nerja, La Cala de las Aberquillas – situated within the Acanrilados de Maro, Cerro Gordo Natural Area – is the place to go for peace and tranquillity, within your own secluded cove.
Nearby Playa de Maro boasts crystal clear waters and some seriously appealing scenery, a great sport for snorkelling, whilst just taking in the nearby Cerro Gordo mountain.
Fancy some nature of a different kind? The hip, slightly more difficult to get to Playa de Cantarrijan has a reputation as being the regions best Nudist Beach, not for the prudish traveller.
Home to a series of turquoise lakes and towering pine forests, El Chorro feels like you’ve somehow been plucked from the Costa del Sol and dropped into the Rocky Mountains. El Camino Del Rey is the sweet spot, where you can channel your inner Indiana Jones and cross a rickety old hanging bridge across the 200m Guadalhorce river gorge. Careful of the Eagles. The Malaga Lake District is nearby, a pretty tranquil place for a sunbathe or some lunch.
Not to be overlooked as just a stopover before hitting the apparently carb-less Marbs (get it?), Malaga is a city steeped in history and culture. Simply stroll through the cobbled streets soaking up the architecture, dipping in and out of the many cervezerias and tapas restaurants, head towards to the port for some people watching, or grab yourself some culture at the impressive Picasso Museum. A full list of the museums on offer can be found here.
Anything we’ve missed? Been on your own alternative Costa Del Sol adventure?