Things to Do in Costa del Sol
There’s really nowhere quite like Gibraltar: a little piece of England looking out from Spain to the coast of Africa with a rock fabled in ancient mythology and the only wild monkey population in Europe. Gibraltar was handed over to the British by Spain in the 18th century, and British it has remained ever since, despite Spain's best efforts to get it to accept its sovereignty. The famous Rock of Gibraltar is a chunk of limestone rearing up over the city and overrun by Barbary macaques—legend says that if these monkeys leave the rock, so will the British leave Gibraltar.
The enormous prehistoric Nerja Caves (Cuevas de Nerja) boast extensive grottoes, archaeological remains, and the world’s largest column, rising 105 feet (32 meters) up. The cave formations look like organ pipes, and the area’s evidence of human habitation stretches back 25,000 years to the Paleolithic Period. Galleries display artifacts, paintings, and skeletons unearthed since the caves were discovered in 1959.
Medieval Frigiliana is a typically Andalusianpueblo blanco (white town) in the hills east of Málaga above the vacation paradise of Costa del Sol. Guarded by the remains of the 9th-century Moorish Lízar Castle, the village rises from its cliffside promenade and offers far-reaching panoramas of the Mediterranean coast.
Tivoli World, the oldest, largest, and most popular amusement park on Spain’s Costa del Sol, sits atop a hill in Benalmádena. The park features more than 40 rides and attractions, as well as a 4,000-seat outdoor auditorium for daily dance performances. There’s even a Wild West “town,” complete with a Texas barbecue restaurant.
Bioparc Fuengirola isn’t your average zoo. That’s because it’s built around the concept of zoo-immersion, dropping visitors into the animals’ habitats instead of the other way around. With a focus on conservation, education and sustainability, the zoo is home to well-cared-for animals that live in the most optimal conditions possible.
The result isn’t just happy animals but also happy humans who feel like they’ve been whisked off to places such as Madagascar, Equatorial Africa, and Southeast Asia. Animals — ranging from crocodiles to tigers, gorillas, hippos and lemurs — all linger in native-like habitats, and are separated from park guests by natural barriers such as rivers, bridges and rocks. Visiting during summer? Come during the extended evening hours to witness some of the park’s more nocturnal residents.
Holidaymakers flock to the coastal village of Almuñécar. It, along with the neighboring town of La Herradura, makes up the hotspots of this Mediterranean, beachside swath of land called the Costa Tropical. Visitors are lured here by the town’s attractive old town, which is topped by a 16th-century castle, and of course because of the sandy shoreline – all 19 kilometers of it.
Anchored in several thousands of years of history – spanning occupation by the Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths, Muslims and Christians -- Almuñécar has other attractions that make it especially appealing. Kids will love the Loro Sexi Bird Park (filled with some 1,500 birds of 120 species), and history buffs will delight in the archaeological museum as well as the remains of a Roman aqueduct. And those who like a little nature won’t want to miss a stroll through the lush flora found in the Parque del Majuelo, ensconced just below the seaside castle.
The beach of course has its appeal, boasting a palm-tree-lined promenade, and amenities galore. And foodies will relish in savoring a local and fresh cuisine of fish like monkfish, squid, and fruit such as mangos and avocados.
Extending from the foothills of Sierra de Mijas Mountains to Spain’s Costa del Sol, Benalmádena is a town in three parts. The whitewashed mountainside pueblo offers a glimpse into old Andalusia, while Benalmádena Costa features sunny beaches and a lively nightlife. Arroyo de la Miel comprises the residential area in between.
Selwo Aventura brings a bit of Africa to Spain’s Costa del Sol. A departure from a typical zoo, this wild animal park—the largest in Spain—houses animals in naturalistic habitats. Among the park’s residents are lions, cheetahs, zebras, giraffes, gazelle, elephants, monkeys, and several bird species in Europe’s largest aviary.
Surrounded by sugar cane fields, the coastal town of Salobreña is considered among Spain’s most attractive little villages. It is situated along the shores of the Costa Tropical, where the old part of town rises to a 10th-century Moorish-castle-topped pinnacle, from which you can spy unparalleled views of the mountains and Mediterranean Sea. This upper, older part of town is also where, amidst Salobreña’s maze of whitewashed buildings and tunneled walkways, you’ll find the 16th-century church Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Rosario, which resides on the site of a former mosque.
The village is also home to a newer, lower part of town, which is lined by five beaches, where water-bound activities such as scuba diving and kayaking are plentiful. Beyond just the pretty village and beach, Salobreña is a prime destination for fresh local cuisine, as well as cultural festivities. These include, among others, Holy Week, and the celebration of the city’s patron saint, Nuestra Señora del Rosario, which takes place in October and includes a locally popular pilgrimage.
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