After spending several days in Malaga, it was time to explore more of the southern region of Spain near the Andalucía and Costa del Sol. Here the weather is beautiful all year around, with tons of history dating back 5,000 years, a gorgeous natural landscape, as well as delicious dishes to sample and wine to drink.
We rented a car from Hertz at the Malaga Airport, because we knew we wanted to travel outside the city on our own schedule, but there were many other options available with Viator, who could provide tours and speedy admissions into historical sites.
The drive from Malaga to Nerja is about 50 minutes long (57km). This beautiful coastal town has some of the most picturesque beaches such as the Burriana and El Playazo, which are hidden cove-like beaches. Some added features are the Moorish architecture buildings. The top attraction of Nerja is the Balcony of Europe, which provides a stunning view of the Mediterranean Sea. Here we found the Church of El Salvador, as well as several restaurants and ice cream shops. We walked to the Plaza de la Ermita where we found a tiny church called La Ermita de Nuestra Senora de Las Angustias. Catty corner to the church is Sala Mercado, which is an exhibit hall that hosts various art shows. Nerja is also known for its caverns that stretch for about 3 miles and are home to the world’s oldest stalagmite.
How to get to Nerja from Malaga
Car: Via A-7, approximately 60 minutes.
Bus: Buses from Malaga will drop passengers in close proximity to Nerja’s town center, which is within a two-minutes walk. The caves are not serviced by the bus station and therefore, from our observation, don’t recommend taking the bus to Nerja.
About 15 minutes north of Nerja is Frigiliana, a whitewashed village with red-tile roofs and decorative ceramic pots hanging from the walls. Its steep, narrow and twisted cobblestone streets made for a great workout while walking up and down these streets to visit shops and restaurants. We could’ve taken a taxi from Nerja to Frigiliana but the fare was a bit pricey, so we decided to drive our own car. Besides the beautiful mountainside view, we visited the Fuenta Vieja (old fountain), The Church of San Antonio, Santo Cristo de la Cana chapel and the Renaissance Palace of the Counts of Frigiliana. You will find beautifully designed pottery and many local shops, so make sure you pick up a piece while visiting.
Nestled in the foothills of Sierra Nevada and the valley full of agriculture is Granada, approximately 2.5 hours away from Malaga. Granada has been inhabited by the Moors, the Greeks, the Romans and many more for over a period of 2,500 years. Today, most visitors come to admire the Alhambra, a massive castle that consists of gardens, fortifications, and sumptuous palaces. We wandered at the top of the Albayzin district where we found the church of San Nicolas and a large plaza in front of it where artists, musicians, and tourists can enjoy the definitive view of the Alhambra with the Sierra Nevada mountains in the background.
One of the most unique and exotic buildings in southern Spain is the Colomares Castle, which is the largest Buddhist Stupa in all of Europe. This once sleepy little village has become a popular destination due the tranquil beaches and the El Parque de la Paloma, which is an extensive park in the center of Benalmadena coast. We discovered that the Selwo Marina even offers entertainment for your children, too.
How to get to Benalmadena from Malaga
Car: Via A-7, approximately 35 minutes.
Train: C1 Local Train to Benalmádena-Arroyo de la Miel, approximately 45 minutes.
Southern Spain’s glamorous and most sophisticated city sits about an hour away south of Malaga. We spent an afternoon exploring the Moorish Old Town, browsed some of the high-end shops, and enjoyed a quick lunch on the patio of the many outdoor restaurants. We meandered down Carmen Street, in Old Town, to see the beautiful white walls plastered with blue flower pots. The Orange Square, Plaza de los Naranjos, is the place to visit for lunch or tapas, as it littered with cafes and restaurants with romantic enclosures where they serve traditional food and beverages in the sunshade of orange trees. Across from old-town is Alameda Park, a tropical garden with marble-paved walkways, fountains and decorative tile benches.
Andalucía is an extraordinary part of Spain with so many different cities to explore, both on the coast and inland, too. Nerja and Frigiliana can be scheduled together, as most tours schedule them in one trip. Granada will take a full day at the Alhambra Castle, as well as exploring the Plaza de San Nicolas. If your plan includes a visit to the beach then be sure to pack appropriate clothing and supplies. Restaurants and cafes are almost everywhere along the coast. These whitewashed villages are beautiful gems that are most definitely worth taking time out of your Malaga plans to visit each of them.