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Spain is a country full of sophisticated, passionate people, all devoted to living the good life in a country that has more to offer than you could imagine. Whether it is the rugged northern Basque country with a language that no one knows the origin of, or the sun-baked Mediterranean beaches where all of Europe comes to play, Spain is a diverse country that has much more to offer than just Barcelona and Madrid.
We think visiting the south of Spain should be on your radar. Andalusia occupies most of the southern part of Spain, and it has so much to offer that many people make it their annual holiday destination. While a large part of it is along the Costa del Sol on the Mediterranean coast, Seville, Granada, Malaga and Córdoba are just as enchanting. And then, there's the weather.
1. Southern Spain has the best weather.
The reliable weather has to be the number one reason to visit.
Southern Spain has mild winters and a summer that lasts from May until the end of November. In fact, it is quite common to see people sitting at outdoor cafes over the Christmas Holidays.
Costa del Sol has an average of 320 days of sunshine a year and some of the hottest temperatures in Europe, so you can almost always get your daily dose of vitamin D. The Mediterranean supplies a pleasant, aromatic breeze all year round, even in in July & August when the sun is at its peak.
2. The beaches are world-class.
Lounging on the beaches is one of the best things to do in southern Spain. With dozens of “Blue Flagged” beaches, the Costa del Sol has a beach for every taste, and they all boast clear, clean water and immaculately kept fine sand.
You’ll find 161 kilometers of sun-kissed Mediterranean coastline, stretching all the way from Manilva in the south to Nerja in the north. Lifeguards are on duty at all public beaches, so this is a particularly family friendly destination.
3. Food is an obsession here.
Spanish food is deceptively simple, yet as close to what “Mother Nature” had in mind as you could want. The south part of Spain is, of course, home to the Mediterranean diet where extra virgin olive oil adorns the freshest of salads, while locally grown lemons embellish the catch of the day.
Food and wine are a national obsession everywhere in Spain, and the best recipes have been handed down from generation to generation. Being such an international destination though, you can even take a break from the local delights with an Indian, Italian, or Chinese meal to match the best of what you get at home.
On the Costa del Sol, you will find bars offering tinto de verano and ice-cold Cruzcampo beer to accompany gourmet tapas that will have you spoiled for choice. Then again, who can resist trying artisan ice cream flavors you've only dreamed of at the local heladeria?
4. The culture is unique.
The Costa del Sol – and its de facto capital Malaga – was once home to Phoenician traders. They, the Romans, and 500 years of Moorish rule have all left their mark on the landscape.
More recently, the creative geniuses of artists like Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso and Antoni Gaudi have also left their mark. You’ll find plenty of museums in Southern Spain that are dedicated to their work. In fact, the area is such a cultural wonderland that Paris’ modern art-loving Centre Pompidou opened its first museum outside of France on the Costa del Sol.
5. It's the home of fiestas & flamenco.
Despite all of its diverse history and gastronomic delights, where would we be if we did not mention Andalucía’s love of flamenco and fiestas? In fact, it might appear to first-time visitors as if the whole region is a living fiesta.
In Andalucia, don’t be surprised to see a party come before work. This is where a flamenco performer can touch a hidden part of your soul with the tap of their feet or the folkloric chants of their songs.
This art form originated in gypsy families in Andalucia, and is now studied, practised and performed all around the world. Consisting of guitar, song and dance, is now on UNESCO’s list of Intangible World Heritage.
6. Theme parks can keep you busy for days.
You don't have to fly to America for Disney World; you can visit southern Spain and find countless exciting rides and water-filled fun there, as well. There's enough to keep both the young and young-at-heart occupied for days on end.
Along the Costa del Sol, you will find water parks spread along the entire coast all the way from Torremolinos to Marbella. The main action is centred on the holiday hotspot of Benalmádena, a seaside resort just 20 kilometres north of Malaga. In Benalmádena, you not only have a choice of parks but also a cable car ride to the top of Calamorro Mountain. From there, on a clear day, you can see Gibraltar and the coast of North Africa.
7. The shopping is unmatched.
The Costa del Sol offers a vast range of shopping that will rival anywhere in the world, from open-air markets to air-conditioned mega malls. The best shopping is to be had in Malaga, where you will find El Corte Inglés, Spain’s answer to Harrods. It takes only 40 minutes to get to Malaga airport to Marbella by taxi.
For designer goods, you need look no further than the trendy boutiques that litter the harbor in Puerto Banus or the Avenida Ricardo Soriano in Marbella. If shopping is your passion, you can also make a day of it. Head to La Cañada Parque Comercial near Marbella where you will find over 150 shops and restaurants to select from.
8. Southern Spain has plenty of nightlife
Depending on the type of action – or inaction – you are looking for, the Costa del Sol caters to all its visitors. You can find places where you can dance till dawn and others where a quiet cocktail while watching the sunset is all the excitement you need.
The capital, Malaga, offers a nightlife scene to rival any other European city. Clubs around Plaza Merced and Calle Carreteria are open until six in the morning. For open-air clubbing head to Torremolinos, where you will find an energetic young crowd dancing to the latest hits.
If your goal is to rub shoulders with A-list celebrities, look no further than Marbella’s Nikki Beach Club and the stretch of bars that make up the “Golden Mile.”
On the other hand, maybe flashing lights and head-banging music is not for you. If so, head to Nerja. There, you will find an older crowd enjoying live music at the many bars around the town’s famous Balcón de Europa.
9. There are over 70 golf courses.
Southern Spain is a golfer’s dream come true, with over 70 courses to choose from. Two of the best known courses are Finca Cortesín, designed by Cabell Robinson, and the famous Robert Trent Jones Senior-designed Marbella Golf Country.
Whether you have a high handicap or are a scratch player, you are sure to find a course to suit all your needs. Plus, with the guaranteed pleasant weather, there is never an inconvenient time for a Costa del Sol golf getaway.
10. With so many destinations, you're never far from the action.
No matter where you decide to stay on the Costa del Sol, you’ll never be far from the action. A short drive can take you to the wonders of Granada’s Alhambra or to the mountaintop city of Ronda.
While staying on the coast, be sure to observe the famous Pueblos Blancos (white villages). Mijas Pueblo is one of the most popular Andalusian villages. Here the burro taxi still offers a unique tour experience of the town that is home to many artists and bohemian writers from the 1950s and '60s.
If you want to reminisce on what the Costa del Sol was like prior to becoming a tourist destination, the delightful town of Nerja is an hour up the coast. The former fishing village is surrounded by stunning nature and some of the coast's most famous beaches. You can easily book transfers from Malaga to Nerja online too, which takes the hassle out of catching buses etc.