Antequera

City with ancient heritage

Antequera is a fairly inconspicuous city north of Malaga. Because of it’s central position in Andalucia, between Seville, Granada, and Cordoba, it is often called “the heart of Andalucía”. Antequera boasts many interesting places to see, however, it remains unspoilt by massive tourism.

The fortress of Alcazaba stands out as a dominating feature over Antequera. You can visit Alcazaba’s walls and the main tower and enjoy spectacular panoramic views from the top. It is also worth to visit the churches in the centre: Iglesia de San Sebastian and Iglesia de Sanitago.

Those interested in the prehistory should visit the Dolmen of Menga at the city outskirts. It’s an access corridor and an oval-shaped burial chamber from 3000 BC. The tomb most probably served as a grave for the ruling families. Hundreds of people were buried there. If you stand just inside the entrance to this ancient site, you will clearly see Pena de los Enamorados (The Lovers Rock) also known as Montana del Indio (Indian Mountain), because the 880 metre mountain looks like a head of a sleeping Indian.

Another interesting megalithic construction located just outside the city is Dolmen del Romeral. Lastly, there is a megalithic sepulchre of Tholos de El Romeral located 3 kms north of the city. Access to all three archaeological sites is free.

Nature and adventure around Antequera

We also recommend exploring the Antequera region. Whether you are interested in wild animals, climbing, canyoning or hiking, you will surely find something for your liking near Antequera.

Central Andalucia, including the Antequera region, is a real paradise for climbers. The small towns of Villanueva del Rosario, El Chorro, Archidona as well as small villages of Valle de Adaliajis or Pinares de San Anton are very popular climbing destinations. Ten kms south of Antequera there is a Wolf Park (Lobo Park) for those who would like to learn more a about wolves and observe wolves  in an environment that is very close to real nature.

El Torcal Natural Park, located just a couple of kilometers south of Antequera, is a definite must-see. It is famous for weird and bizarre rock formations which are wonderful to look at. Each of these intriguing rocks resembles something different and has some affectionate name, e.g. camel or canary.

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Bird lovers or hikers should not miss Fuente de Piedra lagoon. This beautiful park is located 20 kms north-west of Antequera. It boasts second largest colony of flamingos in Europe.

Iznajar, located around 60 kms north of Antequera, is another interesting place to visit. It’s a classic white village perched on a hill, beside the largest lake in Andalucia. Iznajar boasts spectacular views of the extensive lake and olive hills that surround it from all sides.  The views from Iznajar castle stretch as far as the snow-capped Sierra Nevada.

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Best lakes in Andalucia

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POPULAR LAKES & RESERVOIRS IN SPANISH ANDALUSIA

1. Bermelejales lake – located 30 kilometres south of Granada, close to Alhama de Granada,  Embalse de los Bermejales is a much recommended idyllic place to spend your free time. It’s a massive lake with a shoreline as long as 28 kilometres! There are some great beaches there with shallow water, perfect for kids. It’s possible to rent kayaks or peddle boats at the lake. Good quality camping is also possible in the woods near the lake. Bermelejales lake is a great place for jogging, cycling or hiking in the nearby Sierras de Tejeda natural park.

2. Zahara lake – beautiful reservoir located picturesquely in the mountainous region of Sierra Grazalema natural park.The tranquil white village of Zahara de la Sierra towers over the turquoise waters of the lake. Splendid panoramic view of the lake is available from the ruins of Zahara’s fortress. Great place for canoeing, sailing, kayaking as well as fishing.

3. Iznajar lake – the Iznajar reservoir, located 80 kms inland from Malaga, is the largest lake in the whole of Spanish Andalucia. Great view of the lake is available from the Moorish castle in the village of Iznajar built on top of a huge rock. Tranquil Iznajar lake is surrounded by beautiful olive groves. Interestingly, the lake is spread across three provinces: Malaga, Cordoba and Granada. Fishing, sailing, windsurfing and canoeing, is popular there in summer.

4. Arcos lake – reservoir located near Arcos de la Frontera. Popular among swimmers and fans of water sports in summer: kayaking, water skiing or sailing are permitted there. Also popular among bird watchers.

5. Lake Vinuela – located 10 kilometres inland from Velez-Malaga in the Axarquia area. Popular among canoeists. At the southern end of the lake there are some nice picnic zones. The lake area boasts some nice walking routes as well.

6. Bornos lake – close to Arcos de la Frontera near the village Bornos. Very popular among paragliders and windsurfers. Also a great spot for fishing, rowing or canoeing.

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Best caves in Andalucia

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MOST POPULAR CAVES AND CAVERNS IN ANDALUSIA

1. Aracena caves

The small sleepy white town of Aracena hides a marvelous treasure under its streets. It’s the Cave of Wonders, large network of limestone caverns connected by corridors.

In each magical cavern you will find weird and wonderful stalagmites and stalactites forming most incredible patterns, a sheer wonder of nature.

You can only explore the caves in a guided tour of 30 people max. It is prohibited to use camera one you enter the caves. During 1,5 hour tour you will explore only 10% per cent of the caverns, but that is enough to leave you awestruck. Entrance fee for an adult: 8,5 Euros.

2. Nerja caves

Cuevas de Nerja are home to world’s largest stalagmite which is 32 meter long. The large caves are connected by steps going up and down in a circular route. It takes about 45 minutes to see all the caves on display. It is possible to visit the caves with and without a guide. In the summer time, the place can get crowdy. Entrance fee for an adult: 9 Euros.

3. Gibraltar caves

St. Michael’s Cave, one of the 150 caves in the Rock of Gibraltar, is an absolute must-see when you pay a visit to the British exclave on the southern Spanish coast. This impressive network of limestone caverns and chambers can be accessed from the Upper Rock Nature reserve.

St. Michael’s Cave boasts long history of military use. Today, it is often used as a venue for music concerts, because it created a vibrant musical force. Entrance fee for an adult: 9 Euros.

It is also possible to explore the Lower St. Michael’s cave which can be visited by appointment only and requires some bending, climbing and sliding to get from one chamber to another!

4. Pileta Cave, near the village of Benaoján, Sierra of Grazelema.

Situated at 711 meters altitude in the south slope of a rocky hill. This prehistoric cave was declared National Monument by the Spanish state in 1924.

Pileta Caves are most famous for the paintings that can be found in different chambers inside. Some of those galleries date back to 31,000 B.C. The paintings show various animals and some mysterious signs as well. Only guided tours are available. Remember to wear shoes that can provide traction as it can be slippery inside. A visit lasts ca. 1 hour. It is impossible to use cameras inside the cave. Entrance fee for an adult: 8 Euros.

5. Cave houses of Guadix

The small city at the foothills of Sierra Nevada is famous for troglodyte caves. Around 2000 of those cave dwellings are inhabited today by locals and form a district called “Barrio Troglodyte”! It is also possible to rent some of those houses. There is a Cave-Museum of Traditional Culture in Guadix as well. Cueva Museo is located in front of the church of San Miguel.

From winter to autumn there is a steady 18-20°C temperature inside the Guadix cave houses. That means that the house owners don’t have to pay for air conditioning in summer and don’t need to pay for heating in winter. The size of a typical troglodyte house depends on the hill from which the house was carved out. Houses usually face to the south allowing for most sun exposure throughut the day. The rooms closest to the entrance are those that need warmth and light most: the kitchen and the living room. Further behind there are bedrooms and bathroom. At the very end, different storage rooms are set up.

6. Sorbas caves

Located massive underground world which comprises of more than one thousand gypsum caverns connected by different corridors.  The entrance to the cave sis located only 2 kms from Sorbas (near Almeria) in the Karst en Yesos de Sorbas Park.

There are four routes for beginners are for experts. The easiest route can be completed in 2 hours. Even the Ruta Basica requires some basic physical fitness as it involves some climbing, squeezing and crawling. The most diificult route can take 4,5 h to complete. Not recommended for individuals with cluastrohopbia! Entrance fee for an adult: 15 – 50 Euros depending on which route you decide to take.

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Gruta de las Maravillas in Aracena

Best windsurfing in Andalucia

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Spain is definitely the best country in Europe for windsurfing. Thousands of kilometres of coastline, warm climate almost all year round and excellent winds statistics.  Have a look at our ranking of the best beaches for windsurfing in Spanish Andalucia.

Top windsurfing spots on Costa de La Luz

1. Tarifa windsurfingPlaya de los Lances is one of the favourite spots for windsurfing in the Andalusian capital of water sports. You will find here lots of kitesurfers and windsurfers all year round. Another very busy spot, bordering Los Lances beach, is Playa de Valdevaqueros. In Tarifa, you will find lots of windsurfing schools and renting shops. Recommended to everyone.

2. El Palmar near Conil de la Frontera windsurfing – very long beach, nearly 5 kilometre long, with good surfing schools. It is directly exposed to the wind what makes it absolutely excellent for windsurfers and surfers.

3. Ayamonte windsurfing – located at the border between Spain and Portugal, the tranquil and peaceful Ayamonte offers excellent conditions for windsurfers. The sandy beaches of Isla Canela provide a beautiful backdrop for windsurfing. Because of the proximity of Atlantic Ocean the currents and winds tend to be much stronger here. Recommended to experienced windsurfers.

4. Valdelagrana windsurfing – in Puerto de Santa Maria, near Cadiz – large beach, nearly 2 kilometre long, very popular among windsurfers from Cadiz. There are some good chiringuitos and restaurants near the beach. There is a big parking available there as well.

5. Chiclana de la Frontera windsurfing – nearly 6 kilometre long Playa de la Barrosa is another great windsurfing spot. The winds are moderate here, so it might be a good sport for beginners.

6. Embalse de Bornos windsurfing – big reservoir near Arcos de la Frontera might be a good choice for beginners.

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Top windsurfing spots on Costa Tropical

1. La Herradura windsurfing  – near Almuñécar on the Costa Tropical  – tropical vegetation, beautiful virgin landscape all around you, wide beaches and the blue Mediterranean sea. All this has helped La Herradura become the capital of water sports on Costa Tropical. You will find here windsurfing schools, shops with equipment quality chiringuitos and great atmosphere for windsurfers.

2. Roquetas de Mar windsurfing, near Almeria – this popular resort, boasting more than 10 kilometres of beaches, has become increasingly popular among windsurfers in the recent years. Recommended for beginners.

Best kayaking & canoeing

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Top kayaking & canoeing places in Andalucia

1. Tarifa kayaking – Playa Chica (the Mediterranean part of Tarifa) as well as Valdevaqueros-Punta Paloma route are the top two places for kayaking on Costa de la Luz region. There is a surf ski company operating in Tarifa (sit on top type of kayak), Epic Surfski Centre.

2. Algeciras kayaking – starting point Getares beach in Algeciras and the finishing point Punta Carnero, very popular route, great for beginners. Punta Carnero offers unforgettable views of the Gibraltar Strait and Morocco.

3. Cabo de Gata-Níjar near Almeria – amazing route on the beautiful sea. Great views of the rocky coastline, magical cave tunnels on the way. Depending on how much you want to see, the trip can last anytime from a few hours to full day. There are companies organizing kayak tours there. Much recommended.

4. Nerja-Maro kayaking – stunningly beautiful route along the Maro beach, crystal-clear water, beautiful rock formations, small waterfalls  – all this make you feel as if you were in a paradise. The water is very shallow in most places, so it’s safe as well. There are companies organizing kayak tours there. Much recommended.

5. Fuengirola kayak rental – if you spend your holidays on Costa del Sol and have little resources to organize a kayaking trip, head off to Fuengirola. There is a water sports centre where you can rent  a single boat (25 Euros for half day)/double boat 935 Euros for half day) and much more – Cristopher’s Kayak Rental.

6. Vinuela lake near Malaga canoeing – perfect for beginners as the lake is much calmer than sea, beautiful turquoise lake, only 50 kms inland from Malaga. It’s possible o rent a canoe at the local sailing club.

7. Zahara de la Sierra reservoir kayaking – the picturesque lake, surrounded by mountains and guarded by the beautiful white village, is a perfect venue for kayaking in summer. The western side of the lake, to the right of the A-2300 road, has three good starting points where you can easily park your car. Much recommended.

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Best natural parks & forests

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Top natural parks & forests in Andalucia

1. National Park of Sierra Nevada

The largest national park in Spain set in the highest mountains in Spain, located in Granada and Almeria.

Famous for: being the southernmost ski resort in Europe, hiking paradise, boasting breath-taking view of Morocco and great view of nearby Granada on a sunny day.

Hiking in Sierra Nevada – there are lots of fantastic routes in SN. In the lower parts of Sierra Nevada you will find river valleys full of trees and colourful flowers. There is a good chance you will stumble upon a small stream or a waterfall or even a rope bridge! Higher parts of Sierra Nevada have little vegetation. The higher you are, the more gravelly the routes become. Don’t be put off among gravel and jagged rocks – turn back and enjoy the magnificent panoramic views that reward you the bleak landscape in front of you.

Skiing in Sierra Nevadathe sunniest ski resort in Europe boasts season that can last from late November until early May. In the village of Pradollano, the winter-sport base of Sierra Nevada, you will find plenty of hotels, apartments, restaurants and skiing shops. Sierra Nevada boasts more than 100 km of ski tracks, 22 ski lifts including two quick gondola lifts and plenty of high speed chairlifts.

Mountain biking in Sierra Nevada – the region is a true paradise for mountain bikers. Taking a gondola lift up and then riding down the Valeta mountain or cutting through the valleys and pine forests on different specially prepared MTB tracks – it’s all possible in Sierra Nevada in the summer season.

  

2. Natural Park of Sierra de Cazorla

Located in the Jaen province, northernmost of the natural parks in Andalucia.

Famous for: being the birthplace of Guadalquivir, hotspot for nature loversdeep beautiful green forest dotted with little lakes, rivers and beautiful waterfalls, colourful autumn scenery; Rio Borosa – popular hiking route in the forest; home to famous Iruela castle; voted one of the top 10 national parks in Europe in the The Guardian’s readers’ travel tips in April, 2015.

Hiking in Sierra de Cazorla – Sierra de Cazorla is a massive natural park with lots of walking tracks where you can admire spectacular lush green landscape. The topography makes it difficult to easily access many parts of the park. It’s recommended to set a base camp in Cazorla, which is the main gateway to the region, and visit the local tourist information office for maps and useful tips.

  

3. Los Alcornocales Natural Park

Set among small mountains and hills between Tarifa and Grazalema

Famous for: being “cork oak kingdom” (cork is used in the production of wine bottle stoppers or coasters), home to many pueblos blancos, famous sea-fog coming down to the forest from the east direction called barbas del Levante, wind farms, large quantity of birds of prey including eagles, hawks and griffon vultures.IMG_4354_630x400

Hiking in Los Alcornocales – this peaceful forest area is superb for walking, especially for those looking for less strenuous walks. The mountains and hills are not particularly high, usually between 300-900 metres, what makes them accessible. There are lots of signposted routes, for example, near Jimena de la Frontera, Gaucin, Casares or near Tarifa-Pelayo region.

White Villages in Los Alcornocales – if you are interested in the famous Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos or simply enjoy spectacular settings and rural tourism, visit those idyllic and remote destinations hidden in Los Arconcales: Castellar de la Frontera, Casares or Gaucin.

  

4. Donana National Park

Natural reserve in the delta of Guadalquivir River, located in the Huleva region.

Famous for: unique landscape formed by marshes, lagoons and sand dunes; UNESCO biosphere reserve, bird paradise – home to many rare species, some of the best virgin beaches of Costa de la Luz.

Birdwatching in Donana National Park – if you are a bird enthusiast, that’s a place you cannot miss. There lots of possibilities for bird watching. There are lots of spots on the edges of the park where you can observe birds for free. However, if you want to see the interior of the Donana park, you need to book a 4-hour guided tour. It’s been reported that there might be sometimes problems with a tour in English. It’s worth to plan the tour after rainy days, in spring or autumn, when the birds are attracted to the water overflowing the marshy land.

Beaches in Donana National Park – the stretch of about 20 kms Atlantic shore between the towns of Mazagon and Matalscanas offers some great beaches. Rompeculos, Parador and famous Custea Maneli are probably the three best beaches in this area. Because of the proximity to the river mouth, the water is not of the best quality there. However, in terms of tranquillity, these are some of the best beaches on Costa de la Luz.

  

5. Parque Nacional Sierra de las Nieves

“Snowy mountains,” part of the Serrania de Ronda.

Famous for: characteristic white limestone, unique and diverse fauna and flora (Spanish Fir which is Andalusian National Tree, Gall oak, mountain cat or ibex-wild mountain goat), various caverns and caves, great panoramic mountain views, profound gorges – famous Gesm abyss (1,100 m deep), Torrecila mountain (1.919 m).

White villages and hiking in Sierra de las Nieves – famous Ronda (also home to the visitors’ centre for Sierra de las Nieves) is an absolute must-see when you are in the region. Idyllic village of Tolox, a perfect base for hiking also famous for the spa waters (the Fuente Amarga Spa) is also recommended. A small white town of Istan, in the Rio Verde valley, is another pleasant village to visit. The area around Istan abounds in various walking routes. The paths along Rio Verde can be really enjoyable and refreshing during the summer months!

  

6. Natural Park of Sierra de Grazalema

First UNESCO biosphere reserve in Spain, located on the area between Ronda and Arcos de la Frontera.

Famous for: rugged mountains, limestone caverns and massive gorges; highest rainfall in Spain, vulture colonies, Garganta Verde – 400 metre vertical wall, Cueva de la Pileta in Benaojan (beautiful cave with ancient-man cave paintings), white villages of Grazalema, Zahara de la Sierra, Ubrique or El Bosque.

Sports in Sierra de Grazelema – the natural park around Grazelma attracts lots of sports enthusiasts. Paragliding, rock climbing, caving as well as canoeing and kayaking on the reservoir beneath Zahara de la Sierra seem to be most popular activities.

 

Rio Tinto Mines

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Minas de Rio Tinto, which translates as the Mines of the Red River, is an ancient mining town, located on the road between Huelva and Aracena in Andalucia. The history of mining in this area dates back to 3000 BC. In Roman times, the site along the river was extensively mined for silver and the precious metal was used to mint Roman coins. In fact, Rio Tinto used to be one of the richest sources of silver in the ancient times.

For centuries the mines were abandoned until they were rediscovered in the 18th century by a couple of Spanish companies. Exploitation of the area rich in cooper commenced. The reddish brown metal was transported to the steelworks in Seville on a massive scale.

In the second half of the 19th century, British companies started to mine pyrites in the Rio Tinto region which then was used in the production of sulphur dioxide. The largest of those companies was Rio Tinto Company active in the area between 1873 and 1954.

IMG_5130_400c630The main rivers of this region, Rio Tinto and Rio Odiel, are intensively red in colour. It is perfectly natural phenomenon, only partially enhanced by human activity. The waters of Rio Tinto and Rio Odiel are undrinkable because of high acidity and heavy metals content.

Riotinto Mining Museum is a must-see attraction of the region. It is located in the Minas de Riotinto village. Launched in 1992, the museum offers a fascinating journey through 5,000 years of mining and metallurgy in the area. There is a great number of displays and exhibitions in English, captivating even if are not really interested in the history of mining.

Another attraction is the train ride down the Rio Tinto valley. The ride in a refurbished 19th century steam locomotive allows you to get the close look-up at the fascinating landscape of Rio Tinto. The ride is 22 km long and a little bit bumpy at times. It includes a 20 minute stop to have a closer look at the Rio Tinto river. During the train ride you will be able to admire the unique and fascinating lunar-like landscape of Rio Tinto mines from different angles.IMG_5139_400x630

Pena de Hierro near Nerva, about 10 kms from the Riotinto village, is another spectacular place to visit. It’s an oval in shape, opencast mine 85 metre deep, 350 metre long and 150 metre wide. The walls of Pena de Hierro represent a mesmerizing mix of white, yellow and reddish-brown colours. Pena de Hierro is surrounded by some nice cycling and walking paths in the forest. There are some nice viewing points along those paths as well.  Rio Tinto mines are home to what used to be the biggest opencast mine in the world – Corta Atalaya. This impressive mine is 1200 metres long, 900 metres wide and 365 metres deep! However, it is impossible to access Corta Atalaya at the moment.

Not many people know that Spanish football wasn’t born in Madrid or Barcelona, but in…Minas de Rio Tinto. In 1873, the British and European investors reopened the mines forming Rio Tinto Company Limited. Spanish workers worked alongside employees from the United Kingdom, where football had already been very popular. After the work the British would often spent their free time playing football. For the Spanish football was a discipline they saw for the first time, and they would at first consider it too dangerous and leading to injuries. They would even forbid their curious children to watch the games! However, after some time the Spanish workers took to the new game. The first Spanish football club was established in Huelva in 1889.

For some reason, Rio Tinto still remains pleasantly untouristy, so no matter when you come, you should not beware of crowds.  However, try to avoid summer as the inland areas of Spain becomes really hot then.

Granada

Granada Cathedral

Granada Cathedral

When you think Granada, the Alhambra complex of palaces comes first to mind. The pinnacle of Moorish art is the pride not only of Granada, but of the whole Spain. The wonderful Alhambra has inspired travellers for centuries. Poetry was the inspiration when designing the complex which was intended to be a paradise. And it’s as close to an earthly paradise, as it gets.
Granada itself and the nearby small white villages are perched on a series of hills, one of which is crowned by the mighty Alhambra. Those green hills gradually climb to the snow-topped Sierra Nevada Mountains, one of the most popular ski resorts in Spain.

There is a lot more to Granada than Alhambra. There is the Generalife, situated next to Alhambra, which is a small palace colmplex with beautiful gardens. Highly rated among the vistors, Science Park (Parque de las Ciencias), offersa great science experience. If your kids didn’t appreciate the beauties of Alhrambra, take them to the Science Park and they are going to love it! There is plenty of stuff to do for youngters and excitement lurks around every corner of the Park.

View of Granada from Alhambra

View of Granada from Alhambra

Another noteworthy place is a street Calle De La Caldereria Nueva, also known as “Little Morocco“. There are Moorish shops, teahouses and buildings there. So if you fancy buying some North African products, a visit to “Little Marocco” is mot recommended.

If a cultural feast with a family is what you are looking for, hestitate no more and book a trip to Granada with bestandalucia.com.

Granada – nearest destinations: Sierra Nevada, Nerja

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Gibraltar

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Gibraltar is one of the most popular one-day or weekend destinations in Andalucia, although strictly speaking it does not really belong to it. Whether from inland Spain, on one of the large cruise ships or by plane from Great Britain, tourists flock everyday to see The Rock and all the attractions that it offers. What comes up to mind first when thinking of the popular Gib is the cable car with it’s famous mischievous Barbary Apes on top of the Rock, duty-free shopping on the Main Street or sensational views of the coast of North Africa enjoyed from Europa Point, the southernmost point of the enclave. However, there is much more to Gibraltar than this.

DSCF2292_630x400The famous British overseas territory holds a great number of attractions, despite covering just 6.8 km2. World War II tunnels, the Upper Rock Nature Reserve, the famous St Michael’s Cave, the hiking challenge of  the picturesque Mediterranean Steps, Dolphin Watching boat trips or a series of top quality restaurant and pubs located along the Ocean Village quayside overlooking the marina. To explore all the great places that Gib has to offer, would take you at least a week!DSCF2285_630x400

Gibraltar is also a good starting point to embark on a trip to Morocco. Tangier Med ferry crosses three times a week and recently flights from Gibraltar to Marrakesh have also been launched.

If you want to get to Gibraltar from the UK, by far the easiest way are regular flights from London, Manchester, Liverpool and Bristol (since spring 2015).

Gibraltar – nearest destinations: Alcaidesa, Castellar de la Frontera

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Gaucin

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Located in the picturesque foothills of the Sierra de Ronda, Gaucin is a must see for anyone interested in “white villages.” It’s located not far away from another whitewashed village, Casares, so it might be a good idea to visit both on the same day.

Gaucin’s top attraction is the Moorish Castillo del Aguila, perched right above the village. It sits 626 metres above sea level, so spectacular views of Gibraltar and the Moroccan mountains are guaranteed on a clear day.

Gaucin tends to be very quiet all year round, as not many tourists remember about this beautiful place.  Artists, birdwatchers and hikers visit Gaucin most often. There are hundreds of kilometres of pathways, some of them signposted some of them wild, that lead through varied magical landscape.

If you are looking for a remote romantic getaway, want to esacpe the hustle and bustle of the busy city life, or simply get closer to nature, make sure to visit Gaucin.

Gaucin – nearest destinations: Ronda, Casares, Jimena de la Frontera.