This is by far our favourite day out, far removed from the bustling beaches and paseos it offers sights that the vast majority of visitors are not even aware of never mind actually visiting them. Andalucia's natural beauty is waiting for you Each of these places probably merits at least a full day to appreciate all that they have to offer, but this drive is so diverse and satisfying.
If you are feeling adventurous hire yourself a car and follow this route for a full day out, and a memorable lunch - it takes in the spectacular mountainous scenery of EL TORCAL then proceeds via ANTEQUERA to LA FUENTE DE LA PIEDRA where there is a massive salt water lagoon that is home to a breeding colony of 11,000 flamingos. Back across country to yet another protected natural park at PARQUE ARDALES with its beautiful lakeside drive around the pine clad shores of the reservoir Guadalhorce, with all of its recreational areas and water sports. Then just down the road to the gorge that is EL CHORRO and our recommended stop for lunch.
After lunch we leave the mountains behind and follow the picturesque road down to ALORA and PIZARRA and back to MALAGA and the coast.
If you hire a car to do this route please feel free to print this itinerary, it has been designed to print off in four separate A4 pages with a map on each.
Not really a day out as such, but if you are in or close by Benalmadena be sure to visit "Paloma Park" This was an area of wasteland that was transformed into a wonderful parkland with a wide variety of flora and fauna to be be seen while strolling round the the scenic winding paths. There is a large lake with a spectacular fountain, the lake is stocked with fish, a wide variety of ducks, geese and swans and visited by every type of seagull in the area, and keep a look out for the terrapins basking in the sunshine. The children will love the domestic animals roaming throughout the park, where rabbits, chickens peacocks allow themselves to be approached to the delight of the little ones, there are also pens with emus and ostriches, goats, rams and sheep. And if they get bored with the animals there are several splendid well equipped children's playgrounds. Each year there are additions to the park as the local council appreciate what an asset the park is. Last year an amazingly stocked cactus garden (click for pictures) was opened with a variety of beautiful flowering cacti flanked by a sculpted waterfall and landscaped lakes adjacent to the library. All of this is completely free and well worth missing a few hours on the beach
GRANADA AND THE SIERRA NEVADA
We have eventually made the trip to Granada - A few years ago we got lost and ended up coming out of Malaga on the old (pre motorway) road and we were really taken by the beautiful views and we vowed to complete the journey one day. Therefore although it can be a day out this trip was four days.
We were not disappointed with the decision to use the old road although it does take a bit of finding at the Malaga end. I have done my best to simplify things find the route by clicking here.
There is so much information on the net about Granada itself that I will limit myself to the more mundane things that I found that might be of use to you. We booked a hotel in the centre of the old city which took a lot of finding as I had not realised that most of the roads are in fact VERY narrow alleyways and once we turned off at Plaza Real and each turn found us in an even narrower lane than the previous one. Luckily we found it and it had an underground (very tight) garage and once deposited I decided that the car would remain there for the rest of the stay!
I had carried out a good bit of advance “homework” click here for a really informative site before leaving and found this site very useful. Even so my mental image of the city was nothing like the reality. The old city, the Alhambra, Albaicin and Sacromonte are on STEEP hills, and much of it is cobbled, not a problem if you are reasonably fit and you are forewarned that they are on different hills. This means that you can do the same as us and follow the lines on a map and arrive so close but so far away (the other side of a ravine) and a very long walk down and then up the other side. We then found a little late, that the turistica mini buses run regularly around these areas and are reasonably priced at one euro per trip, they are easy to use, the routes cross each other and they all meet up in Plaza Nueva.
The one essential piece of advice is to book your Alhambra ticket in advance; I followed the following advice from granadainfo.com and avoided a three-hour queue.
You can buy tickets with a credit card by phoning:
902 22 44 60 or from outside of Spain +34 915 37 91 78.
They give you a ticket number and you have to state the day and time of your visit. You can pick up the tickets in the special queue at the Alhambra ticket office. The name of the queue is the "Taquilla de reserva" and it will be much faster than the normal queue.
The girl who answers the phone can speak English. Using this system you can buy your ticket up to a year in advance. You can't buy the tickets on the same day as your visit using this system.
They accept visa, Master Card, Euro card and Maestro (American express is not accepted.)
Note: You can only buy 5 tickets at a time by phone. If you want to buy more than five just get two different people to phone and buy them with 2 different credit cards.
Tip: Recently they have introduced a new system whereby rather than giving each person 1 ticket they issue a group ticket. The problem with this is if you lose your companions you won't be able to get in anywhere. If you are a group of 3 or 4 and you don't want to stick together insist that they give you a ticket each. Also a mobile phone is useful if you lose each other.
Please use other sites for info about the historic parts, where you will find comprehensive information and facts. But as fantastic as the Alhambra is, it really is worth walking the alleyways of all of the Moorish areas as they are still lived in and every turn presents a different wonderful view.
I will now proceed to Granada tapas - don’t start too early, I would recommend after 8.30 pm and check out the tapas bars, order your drink and you will automatically be presented with a complimentary tapa, another drink a different tapa, a more expensive drink a more expensive tapa. Bars compete with each other to outdo the neighbouring bar so move around and seek out those that are full of locals. When you find a menu that you particularly like it is worth buying a racion of something you really fancy. The tapas bars do not function the same way at lunchtime so this is yet another very good reason for extending your visit beyond the day trip.
Bearing in mind that I made this trip in February I also felt that I should put in a quick visit to the Sierra Nevada ski resort of Pradollano. We were lucky and found a dry bright day and the 45-minute drive from Granada was a real pleasure on the dry road winding its way upwards into ever deepening snow. We left the car in the underground car park and took the lift that surfaced in the heart of an alpine style village. The ski lifts and slopes come right into the village and being half term if was packed with skiers and snow boarders of all ages, and after watching them for a while, obviously of varying talent. Being only a two-hour drive from the coast this is well worth being listed as a day out in its own right.
We took the motorway to Rincon de la Victoria, taking the turn off marked Rincon de la Victoria and BENAGALBON and following the Benagalbon road (MA 149) you wind up into the mountains and on to MOCLINEJO then to ALMACHAR where we took a break in this white village which in spite of the narrow steep streets they had managed to fit a travelling funfair and they were obviously recovering from the previous night festivities it was apparently the festival of Santo Cristo and the street cleaners were doing their best to move the debris that made it evident that it had been a good party. With the stage, bars and disco still set up in the tiny plaza outside the church and everywhere littered with part full plastic glasses. Any of these white villages are worth a stop, but if you are not a confident driver you will be safer parking before you get into the village proper as they were built a long time before cars were thought about and the roads degrade to impassable alleyways or even turn into a flight of steps, with no signs to assist you.
As you follow the contours of these mountain roads you are presented with an ever changing vista, each even more breathtaking than the last. There are plenty of the ubiquitos olive trees along the route, but there are mile after mile of, what I subsequently learned to be, Avocado trees. Out of ALMACHAR we turned on to the MA 147 to EL BORGE andthen to CUTAR the road then turns into the MA 146 to BENAMARGOSA. Turn right out of Benamargoza (signed to Velez Malaga) on the MA 145 through TRIANA and on to TRAPICHE.
This is around half way and you can abort here if you wish and either divert on up to Lake Vinuela and take in the scenery or return to the coast through Velez Malaga. However I would strongly recommend that you carry on with us. Turn left onto the main A335 away from Velez Malaga and keep you eye out for the turning off to the right (C 335) signed to Vinuela and you will come to a well signed junction that is the start of the RUTA TURISTICA (MA 25) through the nature reserve and Parque Natural. The road twists and turns ever upwards to CANILLAS DE ACEITUNO, then SEDELLA and SALARES where the road becomes the MA 158 to ARCHEZ. At ARCHEZ you have a choice of scenic routs to return you to the coast, we took the MA 115 to SAYALONGA where there was obviously something happening as cars were parked in every available space outside the village, and the village itself was negotiated at walking pace through the throng of people making their way to the source of the loud flamenco music. We managed to "drop in" to parking space just as someone was leaving, and we joined the masses. It turned out to be a festival EL DIA DEL NISPERO celebrating the "nispero", no we had no idea either, but we found it to be a small yellow fruit that they were handing out freely along with small glasses of a liqueur made from the fruit. After some research it turns out to have been a Medlar in the UK of a Loquat in the US I am afraid that although I was aware of ther name I cannot recall ever having tasted a medlar in the past never mind attending a party to celebrate it! The streets were packed with the bars and restaurants serving at tables on the pavements, the main plaza had been turned into an outdoor theatre with continuous entertainment (I never had the info available on the link above) We squeezed onto a table had an excellent, although slow in arriving, lunch and watched and listed to the entertainment and the world going by.
Back on the road again, we drove through ALGARROBO continued under the Motorway down to the coast road which we followed back to Rincon de la Victoria before joining the main road back to Benalmadena.
I took these photographs along the way, whether we were fortunate or these sights are encountered everyday, and as far as the fiestas are concerned there seems to be something happening every weekend through the summer months as each village has its own strange reason to celebrate.
I would highly recommend this trip, the cable car ride itself is exhilarating and if you pick the right day (by far the best day is immediately after there has been plenty of wind, that has shifted the pollution haze) The ride up is around 15 minutes and presents some great views of the area, but once at the summit of mount calamorro (769 metres) the views to the south and the west are truly awe inspiring. Catch it clear enough and you can see Gibraltar and the coast of Africa from the miradors that are well signed. There is a free donkey ride included in the price of the ticket and a marvelous collection of birds of prey that perform a first class display which must not be missed