The historic town of Marbella and its surroundings; the port city and provincial capital of Malaga; the beautifully located town of Ronda with its spectacular gorge; and the timeless town of Antequera. You will visit the world-famous and very little-known marina developments as well as traditional, isolated villages and those that have been given facelifts to meet foreign tastes.
You will drive through countryside that incorporate natural sights and manmade creations that stand as legacies to the region’s chequered history of successive invasions, diverse cultures and hybrid influences.
A leisurely walk through Marbella town then a drive to Benhavís, where you will enjoy an inexpensive lunch; a look at Marbella’s little sister San Pedro de Álcantara, and a visit to the famous village marina of Puerto Banus; an evening in Marbella’s Casco Antiguo (old town), with a typical dinner and flamenco.
To get to the heart of the Old Town from the centre of Marbella, Avenida Ramón y Cajal, walk up Calle Huerta Chica, then turn right to enter tiny Plaza de Victoria and exit on the right by way of Calle de la Estación onto Plaza de Los Naranjos, which, as its name suggests, is lined with glossy orange trees. This is the gathering place of Marbella Old Town. Before picking a table at one of the bars (which are all pretty much the same and relatively overpriced), call in at the municipal tourist office – occupying a corner of the Casa Consistorial or Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) – and ask if you may have the following free maps, plans and booklets: Marbella Casco Urbano Plano; Costa del Sol Occidental Guía Práctica; Andalucía Mapa Turístico, and the Guía del Ocio (What’s On), a useful monthly guide. Thus armed, you might want to peruse them over a café con leche (white coffee) in the square.
Also in the plaza, the Casa del Corregidor (Chief Magistrate’s House, built 1552) has a notable stone portico in Gothic-mudéjar style, an attractive iron balcony in front of a pointed arch and a Renaissance gallery above. The fountain dates from 1504; the bust of King Juan Carlos I is somewhat younger. The plain 15th-century Ermita de Santiago (labelled Cofradía del S. Cristo del Amor) sits on the southwest corner.
Map in hand, wander around the Old Town for an hour. Concentrate on the maze of alleys within the perimeter of Avenida Ramón y Cajal, and calles Huerta Chica, Peral, Solano, Portado, Arte and Avenida Nabeul. There are plenty of shops, bars and eating places to which you may want to return. The bars range from the highly sophisticated to the trendy and those ‘full of character.’
If you fancy a jaunt in a horse-drawn carriage, approach one of the cocheros and agree upon a price for a half-hour ride. You will be taken the length of the seaside promenade and in to a mixed residential / commercial area bordered by Avenida Miguel Cano on the East and Calle Arturo Rubinstein on the west. During your ride you will see that developments towards the west have generally been of aesthetically pleasing design and of good quality. To the east, old mixes with new along narrow tree-lined streets. Make a note of any shops whose windows attract you for future reference.
For the rest of the day, to explore the nearby coast and hinterland you will need a car. Head west on the N-340, along ‘the Golden Mile,’ passing the Marbella Club and Puente Romano Hotel on the left. Remember to make a note of signs and turn-offs to other places to help establish bearings. Puerto Banus comes up on the left with Nueva Andalucia on the right. Very soon after San Pedro de Alcántara you cross the Río Guadalmina and take a right turn to Benahavis. The Atalaya Golf and Country Club is on the left. Proceed through rural landscapes into a narrowing valley until Benahavis appears, around 8 km (5 miles) from the turn-off. Park at village entrance and walk along its main street, Avenida de Andalucía. More than half of the 2,000 residents are foreign, and Benahavis has as a result been transformed. It is now self-consciously pristine and quaint. Shops and restaurants meet the needs of inhabitants and visitors from the coast alike.
Back in your car, return to the N-340 and proceed towards Marbella. The right turn-off into Puerto Banus is 3 km (1 ¾ miles) further. Spain’s first pueblo port opened in 1970, and has been the model for a number of others. It’s not as fashionable now as it was in its heyday, and is showing signs of wear, but it is still one of the Costa del Sol top attractions. You can also see the collection of luxury boats and head into the backstreets to find a string of boutiques. Have a drink at the popular Sinatra bar at the far end of the front or the Salduba Pub.