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The southern Spanish region of Andalusia (or Andalucia) is well known for its stunning beaches running along the Costa del Sol, their world-famous flamenco performances, and of course being the birthplace of tapas. The weather is perfect all year round too, making it a draw for people even in the winter months. When I visit Andalusia, my base is from Malaga. There are a number of incredible day trips you can take from Malaga, or even half day trips if you prefer. I've visited the region a few times and always leave wanting to return. Sure, the cities of southern Spain are incredible in their own right, many having UNESCO world heritage sites in them, but sometimes you need to expand your horizons and go explore what the more rural areas have to offer. Some of the most beautiful places in Spain are, after all, located in this region. Here are my recommendations (so far) of 10 unique places to visit in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia:
1. Castillo Monumento Colomares
Sitting along the southern coast of Spain is Castillo Monumento Colomares which is by far one of the most unusual places you will come across in Andalusia. It's located in Benalmadena, which is only a short drive from Malaga. The monument looks like something out of Disneyland, but it was built to commemorate the life and adventures of Christoper Columbus. There are lots of details in the structure itself for you to try to find, and at €2.50 you really can't go wrong.
Andalusia is very well known for having hundreds of pueblos blancos dotting its landscape. There are so many in fact, that you can follow a trail that will take you to the most popular ones if you fancy going on a little road trip. Or, if you don't have a car, many tours in southern Spain stop off at them too. One of my favourites was Frigiliana, just north of Nerja, which sits high in the mountains overlooking the sea. There are lots of great tapas spots here too which I would recommend trying.
3. Caminito del Rey
Caminito del Rey is an absolute must-visit if you're in the Malaga area. Even if you're not, it's considered one of the most unique places to visit in Spain, so it's worth a drive to. It was once considered to be the most dangerous walkway in the world, but now it's very secure and safe to walk around. It takes between 2-3 hours to walk the whole route, most of which is very easy and flat. Make sure you check the weather before visiting, because if it's too windy they will close the trail for safety reasons. Tickets cost €10, and sell out very quickly so make sure you book your ticket online in advance. There is a bus at the end of the trail that takes you back to the parking area, but it only takes cash so make sure you aren't caught out like we were. If you're planning a trip to Spain, add this one to your list.
Sure white villages are really pretty, but have you every visited a blue village? Juzcar sits high in the mountains and is also known as "La Aldea Azul". There isn't a lot to do here, so it's very easy to add to your southern Spain itinerary. The village was originally white, but was painted blue for the premiere of the first Smurfs movie, and they decided to keep it this colour as it became very popular with tourists. Juzcar is also a hub of activity for people wanting to get out in nature. They have recently introduced a zip line and some new hiking routes which look incredible to try out. It's one of the more unusual locations in Spain, so if you have some free time you should definitely take a walk around here. You may even find a couple of Smurfs hanging around!
5. El Torcal de Antequera
El Torcal de Antequera is a very unique place to visit in southern Spain. This nature reserve sits high in the mountain range, and is Andalusia's most geographically unusual natural park. It's completely free to walk around, and there are three different trails to choose from, each having different lengths and difficulties. The limestone rock formations were formed millions of years ago when the earth's crust forced them out of the water to form hills and mountains. Over the years, rain and wind has chipped away at the limestone, leaving these incredible formations.
6. Cueva del Gato
Cueva del Gato is only 20 minutes from Ronda, and is a unique little oasis in the middle of the hills. There is a parking area nearby, and it's very easy to walk to. This natural swimming pool is freezing cold. I only managed to walk in up to my hips before running out. It's very popular in the summer though, when the weather is unbearably hot, and is a great spot for a picnic. There's a cave off to the side of the pool, but it's forbidden to go inside for safety reasons. Who needs the beach when you've got this?
Ronda is one of my favourite places in Andalusia. The bridge looks like something out of Game of Thrones, and is very impressive to stand under. The bridge connects the new and old town, and there is a walking path you can use to get down to this view point. There is also a "road" that you can drive on to get here, which I wouldn't recommend because our car almost broke driving along it. It was more like a hiking path than a road, and very difficult to drive along. Ronda is a great option for a day trip from Malaga, and you'll enjoy the food scene here as well. So if you're looking for a unique historical place to visit in Andalusia, this is a great choice.
8. Cape Trafalgar
The province of Cadiz is full of incredible places to visit and some of the best beaches in southern Spain can be found in this area. The small village of Los Caños de Meca along the Costa de la Luz is home to Cape Trafalgar, the location of the famous Battle of Trafalgar where the British defeated the French and Spanish fleets. It's a very popular area, with lots of bars, restaurants, and outdoor activities. The 19th century lighthouse adds to the charm of the area, and is a lovely spot to go to at sunset.
9. Setenil de las Bodegas
Setenil de las Bodegas is another Andalusian white village in southern Spain, but one which is very unique in the region. The white washed buildings are built into the surrounding cliffs, which you can see both inside and outside of the shops and restaurants. There are parts where you're able to walk directly under the cliffs too. It's only a 20 minute drive from Ronda, so you can visit two unique locations in Andalusia in one trip. The south of Spain has some gorgeous white villages but I promise that this one will be like no other.
10. Vejer de la Frontera
Vejer de la Frontera is another stunning white village, very close to Los Caños de Meca. If you don't have a car, there are regular bus services running to and from it throughout the day. There are a number of historic sites to see here, and you can climb to this view point of the village for free. It's also very famous for its restaurants. We visited a couple of times while in this area simply because the food was that good, and very cheap too. In my opinion, one of the best activities to do in Spain is to eat, and the food in Andalusia is some of the best.
Bonus: Fort Bravo
If you're staying in or around Malaga, and you're looking for something completely random to do, I'd recommend taking a nice coastal drive to Almeria and Fort Bravo. The area is known for its beaches but just north of the city, sitting in the desert, is this western-styled theme park. It's not cheap to get into, €19.40, but it's a completely unique experience in southern Spain which you're probably only going to do once (unless you're obsessed with western movies of course).
Included in your ticket is the chance to see a live-action western show, complete with horses, gun fights, and a bank robbery. You can also visit the museum, have a drink in the saloon, go on a carriage ride, and explore different sets. Apart from Spaghetti Westerns, movies such as Indiana Jones used this site for filming!
Although most people travel to southern Spain for the stunning beaches and perfect weather, it has so much more to offer if you travel further afield. There are a lot of unique places to visit in Andalusia just waiting to be explored. You can even visit a few of these locations in one day if you plan your road trip in southern Spain ahead of time. These are just a few of my suggestions, and I'm sure I'll be writing about more in the near future!
Get in touch either by email or on Instagram if you have any recommendations regarding other unique places to visit in Andalusia. If you're thinking of taking a road trip in southern Spain, check out my blog post covering The Best Road Trip Destinations in Andalusia. I also have some tips on what attractions to visit in Seville, Malaga, Cordoba, Granada, and Cadiz!