Wednesday, 8 November 2023, 20:20
The whole world is coming to the Costa del Sol and Andalucía; if you want proof you only have to walk into the arrivals lounge at Malaga Airport and glance up at the long list of flights from four continents landing in the capital of the eponymous Andalusian province. That list will only continue to grow. Malaga was connected by direct flights to 151 destinations across the world this summer, a record number, giving more new tourists the opportunity to come to see the Costa del Sol. Officially, six million passed through Malaga airport’s arrival gates and splashed 8.1 billion euros throughout the province between June and August. This is yet another record figure, and a 30% increase compared to the number of tourists who visited Malaga during the city’s best year for tourism, in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic.
However despite these impressive figures, the Costa del Sol and Andalucía has room for everyone, from those looking for a bustling coastal resort, to city-break fans or those searching for a more peaceful break in a quiet seaside village or a mountain retreat.
In fact the region has so much more to offer than just kilometres of soft golden-sand beach and sparkling Mediterranean sea. It’s not only a vacation spot for sun lovers in search of an affordable beach getaway, but a place of growing cultural attractions such as museums, galleries and theatres, top-notch food and wine, street festivals, urban art and green spaces.
Travelling to Malaga by air has never been so easy. This year, the city’s airport consolidated its position as the fourth most important in the country, only preceded by Madrid, Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca.
The UK is still the country with the most flights to and from the Costa del Sol. In the summer of 2023 airlines operated some 23 routes between Malaga and UK airports and the winter schedule varies very little. As well as with five London airports (Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, City), the Costa del Sol has direct flights to and from all of England’s major terminals from Newquay in the south-west to Newcastle in the north-east - (Exeter, Bristol, Bournemouth, Birmingham, East Midlands, Leeds/Bradford, Liverpool and Manchester), as well as Cardiff in Wales and Glasgow, Glasgow-Prestwick, Aberdeen and Edinburgh in Scotland, Belfast in Northern Ireland and Jersey in the Channel Islands. The summer schedule also included Southampton and Southend as well as Guernsey. The activity is non-stop with well over a hundred flights to and from the UK using Malaga Airport every day.
In order to meet the growing demand for connections with the Costa del Sol among tourists, residents and business owners, airlines have increased flights to the destination and launched new routes, opening up completely new parts of the world to the south of Spain.
One of these new connections is a direct flight between New York and Malaga. The route, which started on 1 June this year, was the first direct flight between the two destinations in four years and paved the way for swathes of Americans and Canadians to visit the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and explore wider Andalucía. The flight, which separates Malaga from the Big Apple by just six hours, resulted in 17% more visitors from the US, with the province’s hotels and tourist flats registering 8,800 more bookings in July alone compared to the same month last year. But it won’t stop there, with United Airlines recently confirming it would resume the route again for the high season next year following its success this summer, this time with one flight every day, rather than three days a week as before.
Air travel between Malaga and Eastern Europe has also been bolstered after Baltic Air launched new direct flights to the capital of Lithuania, Vilnius.
Scandinavians, who have always historically flocked to the Costa del Sol in search of Spain’s sunshine, benefited after Norwegian Air boosted its operations with Malaga. The airline, the fourth-placed carrier in terms of passenger volume at Malaga Airport, increased its number of aircraft at the airport and its number of routes between Malaga and Europe’s chilly northern tip. Haugesund, a cultural hub in southwestern Norway; Växjö, in southeastern Sweden and Stockholm-Skavsta, the airport south of the Swedish capital, are new destinations that now display on Malaga Airport’s arrival and departure screens.
Malaga Airport also offered direct flights to Doha, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia, this summer. Tel Aviv returned as a connecting city to the Costa del Sol after a lengthy absence due to the pandemic. The expansion into Africa is also worth noting, with non-stop flights from Malaga to 14 cities.
Malaga Airport and the Costa del Sol will also regain a direct flight connection to Abu Dhabi for next summer after the route was suspended four years ago. Etihad Airways will return to operate to the gateway of the Costa del Sol during the high season of 2024, from June to September. It will fly the route four times a week, one more than it did previously.
The Costa del Sol is also better connected to wider Andalucía than it has ever been before thanks to the introduction of new rail operators along the high-speed train line that links the city of Malaga with the historical gems of Cordoba and Seville, and with the capital of Spain, Madrid.
Not only are there more options, but the less than three-hour journey to Madrid is now cheaper as rival rail operators look to win over passengers with fare deals.
Iryo, famous for its eye-catching Frecciarossa trains in Italy, was the first to compete with state operator Renfe when it started running its trains between Malaga and Madrid, with two in each direction a day last year. That then increased to three, and then five this summer. This June, Avlo, Renfe’s low-cost subsidiary, slashed fares, with prices starting at just seven euros, if they were booked well in advance. Meanwhile, private high-speed train operator Ouigo is expected to start servicing Malaga and the rest of Andalucía later this year. The French low-cost service will increase the number of trains on the Madrid-Malaga and Malaga-Cordoba-Seville routes, and it is hoped the extra competition will lead to even lower fares for passengers.
For those staying closer to Malaga, the Cercanías local railway line operates between the city centre and Fuengirola, calling at the airport, Torremolinos and Arroyo de la Miel, among other stations.
Or if you’re looking to keep your trip a little more low-key and visit some of the idyllic white villages and towns surrounding Malaga, or go beach hopping along the coast, then the bus may be the best option. In which case you can safely bet on there being a bus route for wherever your chosen location may be. A scheme is in the works to make hopping between the main towns around Malaga by bus even easier. It aims to give passengers the option of hopping on buses or on the city’s metro, all with the same travel card, allowing users to save at least 30% of the fare on each stage of the journey.
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