Main city of the Costa del Sol and home to one of Spain’s busiest airports, Malaga is too often dismissed simply as a transport hub.
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But the birthplace of Picasso has one of the loveliest Old Towns in Andalusia, stand-out Mediterranean beaches, and is the only city outside France with a Pompidou Centre.
Montes de Malaga Natural Park
The massive Montes de Malaga Natural Park is less than three miles (5km) from Malaga. This mountainous wilderness has several rugged trails marked for hiking and cycling, and stunning views to reward the legwork.
Andalusia is a leading European rock climbing destination, and the Costa del Sol has many fearsome crags within an hour of the coast. The Pinares de San Antón are just 20 minutes east of Malaga and good for intermediate technical climbs.
Malaga’s Mediterranean climate and thermal winds are perfect for kitesurfing, and several local schools have courses ranging from a few hours to a week, and some are certified by the International Kiteboarding Organization (IKO). It usually takes a day or so to learn the basics, but if you already know your stuff, most schools also hire out equipment.
Rio Chillar, Nerja
Just outside Nerja, less than an hour’s drive east of Malaga, the 10.5-mile (17km) Rio Chillar hike is a Costa del Sol summer tradition. You walk through natural gorges along the river bed, mostly through ankle-deep water, and you can swim in natural rock pools along the way.
Stand-up paddle boarding
SUP was invented in Hawaii for non-surf days, so it’s ideal for the Mediterranean. No wonder it’s one of the most popular water sports in Malaga. Lessons are available for first-timers, and there’s board hire on most city beaches.
Malaga sits right at the centre of the Costa del Sol, surrounded by Mediterranean beaches, high sierra, and Andalusian heritage, all within easy reach of the city centre. The following destinations are all within two hours' journey.
Arguably the prettiest town in Andalusia, Frigiliana is under an hour’s drive east of Malaga. It’s a postcard-worthy cluster of sugar-cube houses set in the mountains, overlooking the Mediterranean. Restaurant terraces with astonishing views are another local speciality, and the Sunday morning market here is highly popular.
Teetering on the edge of El Tajo gorge, Ronda might be the most photographed town in Spain. Go early, before the crowds, and don’t dismiss the lookout on Puente Nuevo as too touristy; the view is truly remarkable. When you’ve worn out the town, drive 20 minutes west to Cueva del Gato and swim the cave pools.
Drive through the Sierra Nevada to Granada – worth the trip for the Alhambra alone. The most impressive of all Moorish palaces could fill an entire day, even without the Generalife Gardens. But always make time for tapas; expect the real thing here – light snacks served free with drinks.