Southern Spain's cultural hub needs little introduction. A region as authentic as it is wild, Andalucia is the home of fiery fiesta, flamboyant flamenco and a rich, historic heritage. From a kaleidoscope of colours to whitewashed villages, it's the perfect spot to get under Spain's skin. Holidaymakers find their happy place between Blue Flags and majestic mountains, where lively resorts and away-from-it-all escapes blur seamlessly into one. With sun across the seasons and natural beauty to boot, you'll be head over heels for this Mediterranean mogul in no time.
Our James Villas sales team were curious to explore the sun-baked shores for themselves, here's the highlights (and itinerary tips) from their latest explorations…
"After spending several days in bustling Marbella and Puerto Banus, we headed north-east along the coast to nature-focused Nerja. The vibe instantly became more low-key, with iconic whitewashed villages and traditional towns replacing the high-rise skyline. It's fair to say it was love at first sight, and the once small fishing village has done a remarkable job of holding onto its roots. Nestled in the foothills of the Sierras de Tejeda and fronted by bronzed beaches, it was a breathtaking sight to behold.
We started our visit with a stroll along Balcón de Europa, Nerja's most notorious landmark – and needless to say it did not disappoint! Boasting panoramic views across the shimmering Mediterranean and craggy coastline, it's easy to spend hours swooning over the rocky outcrops and sandy coves. Former fortress turned tourist treasure, it's very much the focal point of the town. A pretty, pedestrianised plaza of the same name sits right alongside the Balcón. Accessorised with cafés, restaurants and (most importantly) ice-cream parlours, as well as a beautiful baroque church, it's the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon.
Our visit was short but sweet, we wandered the boutique-lined backstreets, took a short walk down to the closest cove and soaked in the old-town atmosphere. If you have longer to spend in Nerja, there's a whole host of itinerary options on offer. Head underground to Las Cuevas de Nerja and explore a network of tunnels that showcase some of the world's oldest Neanderthal artwork. Swap below the surface for above the clouds and hike one of the nearby mountain trails. Try your hand at sea-kayaking and get up close and personal with the areas stunning collection of coves. Or simply hit the beach – because is it even a holiday without a day on the sand…?"
"After a day by the coast, Andalucia's magnificent mountains were calling to us. We made our way to the trademark town of Frigiliana, perfectly perched on a rocky ridge overlooking the sea. Our visit coincided with the hottest day of the trip and the whitewashed labyrinth of little houses popped brilliantly against the deep blue sky. Now it may seem like an over-exaggeration, but this might just be one of the most beautiful villages in the world! Not alone in our thoughts, the cute collection of sugar-cube, red-roofed residences have consistently been crowned number one in Andalucia.
Frigiliana itself is split into two halves. The upper section of Mudéjar is the one that's sure to spark your wanderlust, and the place we chose to stay. It really does feel as though you've stepped back in time as you explore the fairytale scenes. Each winding lane feeds into a maze of meticulously maintained residences, with owners showcasing a flair for florals with pretty pots and artistic arrangements. Pops of bright pink bougainvillea add splashes of colour all over the place too, as well as balconies dripping in greenery.
There are plenty of 'things to do' in Frigiliana, but you can't beat simply soaking in the authentic atmosphere, strolling the pedestrianised streets and people watching from chic cafés. Low-maintenance and lovely – exactly how a holiday should be."
"Our flight home was from Malaga airport, so it made sense to set some time aside and explore the 'Capital of the Costa del Sol'. Not your average seaside city, the Mediterranean mogul wears many hats. From famous festivals and culture vulture quests to natural beauty and blissful beaches – you can pretty much have your churro and eat it. Starting at the Puerto de Malaga, we strolled along the modern marina and grabbed a bite to eat in the cluster of restaurants at Muelle Uno. Here you can take your pick of outdoor terraces and street food stalls, or simply grab a cocktail in one of the waterfront bars.
Next stop was the Moorish castle, sitting pretty on the hill overlooking Malaga city and the Muelle Uno. We'd love to say that the uphill hike to the Castillo de Gibralfaro was planned, but it was a happy accident. We spotted people making the climb while eating and got curious as to where they were going! This ended up being one of the highlights of the trip – so there's something to be said for spontaneity…
Making our way over to where the walk began led us through the luscious Parque de Malaga. Teeming with subtropical plants, soaring palm trees, baroque sculptures and wonderful water fountains – this urban oasis was a welcome break from the sizzling sun. Moving towards the city council building we swung a right and stumbled upon a beautiful rose garden ringed by orange trees. From here the zig-zagging pathway to the castle begins, and while steep in places, it's well worth the effort. Not only are the views absolutely jaw-dropping from the top, there's plenty of panoramas and vantage points to keep you going on the way up! For a few euros you can wander the walkway and rugged ramparts too. On the way back to the marina, we couldn't help but cool off in the shady botanical gardens."
"Our home from home for the trip was the stunning Villa Cortijo el Olivar, located in Torrox Costa. A well placed base for our adventures in southern Andalucia, its central position lent itself to our jam-packed itinerary. Spacious and modern interiors happily housed all 8 of us, while a large pool and sun terrace were our favourite features of the property. Bars, supermarkets and the beach were all within walking distance of the villa, so it'd work perfectly if you're not keen on driving. Although we'd recommend you do – there's so much to see just a stone's throw from your front door!"