For the bulk of 2021 we spent most of our time working from home. With the usually grey and rainy month of November ahead, we decided to make the most of not having to be at the office and head out to Málaga for a remote work week. We added a week of holidays to take the time and enjoy more of the area around Málaga. Earlier this month, we shared 10 of the best hidden gems that we found in Andalusia and Múrcia in a blog. But as we always say, despite loving to go beyond the usual places and look for the more hidden ones, we do tend to visit all of the must-sees when we’re in a new region. So we’d like to show you more of what we saw, by sharing our experiences of 12 must-sees in Andalusia and all the practical information you need before going there. In a later blog, we’ll do the same for all the must-sees in the region of Múrcia.
Must-see Andalusia 1: Benalmádena Cablecar & Calamorro Viewpoint
As we arrived in Málaga on saturday, we had a day to spare before starting our work week. We decided to take the opportunity to take the train South out of Málaga towards Benalmádena. A typical Costa-town we would normally not hesitate to skip over, we went there for the Benalmádena Cablecar. The 10 minute ride up the mountain takes you over an abandoned theme park and up the mountain towards the Cima Calamorro. There, a number of viewpoints are strung together by mountain paths. Undoubtedly, this place can get quite busy, even when we were there in late november it was far from deserted. There is a bird show up at the top twice daily, and while we didn’t go there, we did get to see the large birds of prey flying over the mountaintop. Our tip: while the viewpoint up at the Cima Calamorro was packed, we spent a good twenty minutes at the Mirador Sur all by ourselves. Follow the signs from the cable car to get there!
There is a direct train (C1) between Málaga and the station of Benalmádena-Arroyo de la Miel. The cable car leaves a short walk from the station. When visiting off-season, it might only be open on the weekends, so be sure to check before you go.
Must-see Andalusia 2: Rooftop bar Room Mate Valeria Hotel, Málaga
After every workday in Málaga, we closed our laptops and went into the city right away. A walk around the city centre, a visit to a spooky graveyard (number 3 on our list of hidden gems), or on this occasion up to a rooftop bar. There are countless nice places to go for a drink after a workday in Málaga, but our go-to was the Rooftop Bar at Room Mate Valeria Hotel, just around the corner from our apartment. They serve good cocktails, a great view and the perfect background music. A perfect place to go to relax after a busy day of work.
Must-see Andalusia 3: Pueblo Blanco (White Village) Frigiliana
With our workweek done, we rented a car and drove off into Andalusia. Our first stop: a typical pueblo blanco or white village, which the region is known for. The picturesque town of Frigiliana is definitely a must-see when you get a chance to tour around Andalusia.
Frigiliana is located just outside of Nerja, less than an hour from Málaga. Free parking is available along the MA-5105 road just before the town, here.
Must-see Andalusia 4: Balcon de Europa, Nerja
The Balcon de Europa is a place you’ll see on every photo when Googling Nerja. Because we stayed a night in Nerja, this was a place we could definitely not miss. Off-season and early in the morning, it was far from busy, especially from the path that took us down below the viewpoint near the rocky coastline.
Must-see Andalusia 5: Tabernas desert
From Nerja, we continued East along the coast towards Almería and the Tabernas desert. We’d read a lot about the latter’s unique landscapes and abundant list of movies shot there. Moving east, we definitely left the most touristic part of Andalusia behind, with a lot fewer choice of where to stay the night. We ended up temporarily increasing the number of residents in tiny Alicún from 267 to 269 by staying in a lovely AirBnB with a patio and private kitchen for two nights. Our kind hostess even brought a massive bag of tangerines from her own harvest for us to enjoy. We’d definitely recommend this place as a starting point for a visit to the Tabernas desert.
The desert itself earns a place high on our list of coolest things we’ve ever seen. Officially a semi-desert, the area consists of canyons with a folded, wrinkly look to them. The area was used in movies and series such as The Crown, Game of Thrones and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, among many others. The region has intelligently used this to their advantage to create a tourism industry, with places such as the Mini Hollywood theme park. We decided to skip on going there, but instead went on a short hike through one of the canyons starting from the parking lot of the Mini Hollywood. After the hike, we drove a bit further into the valley to the Castillo de Tabernas for some more amazing views from up above.
We parked in the Mini Hollywood parking lot, and hiked the route marked on Google Maps as Ruta el Cautivo. Signage was quite bad, but you won’t have trouble finding your way around the canyon’s paths. The viewpoint and castle are located right near the town of Tabernas, park here and walk up the hill to get there. Be careful in the area as Google Maps navigation can send you across some pretty steep and narrow roads!
Must-see Andalusia 6: Alcazaba de Almería
Almería was in our opinion okay, but nothing too special to visit. Most of all, we enjoyed our visit to the city’s fortress – or Alcazaba in Spanish. With a late arrival just 45 minutes before closing time, we were let in for free by a kind gentleman. The impressive moorish fortress was, just as the tabernas desert, a filming location for Game of Thrones. From it, you are rewarded with unobstructed views over Almería. Pay attention to the different style of housing, that clearly shows the Arabian influence; the houses aren’t topped with typically Spanish orange, slanted roofs, but flat roofs instead.
As it turns out, the fortress of Almería is free to visit for citizens of the EU, while people from other countries are asked to pay €1,50. All the info you’ll need is here. Either way, this should not withhold you from visiting. We combined our visit to the Alcazaba with a drink at the nearby Teteria Almedina Baraka, where the food looked very promising. Let us know what it’s like if you go there!
Must-see Andalusia 7: Cabo de Gata
After visiting Almería, we took a detour on our way towards Murcia to visit the Cabo de Gata area. The saltpans that lie South of the small town are home to flamingos that you can spot from one of the many observatories around. After trying to drive to those on the far side but encountering rather unpassable unpaved roads, we opted to view the flamingos from an observatory near the coastline. The flamingos were something we definitely didn’t expect to see on our trip across Andalusia. After a good half hour watching them go about their business, we spent some time near the rough sea. All in all, definitely worth taking a small detour for when you’re in the area.
We watched the birds from this particular observatory. You can park about 50 metres away from it, besides the road.
Must-see Andalusia 8: Alhambra, Granada
Yes, we know, you know about the Alhambra in Granada. Number 3 on Tripadvisor’s list of top things to see, it’s safe to say we were slightly weary of the sheer number of tourists that would join us in visiting, even this far off-season. And yes, it was touristy, but for absolutely good reason. The complex is impressively grand and luxurious, and each of the sub-areas is worth visiting more than the previous. And again – sorry for repeating ourselves – this is where Game of Thrones was shot. We are definitely happy we followed the advice of many of our friends and colleagues and visited the Alhambra, and would truly recommend you do so too!
The Alhambra is within walking distance from the city centre of Granada, though quite a bit of a climb. There are options to drive or take a bus there too. The ticketing system can be confusing. If we understood correctly, you only need to reserve a timeslot for the Nasrid Palaces. There are different types of tickets, we opted for the full access ticket. All information and tickets are available here.
Must-see Andalusia 9: Paraje Natural Torcal de Antequera
After visiting Granada, we stopped in the town of Órgiva near the Sierra Nevada for two nights, before continuing West back towards Málaga. Near the town of Antequera – which is located just a 45 minute drive from Málaga – we visited the Natural Area of Torcal de Antequera. Driving up to the parking lot and information centre was quite the experience in and of itself, surrounded by an otherworldly beautiful landscape of scattered and fragmented rock formations. We went on a short and very accessible hike that even rewarded us with views of plenty of wildlife from up close. A big, big, massive recommendation to go and visit!
Parking and entrance to the park is located here. All the info you’ll need on hikes is available at the parking lot.
Must-see Andalusia 10: Setenil de las Bodegas
Our last combination of stops was just West of Málaga. The day before, we had continued driving from Torcal de Antequera to get to our apartment in Setenil de las Bodegas. Another recommendation from our friends and family, this unique town is full of houses built into the rockfaces. The people were welcoming, and despite our apartment not being the best, we were definitely glad to have made our way over to Setenil. Watching the cars snake their way through the frighteningly narrow streets added a whole other dimension to our experience!
Parking is easiest just outside of the old streets, here. When we were there, it was free, though you’re probably unlikely to be as lucky when your visit isn’t in early december.
Must-see Andalusia 11: Ruinas de Acinipo
After waking up and strolling around Setenil de las Bodegas, we continued toward the town of Ronda (next up), but not without making a short stop at the Archeological site of Acinipo. Another place that was surprisingly enough free to visit and contains leftovers from Roman times. The kind lady at the entrance gave us all the information we needed. Going all the way up above the theater is a must, with nice views both ways.
The ruins are located here and are free to visit. Be sure to check the opening times on Google Maps before going, as it’s not open every day.
Mustsee Andalusia 12: Ronda
Our very last stop before returning our rental car was the famous town of Ronda. Even in December, it got quite busy, but again for good reason. Most impressive are the 120 meter tall bridge leading into the old town and the various viewpoints around it and the canyon it crosses. We’d definitely recommend walking all the way around the canyon and including a stop at the Jardines de Cuenca. That side is a bit more quiet and gives you views of the Puente Nuevo.
We went for paid parking right in the middle of the new town centre, here. It can probably get quite jammed in summer, so it might be worth doing some research into another parking location.
So what about the Caminto del Rey?
There are tons more must-sees across Andalusia that we didn’t get a chance to see in our 9 days, but perhaps the most obvious one lacking on our list of 12 is the famous Caminito del Rey. It was at the top of our places to visit, but unfortunately it was temporarily closed for maintenance. We read and heard that reservations open the 1st of every month for the entire coming month. And if you’re late for that, there are last-minute options for the first few early arrivals every morning. No guarantees, but perhaps worth trying if you’re late for tickets. We will definitely visit the Caminito del Rey next time we’re in the area!
Kirsten & Thomas