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White Villages – So Many Hidden Gems

Spain’s Costas are renowned for the stunning coastline: fabulous sun-drenched beaches generously dotted with an abundance of beach bars designed to tempt you with their promise of sun tans and amazing fresh food. But Andalucía has so much more to offer its visitors. Take a trip away from the coast, head inland for no more than a few kilometres and it won’t be long until you reach one of the many picturesque towns and villages. You can even follow a tourist route of these white villages, which spreads from la Sierra, in the province of Cadiz to the Serrania de Ronda, in the province of Málaga. These delightful little enclaves are impressive historical monuments in their own right and are the hidden jewels of Andalucía.

Many of the inhabitants of these whitewashed villages still live according to age-old traditions inherited from their forefathers of Iberian, Roman and Moorish times. Some villages near the coast have become quite fashionable resorts, whilst others a little further away, have held on to their ancient appeal and tempt visitors with their local produce such olive oil, fruit and vegetables and goat’s milk.

There is a strong Muslim influence in the architecture of steep, narrow, winding streets, alleyways allowing access into the houses and patios. Many of the villages include ‘…de la Frontera’ (of the frontier) after their name which was due to the ever-moving frontiers brought about by constant clashes between the Moorish and Christian faiths. However, their status as a ‘fortress’ no longer a requirement, has seen many of the towns dropping the ‘de la Frontera’ to be known simply as Vejer or Arcos for example.

If spending some time away from the coast is for you, then have a look at some of our stunning mountain properties. I’m sure we can find you the perfect mountain retreat hidden amongst one of these little white villages.

One of the prettiest villages, in our view, is Casares which is only 15km from the coast. Nestled within the winding streets you can stay in fabulous 2-bed townhouse. If you park at the top of the village you get the best view of its medieval fortress which sits proudly on the top of the hill. This view is best in the afternoon sun and is an ideal spot to climb down one of the steep, but well maintained, footpaths that lead into the village square called Plaza de España.

If you are looking for a larger property, this stunning 7-bed villa could be just what you are looking for. Situated in Ojen, just 10 minutes’ drive from the town and beaches of Marbella. Visitors can stroll through the town centre to view the Fountain of Chorros, a drinking water fountain which dates back to 1905. Also worth a visit are the Oil Mill Museum, Wine Museum and the Caves of Ojen.

Another of our popular rural property rentals features two adjacent properties situated on the mountainside just outside Coin, near Malaga. The first is a 2-bed villa ‘Casa Maria’ and the second, a 4-bed villa ‘Finca Tropical’. Both properties offer spectacular mountain views, abundant orchards, BBQ areas and private pools (which can be heated if required).

We have many more holiday rental properties with beautiful views across the province. Please do not hesitate to contact us for advice, our holiday rental experts are on hand to help you find the perfect property for your next vacation.

How to holiday on a budget on the Costa del Sol

We love holidays, but we know that they can be expensive and difficult to afford when you’re on a budget. However, the good news is that the cost of living here on the Costa del Sol is significantly cheaper than in the UK and most parts of Europe and there are loads of great things to do which are completely free! If you look out for deals and follow a few simple tips, you can have an amazing holiday on the Costa del Sol on a budget.

Here are some of our top tips

  1. Travel as a group and book a villa

If you’re travelling with a large group, you can get an incredible deal per person per night and have a stunning villa too. While they look expensive, splitting them between three families for example makes them much more affordable than staying in a hotel. Plus, because you have the space to relax, cook and enjoy the facilities, you spend a lot less money on eating out and it is much more relaxing too.  Check out our villas with pools

  1. Eat, drink and be merry like the Spanish do

The Spanish locals are price sensitive and so cafes, bars and restaurants catering to locals are significantly cheaper than tourist places and offer a more authentic experience. They don’t tend to be the most beautiful places – expect plastic chairs and strip lighting, but the atmosphere and food tend to be great and you can still get a small beer or a coffee for 1€, or a three course meal for 10€ in some places, so follow the Spanish to the busiest places and you’ll definitely get a bargain.

  1. Pack a picnic

When you’re staying in a holiday rental you can save a fortune by stocking up at the supermarket, making up a delicious picnic, or some snacks and drinks and taking it with you. We love a picnic on the beach for lunch, or a few beers as the sun goes down and it’s cheap as chips if you take it with you. Be prepared on a day out with a reusable water bottle and snacks too so you avoid having to spend money when you’re thirsty and hot. There are water fountains everywhere so you can keep topping up and you’re minimising plastic use too!

  1. Enjoy the free activities

Over the summer there are hundreds of free activities going on along the Costa del Sol, from concerts to ferias, magic shows, talks, dance classes and activities for the kids. Ask at the tourist office, or check out one of the local area guides online, then head along and enjoy the fun totally free! For families with kids, the many playgrounds are a godsend and of course a stroll by the sea and a trip to the beach is perfect family fun. Many holiday rentals even have toys and games to take out with you, or enjoy at your apartment or villa, so you don’t need to buy things to keep them entertained.

  1. Book online and look out for money saving coupons or special days
  • If you are going to one of the summer ferias and want to take the kids on the rides look out for the “Día del Niño” every fair has one and rides are often 1€, or half price, which really saves you a lot.
  • Pick up any coupons you see around for the attractions like water parks and theme parks, but then check online before you buy, as it’s often a lot cheaper booking online ahead of time and you can also skip the queues.
  • Look for later entry tickets to waterparks, which can result in a massive discount but still give you quite enough time to enjoy the experience
  • Look out for packs of offers for different activities such as the ones from Selwo which offers a combined price for a number of different activities, but then check online to ensure that it adds up compared to buying them individually online

There are lots of other fantastic money saving tips from Money Saving Expert on their website which could save you a fortune.

We have recently dropped the price on this great one bedroom penthouse in La Cala by 20%. It is a great centrally located property, just 400 meters from the beach and a five-minute walk into town. It sleeps four people and costs from just 66€ per day, so is an excellent base for a great value holiday on the Costa del Sol. Check out more budget holiday homes on our website, or contact us for more information on great value holiday rentals.

Start planning your 2019 getaways

Start planning your 2019 getaways

We love January, as we can start planning our next trip and dream of sunny skies and holidays. If your thoughts are turning to this year’s trips too, here are a few great times to visit the Costa del Sol.

Easter – This is a fabulous time to visit the Costa del Sol, with so much more than the Easter bunny! It’s a time of processions and parades and an incredible display of religious devotion. Andalucia really does it in style, parading wonderful sculptures and art works through the streets and often accompanying it with music. Málaga is the most famous place to go for Easter in this region, but all towns and villages put on a great show and it’s a wonderful time to visit.

Summer – It will not surprise you that the most popular time to visit is the summer, when the hot weather, beautiful beaches and great “ferias” (week-long celebrations) draw thousands of tourists to the Costa del Sol. However, this doesn’t just mean July and August. If you aren’t restricted by school holidays, wonderful times to visit are June and September, where the temperatures aren’t as high and the area isn’t as crowded, but you can still enjoy the full summer experience.

Halloween – If you’re not a fan of the over commercialised Halloween celebrations in the UK, come over and see how it’s done here. The 1st of November is the Day of the Dead, when families honour their relatives by visiting the cemetery. Also, at the end of October is the Saints Festival in Ojen and Istan near Marbella, and the Chestnut festival in Alcaucín. These traditional celebrations are really interesting and a great way to see another side of Halloween.

Christmas and Three Kings – I know we’ve just taken down the decorations, but we have to mention Christmas as part of this run down of wonderful times to visit, as it’s such a gorgeous time to come. The weather is mild, the decorations are beautiful, there’s lots of lovely activities for the family to enjoy and it’s so nice to get away from the chaos of family responsibilities and have a special Christmas your way. Read our article to Christmas on the Costa del Sol and get inspired for this year’s festivities.

Whenever you choose to come, make sure you browse our site for the best Costa del Sol holiday rentals. We have an excellent selection of properties all along the coast and can send you a shortlist of the ones which best suit your needs. Don’t hesitate to contact us for advice on where to stay and what sorts of properties are best, depending on your group and the time of year you are visiting. Our holiday rental experts are here to help you make the best choice and have an amazing holiday.

Walking in the Malaga hills

Walking in the Malaga hills

One of our favourite autumn activities here on the Costa del Sol is to explore the area’s stunning countryside on foot. Autumn is an ideal time as it’s cooler and the countryside looks pretty after the first rains of the new season.

There are great walks to be had in almost all our favourite holiday rental destinations. Highlights include the well signposted walking routes at the back of Mijas Pueblo, the hiking route which runs parallel to the Guadalmina River near to Benahavis and of course Marbella’s iconic La Concha mountain. The base of La Concha has some lovely long hikes in beautiful countryside, which are suitable for all ages and levels, but you need to be well prepared to actually take on the La Concha trek, as it is high and demanding.

Some of the most beautiful countryside is inland from Malaga city. They have three beautiful areas with large reservoirs, where you can swim, do watersports or simply hike into the hills. Up here is the famous Caminito del Rey a vertiginous walking route which is becoming hugely popular since it was reopened a few years ago. Anyone who loves walking, beautiful scenery and has a head for heights will love this route. However, it’s very popular and tickets are required, so make sure you book in advance.

Another amazing place to visit in this region is El Torcal, near Antequera. This national park is full of weird and wonderful rock formations, plus the ancient dolmens burial mounds which date back 5,000 years and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Find out more about exploring Malaga’s countryside on our blog.

Cycling is also another great way to explore the countryside and coastal areas around the Costa del Sol. The most popular areas for cycling include the long seafront promenade, or exploring the tracks and parks inland from Marbella and Estepona. By renting bikes and a car, you can reach stunning countryside easily and cover a lot of distance. Find out more about cycling on the Costa del Sol and routes we’d recommend on our blog.

You don’t even need to leave the towns and cities to stretch your legs. There are excellent walking routes in Marbella, Malaga city has a number of great themed walks and in Estepona you can do a walking route around nearly 30 huge murals.

The Costa del Sol is a great place to be active, walking, riding a bike, jogging or even horse riding and there’s so much beautiful countryside to enjoy. We can match you and the activities you want to do, with holiday rental properties in the ideal area to make it easy and cut down on travel time. Contact us with what you’re planning and we’ll send you a list of ideal home-from-home properties which are perfect throughout the year.

Books and films to inspire your next trip to Spain

Books and films to inspire your next trip to Spain

Now that the clocks have gone back and the chill is setting in, it’s normal to be dreaming of Spanish sunshine and the laidback Andalusian way of life. To get your fix, you could come and visit us here on the Costa del Sol of course, and stay in one of our great holiday rentals. But if you can’t get away yet, then we’d recommend these wonderful books, which will remind you of happy holidays and may even inspire you to do something different on your next trip away.

  1. Driving Over Lemons – This book is by Chris Stewart, who was the original drummer in Genesis, and tells the tale of his experiences living in a rural mountain farm in the Alpujarras mountains, near Granada. Chris falls in love with the area and the people and takes the reader along with him, through his trials and tribulations. It’s a charming and funny read that will transport you to the sun.
  2. Under the Sun – Recommended by Belinda Beckitt in the Olive Press’ must read summer books, this is set on the Costa del Sol and tells the story of an expat escaping to live the dream in Andalucia. Things don’t quite go to plan however and she uncovers a people smuggling ring and gets sucked into the drama. The Sunday Times called it “a compulsive page turner” and it’s a very good read.
  3. Ghosts of Spain – This one is good if you like a bit of history and want to understand the civil war and how it influences modern Spain. Written by an expat journalist who adores his adopted home, he brings the history to life by meeting survivors and their families and hearing their stories.
  4. A Romantic in Spain – You will be immersed in this travelogue by French adventurer Théophile Gautier which was written to tell the story of his journey through Spain in 1840. Reading his experiences of lasting monuments and culture such as the Alhambra and Bull Fighting, will give you a fresh perspective on the past and present of this fantastic country before your next trip to Spain.

How can these books inspire your next trip?

Get the Driving Over Lemons experience by travelling slightly inland from the Costa del Sol and exploring the beautiful white villages in the hills. Villages such as Casares, Benahavis, Istan and Ojen are very close to the hustle and bustle of the coast, but give you the feeling of rural tranquillity and a close community. If you want to actually visit the Alpujarras, it’s only a few hours drive from Malaga, yet feels like a world away.

To learn more about Spain’s history and the bloodshed of the civil war, that you will read about in Ghost of Spain, take a trip from Marbella up to Ronda. This stunning city perched on a gorge is rich with the history of bull fighting, and the civil war.

Channel your inner Théophile Gautier by taking a day trip to the Malaga countryside to explore the ancient olive groves and olive oil producers, which are little changed since his time. You can also soak up the ancient Roman, Moorish and Catholic architecture in all the historic centres of the towns and villages on the Costa del Sol, as well as taking day trips to Seville, Jerez and Granada.

However you want to experience the Costa del Sol, we have a holiday rental property to suit you. We have traditional properties in rural areas, such as this enchanting 2 bedroom townhouse in the beautiful white village of Casares. To explore the historic city of Malaga and be within easier reach of Granada and the Alpujarras, while also being well connected to the rest of the Costa del Sol, Benalmadena is a good base, with rental properties down by the beach, further back in the town and in the pretty white village. The good news is that the area is relatively small and the roads are excellent, so look for a base roughly in the middle of the areas you want to visit, or ask our holiday rental experts for our insider’s knowledge.

Five Spanish customs and traditions to enjoy on the Costa del Sol

As we explained in our last post, Spain is rich in culture, heritage and traditions. The Costa del Sol has a lot to offer on that front as well, but it can be easy for the average tourist to miss. So, we wanted to offer you five things to experience on your next holiday to the Costa del Sol so that you can really have the true Spanish experience, while still making the most of all the tourist attractions.

Eat Tapas – One of the best ways to explore a Spanish town is to “tapear” or explore the area by visiting its tapas restaurants. You can do this on your own, with a tour group, or as part of organised tapas events, where you can follow a set route with a booklet and a map to try out different tapas and find hidden corners. Marbella, Malaga and Estepona all have yearly tapas events, as do many other towns, so ask in your local tourist office. You can also check out this great website with articles about tapas in Marbella, Nerja, Antequera, Malaga, Torremolinos and Ronda to find out more.

Experience Flamenco – Andalucia is the birthplace of flamenco, with Jerez, Cadiz and Seville all hubs for this passionate art form. The unique sound, music, singing and of course dancing is central to ferias on the Costa del Sol, with people breaking into spontaneous song and dance at local bars, and hundreds dancing in traditional dress in large dance areas. There are also flamenco shows at hotels, restaurants and bars – some more traditional and authentic than others, but all amazing to watch. There are also many schools and teachers who can help you to learn flamenco so you can take part in the feria, which is a lovely skill to learn and really feel part of the celebration.

Stay up late – Summer on the Costa del Sol is hot and the hot weather effects how people live their lives, and so everything happens later and slower. Mornings are slow and lazy, 2pm calls for a long, leisurely lunch, followed by an afternoon siesta until around 5pm. Most Spanish families will go to the beach around 5pm or 6pm, leaving the beach around 8, heading home to shower and change before eating around 9 or 10pm. Drinks and partying happen from midnight onwards, with even kids’ activities organised for around 10pm. This may seem strange and take a little getting used to, but adjusting to the Spanish timetable will really help you to enjoy the area, as everything is done en masse and the atmosphere is wonderful.

Take a stroll – The tradition to “pasear” or stroll after lunch or dinner, is a great way to see the sights, work off a big meal and adjust to the relaxed pace of life. Stroll along the seafront promenade or around the old town after dinner, stopping to have an ice cream or a coffee, watch a dance performance or look at some market stalls or shops. Everything is open late and runs at a very slow pace, enjoy it and you’ll feel at one with the Spanish.

Party like a local – Try and time your trip to coincide with a local feria, it’s full of colour, music and life. Check with the local tourist office what is happening near you and what time things start and finish. There will often be a day feria from 1pm and a night feria from around 8pm – normally in a different part of town, so make sure you know where to go and when. When you’re there invest in a fan to stave off the heat, put a flower in your hair and sip a cold sherry, or a rebujito (sherry mixed with lemonade), listen to the music and enjoy the atmosphere.

We have a large range of quality holiday homes on the Costa del Sol, where you can experience all the excitement and local culture, as well as the convenience of a large international community, easy transport routes from the UK and Northern Europe and good facilities for tourists. Our helpful team can support you in choosing where to stay and what to do and you can download our free Costa del Sol holiday guide to help you make the most of this fantastic area.

Costa del Sol concerts summer 2017

Costa del Sol concerts summer 2017

Spring is in the air and after a hot and sunny Easter, excitement is building about the summer season. Live music is a regular feature of summer on the Costa del Sol, with Beach Clubs, restaurants and bars all adding to the atmosphere with live performers.

In recent years, the concerts have really been growing in importance and thousands of fans flock here to see their favourite act. There have been some amazing acts announced who will be performing over the summer at Starlite and Puente Romano. Coming over to the Costa del Sol for a summer holiday and combining that with seeing your favourite artist is a great way to have an unforgettable getaway.

Here are some of the great people performing and when you can see them –

Starlite takes place in an old quarry in the Sierra Blanca area just above Marbella Town. For several years this music festival has been attracting some amazing acts and this year is no different. Here are the top international acts performing and the dates.

  • Anastacia 15th July
  • Art Garfunkel 16th July
  • Elton John, 20th July
  • Pretenders, 26th July
  • The Cranberries, 5th August
  • Andrea Bocelli, 15th August
  • Jason Derulo, 24th August

The Puente Romano concert series has been going for many years and holds intimate gigs in their tennis club, giving guests the chance to enjoy a great atmosphere and be close to all the actions and their favourite stars. Here are four great dates for the diary.

  • Foreigner, 11th June
  • Heather Small, Right Said Fred and Billy Ocean, 6th July
  • George Benson, 21st July
  • Michael Bolton, 10th August

These concerts are focussed around Marbella, so look for a quality holiday rental in this area to reduce travel and taxi fares.

To be close to all the action at Starlite, we’d recommend this stunning villa in Sierra Blanca  With four bedrooms, four bathrooms and impressive design, this property really has the wow factor. There are sensational views, lovely pool and garden, terraces, games room, gym and much more. This villa is perfect for a luxury holiday on the Costa del Sol and just a few minutes from Starlite, for maximum convenience.

Partying on the Costa del Sol for New Year’s Eve

Costa del Sol New Year's Eve

The Costa del Sol’s legendary nightlife during the summer does slow a little over the winter months, but many places swing back into life again for the biggest party of the year – New Year’s Eve. It’s a great place to see in the New Year, with warmer temperatures, clear skies and interesting traditions to try. Plus, this year it falls on a Saturday, so why not take a long weekend break on the Costa del Sol to really start off the new year in style?!

There are hundreds of parties going on all over the coast, but here are a few highlights.

Great Gatsby New Year’s Eve party, with a glamourous 1920s theme and a full line up of entertainment, champagne, canapés and open bar in a secret location somewhere in Puerto Banus, it all sounds very exciting.

Masquerade Ball and Gala Dinner at the Kempinski Hotel Bahia Estepona – this is a very special place to spend New Year’s Eve, with amazing food, wines and plenty  of live entertainment including acrobats! The masquerade ball theme will be spectacular and there’s a kids’ party too, so the little ones will be entertained.

Bob Sinclair at Olivia ValereThe world famous DJ comes to Marbella to start 2017 in true party style on the last night of the year!

Marbella Old Town’s celebrations – If you fancy something more Spanish in style, head down to the Marbella’s beautiful Old Town, where there will be a party at 11pm in the main church square. It’s nice to have dinner on one of the beautiful restaurants and then go down to the square to see in the new year. Just make sure you bring 12 grapes, so you can take part in the Spanish tradition of trying to eat one grape for each chime of the clock.

Host your own party in a beautiful villa – Another great option is to book one of our outstanding luxury Costa del Sol villas and bring a group of friends over to create your very own party. Many villas have heated pools and outdoor or indoor bar areas and games rooms as well as spectacular kitchens and living rooms, so you can create an amazing party in a stunning setting.  For example, imagine bringing in the new year in this 5 bedroom Marbella villa, complete with bar, lounge, games room and heated swimming pool……

Come and celebrate the best night of the year here on the Costa del Sol – it will be a New Year’s Eve not to be forgotten!

Top Tips for Visiting the Costa del Sol off-peak

Off-peak Costa del Sol Holidays

They say that a dog isn’t just for Christmas, well in the same way, the Costa del Sol is not just for summer! It is a wonderful destination for an off-peak break, whether it’s to enjoy the lovely autumn or spring time, or to bask in some winter sun.

We are pleased to see that more people are visiting in September and October, with many hotels reporting 100% occupancy throughout September, and much higher occupancy rates for October too. It’s a wonderful time to visit, with glorious sunshine and lots still going on. Check out our list of autumn events on the Costa del Sol.

Hotels, restaurants and airlines are responding to the increased interest in off-peak tourism, staying open longer and offering more attractive packages for off-peak travel. Budget airline Ryanair has announced that they are increasing their flights by 43% over the winter into Malaga, so there will be even more affordable travel options for off-peak visitors.

Travelling off-peak is a great budget option, with flights and accommodation costs coming down drastically and so you can stay for longer, or choose a more luxurious option for the same amount, or simply enjoy the amazing savings.

Here are four tips for making the most of an off-peak holiday on the Costa del Sol –

  1. Choose a location with lots of amenities which are open year round – Being more central, or within easy access of things to do is more important in the winter, when some resorts and urbanisations can become very quiet. Larger towns such as Benalmadena, Fuengirola, Marbella and Estepona are always busy throughout the year, so you can still enjoy the buzz if you’re located nearby.
  2. Pack for cooler evenings – Day time temperatures are usually lovely and bright sunshine is the norm throughout the year, but make sure you pack some layers to make sure you’re comfortable in the evening as well. We’d suggest having a light jacket or jumper with you or a shawl so that as the sun goes down you can adjust and enjoy the al fresco lifestyle, whilst staying warm.
  3. Select accommodation fit for the winter – It really doesn’t get cold here in the winter, but properties designed for the summer can feel chilly, so we’d recommend that you choose a property with a fireplace and heating so that you feel cozy in the evenings, as well as being able to take advantage of the lovely temperatures and sunshine during the day. A holiday rental is a good option over a hotel, as even if the weather is cool or there’s a spot of rain, you can have the space and flexibility to relax and enjoy.
  4. Try an active holiday – The Costa del Sol has an amazing selection of sports and outdoor activities and autumn and winter is the best time to do it. Look into hiking routes, or try climbing the iconic mountain La Concha, book to walk the Caminito del Rey, take to the fairways for a spot of golf, or try out padel tennis, one of the national sports. Check out our golf discount card for amazing discounts and competitions.

Enjoy our guide to holidaying on the Costa del Sol and browse our great selection of holiday rental properties on our website and see the amazing deals for off-peak visits. Please ask us for any advice, or our favourite holiday rentals for the autumn and winter, to make sure you have an amazing holiday.

What’s New on the Costa del Sol for Summer 2016?

bigstock-Outdoor-concert-happy-people--74378197There’s always lots going on in the Costa del Sol, but we’re excited about some of the announcements being made for summer 2016 and we wanted to share!

Firstly, there have been some amazing performers announced to be coming to the Costa del Sol to perform. Seal will be at the Puente Romano, Simply Red will be in Fuengirola and Tom Jones (alongside 23 other amazing acts) will be at Starlite in Marbella – this is going to be amazing.

Secondly, Marbella is due to get its first gourmet food market right in the centre of town. This will be a 470 square meter gourmet food market on the centre street Ricardo Soriano, where foodies can dine, shop and enjoy the amazing local produce and cuisine. Apparently it’s due to be open for the peak season of July and August which would be great.

Thirdly the amazing artwork Mural by Jackson Pollock will be shown for the first time ever in Spain at the Picasso Museum in Malaga in spring and summer 2016, which is a great reason to visit this wonderful gallery in the centre of the historic part of Malaga. You should also visit the Museum of Malaga which has had some amazing pieces restored for its Archaeology and Fine Arts collection and is hoped to be open soon. Whilst you’re there you can visit the CAC Malaga’s contemporary art museum, the Carmen Thyssen museum and the new Pompidou centre – so it’s a real cultural destination.

Fuengirola is celebrating its 175th anniversary of its autonomy this year and promising to top the 107 cultural events held in the city in 2015, so watch this space. There will also be a packed schedule of events, parties and activities for all the family which will be announced in the months leading up to the summer season. Please follow us on Facebook to keep up to date with all the latest news, events and activities.