Opened to the public in 2015, the new Parque Botánico-Orquidario is located in the centre of Estepona, in the new central park. Covering more than 1,000 square metres, the modern building with prominent glass domes attracts the attention of people strolling down the Calle Terraza.
Estepona’s Orchidarium boasts more than 1500 varieties of Orchids – it’s the largest collection in Europe. In the centre of the vast plants exhibition there are three huge waterfalls which make you feel as if you were in a real rainforest! Stand on wooden bridge just in front of them to enjoy the refreshing coolness of the intense vapour – best appreciated in summer. There is also nice bamboo forest and other rare subtropical species of plants spread across two floors of the Orchidarium. must see for the flower enthusiasts! The entrance for adults is 3 euros. Remember that the Orchidarium is closed on Mondays.
Set in the tranquil and rural landscape between Manilva and Casares, Hedionda Roman baths are the remains of the ancient bathhouse which dates back to the 1st century BC. The structure is still available for use today, free of charge. The remains of the underground bathing facility consist of two chambers – a smaller outer chamber and a much bigger inner chamber.
Roman baths are not very popular among tourists and most of the time the place looks almost abandoned. However, during hot summer weekends you will find there lots of locals taking advantage not only of the healing properties of the water, but also of the curative mud scrapped from the popular mud wall.
Follow in Julius Caesar’s footsteps
According to the ancient sources, the sulphurous spring was very popular among both Romans and Arabs. One of the old stories holds that Julius Caesar himself took to the waters on a regular basis to cure himself of a skin infection when he was a governor of southern Spain.
Canuto de la Utrera and Charco del Infierno/Diablo are two spectacular walking routes available for tourists near the Roman baths. The first one takes you into a valley-gorge with beautiful limestone rock formations on both sides. Because of the unusual rock forms, Sierra de Utrera is called by some people ‘small Torcal de Antequera’. The second route leads along the Rio de Manilva, and a couple of times across the river, to a charming swimming pond with a waterfall. It is possible to connect both routes into one 8 km long circular route.
Charco del Diablo near Manilva
From the coastal A7, take a turn inland at the Lidl roundabout in Sabinillas. Follow the Camino los Baños road. Just before the road passes under the highway bridge, turn slightly to the right on a dirt track. After 200 meters, you will find a small parking space on the left, opposite the old Los Alamos restaurant. Continue on foot until you reach Baños De La Hedionda. The Roman Baths are also easily accessible from the A7 highway.
Rio Chillar, the chill-out river, is located just five minutes’ drive from the Nerja centre, at the Sierras de Tejeda mountains. It’s a very popular spot for Spanish families. Both kids and grown-ups can enjoy fantastic walk full of splashing in the crystal clear water.
Step by step
The route down the river starts very inconspicuously as initially the water barely covers your feet. On the sides of the river bed you will see some bushes, rocks and trees. Nothing spectacular. After 20 minutes of walking, the landscape gradually changes. The river enters a narrow gorge and the water starts to get slightly deeper, but don’t worry, in most places it should never reach your knees. The high cliffs provide plenty of shade, making the walk really enjoyable for everyone.
And that’s when the real fun starts! Jumping and splashing around, dipping in one of the several natural pools formed by the river, sitting underneath a waterfall – all these irresistible attractions can be found in Rio Chillar. Your kids will burn all their energy in no time. It takes around 3-4 hours to complete the whole route. However, you don’t need to reach the very end of the river to experience all the joys of Rio Chillar. Enjoy!
Tips for the trip
A good pair of shoes is recommended as there will be lots of slippery pebbles and rocks under your feet most of the time. If you haven’t got anything suitable, visit a good sports shop with a wide range of light water shoes. During summer weekends Rio Chillar can get a bit busy, try to avoid that time. However, arriving in the morning can be a a good way of avoiding the crowds. Never visit Rio Chillar right after intense rainfall or when there is a forecast of rain as heavy rain causes water levels to rise very quickly.
The sleepy town of Alhama de Granada, located only 60 kms south-west of Granada, is beautifully located on the edge of a limestone gorge – that’s why the town is sometimes called ‘Little Ronda’! From the remaining sides the ancient village offers great views of wheat and olive fields and far off views of stunningmountain ranges.
Alhama de Granada is famous for the Balneario – ancient hot Arab baths in the spa-hotel located in the vicinity of the village. The thermal springs are especially recommended for rheumatic diseases and problems with respiratory tract. Also worth seeing in the village is the 1st century Roman Bridge, several churches including Parish or Mayor Church of Santa Maria de la Encarnacion and Conventual Church of Carmen. Have stroll around the town to discover more historic buildings. One of the recommended walking routes is a hike through the gorge. In the Los Tajos gorge, you can find some free thermal pools.
If you are travelling from Malaga to Granada short detour to Alhama is a must. If healing properties of the spa waters is what interests you, a weekend visit or longer is recommended. Try to avoid coming in July and August when the heat can be a problem.
A 15 min drive away from Alhama de Granada, you will find the beautiful vast Bermejales reservoir with sandy beaches, great water quality and amazing conditions for swimming or kayaking – much recommended as well for a summer family day!
Located not far from Huelva, there is a museum dedicated to Cristopher Columbus and the discovery of America. Whether you are interested in history or not, you will surely enjoy the visit in this atmospheric place.
The museum is full of costumes, paintings and other items that vividly illustrate the atmosphere of the 15th century Spain. Of course, there are also 15th century travel documents, maps, navigation instruments, ship weapons and some insightful anecdotes that allow visitors to understand the ship-board life during Columbus’s voyages.
Columbus at work
The museum lies directly next to a small lagoon which is home to the exact full-size replicas of the 3 ships which Columbus used to his voyage to Americas in 1492. The place is called Muelle de las Carabelas. It is possible to get on board and explore the three caravelles in detail: the smallest Nina, the middle size Pinta and the biggest one, Columbus’ flagship the Santa Maria. The walk aboard can be quite exciting as tourists are allowed to wander wherever they like.
Visiting Columbus Caravel Dock Museum is a great idea for a fun family day. It’s likely that small kids will be bored in the museum, but they should love the three vessels. Remember the museum and the ships dock are always closed on Mondays. Also if it’s rainy, the ships might be closed for safety reasons as the decks can be very slippery.
In the vicinity of Columbus museum lies the La Rabida, the Franciscan monastery where Columbus took refuge between 1491-92 waiting for his first voyage west, to Indies, which turned into the discovery of the New World.
It is possible to visit the place which consists of several rooms with artefacts and documents that relate to Columbus and his journey. The place has remained unchanged for more than 500 years – it’s very well preserved. The museum is surrounded by beautiful gardens.
El Torcal Park is a nature reserve located near Antequera in Andalusia, only 40 mins drive from the Malaga airport. It’s famous for amazing and strangely-looking Jurassic age limestone formations. The highest point of the nature reserve is Camorro de las Siete Mesas at 1336 metres.
Getting to El Torcal
Whether you choose to drive from the direction of Antequera or Villanueva de la Concepcion, the road to El Torcal is full of amazing atmospheric scenary. The El Torcal Centre consists of a medium size parking and visitor’s building.
Like walking on the moon
Wandering around the geologically stunning El Torcal is like being on another planet. Under the sea until 150 million years ago, this land was suddenly pushed upwards around that time. Over millions of years she slow but continuous natural forces of wind, snow and rain have shaped the limestone into weird structures. The limestone rocks take most outwardly shapes connecting with each other at funniest angles. Some look like a stack of plates, others remind of a hat, a monster or a human face – depending on the imagination of the person who looks at them.
El Torcal de Antequera offers a couple nice walking routes – a green one of 1,5 km, a yellow one of 2,5 km and a red one of 4,5 km – both for the beginners and experts looking for a challenge. Even if you pick the shortest green route you will be able to see plenty of mind-boggling rocks and some wildlife as well, e.g. mountain goats climbing the rocks, foxes hiding in the bushes or vultures circling over the rocks. Additionally, there are two viewing points offering some great panoramic vistas near the car parking.
Pick the right time
A good tip for photographers is to come very early in the morning when the light is softer and creates nice shadows. There is also a little bit of fog in the early hours of the days which adds to the spiritual side of Torcal de Antequera.
Another tip is to come in spring or autumn, when the sight is less crowdy, and you can enjoy the nature even more. El Torcal can be very hot in July and August. Try to avoid wet season when El Torcal is full of mud and slippery rocks, and even good shoes will not make the walk enjoyable.
Oasys Mini Hollywood is a Wild West town theme park, one of the three Western desert parks located near Almeria. The entry price is 22 Euros for an adult and in our opinion it represent best value for money. What makes a difference between Oasys and the other two nearby studios, Fort Bravo and Western Leone, is that the visit to the large zoo which is also included in the price of the Wild West ticket!
Wicky Wild Wild West
As you start exploring the authentic looking western town with a stunning mountain backdrop, you can have a closer look at the 18th century houses or pop into the local bank, church, various shops or even local cemetery at the town’s outskirts. It’s all very atmospheric and instantly takes you back in time whether you want it or not! You can also buy one of the many souvenirs or head to the town square to take a photo on the horse next to a friendly cowboy. There is plenty of attractions and fun all around the place!
The main attractions, which always draw crowds, are live shows, both played twice a day: a pleasant to the eye can-can show staged in the Western-style saloon and a bank robbery show featuring gunfights and some chilling cowboy-style fist fights.
Lights, camera, action!
The famous Tabernas desert, in the middle of which the Oasis Mini-Hollywood is located, was once a favourite location for many film makers. In 1960s and 1970s, in the golden era of the European Westerns, many film producers preferred to shoot their films in the Spanish desert instead of going to the distant America or Africa. That’s because Almeria’s desert bears lots of resemblance to the stereotypical image of the Wild West. Three studios were created at that time: Texas Hollywood, Mini Hollywood, and Western Leone. The Italian film producer, Sergio Leone, shot “A Fistful of Dollars” as well as “The Good, or the Bad and the Ugly”, both starring Clint Eastwood, on the Tabernas desert. The Tabernas desert is occasionally used today for some smaller productions.
More than ordinary zoo
If seeing all the attractions in the western villages took you more than half a day, the rest of the day needs to be reserved for the unique zoo which is also part of the Oasys Park. You will find there lots of species which you won’t find in many zoos. There is a white tiger, lions, Iberian bear and many more. The enclosures for animals are very spacious and ingeniously made. Also, in the summer season the swimming pool complex is opened allowing you take off the heat quickly.
Medina Sidonia is picturesquely located on Cerro del Castillo, the highest elevation of the region which generally tends to be flat in that part of the province. The town is conveniently located half an hour’s drive from Cadiz and Jerez de la Frontera, however, it still remains unspoilt by tourism even in high season.
Rich history of Medina Sidonia
As one of the oldest cities in Europe, Medina Sidonia was founded between 1300 and 700 BC and was later occupied by Phoenician settlers. In the 15th century Medina Sidonia belonged to the family of Guzmans. It was one of the most prominent and affluent of the noble families in the medieval Spain. Under the Guzmans, Medina Siodnia reached its greatest splendour. The seventh Duke of Medina Sidonia is remembered in the history books as the man who led to defeat the Spanish Armada of 1588. Medina Sidonia was also the Andalusian capital of sweets, especially known for the Alfajores, cakes made of almonds, hazelnuts, honey and spices.
From the Middle Ages, Medina Sidonia remained important ducal seat. Today it’s the official seat of Luisa Isabel Alvarez de Toledo, the 20th Duchess of Medina Sidonia.
The most popular attractions in medina Sidonia include the 13th century Castle, Church of Saint Mary the Crowned, Arab Castle of Torrestrella, impressive Ducal Stables, 17th century Town Hall as well as beautiful Plaza de España. It is also worth visit local restaurants offering great tapas and traditional Spanish dishes.
Los Canos de Meca is a quiet little seaside village located between Barbate and Conil de la Frontera. Sandwiched between Atlantic and large pine forests and cliffs, the village seems a little secluded from the outside world. The name of the village – caños – comes from the fresh water springs that emerge from the nearby cliffs. Los Canos de Meca is also quite popular among nudists.
Western side of Los Canos
Once you are in Los Canos de Meca, you will quickly notice a tall white lighthouse that overlooks beaches in the western part of the village. It’s the landmark of the famous Cape Trafalgar, where the Battle of Trafalgar was fought in 1805. In the sea battle that lasted less than three hours, outnumbered and outgunned, Admiral Nelson defeated the combined forces of the French and Spanish Navies. Because of the defeat, Napoleon abandoned his plans to invade Great Britain which soon became the world’s dominant colonial power.
Another reason to visit Cape Trafalgar are some nice seashore rock formations on Playa del Faro de Trafalgar, popular among nudists. Cape Trafalgar provides a great view of the Zahora beach to the west .Zahora beach is a beautiful tranquil and wide beach with golden sand, shallow water, perfect for families and most importantly never overcrowded. The main beach in the western side of Los Canos is the long east-facing Marisucia beach, located along the way to the lighthouse. It is popular among both families and young people, however tends to get a bit dirty after seaweeds are washed onshore by strong Levante.
Eastern side of Los Canos
The eastern part of Los Canos boasts a small cosy beach closer to the centre and a wider beach backed by cliffs on the outskirts of the village. From here you can also go for a hiking route that leads up through the pine forest to the old watch tower Torre del Tajo nestled on a 100 metre tall cliff. Once you reach the top you will be rewarded with magnificent views of the sunny coast and sensational cliffs. From the top you can also hike down to Barbate.
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.
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.