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Rustic Blue Guide to the Western Costa del Sol

The western Costa del Sol and its beautiful rural hinterland extends south from Marbella to the rocky British outpost of Gibraltar …

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Marbella Jimena de la Frontera, 35 km inland from the coast Genalgaucil The Costa del Golf Jimena de la Frontera Coastal charisma Spring arives with the beautiful jacaranda trees in full bloom

Map of region

La Costa del Sol

Map of Spain showing La Costa del Sol region.

La Costa Tropical

Description

Another world

Spectacular mountains rise up immediately behind the coastline, the scenery is stunning, a wonderful backdrop to picture-postcard white villages.

The Costa del Sol is not what most people would imagine as "rural Andalucia". It's certainly true that what was once nothing more than a few quiet fishing settlements has been completely transformed during the latter part of the 20th century into a tourist destination of world renown - and some would say, infamy!

Once dubbed the "Costa del Crime" due to the trend for British gangsters to escape from legal trouble at home by moving here to live their lives in luxury, there is actually a lot to commend it, particularly on the stretch of coast which runs south from Marbella to the Rock of Gibraltar.

Immediately inland from the coast, spectacular mountains rise up and it's another world - in atmosphere, beauty and unpredictability. All around the scenery is beautiful, providing a wonderful backdrop to picture postcard white villages.

Moorish castles and majestic nature

Casares, a classic pueblo blanco clambers up a spectacular rocky outcrop just nine miles inland from the hustle and bustle of the Costa del Sol.

Take Casares for example, a classic pueblo blanco which clambers up a spectacular rocky outcrop, just nine miles inland from the hustle and bustle of the Costa del Sol.

The dramatic scenery of the rugged Bermeja mountains are home to a colony of Griffon vultures. These majestic birds, with a wing span of two metres, glide on the thermals high above countryside of deep gorges and pine forested ridges. The Sierra Crestellina Nature Reserve lies alongside the village, a popular destination for birdwatchers and walkers.

There are many other pretty towns and villages to explore: Istán, an ancient Arab village tucked away beneath the Sierra Blanca at the head of the valley of the Rio Verde; Jimena de la Frontera, another gem, its steep cobbled streets leading up to the ruins of its castle high above. The old village of Castellar de la Frontera is located entirely within the walls of a 13th century Moorish castle and is totally unique, as bizarre a place as you will ever come across!

Walking in paradise

The fabulous Los Alcornocales Natural Park is a paradise for walkers, riders, bird watchers, nature lovers and anyone looking for calm and relaxation.

All around, the countryside is marvellous. Los Alcornocales Natural Park (which translates as "the cork oak groves") spans the provinces of both Cádiz and Málaga. A vast expanse of rolling hillsides and deep dales, it is one of the most extensive forests of cork oak in the world.

Even more dramatic, the Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park, located in the hills behind Marbella, is a foreboding area of mountains which has seen little human influence or activity ever, and has a fabulous variety of flora and fauna as well as one of Europe's most extensive regions of caves, potholes and underground caverns. As the name suggests, it can be snow-covered in the winter.

Stunning scenery and a genuine rural ambience, yet just minutes away from from the coast!

Another of the attractions of this part of the Costa is that there are still plenty of quiet sandy coves - with perhaps just one little beach bar cooking up some freshly caught sardines - as well as the more sophisticated hotspots for which this part of Spain is so renown.

First and foremost there's Marbella, Spain's answer to St Tropez, a place for jet-setters and film stars, a glitzy playground for the rich and famous.

But, for all its carefully cultivated image, it's really much more down-to-earth than that, a town with genuine Spanish character and individuality, a seaside resort par excellence with a lot going for it.

Coastal charisma

Fun, sun, restaurants, hot spots galore … and quiet, sandy coves with perhaps just one little beach bar cooking up some freshly caught sardines.

Marbella has a marvellous micro-climate, many claim it's the best of all, and a coastline to match, some 26 kilometres of sunny beaches bathed by the Mediterranean Sea.

There's something to suit everyone here, with restaurants galore, live music, theatre and shows, casinos and clubs, not to mention just about every sporting activity under the sun. Check out the lovely old part of town, El Casco Antiguo, too, with its labyrinth of traditional buildings, small shops, art galleries and pretty squares.

And then there's the ultimate in coastal charisma, Puerto Banús, just west of the town. This is the place to be "seen", yachtside of course … The rest of us can happily watch this world go by or indulge in a little window shopping at one of the fashion houses or boutiques. Needless to say, nightlife is buzzing here with alfresco bars, piano clubs and discos which are open from dusk until dawn.

And Africa too!

Just 14 kilometres away, the twinkling street lights of Ceuta and Tangiers are clearly visible under the dramatic folds of the Rif Mountains.

With the sea on one side and the Sierra Bermeja mountains on the other, Estepona is another popular, year-round holiday destination. But there is still plenty of evidence of its fishing village past: picturesque squares, traditional buildings and unpretentious tapas bars.

Further south we reach the very foot of Spain, the bustling port of Algerciras and that rocky outpost of the British Empire, Gibraltar. Beyond lies Tarifa, the European capital of all things windsurfing, and the wonderful white beaches of the Costa de la Luz on the Atlantic coast.

Inland, bull and horse breeding farms are set among peaceful, rolling hills and soft valleys. For birdwatchers the Bay of Gibraltar is a jewel, being on the main migration route between the two continents. If that's not your thing, maybe a bit of whale watching instead?

And there's Africa! It's so close, across the Straits, that you feel you can reach out and touch it. Just 14 kilometres away, the twinkling street lights of towns such as Ceuta and Tangiers are clearly visible under the dramatic folds of the Rif Mountains.

The land of sardines and sweet wine

Fantastic countryside, quiet rural ways, the thrills and spills of beach resorts, some of the best seafood in the world - and 300 days of sunshine every year.

One of the advantages of staying here is that it's easy to take a day or two off from European life and cross over to Morocco. It's only a short trip on one of the regular ferries and it will take you to a very different world. Morocco is a big country with much to explore, but for starters, a couple of days wandering around the souks, medinas and mosques of Tangiers will give you an insight into the Muslim world. The boat trip is fun in itself, with shoals of whales and dolphins playing in the waters alongside.

And, just on the off chance that you can't live without fish and chips, a Sunday newspaper or a packet of wine gums, Gibraltar is worth a visit. A rather strange anachronism in today's modern world, there is of course plenty of history there too.

A little further afield, the mountain ranges and natural parks which surround Ronda and Grazalema are within striking distance. The capital of the province, Cádiz itself, still evokes the romance and mystery of centuries of trade (some legal, some not so) between Europe and Africa.

There's so much to do and see in this little corner of Spain, the land of sardines and sweet wine! Fantastic countryside, quiet rural ways, the thrills and spills of beach resorts, some of the best seafood in the world - and 300 days of sunshine every year.

Oh, and there's plenty of golf too …

Towns & Villages

Towns and Villages

Casares

Casares (population 3,000) clambers up a spectacular rocky outcrop just nine miles inland from the Costa del Sol. Its sugar-cube houses are piled, seemingly on top of each other, up to the battlements of its Arab castle where views are far, wide and wonderful …

Jimena

Surrounded by the majestic Los Alcornocales Natural Park, Jimena is one of the most charming of Andalucia's small towns. Its 13th Century Moorish castle presides over pretty town houses, tapas bars, restaurants and churches which climb up the hillside below …

Marbella

If you enjoy sparkling sun, sand and sea, Marbella is the place to head for. There's something for everyone here. Check out, too, the lovely old part of town, El Casco Antiguo, with its labyrinth of traditional buildings, small shops, art galleries and pretty squares …

Estepona

Estepona is one of the few tourist towns on the coast that has succeeded in maintaining its pueblo charm and character. There are all tourist facilities but behind the sea front, cobbled, narrow streets open here and there to charming little plazas, as Spanish as they come …

Holiday villas

Holiday villas in the Western Costa del Sol

  • ZC 91 - Sleeps sleeps 4 to 9 + 4 children

    This restored farmhouse has real style. The owner is an accomplished designer with exemplary good taste and creative flair; here he has combined traditional with contemporary. The result is fabulous!

    from 2,450€ to 4,490€

  • ZC 58 - Sleeps 7

    Spacious, light and comfortable inside, the handsome swimming pool is just one of the attractions of this lovely holiday villa. Set in its own grounds surrounded by pine trees and mountains, the gardens are delightful and the views wonderful.

    from 1,160€ to 1,660€

  • ZC 65 - Sleeps 6 or 10

    From the road into Jimena, just a stone throw from the village, a country track takes you through the electric gate – and along the driveway to a parking bay directly in front of the main house. Park here and you have arrived into a haven of tranquillity.

    from 2,250€ to 4,130€

  • ZC 111 - Sleeps 12/14 + 4

    The most stunning feature of this villa has to be its beautiful gardens, but when you step inside the house, into the entrance hall, you instantly feel the quality of this holiday villa. The decor is warm, all in gentle reds, rusts, golds and ochres, the tones are of African earth and sunshine.

    from 2,595€ to 5,495€

  • ZC 55 - Sleeps 8 & a child

    Spacious, elegant and peaceful, this lovely country house down by the river on the edge of the pretty town of Jimena de la Frontera has lush, semi-tropical gardens and overlooks a beautiful nature reserve. It has a real sense of being away from it all.

    from 1,230€ to 2,440€

  • ZC 98 - Sleeps 8

    Situated in divine countryside, yet just 500 metres from lovely Jimena de la Frontera, this traditional country house has been restored and converted into a delightful home. Enjoying the best of both worlds, it's everything it should be - homely, comfortable and with all mod-cons.

    from 3,000€ to 4,140€

  • ZC 28 - Sleeps 5

    This town house has been restored and decorated by its English owner to create a simple, unpretentious but comfortable property with old-world charm. There's a little garden and pool, plus the more cosmopolitan charms of one of Andalucia´s most engaging little towns.

    from 480€ to 1,090€

  • ZC 50 - Sleeps 10

    It exudes style and comfort - from top to bottom, inside and out and being only three kilometres from the sea, this stunningly beautiful home has one of the most convenient locations on the Costa del Sol. One looks down over Marbella to a huge, magical vista of coastal charisma far below.

    from 6,630€ to 8,240€

  • ZC 70 - Sleeps 12 + 6

    The owners bought the house in 2007 and since then, they have completely renovated it to be a house of superb quality and style. With the addition of the river apartment, a guest cottage, indoor and outdoor heated pools and a jacuzzi, this is a property that is lacking for nothing.

    from 5,800€ to 9,000€

  • ZC 38 - Sleeps 8 & 2 children

    This superb, luxury villa is top-drawer, beautifully furnished and appointed, inside and out. In a prime residential area just outside Marbella it offers superb style and opulent comfort. Available in summer only.

    from 2,370€ to 4,210€

  • ZC 30 - Sleeps 8 to 18 + 4 children

    A magnificent and very beautiful countryside estate designed and built by an award winning architect, its five independent holiday villas combine perfectly for a large private group. Two fantastic pools, sauna, glorious countryside and much, much more to enjoy.

    from 1,850€ to 5,060€

  • ZC 11 - Sleeps 2

    Three cottages for couples, they share pretty gardens, the pool … and a view to die for! Ships passing through the Straits, a huge panoramic sweep of the Moroccan coast, the street lights of Ceuta and Tangiers twinkling beneath the huge rocky crags of the Rif mountains … one of the most sensational views in Spain.

    from 670€ to 1,160€

  • ZC 90 - Sleeps 6

    In an area which is usually famous for its luxury villas, this traditional farmhouse is an unusually rare find. Rustic and completely authentic, it has one of the finest locations in all Andalucia. It was originally rediscovered by a Canadian painter in the 60's and you can see why he chose this enclave to be his sanctuary.

    from 945€ to 1,750€

  • ZC 72 - Sleeps 8

    This absolutely splendid villa provides luxury accommodation with genuine class and style. In beautiful countryside between the Mediterranean and the lovely village of Casares, it is completely secluded, shrouded in the trees of its gorgeous, 2½ acres of mature gardens.

    from 1,350€ to 2,760€

  • ZC 119 - Sleeps 12

    Just a few miles from Spain's Mediterranean coast, surrounded by vineyards of the region's famous muscatel grapes, this 18th century mill house, with secluded elegance both inside and out, offers one of Andalucía's most seductive holiday experiences.

    from 4,730€ to 9,190€

  • ZC 116 - Sleeps 6

    As you come around the corner you'll marvel at the sea view in front of you and congratulate yourself on choosing a holiday here! With wonderful countryside all around, mountains to the north and blue sea to the south, this villa is a haven for rest and relaxation.

    from 1,250€ to 2,100€

  • ZC 18 - Sleeps 4

    A neatly restored town house in pretty Jimena, once a frontier village of the Moors, in the picturesque foothills of the Sierra de Ronda. It has its own small back garden swimming pool where you will enjoy the magnificent views.

    from 370€ to 720€

More photos

More photos of the Westen Costa del Sol

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