Know before you go
Málaga is the capital of the Province of Málaga in Andalusia, with the Mediterranean Sea as its southern coast. With its year-round warm climate, it’s no wonder why Málaga is a hub in the region.
Thus, there are several airlines that fly into Málaga to start your trip. From Iberia, SAS, TAP Portugal, British Airways, easyJet, and Ryanair - to name a few, various airlines offer direct flights to the city multiple times a day and at various price points.
Málaga Airport is 8km from Málaga city.
The best time to visit Málaga and the region for those who love sunshine and the Spanish heat is between June and early September. These are the hottest months, with an average of 31°C - and a whopping 11 hours of sun! Though that does mean July and August attract the biggest crowd too, with locals and tourists alike.
Want to avoid the crowd but still experience restaurants and cafes that are open? Your best time is autumn. Autumn from September to early November in the province of Málaga is on average 25°C. You can still take a dip in the sea and the weather is prime to escape other Northern European darker days during this time of the year.
In the winter months, from late November to February, pack an umbrella for short rainfalls throughout the day. But fret not! You will still get an average of 11 hours of winter sun per day, with double-digit temperatures from 16°C to 20°C.
For Springtime, from March to May, there are fewer crowds while you still get that breezy Mediterranean climate. That means warm weather, with lots of sunshine - with an average high temperature of 20°C. Expect possible short rainfalls for spring showers.
For this itinerary, it’s best to have your own means of transportation - as that will give you plenty of freedom to zip between the smaller towns around the Costa del Sol.
You can rent a car from Málaga’s airport to drive into the city, or after a few days of starting your trip in Málaga itself, rent a car in the city and explore the stunning surroundings.
We prefer to rent a car with Rent a Car - as they have multiple locations and various types of vehicles to choose from. To explore the city centre of Málaga, walking is best as the streets are narrow and parking is scarce.
Day 1 - 2: Málaga
There’s a reason why Málaga is the capital of the Costa del Sol as well as being a cultural destination. Artists like Antonio Banderas and Pablo Picasso are born here, music truly sets the vibe in the streets of the city, and with almost 30 museums just in Málaga itself - trust us that there will never be a dull moment.
For the first few days in the Costa del Sol, the name of this coastal region, Málaga makes for the perfect city to start in as well as to stay in. There are tons of accommodations and hotels in Málaga for every budget and style. These centrally located Málaga hotels make exploring much easier by foot, as the city is very pedestrian-friendly.
If you’re like me, I prefer to do any physical activity first thing in the morning when I still have lots of energy and before the day gets hotter. That’s why Gibralfaro Castle, which is 130 metres high on a hill overlooking the port and city of Málaga is a great sight to start the day (Or end, if you prefer to watch the sunset from this view!).
Built in 929AD, the path is winding to get up but the view is sure worth it. From there, the Alcazaba of Málaga is connected by a wall. It's the best-preserved fortress in all of Spain - dating back to the early 11th century when it was built. Here you can really take in the Moorish architecture, with its many lush gardens and towers for the city’s governing Muslims.
On the same hilltop, you’ll start to see how many civilizations have crossed paths with Málaga. From the Moors to the Romans, the well in-tact Roman Theatre is free to visit. It’s also still being used today for live performances!
Now with plenty of museums all over the city, ranging from art to history, these are my favourites to check out:
- Picasso Museum: Housed in a 16th century-palace in the centre of Málaga, the Picasso Museum covers over 80 years of Picasso’s artworks. Also to note - if you're here on Sundays, the last two hours are free. Otherwise, you can get your tickets here.
- Picasso Birthplace Museum: Learn about the man behind the art, this heritage site is the birthplace of Picasso. Also to note - if you're here on Sundays, from 16:00 - 20:00 the museum is free. Otherwise, you can get your tickets here.
- Pompidou Centre Málaga: the colourful glass cube building is cheekily fitting for a branch of Paris’ contemporary art museum. There are free audio guides in multiple languages and you can get your tickets in advance here.
- Flamenco Art Museum: The romantic dance of Flamenco did originate in this region, Andalusia in Spain. Here you can explore the art and beginnings of Flamenco.
- Carmen Thyssen Museum: Features great sceneries and paintings from Andalusian artists and Spanish artists, located in the historic centre. You can get your tickets here.
- Málaga Museum: It’s a stunning building that was modeled after an Italian palace. The Málaga Museum features fine art paintings. Admission for EU citizens: free. Other nationalities: 1.50 euros.
After having a culturally-enriching first day in Málaga, let's rest our feet and hit up what the coastline is known for - the beaches!
The most popular beach in Málaga is also within walking distance of the historical centre. Playa Malagueta may be packed with people but there’s also over 1,200 metres of coast to find a spot to enjoy the sand! There are tons of facilities at Playa Malagueta, from playgrounds for children to changing rooms and toilets. Lifeguards are on duty during the summer seasons.
For a beach that is less crowded, but takes a metro ride to get to, Playa de la Misericordia is also another alternative. It definitely has more of a local scene, since it’s further away from the city centre. Though rest assured, it’s filled with the same facilities as Playa Malagueta too.
When you’re on the Costa del Sol, fish and seafood are plentiful - even at chiringuitos (beach bars that you can walk up to with their laidback charms). Whether for lunch or a cold beer, chiringuitos are part of the beach experience here.
Right by Playa Malagueta is a promenade, Palmeral de las Sorpresas, lined with tall fanning palm trees and sculptures. Connecting the port to the city, this public space along the waterfront takes you on a walk under a modern design that resembles dancing groves above your head. Palmeral de las Sorpresas really adds a unique touch to the architectural landscape of Málaga - one that stands beautifully as a contrast to the historical centre.
Where to Stay in Malaga:
Budget - Futurotel Malagueta
Mid-range - Soho Boutique Colón
Luxury - Palacio Solecio, a Small Luxury Hotel of the World
Day 3: Frigiliana and Nerja
On this day, you’ll be setting off to explore further into the Costa del Sol! Two Andalusian villages on the hillsides stand out. Lucky for you, they’re only 15 minutes drive away.
Frigiliana is flocked with all-white buildings, and potted plants outside the local’s doors add a splash of colour to the stone pathways that wind throughout the Moorish old quarters. Time moves much slower here than down below on the beaches. You may see local older residents peeping out their windows or in and out of the numerous Spanish restaurants around the village. There’s not much to do in town aside from enjoying the Moorish architecture and ambience. There is, however, the Museo Arqueologico de Frigiliana, a small archaeological museum in the centre that tells the story of the village.
At the top of the village is the Vista panorámica, a viewpoint where you can take in the whole white-wall buildings and its lush evergreen surroundings. It’s a great spot for taking your postcard-like photos but also to appreciate the full scenery.
After exploring Frigiliana, drive down the hill to the town of Nerja. While Nerja and Frigiliana are close to each other, they couldn’t be more different in their offerings. Nerja’s closeness to the sea offers unparalleled views of the Mediterranean while having mountains as its backdrop. One of the must-do in Nerja is taking a stroll to the Balcony of Europe - a walkway that extends over the seashore below. This is a favourite spot amongst locals and tourists alike since it gives the best views (I mean, who doesn’t love overlooking that shimmering turquoise water?)
Another architectural gem to check out in Nerja is the Aqueduct Eagle. Made out of red bricks and looking like something out of a Wes Anderson movie, the impeccably built curvatures of the aqueduct running through the hills of Andalusia is a man-made sight to behold.
Since Nerja is surrounded by the stunning nature of Costa del Sol, you’re never far away from places that seem otherworldly outdoors. Nerja Caves is one of them. They’re a labyrinth of a cave system that runs underground over 3 miles long - and for a big portion of the Nerja Caves, you can explore by foot.
Another slice of Nerja’s nature is the Nerja River Walk, also known as the Rio Chillar. It’s a hike of medium difficulty, wading through a natural park that is free of access. You’ll be hiking through three cracks of the mountain, with some parts through a running river where you’ll definitely get your feet wet. Who knew you can live out an Indiana Jones adventure right here in southern Europe? After the 8km walk, you’ll reach Vado de Los Patos where a small waterfall greets you in a translucent pool of water. It’s most definitely as magical as it sounds - especially after a long hike. The hike is also roundtrip, so you’ll have to make your way back from where you started. While there’s no strenuous uphill or downhill, you’ll still want to give yourself enough time to enjoy the beauty of the Nerja River Walk.
Where to Stay in Nerja:
Budget - NerjaRooms
Mid-range - Marinas de Nerja Beach & Spa
Luxury - Hotel Balcón de Europa
Day 4: Ronda
Ronda is what I imagine a legendary town in a fantasy novel to look like - historical buildings and cobblestone streets that sit soaring on each side of the huge El Tajo gorge (at 100 metres high!) Connecting the two sides of town is the Puente Nuevo (despite its name, the “New Bridge” was actually built in 1793) with the Guadalevín river running below. It’s an epic sight to see, with all of the houses hanging over the gorge and the far distance mountains casting it’s bodies over the green scenery.
It’s no surprise that Ronda has great architecture, after all, it is one of the oldest cities in Spain. The historic quarter with buildings like Mondragon Palace and the Church of Santa María la Mayor are both highlights of Moorish architecture. You can also still visit the well-preserved Plaza de Toros bullring - a circular stadium where traditions of bullfighting meet the sophistication of neo-classical design.
Ronda is a town that has also enchanted the likes of Hemingway. Hemingway has used Ronda as inspiration for parts of his novels in “The Sun Also Rises” and “Death in the Afternoon”. The town is also proud of Hemingway, naming a path, Paseo de Hemingway where the writer took his quiet strolls.
Where to Stay in Ronda:
Budget - Ronda Hotel Polo
Mid-range - La Colegiata De Ronda
Luxury - Catalonia Ronda
Day 5: Marbella
On the foothills of the Sierra Blanca mountains, where the Mediterranean meets the Strait of Gibraltar is the stylish town of Marbella. It’s where glamour meets high society, where splashy resorts are in abundance as the stars that frequent them. But whether you’re looking out for a culinary Michelin star adventure or just a chill local spot for a bite, Marbella actually has the best of both worlds for everyone.
Aside from the yachts docked in the harbour, the old town of Marbella is made up of pastel buildings and its squares are filled with terraces. Alameda Park is the town’s own tropical backyard, with thick green plants and palms sprouting around the walkways that are made out of marble. What to keep an eye out for is the beauty of hand-painted Andalusian patterned tiles on the benches around the parks. Each one tells a story of the city’s history in bright colours and illustrations.
From Alameda Park is an art and sculpture lined walkway, Avenida del Mar. As casual as the sculptures are on this path, they were designed by Salvador Dalí himself - adding an extra special touch to the public space in Marbella.
Like a lot of Spanish towns, the church is the heart. Iglesia de la Encarnación is a renaissance and baroque landmark that you can walk in and explore. Inside, the gilded details and lining are a big pop from the white and subtle exterior.
Where to Stay in Marbella:
Budget - Pensión Aduar
Mid-range - Marbella Inn
Luxury - The Pearl - Marbella
Map of Málaga and region
Here is a map of Málaga as well as your Costa del Sol itinerary. You can follow along or click on each destination for more information: