Marbella is surrounded by some of the most picturesque towns and villages in Spain, and visitors can be up and away in the hills within 30 minutes of leaving Marbella, surrounded by Andalucian countryside, mountains, valleys and breathtaking scenery.
Some of the best places to visit include:
Well known for its spectacular 100 metre deep gorge, El Tajo, Ronda is one of Andalucia´s most visited towns, and is just a one hour drive from Marbella by coach or hire car. Split between the old Moorish town and El Mercadillo, Ronda attracts visitors from all over the world and is famous for much more than its gorge. The two parts of town are linked by the Puente Nuevo (New Bridge), which was built in 1751, and took 42 years to complete. Take time to look around the oldest bullring in Spain, sample delicious tapas or stay at the stunning parador which seems to cling to the side of the gorge. Ronda´s rich history is both colourful and flamboyant.
One of Andalucia´s most important and traditional events is the Feria Goyesca de Pedro Romero, held in Ronda each year in September.
Annual celebrations take place in and around the Real Maestranza Bullring. The Goyesca tradition began in 1954 when Antonio Ordóñez, a great friend of Ernest Hemingway, and also a great bullfighter, decided to celebrate the birth of Pedro Romero, the founder of modern bullfighting. Traditional 18th century costumes are worn by the fighters, which are typical of the dress worn during the times of the great Aragonese painter, Francisco de Goya, and continue to be a major part of this event. Culturally, this is one of Ronda´s highlights, and features bullfights, a dazzling costume display and an exhibition of beautifully decorated carriages.
Mijas Pueblo clings precariously to the mountain side above Fuengirola, and is one of the most charming white villages of Andalucia. Only 40 minutes by road from Marbella, Mijas is a quaint old pueblo blanco, with cobbled streets, donkey taxis and historical landmarks aplenty.
Shops, bars, and friendly cafes boast the most stunning views down to the coast and there are plenty of resting places and view-points dotted around the cobbled streets. The Muralla Gardens is well worth a visit - this has been very cleverly designed so that flowers are in bloom all year round. The Mijas Bullring is one of the oldest in Spain, and visitors can go inside and view this fascinating arena.
Local shops offer hand made ceramics, leather goods, paintings and jewellery and there is also a colourful fresh flower market in the village square every Saturday. Horse drawn carriages can be hired during the Summer months from the Plaza de Pina to chauffeur you around Mijas for approximately 12 Euros or hire a donkey.
The Folk Museum is also worth a visit, showing the trades and history of Mijas. Also above the village is the Shrine of the Calvario, built in 1710. The Shrine can be seen for miles around and you can gain access by climbing the winding path from the village. Although only open on Good Friday, each year, the stunning views from here are worth the walk any time of the year. One of the most charming of the ´white towns´, Mijas-Pueblo attracts visitors from all over Europe.
The Rock of Gibraltar is just one hour´s drive from Puerto Banus and Marbella, and if you want to explore a little piece of England next to Spain, you will find everything you are looking for in Gib
Gibraltar is 426 metres high and covers an area of 6 square miles. The thin coastal strip of land to the west overlooks the Straits of Gibraltar and the Atlantic Ocean, and the east side with its sheer, steep cliffs overlooks the Mediterranean.
The history of Gibraltar evolves from its strategic position at the southern-most tip of the Iberian peninsula, where Europe meets Africa, and still remains to be an important base for the British Navy. The territory shares a border with Spain to the North. Gibraltar was granted by Spain to Great Britain in perpetuity in 1713, under the Treaty of Utrecht, and although Spain insists it should be returned to them, it remains British territory. The British Government has vowed to respect the wishes of the Gibraltarians, who oppose any proposals for shared sovereignty with Spain.
Gib is home to many historical sites and places of interest, and tourism continues boosts the economy. Many cruise ships from around the world also dock here regularly, bringing visitors from all over the globe. Gibraltar has become a popular holiday and business travel destination over the years and has the added bonus of tax-free shopping. If you are looking for English goods, including food, you will find it all in Gibraltar.
Seville is my favourite city in Spain. This exciting and passionate city offers stunning architecture, and a host of fabulous places to visit, including probably the best tapas bars in Spain. You don´t have to be a lover of architecture or history to enjoy Seville, but you will be blown away by the city´s elegance, charm and underlying sensuality. You can reach Seville from Marbella in just under two hours.
Temperatures can rise to over 40 degrees in Seville during summer time, but the atmosphere of the city during the hot season, and the open air bars alongside the river provide plenty of shade and refreshment if you like it hot.
Seville was once the capital of Spain and is just a two hour drive from Marbella. Its incredible cathedral dominates the city´s skyline. The Catedral de Santa Maria de la Sede is the largest Gothic cathedral, and the fourth largest Christian church in the world. The intricate detail and ornate stone work displayed in the Cathedral make it one of the most incredible examples of Sevillian architecture you are ever likely to see from this period of history, and it is hard to imagine how this stunning building was ever completed without modern machinery.
Seville is credited with inventing the tapa (along with Granada), and has more than a thousand bars where the choice of food, is virtually unlimited, from seafood to ham and sausage and the finest Manchego cheese you will ever taste. Move from bar to bar to enjoy the best of these delicious local delicacies.
Granada is one of the most intriguing cities in southern Spain. This amazing city is steeped in history and home to some of the world´s greatest monuments, including the Alhambra Palace. Granada is just a 90 minute drive from Marbella, and visitors can easily explore this great city in a day or two. The Alhambra Palace was a fortress complex which heralds from the time of Moorish rule in Granada and was built by Yusuf I in 1348. Once the residence of Muslim rulers, this stunning building is now one of Spain´s most popular tourist attractions, and exhibits the country´s most famous Islamic architecture. To fully explore the Alhambra, take a few days to leisurely stroll round the amazing gardens and fortresses. The Alhambra gets very busy, particularly during the summer months, and if your excursion doesn´t include entrance tickets, check out: www.alhambra.info for more information.
Albaicin is also a great place to visit if you are in Granada. The old Arabic quarter I is situated opposite the Alhambra Palace. Typically Andalucian in appearance, whitewashed houses nestle around cobbled streets, quaint squares and patios. Visitors can stroll around the gift shops, where many local handicrafts are made and sold, or enjoy lunch or dinner in one of the many local restaurants. Local ceramics and pottery is sold widely and most is handmade in workshops behind the houses. Handicrafts made of leather, cloth and wrought iron can also be bought here and patchwork can also be found in the Alpujarra district nearby, which also boasts stunning scenery.
Why not spend a day or two in Africa? Coach excursions to Tangiers are very popular with visitors to the Costa del Sol, and pick-ups by coach from Marbella centre are usually around 6.30am. Tangiers is a fascinating city, and ferries travelling between Algeciras and Tangiers, or Algeciras and Ceuta, take between 30 minutes and 1 hr 30 mins, depending on which sailing you take. Algeciras is only one hour´s drive from Marbella and Puerto Banus.
Tangiers is not only one of the oldest cities in Morocco, but it is also one of the liveliest. The Phoenicians and Carthaginians established trading posts here, and the Romans later made it a capital city. Tangiers was occupied by the Arabs and invaded by Vandals and Visigoths, before the Spanish and the Portuguese controlled the town. In the early part of the 20th century, Tangier was an international city whose tax-free status and cosmopolitan image attracted European and American artists and writers. Although it has lost a little of its glamorous image, it is still a bustling city with plenty to offer the visitor.
Dining out in Morocco is also a pleasure. Moroccan cuisine has been influenced by many different cultures. The food is a mix of Berber, Spanish, Corsican, Portuguese, Moorish, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and African influences. Heavily influenced by the native Berber cuisine, the Arabic Andalucian cuisine, the Turkish cuisine and the Middle Eastern cuisines brought by the Arabs, as well as Jewish cuisine, if you like it spicy you will love Moroccan food. Spices are used in nearly all Moroccan dishes, and many of these, such as saffron and mint, are home-grown. The most popular meat dish is chicken, often cooked in a tagine with various herbs and spices. Couscous is the most famous Moroccan dish, and the most popular drink is green tea with mint.
Whether you want to spend an hour or two in one of the white villages close to Marbella, or you prefer to go further afield and explore the incredible Moroccan cities of Tangiers or Marrakesh, you can easily book an excursion from one of the many travel companies in the centre of Marbella and Puerto Banus.