Coastal Andalucia boasts not only the best climate in Europe, but also fine beaches, glamorous resorts, luxury shopping and sporting and leisure activities: in short the ideal environment for the all year round holiday maker. Further inland there is glorious countryside, spectacular national parks and the famous cultural cities of Andalucía.
Inland the landscape changes from remote snow capped mountain ranges to ecologically important national parks, from the driest plains to the greenest valleys. Its legendary cultural identity includes five Unesco World Heritage sites (the great cities of Sevilla, Granada and Córdoba, the Doñana National Park and the renaissance towns of Úbeda and Baeza), being more than most single countries can boast. Not far behind in culutural identity are Cádiz, Jerez, Málaga and Ronda and the renowned “white villages” of which Casares and Vejer de la Frontera are personal favourites.
All these sites can now be reached within an easy one to three hour drive from the villa, following huge investment in Andalucia’s transport infrastructure, making ideal day or overnight trips.
The villa is around 55 minutes (70km) drive by motorway from Malaga Airport. Flying to Malaga is generally to be recommended as it is served by and from the majority of UK and continental European airlines and airports. All the leading rental car brands are represented at the airport and are open 24 hours. The airport was redeveloped in 2010 and is one of the best in Europe.
Gibraltar airport is also around 55 minutes drive and is a viable alternative from the UK. Jerez and Sevilla airports are further afield but can also be considered.
Malaga airport: www.aena.es
The most popular and practical excursions from the villa are as follows (times stated are one way):
Benahavis (15 minutes drive)
Benahavis is a charming white village, set in the hills near the villa, and approached via a spectacular deep river gorge, where there is also a good walk that can be enjoyed.
Marbella (25 minutes drive)
The old town of Marbella, around the centrally located Plaza de Naranjos (rather than the port and beachfront), makes a charming evening excursion and offers plenty of shopping and restaurants.
Puerto Banus (20 minutes drive)
An evening excursion to people watch, admire the gin palaces and shop in top end boutiques.
Estepona (20 minutes drive)
The old fishing port of Estepona has a strong Spanish feel to it with plenty of shopping and restaurants. Drive through the town and head up into the Sierra Bermeja mountains for stunning walking and views.
Casares / Gaucin (45 minutes drive)
These two attractive white villages combine beautiful drives, local charm and history, spectacular countryside and wonderful views towards Africa.
Sotogrande / Castillo del Castellar (45 minutes drive)
An enjoyable contrast between the swanky marina of Puerto Sotogrande and the partly ruined castle of Castellar and its bohemian village, with stunning countryside alternating between orange groves and cork oak forests between.
Mijas (45 minutes drive)
Sitting in the mountains high above Fuengirola, this village has spectacular views over the coast (walk up to the top of the village beyond the bull ring) and leather shops galore (Mijas is to be avoided in high season as it is a little tacky with donkey rides and coach parties).
Ronda (1 hour drive)
Picturesque Ronda sits on a spectacular site overlooking a dramatic gorge and beautiful countryside and is the most practical and popular excursion from the villa. It's most famous attraction is the oldest bullring in Spain as well as its old town and medieval, arab and roman bridges over the Tajo gorge. The road to Ronda twists and turns dramatically from the coast up into the mountains with incredible views.
Malaga (1 hour drive)
Malaga is the forgotten secret of Andalucia, with too many tourists turning their backs on the City as they head for the beaches of the Costa del Sol. Attractions include the Roman ampitheatre, Moorish castle, cathedral, the old town, Picasso's birthplace and gallery, the Thyssen gallery (a smaller sister to the Madrid gallery), the new Pompidou centre (a smaller sister to the Parisian landmark) in the restored port area, as well as botanical gardens.
Medina Sidonia (90 minutes drive)
This historic and elegant town sits on a prominent hill overlooking rolling planes. There is a beautiful drive through the Parque Natural los Alcornocales. The town can serve as an interesting stop off on the way to Jerez, or as part of a round trip to include Vejer de la Frontera.
Arcos de la Frontera (90 minutes drive)
Arcos is one of the best known of the white villages, sitting above a spectacular gorge.
Tarifa, Bolonia and Vejer de la Frontera (90 minutes drive)
Historic and bohemian Tarifa looks out towards Africa and is also one of the main exit points to Morocco (there is a fast hydrofoil service). There is a wonderful drive as you approach the town from Algeciras, with spectacular views to Africa on a clear day. Nearby Bolonia (ten minutes north of Tarifa along the Atlantic coast) features well preserved Roman ruins (see 'Roman ruins' below), a wonderful and very quiet sandy beach, fields of wild flowers in the Spring and dramatic stands of wind turbines. Vejer (a further 15 minutes north of Bolonia) enjoys a spectacular position and an historic old town with wonderful views overlooking the farmland of the river Barbate basin (an area known as 'La Janda').
Sierra de Grazalema (90 minutes drive)
Spectacular mountain scenery in a national park near Ronda, with several white villages to explore.
Jerez de la Frontera (110 minutes drive)
Historic Jerez is best known for being the centre of sherry production, but has many other attractions with a stunning old town. The drive to Jerez takes one through the spectacular Parque Natural los Alcornocales and then across beautiful rolling planes of farmland.
Cadiz (2 hours 15 minutes drive)
Cadiz is another of Andalucia's hidden gems; it sits on a promontory jutting out into the Atlantic and has many interesting historical sites, including the cathedral and the merchants' watchtowers. An interesting round trip to Cadiz can be achieved by driving there through the spectacular Parque Natural los Alcornocales, but returning by the Atlantic coast road.
Granada (2.5 hours drive)
Granada is home to the Alhambra, one of Spain's top five historic must see cities.
Cordoba (2.5 hours drive)
Cordoba is home to the Mezquita, the extraordinary cathedral-mosque, another one of Spain's top historic must see sites.
Sevilla (2.5 hours drive)
Sevilla's historic old town includes the spectacular cathedral and alcazar and is another of Spain's top five historic must see cities. A well recommended side trip is to the hilltop town of Carmona.