While the Costa del Sol is known for its endless Blue Flag beaches, various (mostly) white villages and scorching summer sun, this southern Spanish paradise also has some lesser known fascinating places to visit.
The Costa del Sol in southern Spain is a popular holiday destination, with its endless beaches, restaurants and flamenco nights. However, a short drive from the tourist filled coastlines will take you to the famous Andalucian Pueblos Blancos, where there are narrow, winding and cobblestoned streets, all lined with beautiful white houses. These homes have flowering bougainvillea and geraniums blossoming on their balconies and often you can hear the sound of songbirds as you stroll. True paradise for us here at Verdin Property.
These white villages also have sometimes strange, and often unnoticed, attractions that are worth spending some time there.
So let’s start the tour! First we shall visit the stunning hilltop town of Ronda, with its historic bullring and Puente Nuevo. Then we head to a village built into the surrounding cliffs. There is also a town painted Smurf blue (yes really), an unusual rocky landscape, and a fascinating crypt, for those who aren’t squeamish about such things!
RONDA – 1 hour drive from Marbella
The Plaza de Toros (bullring) in Ronda occupies a very special place in modern Spanish culture and history as the home of the Rondeño style of bullfighting and also of the Real Maestranza De Caballería De Ronda. The bullring was built entirely of stone in the 18th century, during the golden years of Pedro Romero’s reign as a champion bullfighter.
Most tourist guides will tell you the Ronda bullring is the oldest and largest in Spain, in fact this is not strictly true. The bullring only has seating for 5,000 spectators, hardly the largest in the world. But, it does have the ‘rueda’, which is the large round circle of sand and is the largest in the world at a diameter of 66m. This makes it 6m larger than Spain’s biggest bullring, the Plaza Toros Las Ventas in Madrid.
The bullring can also famously be seen in the music video “You’ll See” by Madonna.
Puente Nuevo, Ronda’s ‘new bridge’ was completed in 1793, after 40 years in construction and after the loss of the lives of 50 builders constructing the span bridging the 98m Tajo gorge.
The bridge bisects Ronda into new town (Mercadillo) and old town (La Ciudad). The project was proposed by King Felipe V in 1735 to improve the older and dangerous 16th century bridge, the Puente Viejo, located 150m upstream from Puente Nuevo and 50m further the 12th century Moorish bridge by the old Arab baths.
SETENIL DE LAS BODEGAS – 90 mins drive from Marbella
We’ve all seen the pictures of Andalucian hillsides dotted with quaint, white houses. These images of the Spanish countryside have you looking online and booking your flight. White-washed villages don’t get much more picturesque than Setenil de Las Bodegas. It’s a traditional ‘Pueblo Blanco’ nestling in the cliffs deep within the Cadiz Province.
The most stunning features of this little Andalucian town are the overhanging rocks under which its buildings cluster. These dramatic rock formations make you wonder how they can exist without toppling down into the valleys. Setenil really does give you the impression that the gods carved it into the hillside.
The origins of this fascinating little town are almost as intriguing as the landscape. It dates back to at least the 12th century and has seen its fair share of invasion, siege and sacking. The name itself evokes times of unrest. ‘Setenil’ is thought to have come from Latin to mean ‘seven times no’.
Looking at this tranquil little town now, it’s certainly left its years of skirmish behind it. However, you can still see some traces of its turbulent past if you climb up to the Moorish castle. Both in the town and around it there are plenty of things to see. We highly recommend a visit!
JUZCAR – 70 mins drive from Marbella
Júzcar is one of the small villages located in the beautiful Valle del Genal in the Serrania de Ronda. Known as the first ever ‘smurf town’ in the world since 2011. Until this date, Júzcar was a weekend destination for lovers of rural tourism, hiking and other outdoorsy activities. Now however, the town receives a large number of tourists coming from all around the world to check out this blue corner of paradise.
The astonishing transformation of this quaint town is owed to the fact that every single building here was painted blue, from the houses, the Church, and even the Town Hall, to embrace the premiere of the Sony pictures world-renowned film – The Smurfs 3D. Even after the filming and subsequent release of the film, the inhabitants of Juzcar decided to keep the buildings painted blue, carrying on as the ‘village of the smurfs’ and taking advantage of their unique aspect to attract tourists.
EL TORCAL DE ANTEQUERA – 1 hour drive from Malaga
El Torcal. It is one of those must visit places in Andalusia. A destination that will not leave you indifferent. Ideal for all the family, no matter how old you are or what your tastes are.
It also has many other natural and cultural elements of interest that have earned it the declaration of World Heritage of Humanity by Unesco.
The Torcal de Antequera is characterized by a stunning Karst landscape, known as a terrain that spent more than 200 million years submerged by the sea. The collision of two tectonic plates caused the local land to emerge from beneath the water in a slow process, which brings about valuable fossils. Over the years, meteorological agents, including water, ice and wind have all helped to shape this limestone into a spectacular landscape.
All of these forces have combined to form structures known as ‘mushrooms’ for the characteristic shape of rocks in the Torcal, with a wide top supported by a thin base. The result is a stunning view and an absolute treasure trove for nature photography lovers, attracting professionals and amateurs alike.
BASILICA DE SANTA MARIA DE LA VICTORIA – Malaga City
Located just outside Malaga’s historic quarter, the Basilica de Santa Maria de la Victoria has a relatively plain exterior. Don’t be fooled by its modest façade – it conceals an interior that’s considered to be one of the most beautiful Baroque churches in Andalusia.
Just outside the historic center of Malaga, the Basilica of Santa Maria de la Victoria also houses an extraordinary little crypt, decorated top to bottom with playfully macabre figures of skeletons and cherubs. There is also a rare image showing a heavily pregnant Madonna (Jesus’ mother Mary, not the singer!)
Built on the site where King Ferdinand re-captured the city in 1487, the building we see dates to the late 17th century. Also known as the Pantheon of the Counts of Buenavista, the walls of the crypt are decorated in an usually dramatic white-on-black baroque plasterwork style, giving the room an intense sense of the dramatic.
So there we are. Unfortunately we must stop here otherwise this list will never end! However don’t worry, we’ll more than likely mention some other great places to visit in future blogs.
In the meantime, we hope you enjoyed reading this article, and if you are looking for a new life in the sun, be sure to contact us today!