Costa del Sol is an incredibly beautiful place to see and explore. Located in southern Spain’s Andalusia area, this shoreline region extends from the city of Malaga south for approx. 100 km (62 miles) along the Mediterranean Sea. The ‘Sun Coast’ is a narrow coastal strip containing mountains on the north side while the south side’s Mediterranean coastline is made up of cliffs, bays and miles of beautiful beaches.
In May 2016, I spent a week with three friends in this world famous tourist destination. The four of us were not disappointed. The weather was fantastic with highs of 28C (82F) with sunshine and blue skies every day. There were miles of beaches to enjoy and the white hilltop towns were fun to explore.
We spent the week at a friend’s condo apartment at a beautiful resort just one block from the beach. The resort had swimming pools and we could stroll on pathways through the resort grounds surrounded by beautiful flowers, shrubs and trees. Our resort was located east of the city of Marbella, just off Golden Beach on the Mediterranean Sea. I enjoyed morning strolls on the beach and around our beautiful resort.
We took a day trip to the Rock of Gibraltar, which is a small British Overseas Territory that borders southern Spain covering just 6.7 square kilometers (2.6 square miles). The famous towering limestone landmark is 426 metres high (1398 feet) and is surrounded by narrow coastal lowlands on the east and west sides with the majority of the over 30,000 population living in the densely populated west side at the base of The Rock.
We parked in the Spanish town of La Linea de la Concepcion, which is the border town between Spain and Gibraltar. We really enjoyed the impressive views of the massive Rock of Gibraltar in the distance over the waters of the Bay of Gibraltar as we strolled to the border crossing. I was amazed to find we had to actually walk across the runway of the Gibraltar International Airport to get into the city of Gibraltar. Pedestrian and vehicle traffic are halted on both sides when airplanes or jets land and takeoff.
My visit to Gibraltar was brief but enjoyable. We saw the Grand Battery, the Moorish Castle up above us on the Rock and walked down stone staircases from the Line Wall Road down into Grand Casemates Square. Originally a barracks in the 1800s, the Grand Casemates Square is now a popular spot with pubs, bars, restaurants along with gift shops and is next door to Gibraltar’s city center. We sat down and enjoyed drinks outside on a patio in the square which was bustling with tourists and locals.
The hilltop city of Ronda was spectacular. From Marbella we took the A-397 north to Ronda enjoying a beautiful drive through the mountains. Ronda is situated in a spectacular location atop a massive rocky outcrop and the deep El Tajo Gorge splits the new town from the old town on the south side.
Our first stop, Plaza de Toros opened in 1785. It is one of the oldest bullrings in Spain and despite its bloody bullfighting history, is a must see in Ronda. The participants in Ronda’s famous bullfighting past are displayed in separate black metal statues of a bull and matador at the entrance. The annual Corrida Goyesca spectacle occurs for three days in September and is the only time bullfights now occur in Ronda. It was very interesting to see the different sections where bulls were kept, trained and held before being released into the bullring. Walking out onto the yellow sand of the massive bullring was a truly incredible and breathtaking sight. The arena is encircled with two levels of spectator stands supported by 136 massive stone columns with 58 arches and black wrought iron railings along the edges. We enjoyed watching a training session of the Spanish Riding School of Ronda, which is one of Europe’s oldest and was founded two years after Vienna’s famous Spanish Riding School in 1571.
Next to the bullring is the popular park Alameda del tajo with massive promenades lined with trees and balconies suspended over cliffs with stunning panorama views of the countryside below. We strolled to Mirador de Ronda, which is a scenic spot with a large gazebo sitting at the top of a cliff jutting outwards which is a popular gathering point to watch sunsets. Puente Nuevo, the massive stone bridge which spans the El Tajo Gorge is 390 feet (120 metres) above the canyon floor and connects the new and old towns. There are three bridges which cross the gorge but Puente Nuevo is the tallest.
Crossing over Puente Nuevo from the new town to the old town was busy with cars and tourists but was a feast for our eyes with the spectacular views. From the bridge, we made our way to Plaza de Maria Auxilidora in old town where we descended a dirt trail which snaked down along the cliff face into the El Tajo Canyon. There were several spots along the way to step off the trail and gaze at the beautiful sight of Ronda perched atop the cliffs with spectacular Puente Nuevo crossing the gorge. You can walk right to the base of the stone bridge at the river’s edge and then you can follow the same route back up to old town.
We strolled through old town with its cobblestone streets and whitewashed buildings seeing a Moorish Palace called Palacio Mondragon and the church of Santa Maria la Mayor. We crossed back over Puente Nuevo to Plaza Espana, stopping for drinks on the patio at Restaurant Don Miguel. The restaurant is built next to Puente Nuevo on the side of the cliff with several levels of outdoor patios offering fantastic views of the bridge, canyon, city and countryside below. It was such a beautiful spot and with the great temperatures, we hated to leave but there was still more to do and see.
There were several blocks from Don Miguel’s back to Plaza del Socorro where our car was parked. This area was filled with shops, restaurants, cafes, tapas bars and hotels. We enjoyed an amazing dinner of chicken and seafood paella with sangria drinks on the patio of El Casino Restaurant, overlooking Plaza del Socorro. After dinner, we left Ronda following the same route south back to Marbella stopping at several stunning viewpoints on the way.
Puerto Banus is situated southwest of Marbella and it was fun to explore for a few hours. It is a luxury marina and high-end shopping area with many restaurants, cafes and patios. You can people watch for celebrities while you stroll through the marina seeing exotic cars and luxury yachts. We walked out to the entrance to the harbour and watched sailboats and yachts navigate in and out of the harbour. We enjoyed cocktails on an outdoor patio in the warm sunshine before heading back to our resort.
Marbella is a beautiful city on the Mediterranean coast with an amazing year-round climate and sandy beaches. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions on the Costa del Sol. We strolled through the city’s Old Quarter of red cobblestone streets and white painted buildings with stunning pink and red floral displays cascading above and around us. After browsing shops and boutiques in the Old Quarter, we stopped for Sangrias on an outdoor patio in Plaza de los Naranjos with a beautiful fountain surrounded by orange trees and historic buildings.
From Marbella’s old town we crossed into Parque de Alameda. The park was filled with tropical plants and there were colourful ceramic covered park benches. The pedestrian only Avenida del Mar connects the park to the seafront and it is lined with sculptures designed by Salvador Dali.
Street vendors were selling a great variety of things along the streets as we strolled along the beachfront. Cafes and patios were open and serving drinks and food. We walked on long boulevards lined with palm trees with modern hotels on the city side and beaches and marinas opposite along the coast.
In the evenings, we walked down to Golden Beach to enjoy the sunset. As daylight slowly retreated, we passed others strolling the beach and offshore in hip deep water people were fishing and children ran and played along the shore. It was a wonderful end to amazing days spent exploring Costa del Sol. I enjoyed my time in Costa del Sol so much that I will be returning for another visit very soon.