Seven days is a good amount of time to spend in Costa del Sol. It is a great place to relax, enjoy the beach, soak up some culture, and sample the local seafood dishes at one of the many Chiringuitos (seaside open-air restaurants). Costa del Sol has gained worldwide recognition as a topnotch tourist destination, but the tourist traffic shouldn’t stop you from experiencing this amazing part of the Mediterranean.
What you can cover in 7 days in Costa del Sol
A full week is just about enough time to unwind and really get a feel for the region. This will give you time to visit the Nerja Caves and museum, visit Ronda, and spend some time in Granada. Don’t forget to spend some time in the capital city of Malaga.
How to plan Costa del Sol in 7 days
I suggest traveling from the east to the west, starting at the Los Alcornocales National Park, moving west through Ronda, Setenil de las Bodegas, and El Chorro. Then head south to Mijas Pueblo and travel along the coast spending time in Malaga before continuing along the coast to the Nerja Caves. Finally, head north and end your trip in the beautiful and historic city of Granada. Even without a car, traveling the region is feasible by utilizing the bus and coach system.
Traveling east to west will help you maximize your time in the region. Traveling west to east also will work, but it depends on where you are arriving from. The east to west route works well if you’re traveling from Seville or Gibraltar. However, if you’re flying into the Malaga airport, traveling from west to east will make more sense.
What you’ll have to miss in 7 days
Seven days means you don’t have to miss much, but it depends on the time of year and how adventurous you want to be. For example, there is skiing from December until May, but if you decide to ski, you’ll have to cut a day of sightseeing out. There is also Comares, which offers zip lining on one of Europe’s longest zip lines.
Here is a detailed week-long plan for Costa del Sol.
Day by day - 7 days in Costa del Sol
What to do on days 1 and 2
Los Alcornocales National Park
On days one and two, take the time to visit the Los Alcornocales National Park. The park offers many different activities; all which are great for exploring the area’s natural beauty depending on just how active you want to be. Activities include riding in a hot air balloon, hiking, bungee jumping, kayaking, and horseback riding. You can even forage for mushrooms in the fall. In reality, the park could entertain you for the whole week!
Visit the towns in the park
The park has a few different towns within its borders, making it an interesting mix of nature and rural life. I highly recommend visiting Jimena de la Frontera and Castillo de Castellar. Jimena de la Frontera is an interesting village that can be visited on the first or second day (you’ll pass through it on your way to Ronda on day three). There is a castle dating from 750 from which you can see Gibraltar to the south.
Night in Castellar de la Frontera
If you can, try to stay in Castellar de la Frontera on your first night. The town has a small zoo that is an animal rescue center. The zoo offers the opportunity to feed the animals as well as chances to interact with them. If you’re traveling as a family and one of your children has a birthday, they also offer guided birthday tours. It’s a unique experience.
A good choice for accommodation is the TUGASA Casas Rurales Castillo de Castellar which is located inside the Fortaleza Castle walls. I suggest booking here and staying for two nights. You can rent a small cottage which has a small kitchen, letting you cook if you wish. There is also a restaurant on site which specializes in local dishes.
Between the sports and activities available in the park, a zoo, and the medieval towns, you’ll have no shortage of things to do over the first two days of your trip. The town of Castellar de la Frontera has various festivals throughout the year. The most interesting is the Flamenco Festival held every July. There is also the Divino Salvador festival which takes place the first weekend of August. The festival commemorates San Salvador, who is the town’s patron saint.
What to see on day 3
On the morning of day three, depart Castello de la Frontera and head north to Ronda. Ronda has some notable sites you should try not to miss. A river split the town in two and created the El Tajo canyon. The two sides of the canyon are connected by three bridges (the Puente Romano, Puente Viejo, and Puente Nuevo), all of which offer spectacular views.
Additionally, if it is open, visit The Palacio of the Marqués de Salvatierra. The museum houses a collection of Renaissance-era art and artefacts, but opens irregularly making planning a visit difficult. Finally, try not to miss the Baños árabes (Arab Baths) which date to the 13th and 14th centuries. The baths are located below the town but are worth visiting. They are my favorite part of Ronda.
A large bullfight, the Corrida Goyesca takes place the first weekend of September. If you are traveling during this time, you’ll want to adjust your schedule to account for the crowds.
Setenil de las Bodegas
After leaving Ronda, continue to Setenil de las Bodegas. Setenil de las Bodegas is an amazing town built into rock overhangs. If you enjoy photography or interesting building arrangements, this is a great place to visit. The white buildings contrast with the darker stone and are the town’s main attraction. I suggest stopping here for lunch. The town is well known for the quality of its chorizo sausage and cerdo, which comes from the pigs that are bred in the nearby hills. There is also an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables grown on the nearby farms. And don’t forget to try some of the locally produced pastries; they’re delicious!
Round out day three in El Chorro. El Chorro is next to Desfiladero de los Gaitanes, which is a famous gorge. The gorge is a popular climbing area and also was featured in a few films from the 1950s and 1960s. I suggest either walking the walkway or taking a ride on the Malaga-Cordoba railway. The railway is a great way to see the tunnels and bridges while relaxing.
If you are going to be in El Chorro during a full moon, try to book a full moon horse trek. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to spend the evening. It’s especially nice during the summer. Horse Riding El Chorro offers a variety of options, including a Christmas trek. They also offer a 2-hour trek option; a great alternative to walking the walkway or riding the railway.
Day 4 in Costa del Sol
You’ll want to get an early start on day four, so make sure to wake up early and head to Mijas Pueblo. Mijas Pueblo is one of the most popular White Villages in the region. Grab a Donkey Taxi and head to the antique Arab wall and surrounding gardens. From here you can see Morocco on a clear day. Be sure to make your way to the Cuesta de la Villa viewing platform for superb views.
Then make your way to the Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Rock. The chapel was created from solid rock in the mid 16th century. It is an awe-inspiring place to visit. Of course, you can’t miss the Church of the Immaculate Conception, which was built on an old mosque during the mid 16th century.
Mijas Pueblo actually has a large number of museums, but if you want to see them all, I suggest cutting back on Los Alcornocales National Park, spending only one day and allotting the time to a full day in Mijas Pueblo. If you decide to spend two days in Los Alcornocales National Park, then spend a few hours in the morning of day four in Mijas Pueblo before traveling the 30 km to Malaga.
Malaga is well designed for sightseeing, with the historical city center being very walkable. Start with the Plaza de la Constitucion, which has been the city’s heart since the Middle Ages. The city also features Muelle Uno, which is a shop, bar, and restaurant complex. It is next to the port, offering some fine views. You could spend your time shopping, but I would bypass that temptation and head to the Picasso Museum.
The Picasso museum is a must-see while in Malaga. It is housed at Calle San Agusti in a Renaissance-era palace and features 225 of his works. After visiting the museum head over to Plaza de la Merced, where Picasso was born. The small museum has not only art but photos and items that belonged to Picasso and his family.
Then it’s time to head to the beach! Malagueta is the closest beach to the city center. The beach has everything you could ask for; cafés, rentable lounge chairs, excellent sunbathing and great swimming.
What to see on day 5
After a relaxing breakfast, head to the Nerja Caves. The caves are interesting both for their geology and the cave paintings that are found inside. You are able to view Paleolithic and Post-Paleolithic cave paintings. The caves are also divided up into sections, making them easy to appreciate. During the summer months, they offer concerts. Even if the music isn’t exactly your style, it is a truly unique experience. There are also special tours during the week in the early evening and a night tour on Saturdays. Both of these go into areas that are not open during their daytime hours.
There is a museum which exhibits items that have been found in the caves. It also gives the history of Nerja. There are also various exhibits, sometimes by local artists. The museum is worth a quick look; however, it is closed from 2-4pm.
After visiting the caves (or before if you’re taking an evening tour), garden, and museum, head to Maro. Maro features Playa de Maro, my favorite area beach. The beach isn’t sandy, it’s a pebble-sand mix, but the atmosphere more than makes up for the lack of soft sand. The beach is wedged between two cliffs and because of the ban on fishing has an abundance of sea life.
Costa del Sol - Days 6 and 7
Days six and seven can be spent exploring the historical city of Granada. Start your day with one last trip to the beach. La Caleta de Maro is less popular than Playa de Maro but offers some picturesque views as well as the chance to take a quick swim.
After leaving the beach, head to Granada. Granada offers an amazing historic atmosphere and views of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The city features a mixture of cultures unique to this part of Europe, many of which have been preserved or restored (see a great Granada itinerary here).
After arriving, head to Cunini, a renowned seafood restaurant in the heart of Granada for lunch. Try to get a seat out on the terrace. Instead of ordering food, opt for a glass (or two) of wine. A refill costs between 2 and 3 euro, but each drink comes with a plate of tapas. Granada is one of the few Spanish cities that offer free tapas with alcohol. I can’t think of a better way to start in Granada than a relaxing lunch out on a terrace.
Hammam al Andalus
After lunch head to Hammam al Andalus, a bathhouse offering a “water tour”, where you alternate hot and cold baths. I think it’s a good value at about 30 euros and lasting 90 minutes. You can add other treatments, such as a massage, but that raises the price and amount of time. 90 minutes is just about right, as that give you time to take an evening tour. Make sure to book in advance
Head to the Cathedral quarter of the city in the evening to take a two-hour walking tour of the Albaicin neighborhood and the Sacromonte caves. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes as the roads are uneven. I especially like taking an evening tour because the Alhambra palace is particularly picturesque during the evening hours. There are a few different tours, but Cicerone Granada offers smaller tours with a maximum group size of 12. This makes for a more enjoyable experience.
Alhambra at night and day
If an evening walking tour is not interesting, I still highly recommend heading to the Alhambra neighborhood and visiting either the Nasrid Palaces or the Generalife Palace or Garden in the evening when they are illuminated. You are not able to visit both on the same evening, but try to visit one of them. It is a truly different experience from visiting during the day.
On your last day, I suggest starting early in the day with the Alhambra Palace and the Generalife even if you visited them the previous evening. The atmosphere is completely different. A word of warning – it is easy to spend the whole day exploring these amazing attractions (and there are tours of various duration if you wish to do so), but there is more to see in Granada!
Next head to the Granada Cathedral. The cathedral was built on the foundations of a mosque and contains five naves as opposed to three. The cathedral also features works by El Greco, Jusepe de Ribera, and Alonso Cano. Make sure to save some time to appreciate the interior as well as the exterior of the cathedral.
End your day with a visit to Mirador San Nicolas, which is a lookout point known for sunsets. Here you can take in the Sierra Nevada and the Alhambra as twilight descends the city. Despite the crowds, dusk is a magical time of day at Mirador San Nicolas. Be sure to bring your camera to catch some spectacular images of the sunset.
Costa Del Sol which literally translates to Coast of the Sun comprises of picturesque coastal towns of Malaga Province in Andalusia region of Spain. You at least need a week to explore Costa Del Sol. If you are in Costa Del Sol for a week, here are some of the places that you can include in your itinerary
Malaga is the gateway to Costa Del Sol. Though many visit the town as a transit point, there are more than enough attractions for you to stay for a couple of days.
Malaga is one of the oldest cities in the world with an interesting history. It has Phoenicians, the Romans and the Arabs, all of whom left behind their footprint behind in terms of unique architecture and culture.
Malaga is famous as the hometown of Pablo Picasso. The proud city houses a Picasso Museum. In fact, Malaga houses a clutch of museums from an automobile museum to a Russian museum.
I visit Costa Del Sol almost every year. Every year, I stay at Malaga for a day and in my each trip I have discovered something new about Malaga.
Once a quaint fishing village, it is now a cosmopolitan beach resort lined with swanky nightclubs and expensive restaurants. Marbella is the place to see and be seen. Always a favorite holiday resort of the rich, famous and glamourous, Marbella has played host to celebrities Hugh Grant, Novak Djokovic and others.
Though known mainly for its glitz and glamour, Marbella does offer cultural breaks especially in offbeat circuits that include Parque De La Paloma and Marbella Old Quarter. If you are a night owl, plan a stay of at least three nights and find a hotel in the expensive Puerto Banus.
I have personally avoided Marbella because it is too expensive and my inclination to lead a very active nightlife is very low
Benalmadena is approximately an hour away from Marbella and equally popular with the rich and famous. Benalmadena has around a dozen beaches, the most popular being blue flag beaches, Santa Ana Beach and Playa Malaspequera.
If you are into watersports, you will find Torre Bermeja beach more attractive. Benalmadena is not just about the beaches, it is also home to Tivoli World, Costa Del Sol’s most popular theme park.
Nerja is famous for its secluded Burriana Beach and the Nerja caves.
Nerja caves are prehistoric limestone caves with extensive grottoes, archaeological remains, and the world’s largest central column, rising upwards for 32 meters (105 feet).
Day trip to Gibraltar
While in Costa Del Sol, you must make a day trip to Rock of Gibraltar, the British outpost closest to Spain. Gibraltar as many will know has an history dating to the Neanderthals. However, today, it is popular with expats who want to relive UK experience by visiting familiar retail chains - Marks & Spencer, Bhs, Next, Mothercare, Wallis and Morrisons.
It is also known for its Barbary macaques. Rock of Gibraltar is the the only place in Europe where you can see wild population of the monkeys.
I have visited Gibraltar by bus from Malaga. Take the bus to La Linea and then proceed to Gibraltar.
Tips and advice - 7 days in Costa del Sol
Advance booking for Costa del Sol attractions
Whenever possible try to make an advance booking. It will save you time in Nerja, Malaga, and Granada. For Nerja, if you want to take an evening tour of the caves, be sure to book in advance so you are not disappointed. Any activity in Los Alcornocales National Park should be booked in advance. Also, book in advance for visiting the Alhambra, the Generalife, and the Granada Cathedral.
How to get around Costa del Sol?
If you aren’t going to rent a car, a bus or coach is the best option. The region is covered by an extensive network and I’ve never had a problem with cancellations or late buses. All the buses are run by private companies and tickets are available at stations as well as on the bus (if boarding from outside of a station).
There are also commuter trains which service the area. However, they mostly run from Malaga.
Another option would be to take a taxi between towns. While this is a viable option (be sure to check fares and surcharges for things like luggage before getting in), it can be a little expensive.
What to eat in Costa del Sol?
There are a few items that stand out when talking about cuisine in the Costa del Sol region. The first is chorizo sausage, which I suggest you try in Setenil de las Bodegas. The sausage produced here is delicious. Of course, you should also try some seafood while here. The best way to try experience the best that Costa del Sol has to offer is to try tapas a few times over your trip. This way you’ll be able to try a multitude of dishes but not have to worry about exactly what to order. It also ensures you’ll get to try what the locals are eating and what is in season.
Walking tours in Costa del Sol?
I don’t suggest taking any walking tours outside of Granada. However, within Granada, I do suggest taking a walking tour or two if possible. An evening tour is a great way to see a different side of the city. A daytime walking tour will help you manage your time to see the most you can while visiting Granada. A walking tour will also give you more insight into the unique history of the area, leading to a deeper appreciation of the region.