If you are even mildly adventurous, there is no better way to unlock the secrets of Andalucía in the south of Spain than to head out on the road and follow your nose to the places that entice you most. Heading inland from the well-known Costa del Sol even only for a couple of minutes you will be totally surprised by a world unexpected.
Make surprising discoveries in this authentic part of Andalucía.
Dig out tempting tapas bars on old cobbled streets. Watch birds of prey wheeling in plummeting canyons. Find your own way to romantic hilltop castles and medieval monasteries nestling in verdant valleys. What you will run across on the way will probably be just as enchanting.
Pretty inland villages with Moorish heritage
Away from the big cities and the busy holiday costas, the Costa del Sol Interior rarely fails to surprise and please the eyes, be it with the huddled whitewashed houses and red-tile roofs of ancient villages or a set of rolling wooded hills rising from the plains.
Pretty Pueblos Blancos set in wooded hills of the Costa del Sol Interior
Nowhere in the Costa del Sol Interior in Andalucía it is completely un-touristy, but it is never hard to get well off the beaten track and make surprising discoveries in this authentic part of Andalucía.
In the western part of the Costa del Sol Interior, crossing the border with Cadiz, the fabulous Los Alcornocales Natural Park (“the cork oak groves”) is a paradise for walkers, riders, bird watchers, nature lovers and anyone looking for peace and quiet. Los Alcornocales Natural Park is huge: it spans the provinces of both Cádiz and Málaga. A vast expanse of rolling hillsides and deep dales, it is one of the most extensive forests of cork oak in the world. All around, the countryside is marvellous.
Los Alcornocales Natural Park is one of the most extensive forests of cork oak in the world.
The Sierra Crestellina Nature Reserve lies alongside pretty Casares, a popular destination for birdwatchers and walkers.
There are many other pretty towns and villages to explore. The old village of Castellar de la Frontera is located entirely within the walls of a 13th century Moorish castle and is totally unique. This village is as bizarre a place as you will ever come across. A bit further inland the village of Jimena de la Frontera is situated, another gem. Its steep cobbled streets lead up to the ruins of its castle, towering high above the village.
Gaucín is a beautiful white village perched on the crest of the Sierra del Hacho. Overlooking the valley of the Rio Genal below, it has a splendid vantage point and the views are simply sensational, down to the Mediterranean Sea, the Rock of Gibraltar and across to the Rif Mountains of Morocco beyond. Due to its key strategic position it was once a major Roman settlement and its magnificent castle, Castillo del Aguila (Eagles Castle) dates from this era, although the fortress remnants seen today were built by the Arabs in the 13th Century. Its steep winding streets, hidden alleyways and spectacular views have long been an inspiration for painters and photographers; thus, the village has a sizeable artistic community.
One of the classic Andalusian Pueblos Blancos, Gaucín is a beautiful white town.
Further to the east, north of Estepona, the dramatic scenery of the rugged Bermeja mountains are home to a colony of Griffon vultures. These majestic birds are rare, but here you see them frequently, often in large groups. With a wing span of two metres they glide on the thermals high above countryside of deep gorges and pine forested ridges.
In the center, Istán, an ancient Arab village, is tucked away beneath the Sierra Blanca at the head of the valley of the Rio Verde.
Even more dramatic, the Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park, located in the hills between Marbella and Ronda, is a foreboding area of mountains which has seen little human influence or activity ever, and has a fabulous variety of flora and fauna as well as one of Europe’s most extensive regions of caves, potholes and underground caverns. As the name suggests, the peaks can be snow-covered in the winter.
A foreboding area of mountains which has seen little human influence.
Northeast of Malaga El Chorro is another beautiful nature area. Here you will find the Caminito del Rey, Further inland a large artificial lake (the Embalse del Conde de Guadalhorce) is perfect to lounge at its’ shores, have a swim or enjoy some watersports.
The Caminito del Rey is an amazing track in Andalucía.
In all, the Costa del Sol Interior offers stunning scenery and a genuine rural ambience, yet just minutes away from from the coast!