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It's no secret that southern Spain is bursting with beautiful towns and cities that are just waiting to be explored. Andalucía can be separated into 8 provinces, some of which seem to be more popular than others when it comes to tourist destinations. Recently, I've been more focused on travelling around the Province of Málaga in search of its hidden gems and places that are sometimes overlooked by visitors. What I've come to realize is that there are a lot of unique places in the Province of Málaga to visit, whether that be for a day trip or for a few days so you can really explore the area in more depth.
The Province of Málaga is probably most well known for its coastal resorts and hot spots along the Costa del Sol, which are completely packed during the summer months. If you get a little tired of the beaches and want to head elsewhere for a bit, there are plenty of day trips from Málaga that are worth going on, and sometimes you can even fit more than one place into your daily itinerary if they're close together! Rather than going on tour buses, I would recommend renting a car in Málaga so you have the freedom to choose where and when you want to go. The best and most budget friendly car rental company in Málaga is Autos-Flores Rent A Car, who are a family owned business and they'll meet you right at the airport (or wherever is more convenient). They also include insurance in their rental prices which is a bonus.
All of Andalucía has a rich history dating back to the pre-Roman era, but if you happen to be staying in or around Málaga itself, you don't need to go too far to see the impact that different cultures have had on the Province of Málaga as a whole. Here is my ever changing list of unique places to visit in the province - hopefully you'll see some that you'll want to visit while you're touring southern Spain!
Álora is one town that I somehow always seemed to pass by but never stopped at. It's located only a 45 minute drive from Málaga, and is in the same area as the famous Caminito del Rey hike (which I would highly recommend doing). This is one of the prettiest inland white villages in Málaga that you can visit, and it has quite a few picturesque points of interest in it as well. The main attraction in Álora is the Castillo de Álora which is an Arab castle dating back to the 5th century. As you drive into Álora you can spot the castle perched at the top of the hill overlooking the town which is a beautiful sight to see. Other key attractions include the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación, the Convento de la Virgen de las Flores, and the municipal museum. Álora is a very unique place in the Province of Málaga to visit, and one where you can still clearly see the important role that the Arabs played in the development of the town. If you're planning a trip to southern Spain, you're going to want to make a stop here for a few hours.
Antequera is one of the larger cities in the Province of Málaga that you can visit, and in my opinion it's also one of the most underrated. Apart from being very well known for its restaurants which serve traditional Spanish dishes, Antequera has the most churches per inhabitant in all of Spain and has a history dating back to prehistoric times. It's the perfect place to visit on a day trip from Málaga, and sits quite close to Granada as well. Of the many things to do in Antequera, I would recommend heading in the direction of the Alcazaba de Antequera - a 14th century fortress built on top of Roman ruins. This part of the city is home to other main points of interest in Antequera such as the Mirador de las Almenillas, Arco de los Gigantes, and Real Colegiata de Santa María la Mayor. With its blend of history and culture, Antequera really is one of the most unique places to visit in the Province of Málaga.
There are plenty of white villages in southern Spain to visit - so what makes Archidona so special? Despite it being a small town, its history actually predates the Romans and it has enough sites to visit to keep you busy for at least half a day. It has also been declared a Historic-Artistic Site, and has some of the best food you will eat in the province of Málaga at Restaurante Arxiduna, which is located in Plaza Ochavada (the town's main attraction). Archidona has a number of historic churches to marvel at, including the beautiful Iglesia de Santa Ana, and if you're more of an outdoor-adventure type of person, this area is a haven for hiking and rock climbing. Archidona is located only a 45 minute drive from Málaga's city centre, and sits very close to the border of the province of Córdoba as well as Granada, making it the ideal location from which to explore more unique places in southern Spain from. It's certainly worth visiting if you're planning a road trip in southern Spain.
Where To Stay in Archidona
If you're looking for an authentic rural Spanish accommodation but still want to have all of the modern amenities you've come to love in a hotel, look no further than Hacienda Mendoza. The owner of the hotel couldn't have been more accommodating for us during our 4 night stay, and our room had lots of amenities such as a spa bath, TV, heating/air conditioning unit, and a gorgeous view looking out at the mountain range in the distance. Breakfast was served in the bar area, and it had a lovely selection of continental items, with the option of asking for hot food too (and freshly squeezed orange juice). There is also a restaurant on site, as well as an outdoor pool with a seating area, a large garden in the back where you can host events, and a beautiful main courtyard where you can sit out and enjoy some of that warm Spanish sun - even in the winter! Hacienda Mendoza is located only a 10 minute drive from Archidona, and has ample parking spaces on site. It's the perfect rural hotel to stay at if you want to sit back and relax for a while in a quiet and calming atmosphere, but still have access to nearby towns and cities.
Twin room price: €64 per night
Chilches is a small hillside town located only a 30 minute drive from Málaga's city centre. While it's not the most popular tourist destination in Málaga, there are a lot of things to do near Chilches, and it is very close to a number of main attractions along the Costa del Sol, as well as some hidden gems more inland. The town itself actually dates back to the Roman period, and has always been popular for settlers due to its climate and lush soil for planting in. From Chilches, you not only have the beach within your grasp less than a 10 minute drive away, but you're also near the start of many popular driving routes such as the Ruta de la Pasa (Route of the Raisin), are within a half an hour drive from Nerja's beaches and its famous caves, and have easy access to Málaga's city centre should you wish to go and explore all that Málaga has to offer, with the knowledge that you can come back to your quiet little oasis and get some well deserved rest.
Where To Stay in Chilches
If you're planning on staying in the Chilches area of Málaga, the only place you should consider staying at is Finca Buenavista. They offer both apartment rentals and private rural house rentals, in a unique setting among avocado and mango plantations. The fact that Finca Buenavista is less than a 10 minute drive to the seafront is just one of the many bonuses of staying here. We spent a week in Casa Ronda - a converted aviary with its own private pool, overlooking the coastline. It's one of the nicest places we've stayed at so far during our travels, and had everything included such as WiFi, a washing machine, a fully equipped kitchen, a lot of storage space, air conditioning and heating, a satellite TV, and its own BBQ on the terrace. The owners José and Carmen were both very accommodating and available whenever we had any questions. We absolutely loved having our own pool to relax at, and Finca Buenavista is in a perfect location to explore the lesser known parts of southern Spain as well. Chilches is definitely a unique place to visit in the Province of Málaga, so you need an equally unique place to stay while you're there!
As well as Casa Ronda, Finca Buenavista have a second private rural house to rent which is ideal for couples or small families. Casa Andalucía offers beautiful views of the Costa del Sol and comes with its own private pool, a large terrace, and of course a lot of peace and quiet. Inside the house you can find a number of amenities such as WiFi, satellite TV, a fully equipped kitchen, lots of storage space, and a large tiled shower. It really is a lovely rural house to rent if you want to get away from the noisy atmosphere of the Costa del Sol, but still have easy access to its beaches and other nearby points of interest.
If rental apartments are more your thing, Finca Buenavista also have 8 apartments to choose from, each of varying sizes. The apartments themselves are each named after a region in Andalucía and are suitable for couples or families of different sizes. We had a tour around a few of the apartments and they were all spotless and very well maintained. I don't want to ruin it too much for you, so I've only chosen to show a couple of the different rooms in some of the apartments in the photos above. There is free parking available outside of the main building, as well as a gorgeous swimming pool and BBQ area too. For more information on the amenities found in each apartment, please head to their website.
The white village of El Borge isn't your typical tourist destination in southern Spain, but that doesn't meant that it isn't worth planning a day trip from Málaga to. This charming pueblo blanco sits nestled in one of the many mountains in Málaga, and takes just under an hour to drive to from the coast. Despite its small size, El Borge is known as the "raisin capital" due to the village's large production of raisins, and it's something that its inhabitants are very proud of. There are nods to raisins everywhere, from the Arco de la Pasa (Arch of the Raisin) to Fuente de la Vendimia - a fountain depicting one of the many field workers carrying grapes in a basket on his head and under his arm. The main point of interest in El Borge is the stunning 16th century Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Rosario, which really is something you need to see in person. While you're doing your research on white villages in Andalusia, make sure you give El Borge some serious thought before finalizing your itinerary (and driving along the Ruta de Pasas too)!
When people think of Marbella, the first thing that comes to mind is often the wide selection of beaches to visit, and the bars and shops lining the seafront. But Marbella is more than just that, and has a lot more to offer than the Puerto Banus area, where you'll find all of the massive yachts docked and the designer shops. The reason that Marbella is a unique place to visit in the province of Málaga is because of its old town. Marbella's old town is charming to walk around, and is made up of cobbled streets, beautiful plazas, and historic sites. From walking around Plaza de los Naranjos, you can make your way to Iglesia Mayor de la Encarnación (a 17th century church) by passing through streets lined with blue painted flower pots on the walls and boutique shops. The promenade is only a 15 minute walk from the old town as well, so you can end the day looking out over the sea at sunset. If you're planning a trip to southern Spain, make sure you don't overlook Marbella.
Where To Stay in Marbella
Situated in between the promenade and Marbella's old town is the stunning Hotel Lima - an adult friendly 4 star hotel with over 55 years of experience. We stayed in their premium room, which had an extremely comfortable bed in it, a balcony overlooking the city with a table and chairs on it, and an exceptionally large walk-in shower. Other perks of the room included a smart TV with surround sound, a writing desk with a coffee station, luxury toiletries, and a Japanese-style toilet that cleans you at the push of a button. The stylish modern design of our hotel room made our stay in Marbella much more enjoyable. Breakfast is served in the Virazón Restaurante, which I would highly recommend getting as everything is freshly prepared and delicious. Hotel Lima also have the Virazón Rooftop Bar which offers incredible views of Marbella and the surrounding mountains. Did I mention there's also a rooftop pool? This is an incredible hotel to stay at, right in the heart of Marbella, where you can quietly relax after a day of walking around the old town or hitting the beaches.
Premium room price: €130 per night
One of the most popular day trips you can go on from Málaga is to Ronda. Even people who haven't visited Ronda in the past can instantly recognize photos of it because of its enormous stone bridge spanning the gorge, connecting both parts of the city. Puente Nuevo is definitely the star attraction in Ronda, but the city has a lot more to offer its visitors as well. The Arab Baths, Plaza de Toros de Ronda (bullring which is now a museum), and Ronda's old town are just a few of the town's main attractions. Ronda is also known for having an incredible cuisine, and one thing that the locals love to do here is to eat, so make sure you find yourself a tapas bar or a restaurant and try some of the local dishes out! Ronda is a very unique place to visit in the Province of Málaga, and is well worth spending more than a day here if your schedule allows it. It has a fascinating history that started with the Celts and Phoenicians, and is one town you're going to want to research before visiting!
While a lot of people visit Málaga for its beaches or as a stopping point on their way to another part of Andalucía, I think that the province as a whole deserves to be explored more. The province is made up of a lot of smaller towns and villages, but despite their size they offer a deep level of history and culture which sadly sometimes isn't recognized by tourists. There are also a lot of castles in the Province of Málaga to visit if you're a history lover like me, and many of them offer free entry! So, the next time you're in Málaga, don't forget to add some of the less touristy areas to your itinerary - you never know what you may discover!
I'm constantly adding to my list of the most unique places to visit in the Province of Málaga, so if you have any recommendations on where I should head next I would love to hear from you in the comments section below. You can also follow me on Instagram for more travel photos and tips on where to plan your next trip!