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There are really two worlds on Spain’s southern coast – the highly developed coastal strip, including resorts like Torremolinos, Fuengirola and Marbella, and inland the timeless, Moorish-influenced Andalucia of Granada, Ronda and the ‘white villages’. Villa developments straddle both these worlds. You can choose to be on the coast or up in the hills, though you will certainly need a car if you stay far inland.
This area is one of the world’s major golf centres, with dozens of beautifully designed and tended courses to choose from. Most have villa developments attached, so if golf is your game you’ll be spoilt for choice. Even if you don’t play, a golf course villa can be a good choice, often offering open vistas over the course and tranquillity disturbed only by the occasional mis-hit ball.
The Costa del Sol has Spain’s mildest winter climate, which is why more and more people are taking long winter breaks away from the rigours and heating bills of a British winter. Rates for long lets during the October–April low season are usually very reasonable, and there’s plenty of choice.
There is a huge choice in villa accommodation all the way from Gibraltar to Málaga. It’s a busy, built-up coastline but don’t let that put you off: there’s lots going on and entertainment for everyone. Torremolinos in particular is great fun, and Marbella and the nearby Puerto Banús remain stylish and chic. If you really do want peace and quiet, you can always head for the hills, or further east where the stretch beyond Málaga is less developed. Nerja is the main resort here, and very pleasant it is too.
The Eastern part of the Costa del Sol has many small coves and beaches and a more Spanish feel than the rest. The attractive resorts of Almuñécar and Motril are in the province of Granada, whose coast is sometimes known as the Costa Tropical.
Whatever you call it, this is an interesting area. Inland is the Sierra Nevada and a series of smaller hill ranges including the Alpujarras, made famous by Chris Stewart in his book Driving over Lemons.
There has been very little tourist development in these hills and as a result you can rent converted houses in still authentic villages, while the few villa developments are mostly small and characterful.
The vast majority of holiday accommodation remains west of Málaga, though, with plenty of good villas and apartments on the coast and individual houses on offer in the hills behind. Mijas, just inland from Fuengirola, is a good example, but it is easy to find excellent villas and converted older houses in more remote locations or in Andalucia’s white villages.
If you can tear yourself away from the beach or pool, a visit to Granada and its Alhambra (the wonderful Moorish palace) is well worth while. It’s also straightforward now to visit Gibraltar for the day, and there’s a good road up to Ronda, with its bullring and spectacular position atop an inland cliff.