The best day trips from Málaga

Málaga is one of my favourite Spanish cities. It’s so much more than an airport, so much more than an easy access to the Costa Del Sol! I visited the city on several occasions and even had the chance to live nearby for 4 months, while house-and petsitting in Cártama. I had four months to discover not only the city, but also this beautiful province. Málaga province has so much more to offer than crowded beaches. It’s a great gateway for exploring the surrounding scenery and beautiful white villages of Andalucía. Read on and discover the best day trips from Málaga.

The best day trips from Málaga

1. El Torcal

If you’re looking for something truly spectacular and otherworldly landscapes, then head straight for El Torcal. This natural formation looks like an alien planet with oddly shaped rocks that seem to have been stacked on top of one another and just left there. This impressive karstic landscape is made of limestone and its formation is due to a process that has lasted several hundred million years. 
There are 2 hiking trails that bring you deep within the rocky outcrops. The green one being the shortest, the yellow one the longest. Although they both overlap for quite a bit, you will definitely discover more diverse landscapes by hiking the yellow one. It takes about 2 hours, factoring in plenty of photo opportunities.

TIP : El Torcal is at a height of 1336m/4383ft, so make sure to check the local weather forecast before leaving. Bright sunshine at the coast, doesn’t guarantee nice weather up there!

2. Caminito del Rey

If you’re looking for more stunning scenery, this is it! The Caminito del Rey was once considered to be ‘the most dangerous hiking trail in the world’. Since 2015, it has been completely restored and even if it might look rather precarious, it is nowadays totally safe. Wooden walkways cling to the mountainside, offering you stunning views of the gorge! It may no longer be very adventurous, it is definitely worth the trip for the gorgeous landscapes and surroundings!

Tip 1: Book in advance! The Caminito gets busy, especially during high season.
Tip 2: Make sure to schedule 1/2 day for the walk. The wooden walkways are only part of the trail and you need to foresee plenty of time to get back to where you parked. The official website gives you all the info you need. Make sure you read it before heading off.

3. Mijas

No doubt one of the most popular day trips from Málaga, for better or worse. We were lucky to be there in February, during Covid-19 times, when the place was nearly deserted. During normal years, be prepared for bus loads of tourists who escaped their resorts for an afternoon to go and look at an “authentic” white village. The donkey rides on the main square should tell enough… Not my favourite village, I admit, but if you come at the right time, it’s still nice to stroll around!

Tip: If you are visiting during high season, stay over and stroll around Mijas before and after the tour buses have departed.

4. Ronda

A world away from the beach resorts, set on a mountain plateau, Ronda is perched precariously on the edge of a gorge, surrounded by rolling hills and whitewashed buildings. You have no doubt seen the picture of the famous Puente Nuevo, spanning over the El Tajo gorge. You can probably spend an entire afternoon taking pictures of the bridge from various viewing points, but do walk around the old town itself as well, criss-crossed by narrow cobbled streets and white-and yellow-painted churches. Take a look at the charming Puente Viejo, explore the historic Arab baths, visit the bull ring and have a drink at one of the lesser-known squares, like Plaza Duquesa de Parcent.

Tip: if you’re there during the Semana Santa, do not miss out on the eerily Silent Procession.

5. Antequera

Lesser known, but definitely worth a visit and close to El Torcal. (though if you want to do both justice, it’s probably better to plan 2 days) Antequera is known for its Alcazaba or Moorish fortress, offering stunning views over the surrounding countryside. It is also home to over 30 churches with stunning interiors and influences of various cultures. Outside the town you can find three dolmen, dating back to 2500 BC, and the Lover’s Rock, the icon of the area that you’ll be able to spot from miles away.

6. Montes de Málaga

You don’t need to go far if you’re looking to stretch your legs near Málaga. Located a few kilometres north of the city, the Montes de Málaga is a mountainous landscape that runs parallel to the Mediterranean coast. It is known as ‘the lungs of Málaga’ and the perfect place for a hike or even a bicycle ride. You can choose between 4 signposted paths and enjoy views as far as the coast.

7. Marbella

Known for its bling-bling and mass-tourism, Marbella might not be on your list of places to visit, but I would definitely encourage you to have a stroll around the old town, which has, somehow, managed to escape the worst. Have an early morning coffee at Plaza de los Naranjos, admire the old castle walls, take pictures of the colourful façades decorated with flower pots and smell the flowers of the orange blossoms. After that, rest your wary feet at the beach.

8. Sierra de las Nieves

If you like the Montes de Málaga, then you’ll love the Sierra de las Nieves! Close to Marbella, this National Park is not only stunningly beautiful, it also possesses a huge variety of natural wealth, flora & fauna and covers an area of 300 square kilometres! It is peaceful, interesting and less than an hour away from Málaga! We hiked the ‘sendero PR-A 278’, which leaves near Ojén. If you’re only going to do one hike in the area, make it this one! The pictures say it all!

9. Frigiliana

Together with Mijas, this is Málaga’s most famous ‘pueblo blanco’. I have a small preference for Frigiliana however, being a little bit bigger, with more narrow little streets to get lost in. If you want a pleasant experience, again, make sure to avoid the summer crowds.

10. Cásares

Now this is a white village I can get behind! Topped with castle ruins, offering gorgeous views, Cásares is utterly charming. Unlike Mijas and Frigiliana, this picture-perfect hilltop village hasn’t been ‘done up’, which means the steep and unevenly-paved streets will whisk you through the village’s heart, taking you past left-open front doors that allow you to an intriguing glimpse into what life is like here.

With so many interesting day trips, it is a mystery to me why people continue to flock around the costas, barely venturing outside their hotels or compounds. There is so much to see, so much culture to experience and, who am I kidding, so many tapas to eat!

Have you been to Málaga? Which day trips would you recommend?

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