Costa del Sol
Tuesday, 11 July 2023, 09:48
The Costa del Sol offers two completely different facets - a mountainous landscape dotted with tranquil rural villages, and a coastline that offers more than 150 kilometres of golden beaches. Some of the main destinations along the Costa offer visitors the best of both worlds without having to cross municipal boundaries.
Towns like Mijas, for example, are divided between the traditional Andalusian village nestled in the mountains (Pueblo), and its coastline town offering everything from water parks to shopping centres, concert venues and cinemas (Costa).
Prior to the advent of tourism along the coast in the early 1960s, many of these ‘pueblos blancos’ were poor, virtually destitute, agricultural communities approachable only by a dirt track winding its way up from the coast. The tourism boom saw these towns expand down to the coast like the lava of a volcano, creating two distinctive nuclei: a Costa and a Pueblo.
One of these is Torrox (Axarquía), famed for having the best climate in Europe, and for its nine kilometres of coastline, which is partly why it has become one of the favourite destinations for Europeans who choose to live in southern Spain.
With a population of more than 20,000, Torrox extends to the coast through the valley of the river of the same name. Most of the population is found on the coast, which is home to one of the largest German communities in Spain.
Further along the coast in Vélez-Málaga, one discovers Chilches, a rural village famed for its avocados and mangos. It once survived on its vineyards, but the outbreak of the phylloxera plague in the 19th century forced many of the residents to head to the coast to work as fishermen. Its connection with the sea is endorsed by one of its most representative monuments, the lighthouse, which contains a marine museum.
Also, in the Axarquía is Algarrobo, located in the so-called Vélez massif, a landscape of hills and valleys typical of the area. The main population centre is Algarrobo Pueblo, a town of Arab architecture located 3.5 kilometres from the coast.
The coastal area, famous for its annual heavy rock festival (September), is made up of numerous districts arranged around Algarrobo beach.
One of the most popular destinations famed for its two (three if you count Arroyo de la Miel) completely different nuclei is Benalmádena, a municipality that boasts a large foreign population, among which, the British is the largest nationality.
Benalmádena covers an area of almost 30 kilometres and extends from the pueblo in the Sierra de Mijas down to the coastline of the Mediterranean.
The population of 75,000 (2023) is concentrated in three main centres. Benalmádena Pueblo, a maze of narrow, whitewashed cobbled streets adorned with displays of coloured geraniums spilling out of wall-mounted plant pots.
Traditional cuisine, local crafts and the remnants of several cultures, not to mention the stunning views and mysterious architecture, are just some of the attractions this small mountainside town offers.
Arroyo de la Miel separates the village from the beach, and is popular because it offers the postcard image of Spain with all the facilities of the 21st century; while Benalmádena Costa, which is where most of the town’s nightlife is found, has almost ten kilometres of beautiful beaches, from secluded coves and nudist areas, to the family-focused beaches with plenty of activities.
Of course, probably the most famous of these municipalities with a double appeal is Mijas.
Mijas Pueblo offers all the mystery and folklore expected from those seeking a little bit of traditional Spanish culture. Like Benalmádena, Mijas is divided into three areas: the pueblo, famed for its donkey taxis; Las Lagunas, where more than 50 per cent of the population (89,500) live; and the Costa, which includes La Cala de Mijas, a small population centre (4,000) less than a kilometre long.
Further down the coast are two more popular inland towns that also have a coastal nucleus: Manilva and Casares.
Manilva, which borders the Cadiz town of San Roque, was founded in the 16th century, and its vineyards are famous for the muscatel grapes used for the production of Malaga’s famous sweet wines.
During the Roman era, Manilva’s coast was the site of a thriving fish processing industry; although since the early 1970s, with the construction of a marina and a golf course, the coastal town has become a popular tourist destination.
In recent years Manilva has enjoyed the status of one of the Costa del Sol’s fastest developing municipalities: the population has almost tripled in the last ten years.
Casares is a typical Andalusian white village full of reminders of its long history, including San Sebastián church, the remains of an Arab fortress, and the Vera Cruz hermitage.
Its two-kilometre coastline is divided into four beaches: Ancha, La Sal and Chica, along with Piedra Paloma, which offers access to dogs.
Of course, all of the coastal towns boast a variety of activities such as water sports, beachside chiringuitos, bars and restaurants offering a vast range of differing cuisine, along with shopping areas, parks and spaces designed for the enjoyment of leisure.
However, if one prefers a leisurely stroll through a mountainous, woodland scenery, or simply discovering the delights of the sleepy villages that appear to have stood still with time, then the Costa del Sol offers the visitor the choice of both.
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