This 1-week tour is really a tour of resort towns along the fabled Sun Coast of Southern Spain where Marbella is the most elegant resort, Nerja the most charming, Málaga the most historic, and Torremolinos the most overrun. Our tour also takes in the Rock of Gibraltar. It begins in the west and heads east. The E5 links all the towns along the coast, and, as you drive along, you can stop wherever you wish to allow yourself plenty of beach time.
Day 1: Algeciras & Tarifa
Algeciras, lying 679km (422 miles) south of Madrid, is a dull port city, the jumping-off point for ferries to Africa, but it is where most motorists land to begin Day 1 of their tour of Spain's southern coastline. It is also the best base for exploring the Rock of Gibraltar. You can stay in Algeciras for the night if you don't want to go through the formalities of staying overnight in Gibraltar.
Algeciras is relatively devoid of attractions, so if you have an extra day, we suggest you drive 23km (14 miles) west of Algeciras to ancient Tarifa, a small town opening onto the Straits of Gibraltar. Check in to a hotel for the night and set out to explore its attractions, including the greatest panoramic lookout point along the coast, Mirador del Estrecho. You'll also have time to see Iglesia de San Mateo and Castillo de Guzmán, built in 960.
Day 2: The Rock of Gibraltar
On the morning of Day 2, you can stay based in Tarifa if you like your hotel and drive to Gibraltar. If you don't want to double-back, you can either check in to a hotel in Algeciras or go through the Customs formalities of checking in to a hotel on "the Rock" itself. Otherwise, you can visit Gibraltar on a day trip, returning to Algeciras or Tarifa for the night.
Gibraltar lies only 20km (12 miles) east of Algeciras. At Gibraltar in 1 day you can see its major attractions, including the Upper Rock Nature Preserve and the Apes' Den. If you move fast enough, you can also work in visits to St. Michael's Cave and the Great Siege Tunnels. Cap your afternoon with a panoramic visit to Europa Point, "the end of Europe." Return to your base -- whatever you selected -- for the night, or spend the night on the Rock.
Day 3: Marbella
Leave your base on the morning of Day 3 and head east to Marbella, queen of the Spanish Riviera, a distance of 76km (47 miles) from Algeciras. Along the way you can stop over at Estepona, a town of Roman origin lying 46km (29 miles) east of Algeciras. This will be your introduction to a Costa del Sol resort. You can spend an hour or so strolling along its Paseo Marítimo, with the water on one side, gardens on the other. If you're here in time for lunch, you'll find many waterfront eateries.
For the final lap of your trip, drive on to Marbella, where you can check in to a hotel for the night. Before the day ends, you may want to log some beach time at either El Fuerte or La Fontanilla. Later we'd suggest dinner and a stroll through the Old Town, centering around the colorful Patio de los Naranjos (Court of the Orange Trees).
Day 4: Mijas
For a change of pace, leave the coast altogether on the morning of Day 4 and head for Mijas, the ultimate Andalusian White Town (Pueblo Blanco), a distance of 40km (26 miles) northeast of Marbella. Stay on E15 (the coastal road) as you head east to Fuengirola, a distance of 34km (21 miles) from Marbella. The resort of Fuengirola is known for its 8km (5 miles) of beaches, in case you want to take a dip. After leaving Fuengirola, continue east until you reach the signposts pointing north into the mountains for Mijas, just 8km (5 miles) from the coastal road.
Mijas is one of the most famous of the Pueblos Blancos or "White Towns" of Andalusia, so called because of all their whitewashed dwellings. Welded to the side of a mountain, the town is famous for its location and views. If it doesn't offend you, you might even attend a bullfight here. Most visitors spend their hours just wandering the narrow streets and going on a shopping expedition for crafts. If you don't want to return to the coast by night, you can check in to a hotel at Mijas.
Day 5: Fun at Torremolinos
Leave Mijas on the morning of Day 5, driving south to the coastal road, where you head east into Torremolinos, a distance of only 19km (12 miles) but a vast world apart. Check in to a hotel for the night and don't worry about seeing any historical monuments here. Torremolinos, the biggest resort along Spain's Mediterranean coast, is strictly for fun. Try to work in some beach time at El Bajondillo or La Carihuela. At night you can wander around the old streets of the modern town above, which sits on the cliffs, sampling the food and drink at tascas (taverns). Later you can descend down to the sea to the old fishing village of La Carihuela for a seafood dinner to cap off the evening.
Day 6: Málaga
Leave Torremolinos on the morning of Day 6 and head east toward the capital of the Costa del Sol, Málaga, a distance of only 15km (9 miles). Check in to a hotel for the night. Because Málaga was a city long before it became a resort, it is the only stopover along the coast that has some historic and cultural sights, including the Museo Picasso Málaga, the Alcazaba, and the Fundación Picasso.
Day 7: Nerja & the Balcony of Europe
For your final look at the Costa del Sol, leave Málaga on the morning of Day 7 and head for Nerja, a distance of 52km (32 miles) east along the coastal road. Check in to a hotel for the night. The big attraction here is the prehistoric Cueva de Nerja, with its stalactites and stalagmites. But you'll want to spend 3 or 4 hours wandering about Nerja's narrow streets, ending up by taking in the panoramic vista from the Balcony of Europe.
You can drive west to Málaga the following day for transportation connections.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.