Andalusia is a vibrant region, which offers sandy beaches, incredible national parks and everything in between (including a little bit of Britain abroad in the form of Gibraltar and Europe’s only desert, near Almería!) With so much to see and do, there’s never going to be enough time to see the lot in one short trip. This post will focus on what there is to see and do if you venture east, beyond Málaga. If you’re visiting Nerja check out this post and if you’re in need of further inspiration for a trip to Granada, check this one out!
1. Frigiliana: a pretty hilltop village
Frequently cited as one of Andalusia’s prettiest villages, Frigiliana is a mere 6km away from Nerja, a charming coastal town. It’s a quaint settlement, clinging to the edge of the Sierras de Tejeda national park. Its whitewashed buildings are decorated with floral decorations and beautiful painted shutters, and a wander through its streets is a delightfully peaceful affair. If you get peckish La Tienda (located next to the church, Iglesía de San Antonio) offers a wide selection of snacks and sandwiches all of which are very reasonably priced; the yogurt with muesli and fresh fruit was delicious! On the outskirts of the village, check out Restaurante Sal y Pimienta, where you can try a Polish take on tapas. There’s also a great panoramic view of the village to be had from the top of the tourist office.
2. La Herradura
Between Nerja and the resort of Almuñécar lies La Herradura, a pretty horseshoe bay with an expansive beach. There are plenty of cafés, tapas bars and heladerías (ice cream parlours) which line the seafront, all with vistas of the Mediterranean. Heladería Jijonenca does a fantastic mango con piña sorbet.
3. Marina del Este
Only a couple of kilometres away from La Herradura, Marina del Este is an oasis amongst the busy resorts of the Costa del Sol. The marina itself is picturesque (and filled with tiny fish and jellyfish; if you look carefully enough you’ll soon spot them), but there’s also a small beach located nearby with crystal-clear waters and a distinct lack of tourists. If you’re looking for a peaceful spot to spend the afternoon reading your book, relaxing in the Spanish sun, this is it.
A twisty mountain road (tip: take motion sickness tablets if you’re the slightest bit intolerant to endlessly winding roads!) leads to this attractive town, which features lots of beautiful tiled mosaics, including the notable El Paseo de las Traditiones. Hiring a car is the easiest way to access this slightly remote village in the Axarquía region; there’s free parking close to the centre.
Another pueblo blanco (white town) of the Axarquía: Árchez is further along the twisty mountain roads, slightly north of Cómpeta. It’s a small town, with the usual whitewashed buildings; amongst them is a house of Gaudi-esque design. En route, there are superb views of the surrounding countryside.
Salares is smaller than Árchez, yet, with its proximity to nearby hills and mountains would make the ideal starting point for a hike if you’re that way inclined; there are several trails nearby. Disclaimer: we didn’t try any of them, but information about them can be found online.
Almería is the least-visited of the provincial capitals in Andalusia; however, it’s worth remembering that ‘least-visited’ does not translate to ‘not worth visiting’, at least not in this case. The cathedral is full of intricate masonry and artistic details; unfortunately we didn’t manage to go inside as it was closed. The other notable point of interest is the Alcazaba: it’s remarkably intact, with beautifully laid out gardens (complete with pomegranate trees) and offers impressive aerial views of the city. It’s also free to EU citizens; just take some government-issued ID along with you. For non-EU citizens, it’s a mere €1.50. Jäätelö does delicious frozen yogurt with a large selection of toppings to choose from; it’s an ideal end-of-the-day (or any time of day, if you’re me) treat on a hot day.
8. Alhama de Granada
A preliminary note: this town is not to be confused with Granada’s Alhambra. (Yes, we met a couple who had done just that. It was comedy gold – they were utterly clueless, and, more remarkably, didn’t look too concerned at the fact that they had landed themselves in a town sixty kilometres away from the landmark they intended to visit and their tour of the Nasrid Palaces was due to commence in an hour. If only I knew how that story ended.)
Entertaining stories aside, this small spa town offers a refreshing break from the hubbub of central Granada. It’s well known for the natural thermal springs, which tourists can visit (and bathe in) for free; it’s like sitting in a warm bath, which doesn’t go cold. You can also see some authentic Arab baths in the nearby hotel (Balneario); a tour of these and the modern spa will set you back a mere €1.
9. Sierra Nevada
Given Granada is located a mere thirty-odd kilometres from this stunning mountain range, it would be silly to miss it off any Granada-based trip itinerary. From Granada it’s an easy (and well-signposted) drive up to the mountains. The Mirador de Canales offers an impressive vista of an azure lake and the surrounding sierras. Further on is the ski resort, which once hosted a major skiing competition, a veritable ghost town in the summer months. From here, the adventurous can begin the ascent to the summit of Veleta, the third highest peak on the Iberian peninsula.
Pronounced ‘Hi-en’, this town’s biggest draw is its magnificent cathedral. It’s also home to some well-preserved Arab baths, located in the Palacio de Villardompardo museum complex (Plaza Sta. Luisa de Marillac.) There’s a small (but surprisingly tranquil) café on the top floor, next to which is a veranda with noteworthy views of the town and nearby mountains.