The region of Malaga, in southern Spain (Andalucía) and its capital with the same name, are extremely popular all around the year. In winter mainly because of its mild climate (with an average maximum temperature of 17° Celsius in both December and January) – in summer because of its beaches. And let’s not forget the fiestas, the cheap drinks, the tapas and the palm trees.
Reason enough to go for a visit, don’t you think?
However, there’s much more to the region than that. Once the city, with the Gibralfaro castle, the Muslim Alcazaba and the Roman Theatre, the harbour and the many bars, has been explored, there’s plenty more to discover nearby. Whether it’s culture, nature, adventure or just another, a smaller town that you’re after: Malaga can offer it to you.
Here are 10 suggestions, as suggested by a local – all of them just a day-trip away.
1. Chillar River
The Chillar River, located close to the coastal town of Nerja, represents the perfect opportunity for some refreshment in summer while combining it with hiking at the same time. Remember: you’ll need waterproof shoes and a swimming suit before you start walking up the river. It can be tiring at times, but it’s many waterfalls and natural pools make it the perfect family day trip.
2. El Torcal de Antequera
Part of the UNESCO World Heritage List, El Torcal is a natural area of curious limestone rock formations. With its three walking routes (one of which can take you to see the African coastline), it’s guaranteed to be a blast for anyone. Stay clear of the park on extremely hot days though – there aren’t many places to take refuge from the sun. If you have the time, pay a visit to the close by town of Antequera (maybe for a few tapas).
Frigiliana is a typical ‘white town’ – called like this, literally, because all its buildings are white, which is meant to repeal some of the heat in the summertime. Beautifully sitting in between the hills in the east of Malaga, a short hike up the hill will allow a breathtaking view of the town from above, with the Mediterranean behind it.
4. Nerja Caves
The town of Nerja, close to the aforementioned Chillar river and the town of Frigiliana, seems more an English town than a Spanish one (for you’ll hear mostly English on the streets). However, even if you prefer going where the locals go, the Nerja caves, home to the largest stalagmite in the world, are pretty impressive. There’s even the possibility of taking on guided tours – some of which can take you into other caverns that include prehistoric cave paintings.
If you need some warming-up after the visit to the caves, you can wander around Nerja, drink a hot chocolate (which is an experience in itself – you’ll see) or take a nap on the Calahonda beach.
5. Fuengirola Zoo
The officially named Bioparc Fuengirola is a beautiful zoo in the town of Fuengirola, west of Malaga city. If you’re planning a family holiday and you want to be sure to visit a zoo in which the animals live in acceptable conditions, this is the one for you. The price can’t be overlooked – 20,50€ per person.
6. Marbella and Puerto Banús
If you have been or are planning to go to Malaga, you’ve probably heard of Marbella, the home of the rich and famous. Puerto Banús, the luxury marina named by its builder José Banús, is filled with luxury cars and yachts, incredibly expensive shops and maybe even a few international celebrities.
Ronda, situated on top of a hill, is a breathtaking town that many would call a must-visit. Its Old Town, which has its origin in the Muslim Al-Andalus, is separated from the newer part of town (which originated approximately in the 15th century) by an impressive gorge, covered by a bridge. Ronda even features, if not by name, in Ernest Hemingways Novel For Whom The Bell Tolls, which tells a story about the Spanish Civil War. Ronda was taken by Francos Army, while the Republicans who stayed loyal to the democratic government fled to Malaga city.
8. Calahonda Beach
You prefer to relax when on vacation, instead of going on exhausting hikes and visiting towns that you won’t even remember later on? The beach of Calahonda, east from Malaga city, is one of the most beautiful in the region. You can daydream in the sun, go for a swim in the sea and eat fried fish at one of the chiringuitos for lunch. A little secret? Malagueños don’t actually drink sangria that often – order a tinto de verano instead (red wine with lemonade, served cold). It’s wonderfully refreshing without leaving you drunk for the rest of the day. Trust me on this.
9. Montes de Málaga Natural Park
Pine trees. This is what you’ll find in the hills of Malaga. As Malaga (and Andalucía in general) has a very warm climate without much rain, it offers a somewhat different kind of forest. These pine trees protect the floor, avoiding serious damage during rainfall, such as flooding, and make for somewhat of a green space in the middle of towns and a more bare landscape.
10. The Dolmens of Antequera
Interested in ancient history? Then this is a must-see for you. The dolmens of Antequera (situated, as the name suggests, near the said city), are one of the most ancient megalithic structures in the world, dating from the third millennium BCE. In fact, it is an ancient burial ground – when archaeologists first found the site they found several hundreds of skeletons inside. They are also inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As you read, Malaga has much more to offer than just the city centre (although that’s worth a visit too), so if you have one or more spare days in the beautiful province of the south of Spain, now you only need to decide what you want to do.