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Six ideas for a day trip near the Costa del Sol

Good food, nature, history and culture can all be enjoyed with this round-up of great locations to visit during the upcoming public holidays

JAVIER ALMELLONES

The two upcoming public holidays, 6 December (Constitution Day) and 8 December (Day of the Immaculate Conception) offer the opportunity for some much needed rest and relaxation and the chance to enjoy a day, or overnight, trip to one of Malaga's many enchanting towns or villages.

Whether the destination is Ronda, the Costa del Sol, Valle del Guadalhorce, La Axarquía or Antequera, great food, natural beauty, and rich history are all on offer in these areas. Here are some of six suggestions.

1.

Copper forests

The forecasted rain will speed up the leaf fall from the chestnut trees in the Valle del Genal. For this reason, Bosque de Cobre's colourful show can be enjoyed from a few different areas. Parauta, Pujerra, Igualeja, Cartajima, Júzcar, Jubrique and Genalguacil are some of the villages which can be visited over these days. From Malaga city, it will take between an hour and a half and two hours by road to visit these remote villages. The journey is really worth it, especially if you arrive before the final leaf fall. So it is best to visit this area in the first few days of December. It’s worth keeping in mind that in certain towns, like Faraján, on the 8 December (the day of the Immaculate Conception), there are food and sport related activities.

2.

Casares and its surrounding natural beauty

Casares is famous for being the birth town of Blas Infante, father of Andalusian nationalism, and its picture-postcard white buildings. The town alone is worth a visit for its various historical monuments, such as the castle and old Encarnación church, which has been converted into a cultural centre.

It is also worth taking the time to enjoy the surrounding areas. Only five minutes away you will find yourself in the foothills of the Sierra Crestellina, with its griffon vultures that fly over the mountains and town.

There is another less well-known enclave called Sierra de la Utrera, where Europe's most southerly karst rock formation is found. Another attraction is the dizzying zip line strung over the town.

In nearby Manilva, on 6 December there is a foodie fair, selling typical products from the area. In Casares, as well as bread, there is organic Payoya goat's cheese which the Sierra Crestellina family business makes.

3.

Montes de Malaga

If there is rain over the holiday but you really want to get away, a good option is a trip to the Montes de Malaga with its tasty local cuisine. Migas, garlic rabbit, t chickpea stew, pork fillets, and of course the area's famous dish that goes by the name 'plato de los Montes', are just some of the gastrononomical delights awaiting hungry visitors in its restaurants and eateries. It is best to reserve a table in advance. There are more than a dozen options where you can sample the traditional cuisine and avoid the cold and rain. If it is not raining, there are several hiking routes on approved trails which can be enjoyed before lunch.

4.

Valle de Abdalajís

This village is officially located in the Valle del Guadalhorce region, but it is also very close to Antequera. In fact, Abdalajís shares many similarities with the Torcal nature reserve, but it is less well-known. The area and its surroundings are enough to make it an excellent destination this holiday week. On the one hand, there are charming streets, a church, and palace, on the other, stunning natural features, such as the Peana rock. Aside from hiking in its mountainous terrain, visiting the Gangarro lookout next to the Santo Cristo de la Sierra chapel is also a must-do activity. Here, a spectacular view of the town and its surroundings can be enjoyed. For lunch, there are many bars in the village and of one of the stand-out spots is the Venta Los Atanores, a restaurant located on the road at the entrance of the town (from Antequera), where there are plenty of warming dishes, like migas, to try.

5.

Cútar

Set among the hills of La Axarquía, Cútar is an enchanting village that keeps its Andalusian heritage proudly alive. In recent months, the village has further enhanced its medieval history with an interesting visitor centre (closed on holidays) that revolves around manuscripts found two decades ago behind a wall of a house.

There is also a fountain of Arab origin located at the entrance to the town centre, known as Aina Alcaharia. The small village, located at the foot of Comares, can be reached from El Borge, on the Raisin Route, or via the road that connects it with Benamargosa and the River Vélez valley. However you reach Cútar, the journey will be made along winding roads that invite you to enjoy one of the deepest parts of La Axarquía.

6.

Antequera and Archidona

Antequera and Archidona act as the 'capitals' of the Vega de Antequera and form a unique combination to enjoy good gastronomy and historical heritage in December. Their museums, churches, castles and stunning viewpoints are part of their attraction. Those with a sweet tooth will enjoy the traditional mantecados and other typical Christmas delights, such as polvorones or roscos de vino, sold in traditional confectioners' shops. Also in its restaurants you can order traditional dishes from the area, such as migas (fried breadcrumbs). Among the many must-see sights in Antequera are the Dolmens complex, the Alcazaba, the Royal Collegiate Church of Santa María la Mayor and the City Museum. In the case of Archidona, the remains of its fortress stand out, where there is a Christian sanctuary that preserves the remains of a former mosque, or the emblematic Plaza Ochavada, which impresses with its unique architecture.