Note from Laur: This is a featured contribution from Frances Atkins, an avid traveler from the UK. After spending 6 months exploring the US and Canada she’s now on a mission to see every last bit of Europe.
When you make the trip to Europe, you want it to be special, and when you’re that far away from home it’s exhilarating to try something new. If like me, you’re a fan of the American and Canadian Rockies, you might also want to try hiking on the other side of the Atlantic; I highly recommend heading to Spain, for the opportunity to hike alongside beautiful mountain scenery with the sun on your back.
The Costa del Sol, in the south, is one of Spain’s best hiking destinations. This region offers lots of opportunities to get active outdoors and is perfect if you hate lazing around, twiddling your thumbs whilst away. You’ll never be bored here, with so many fascinating trails to explore.
So, with all that choice, I’ve come up with my top 4 hiking spots to check out in the Costa del Sol and some tips from my experience.
Ronda Village: Picturesque White Buildings
In the north of the Costa del Sol is Ronda, a village with picturesque white buildings at 3,000 feet above sea level. The village is flanked by the Ronda Mountains which are home to sheep, eagles and vultures.
Due to the impressive scale of this mountain range, there are routes and well-used paths suitable for nearly all abilities. As you trek, you come across dramatic, rocky valleys and a variety of caves that add to the wonder of exploring somewhere new. It’s a great place to gain perspective and a sense of scale; the mountain summits around you dwarf the village.
Plenty of water and protection from the sun are required, as there isn’t much shade on this hike. Afterwards, grab a bite in one of the village’s local tapas restaurants. Try durum wheat based dishes, such as mint and tomato couscous, for slow-release energy.
Juanar Viewpoint: Panoramas of Marbella
Marbella is one of the most popular cities in the area and is close to the vast Sierra Blanca mountain range. There’s a good chance of seeing the mountains from the city and the coast, before you head deeper inland.
Juanar viewpoint is in the Refugio de Juanar area and has panoramic views of Marbella. A wide dirt path leads there from the Cero Nicolas pine forest, which is beautiful in its own right; lusciously green with a wide range of colour tones. From here, it’s around thirty minutes to the viewpoint, so there’s plenty of time to savour the fresh air and spot trees like oak, pine and chestnut, as well as ornate orchids and junipers dotted around.
The Cruz da Juanar Mountain is the main point of reference on the ascent; the last stretch is fairly steep but easy to navigate. From the viewpoint, you see the trail you hiked (and will return by), the beautiful Marbella city-scape, mountain after mountain and curiously, a mountain goat statue, in honour of the animal you can see roaming the area.
Rio Torrox: The #1 Coastal Hike In Spain
Torrox is a traditional Moorish village right on the Costa del Sol’s east coast. Here, I recommend you take to Calaceite Beach with a cool drink in hand, just to say you’ve experienced the best climate in Europe (according to a 2008 study).
For your trek, leave the village through the Rio Torrox valley, surrounded by almond, olive and banana trees, which are sure to make you hungry as you ascend towards the Coscoja ridge. At 1,250 feet, the hilltop views are spectacular and encompass the Sierra Almijara and Frigiliana mountains, the resort of Nerja and the sparkling ocean. Time stands still in this peaceful place, so you can stay as long as you want.
Mount Palomas: At The Hub of Adventure
Mount Palomas has a peak of around 1,300 feet and sits behind Torremolinos, a city that’s a good bet if you also like water sports; there are plenty of windsurfing, kayaking and water-skiing opportunities.
The interesting aspect of Mount Palomas is that one side looks a bit plain, but the other side that doesn’t get all the heat from the sun looks like an authentic image of spring itself – lots of colourful flowers, wild asparagus and rosemary. To get here, start at the Zambrano stream and ascend through the pine wood following along its left bank.
Eventually three paths emerge; the left path (south-east) is the one you want, and it takes you to the summit in a winding route before you reach the flat viewing point to overlook Torremolinos itself, Benalmadena and the other mountains in Granada province.
- Make the most of mild weather and eat outside. I take snacks for the hike but also like to sit down on the beach after a long walk and eat something substantial.
- Don’t rely on cell phone signal to get around. Take a map or try to join a hiking group. I follow known routes and plan my schedule (and inform someone where I’m going) before heading out.
- Minimise what you take and carry; don’t lug around a big bottle of sun-screen, pour what you need into a smaller spray bottle. Put these liquid containers in zip-lock bags to prevent spillages.
So I learnt that the Costa del Sol is an exciting region with more than just beaches to enjoy if you go out and explore. Taking in mountain villages is a privilege, and seeing all the fauna, wildlife and varied landscapes makes you realise the world is still a big place ready to offer up surprise, even when our relatively short travel times make it seem small.