For many people, if you mention the Costa del Sol, the first thing that springs to mind is a beach holiday. And, while it’s true that this is precisely the reason so many millions of people head to the Mediterranean coast each summer. But there’s so much more of Andalusia to enjoy.
Head inland and you’ll find countless towns and small villages where the pace of life is as if from a bygone age, as well as some of the most stunning scenery not just in Spain, but even in Europe and the world. So, if you like the idea of a holiday in the sun, but without the sand and the sea, here are three great places to head for.
The first thing to do before setting of for this small, pretty town or our other two suggestions is to arrange your transport. Malaga car hire is your best option as you’ll be able to choose the ideal vehicle for your travels. Once that’s sorted, follow in the ancient footsteps of everyone from the Phoenicians to the Romans who once occupied the town. Cartama sits at the foot of two peaks Espartales and Llana and is in the heart of a rich agricultural area, so the lush scenery will be a complete contrast to the sun-bleached coast. If you visit, don’t miss the 10th-century Moorish castle. It’s quite a climb, but you’ll be rewarded by stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
If the chance of taking in some fresh mountain air appeals, not to mention the health-giving spa waters once allegedly enjoyed by Lord Byron on one of his grand tours, then make tracks for Carratraca. To reach the village you’ll enjoy a very pleasant drive through olive and almond groves and you’re certain to like what you find when you arrive. The spa is open from Easter until late autumn and it has been recently refurbished to offer quite superb facilities, a fact borne out by the reviews it has received. It’s also the village to visit if you want an authentic taste of Andalusian cuisine at the Hostal del Principe, originally built in 1830 on the orders of King Fernando VII of Spain.
The final destination of our whistle-stop tour is the fiercely independent Arriate. Always keen to keep its distance from the region’s main town, Ronda, on approaching the village it seems like so many others in Andalusia. But, once you’re past its sleepy exterior, you’ll find a busy and bustling place with plenty of shopping opportunities, where you can buy far more than just the traditional souvenirs. It’s also especially well-known for its spectacular Easter parades – so if you’re thinking of a trip a little earlier in the year, before the high season starts, it really is a must.
Of course, as well as these three gems, you’ll find the whole of Andalusia is an amazing place to explore at your leisure. And, best of all, it won’t matter a bit if you forget to pack your bucket and spade!