TORREMOLINOS, Spain -- During our early spring visit, Spanish
families on Easter holiday dominated the Costa del Sol, which
counts half its tourism as domestic.
The largest contingent of foreign tourists are the British,
followed by the Germans and Scandinavians. "They're all content to
come and broil on the beach," said Diana Serop, spokeswoman for the
Tourism Promotion Board of the Costa del Sol. "But the Americans
are more adventurous."
In other words, while Europeans come here mostly to lie on the
beach, Americans consider Costa del Sol part of a European cultural
vacation. Americans whom we met on this journey bore out the
A group of 30-something independent travelers rented a car and
used Estepona as a base to visit Gilbraltar, Tangiers Morocco and
the white town of Ronda. We also ran into a tour group,
predominantly retirees from the Midwest, huffing up the hills at
the top of Gibraltar Rock. Based in Torremolinos, they had also
toured Ronda and Granada and enjoyed a flamenco show.
Some of the most popular excursions arranged by hotels and
operators from the Costa del Sol include:Gibraltar. Difficulties with Spanish customs mean travelers
must make border crossings on foot -- about a 10-minute walk. The
main street is a haven for duty-free shopping. Visits to the top of
the rock are arranged either by cable car (which requires extensive
walking to see the sights) or by taxi, which limits the number of
sights possible. Gibraltar is about 30 minutes from the Costa del
Sol.Ronda. A spectacular white town atop a high gorge, Ronda was
the birthplace of the modern bullfight, and the bullring remains
one of its chief attractions. It's located about a half-hour from
Marbella. Of the many choices, it's the most manageable in a short
tour.Seville. The biggest city in Andalusia (and its capital) can be
overwhelming in a mere day trip, which typically includes the vast
cathedral and the Moorish/Christian alcazar fortress-palace.
Seville is about an hour and half from the Costa del Sol.Cordoba. Tours concentrate on the medieval section of this most
Moorish of Spanish cities, with its narrow streets of whitewashed
houses and its impressive mosque, once the largest in the world.
Cordoba is about one hour and a half from the Costa del Sol.Granada. The highlight is the Alhambra, the fabled palace of
the Moorish kings. As the last city to fall in the Christian
reconquest, Granada retains some of the most impressive structures
of Moorish Spain. Granada is about one hour and 15 minutes from the
Costa del Sol.Tangiers. The ferry ride from Algeciras (an hour or more from
Torremolinos) gives travelers a chance to step foot in Morocco with
a quick guided tour and an afternoon of shopping in the souk.Fuengirola Market/Mijas. Tuesday excursions go to the huge
outdoor market at Fuengirola, part of the eastern Costa del Sol and
almost indistinguishable from Torremolinos.
Then they proceed on to the mountain village of Mijas, about 15
minutes from Torremolinos, with spectacular views, touristic donkey
taxis, and restaurants and pubs specializing in English food.