Places to visit & things to do in Granada and east of Malaga

If you would like to do some exploring while you are staying at our holiday rental villas in Salobrena, the list below indicates the distance between Salobrena and places such as Motril, Almunecar, Nerja and even Marbella and Gibraltar. To get detailed driving directions, please refer to Google Maps. You can obtain directions directly from the community where our villas are located, Monte de los Almendros, to your destination.

  • Gibraltar: 225 km
  • Marbella: 155 km
  • Malaga: 90 km
  • Granada: 70 km
  • Nerja: 37 km
  • Almuñecar: 14 km (15 minutes by car)
  • Motril: 10 km
  • Salobrena: 3 km (to centre of town and beaches)

Salobrena

panoramic view of salobrena

The whitewashed town of Salobrena is built upon a hill. It is crowned by a strategically placed fortress 105 metres above sea level that dates back to the 10th century. This is the Moorish castle that we have direct views to from all of our holiday rental villas. It is well worth the walk up hill to see the castle. The views are awe-inspiring. You will see the rugged landscape of the Sierra del Chaparral which cradles the town to the back, while under the cliffs are orchards of sub-tropical fruit trees and expanses of sugar cane spreading to the shoreline. The tiny village of La Caleta directly to the west houses the last sugar factory in Europe.

close up details of salobrena castle

Just below the castle is a Mudejar church, called La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Rosario. This iglesia was built on top of the old mosque and dates back to the 16th century. The winding, flower-filled streets with the white-washed houses you encounter on your walk contain centuries of history. To learn more, be sure to visit the town's museum that is located in the former Town Hall building in the old town. Here you will see with the help of a model and visual aids that Salobrena was once practically an island before the river gradually deposited its sediment to form the rich delta. This, along with the climate, explains the abundance of crops such as sugar cane. Salobrena is so picturesque that it is referred to as the jewel of the Costa Tropical of Granada.

The best way to get to know the town itself is on foot, perhaps joining in one of the Tourist Office's excellent guided tours. They will surely tell you an tapas interesting story about the succession of the castle that goes as follows: In the 15th century, the Sultan of Granada was on his deathbed and feared that his son might be cheated of his inheritance by the Sultan's brother Yusuf, even though Yusuf was already imprisoned in Salobrena. So he sent someone to kill Yusuf - who asked for a last favour, to be allowed to finish a game of chess he had been playing. He stretched the chess game out so long that when news arrived of the death of the Sultan, he was still playing - and was proclaimed in place of his nephew.

Beneath the old town on the rock, lies the new part of Salobrena. You'll find plenty of bars and restaurants to enjoy a drink and the complimentary tapas that accompany the drinks. You'll be offered everything from prawns and fish to Spanish sausages or slices of Serrano ham and Manchego cheese.

As you walk towards the beach, you could pause for a while in the cool Parque de la Fuente to enjoy a moment in the shade and enjoy the pond, gardens, tropical birds and children's playgrounds.

Salobrena enjoys a lively cultural scene, with year round concerts, plays and films. In summer, outdoor shows and medieval dinners with theatre are held in the Arab Castle, and other activities take place in the Old Town and Parque de la Fuente. One of these events not to be missed is the Lucero del Alba flamenco festival turning the historic castle into a romantic setting for a delightful display of traditional music and dancing.

Salobrena has its share of traditional festivals and fairs. Semana Santa (Holy Week) is worth experiencing just to see how on scuba divers earth they manage to carry the 'tronos', up and down the awkwardly narrow sloping streets. Then from the 24th to the 29th of June the people of Salobrena celebrate their San Juan and San Pedro fair, which is followed in October by the festival in honour of the Virgin of the Rosario, the patron of Salobrena. During these fiestas and ferias it is possible to experience a bull fight locally

Golf, tennis, football, mountain biking and fishing, along with air and water sports are all within easy reach. A real treat for snorkellers and divers is the artificial reef built two years ago off the Penon rock to shelter and encourage sealife. This is now showing remarkable results.

For more information on Salobrena, please refer to the website of the Salobrena tourist information office.

Almunecar

fresh food at almunecar market

Although at first sight Almunecar looks like a busy holiday town, it has the heart of an old Andalucian pueblo. You will be surprised when you come across the hilly narrow streets of the old town. Explore this area and seek out some good tapas bars, bodegas and restaurants - you'll have a huge choice, naturally with lots of sea food available. Visit the food market in the mornings to buy fresh fish, meat, fruits and vegetables. There is a great selection. See the remains of the fish-salting factory and wander through the botanical gardens. There is a jazz festival held there in July of every year. Young children will enjoy visiting the bird park, Loro Sexi, which you could combine with a visit to the castle and museum. On Friday mornings there is a great outdoor market good for inexpensive clothes, shoes and local products. There is also a water park in Almunecar. There are 3 or 4 places to enjoy flamenco music and dancing.

flamenca at local fiesta

Outside of the town, you can travel up Almunecar's tropical valley, following Rio Verde. This is called the Carretera of the Cabras or the highway of the mountain goats. This leads to the Sierra Chaparral, passing through Jete, Otívar and Lentejí and offers some magnificent scenery. You can eat game up there in the mountains. Carry on to the hot springs at Alhama and return via Vélez Malaga. By now you'll probably be out of time and energy, but you can always return another day to explore this pleasant local town. Between here and the coastal resort of Torre del Mar, you'll come across El Ingenio shopping centre, with 12 screen cinema complex, trendy snack bars and shops and a huge hypermarket.

The Peña Escrita National Park, high in the hills, is reached by following the Rio Seco. Here are more excellent views and opportunities for hiking or horse-riding. Riding is also available beside the Hotel Taramay and the Hotel Salobrena.

Granada

Granada city seen from the Alhambra

Granada is a beautiful university city with a slightly bohemian atmosphere. Granada is well worth exploring as there is much more to see than just the Alhambra. The main street is called Calle de los Reyes Catolicos. Here you will find many boutiques, tapas bars, and even an Arab bath that you can actually use. For more details, see the Arab Baths of Spain website.

As you walk up the street, you will come to Plaza Nueva. If you want a taste of Morocco, then be sure to explore the streets Calderería Nueva and Calderería Vieja that are just behind Plaza Nueva. Here you will find tearooms, cafes offering Arab pastries and water pipes, craft stalls and shops selling fragrant spices and shops selling falafel.

If you'd like to do some shopping, there are many small side streets with great stores that are off of Calle Reyes Catolicos near the the bull ring in Granada Burger King. If you are interested in doing some shopping, then plan your day around the shops' schedules (10 am to 2 pm and 5:30 pm to 8 pm) because they tend to close for siesta. There is a department store close by called El Corte Ingles. They are open all day.

When you are ready for a break, you can relax and catch your breathe with a leisurely Spanish lunch in one of the 2 restaurants in the bull ring. The ambience is great as the sloping ceilings of the restaurants is the underside of the seats of the bull ring. The food is tasty too! If you dont want a full meal, you can go for a tapa and a glass of wine. The bull ring is a good 10 minute walk away from the city centre. Alternatively you can take a taxi or a bus. Driving isn't recommended as many of the streets are closed to normal traffic.

The Alhambra Palace

The Alhambra rises up like an imposing castle with reddish tones in its ramparts that prevent the outside world from seeing the delicate beauty they enclose.

alhambra palace

Originally designed as a military area, the Alhambra became the residence of royalty and of the court of Granada in the middle of the thirteenth century, after the establishment of the Nasrid kingdom.

Throughout the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the fortress became a citadel with high ramparts and defensive towers, which house two main areas: the military area, or Alcazaba, the barracks of the royal guard, and the medina or court city, the location of the famous Nasrid Palaces and the remains of the houses of noblemen and plebeians who lived there. The Charles V Palace (which was built after the city was taken by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492) is also in the medina.

The complex of monuments also has an independent palace opposite the Alhambra, surrounded by orchards and gardens, which was where the Granadine kings relaxed: the Generalife. Please note that the Generalife can only be visited during the morning and afternoon. It is closed in the evenings. This is the only disadvantage of visiting the Alhambra at night.

Buying tickets for the Alhambra

alhambra viewing sanctuary

Buy online
Tickets to the Alhambra often sell out, so it is easiest and safest to buy your tickets to the Alhambra online before your arrive. You can do this at the Alhambra tickets website.
Purchase tickets by phone
You can purchase the tickets by calling 902 888 001 from within Spain or +34 934 923 750 from outside Spain.
Buy from the ticket office
If you are unable to order tickets before you arrive in Granada and you learn that they are sold out, it is still possible to get a ticket. The best way is to go directly to the Alhambra as close to 8.00 in the morning as possible.
Each day they sell 1,000 tickets for the morning (which are valid from 8.30 to 14.00 hours) and 1,000 tickets for the afternoon session
(which are valid from 14.00 hours to 18.00 from November to February and from March to October until 20.00 hours).
These tickets can only be purchased at the ticket office and not online or at the local bank. The tickets must be paid for in cash when purchased at the ticket office.
Buy a tourist pass
The final option to acquire Alhambra tickets is to purchase a tourist pass, which provides you with access to public buses, on and off tickets for a special bus that takes you on a guided tour of Granada and tickets to the Alhambra. This option can sometimes be a problem if the tourist offices are closed or if the computers are down, which can happen from time to time.
Once you enter the grounds of the Alhambra, it is possible to rent a head set to listen to an audio tour narrated by Washington Irving that guides you as you walk through your visit. This is a good way to get the most out of your visit.
Note: A time will appear on your ticket. This time indicates the half hour window in which you are allowed to enter the most spectacular of all the palaces, the Nasrid Palace. Once you are inside this palace, you may stay as long as you want, although it generally doesn't take longer than an hour to walk through this palace.
Regardless of the entrance time for the palace, you may enter the grounds of the Alhambra earlier to explore all the other areas.

Albaicín (Albayzin)

Another must see area in Granada is the old Arabic quarter known as the Albaicin. It was designated a World Heritage Site in 1993, It is a 10 minute uphill walk from Plaza Nueva. If you prefer to save your energy, there is a minibus that runs between Plaza Nueva, the Albaicin and the Alhambra every 10 minutes and costs less than a euro. You may want to ride up and walk down so you can take in the sights, sounds and smells along the River Darro.

bridge over river darro

The Albaicín is located on the hill opposite the Alhambra. It is characterised by narrow cobblestone streets that are flanked by high white walls topped with cascading flowers. The walls conceal carmens, a type of house unique to the Albaicn, which comprise several buildings on different levels set around a courtyard filled with fruit, vegetables and flowers. There are many squares with terraces and places to laze about and have a bite to eat. One of the best is called Kikki's, which is close to the look-out point of Mirador de San Nicolas. The Albaicn is a painter's paradise and almost at every turn of the head there is an attractive view, almost always involving glimpses of the Alhambra. If you go to a shop which sells any of the typical granadino pottery (which has a white background with pomegranates in blue and green) you will be sure to see the often quoted words of the poet Francisco Icaza, speaking for a poor beggar: 'Give him alms, woman/ For there is nothing in life, nothing/ So sad as to be blind in Granada.' mirador de san nicolas If you go to Mirador de San Nicolas, you will see what they meant.

Be prepared to get a bit lost here as you roam. The street pattern is unmistakably Arabic, with tiny alleys zigzagging up the hill, linked by steep flights of steps. Many streets are L-shaped, ending in closed gates which allow no more than a glimpse of voluptuous gardens. Intoxicating perfumes and sounds waft over the walls - honeysuckle, lemon and jasmine; tinkling water and a plangent flamenco wail. If you let yourself wander, you will surely have a good experience and most likely come across a lovely place to eat or have a drink and take in the atmosphere. You may encounter the Palacio Dar-Al-Horra, a mini Alhambra dating back to the 15th century, which is now an information centre, and the new Mosque of Granada that opened in the summer of 2003. This is the first Muslim structure to be built since all the mosques in the Albaicn were turned into churches 500 years ago.

Sacromonte and Flamenco

flamenco

Slightly above the Albayzin, lies the area of the Sacromonte. There are caves here that are built into the sides of the mountain. Through the centuries, the gypsies lived in these caves. Many of them have been opened to the public and converted into restaurants and locals for flamenco performances. They are decorated with ceramics and traditional copper ware. Although some guide books consider this to be a tourist trap, we have visited on several occasions and enjoyed. Many of guests of our holiday rental villas in Salobrena have also gone and loved it. Young children are always totally awed by the performances. I personally recommend it if you want to see something typically Spanish.

Sierra Nevada

There are over 20 peaks of more than 3,000 metres in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. This makes it the second highest mountain range in Europe after the Alps. The two highest peaks in the Iberian Peninsula are in the park, the Mulhacén at 3,482 metres and the Pico del Veleta at 3,396m. On a clear day these mountains can be seen from as far away as Africa.

skiing in sierra nevada

In the west of the park is Sol y Nieve, which means Sun and Snow. This is Europe's southernmost ski resort. The ski slopes are only 75 minutes away from our holiday villas in Salobrena. Many of our guests ski in the morning and relax in our heated pool in the afternoon to relieve their aching muscles.
The ski season generally runs from November to April.

Apart from skiers and snowboarders at the resort, the park is popular with hikers, climbers and birdwatchers. Even if you don't ski, it's still worth visiting in winter for a few hours to throw snowballs and enjoy the stunning views and a coffee around one of the cosy fireplaces. In the fall, spring and summer, it is worth visiting to see the flora and fauna. The park's plants are outstanding, with the highest number of endemic plant species in Europe. An impressive 2,100 different species of vascular plant, a quarter of those recorded in the whole of Spain, have been registered here, over 120 of them are endangered. Around 70 plant species are only found in the Sierra Nevada, mainly in the higher areas, while 175 species are native to the Iberian Peninsula.

Las Alpujarras

The region of mountain villages known as Las Alpujarras clings to the southern flanks of the Sierra Nevada. The terraced farmlands of this region are watered by the melting snow from above, constituting a high-altitude oasis of greenery which stands in dramatic contrast to the arid foothills below. Here you will find fruit orchards and cereal crops that form an ever-changing patchwork of colour and texture on the gentler hillsides while clumps of chestnut, oak and pine cloak the steeper slopes. Much of the region's fertility is still due to complicated water systems that, like many of the cultivated crops, have hardly changed since the Middle Ages. The area produces especially delicious figs, apricots, dried fruits, nuts and honey.

alpujarras village

Activities are plentiful here with the focus being on walking, hiking and horse-back riding. When walking here, you will enjoy the pleasant aroma of Spanish broom, rosemary, thyme and other aromatic plants that fill the air. Goat tracks and mountain brooks criss-cross the terraced landscape that's still plowed by mule and sown by hand. A visit to the Alpujarras is like stepping back in time. It is a refreshing change from our overly busy daily lives and most guests of our holiday rental villas in Salobrena enjoy making a day trip to this area.

Three must-see villages include Pampaneira, Bubin and Capileira. Between them you'll find a variety of places to shop, eat or simply wander and enjoy the unique rustic atmosphere and clean air. Everywhere the views are stunning but they're especially panoramic from Capileira, which is the highest village of the three villages. Be sure to walk down the road into the maze of backstreets, which are pretty much in their original form.

You can't help but notice the Berber architecture here. This is a result of the fact that the Moors, who didn't want to convert to Christianity, were exiled to the Alpujarras after the conquest of Granada in 1492. Continual persecution by the Christians, however, led to a rebellion in 1568 which was brutally suppressed. Shortly afterwards Phillip II decreed the final expulsion from the country of all remaining Moors. Most left for North Africa from the ports on the Costa Tropical.

Despite the fact that these villages were later resettled with 12,000 Christian families, these unique hamlets have retained their traditional Berber architecture with terraced clusters of grey-white box-shaped houses with flat clay roofs. The original dwellings in the region were built of uncut stone and earth. Ceilings made from slate slabs rested on chestnut trunks that were then covered with a thick layer of launa, or waterproof clay. The flat roofs, littered with chimney pots, became places to hang washing or dry bright bunches of red peppers and tomatoes. Today, cement has replaced mud and clay, but the traditional designs are very much the same and you can still seem tomatoes and peppers being dried in the sun. This style of architecture has been in use since the Bronze Age and can only be found here and in the Rif and Atlas mountains of Morocco.

jamon de trevelez

Local restaurants offer mainly meat-based dishes with local ham and its derivatives at the top of the menu.The area has long been known for its famous dried hams (jamón serrano), which can be seen hanging in so many bars throughout Spain but especially in Andalucia. The pigs are fed and nourished on acorns, chestnuts and other natural foods, then salted and cured in the crisp, dry mountain air. Traditionally the best hams come from Trevélez, which is located at the top of the Alpujarras and is considered to be the highest village in Europe.

Visitors approaching from the coast will encounter the town of Orgiva, which is at crossroads of the broad Guadalfeo valley.This area has been a haven for hippies for years now. About 10 kilometres to the west of Orgiva is the small, town of Lanjaron. Lanjaron is famous for its hot springs and its mineral water, which you'll find served almost everywhere throughout Andalucia. Chestnut woods border the town which has magnificent views of the valley and a small Moorish castle that's worth a brief visit.

Nerja

Nerja is a 40 minute drive from our holiday rental villas in Salobrena. Nerja is more developed and has more foreign tourists and residents than Salobrena, which is why our guests prefer Salobrena to Nerja. Nerja is pretty and is a nice place to spend the day or at least go for dinner and a walk.

nerja church steeple

Nerja is quite famous for the spectacular Balcon de Europa. This 'Balcony of Europe' offers wonderful 360 degree views to the sea, the small coves and beaches below and it is set against the backdrop of the Sierra Almijara mountains. The Balcon de Europa is always lively as there are street musicians, mimes, artists painting and even sometimes there is a couple dancing tango and a gentleman that offers a great impersonation of Frank Sinatra. There are nice shops in streets behind the Balcon de Europa as well as a wide selection of restaurants. You can hire a horse-drawn carriage to explore the most romantic corner of the town.

Be sure to visit the caves of Nerja which are located slightly outside of the town. They are truly impressive and children are always awed by them. During the second half of July there is an International Festival of Music and Dance held in the auditorium in the first cave which provides a magical backdrop to ballet, opera and flamenco performances. Top names perform and the seating is limited so please enquire about tickets well in advance.

Frigiliana

frigiliana street

The small agricultural town of Frigiliana lies about 7 kilometres inland of Nerja. It is very easy combine a visit to Frigilana with your trip to Nerja. Perched high in the Sierra Tejeda, this pretty white village has commanding views of the surrounding countryside and litoral. Once poor, it is now flourishing as there is a growing population of foreign residents that have homes in the surrounding hills. The old town still retains much of its original charm.

Immaculate whitewashed lanes lead through the village to the church and small square. From there we recommend you go up the hill through the maze of twisting streets to near the top of the village where a vantage point offers spectacular views of the town and coast, especially at sunset. Most people enjoy the souvenir and craft shops that sell beautiful handmade items. There are also shops where you can try and purchase the tasty sweet local wine.

Malaga

The centre of Malaga can be reached in less than 1 hour from our vacation home rentals in Salobrena. The old part of Malaga around the cathedral is very charming and a nice place to spend the day. A good place to start exploring is on Calle Larios, which is famous for its shopping. It is surrounded by attractive small streets and plazas, as well as the magnificent cathedral. There are daily guided tours of this Renaissance cathedral with a Baroque faade.The new Picasso Museum is also in this area. You may recall that Picasso as well as Antonio Banderas were born in Malaga.

eating paella in malaga

As well as being a cultural centre, Malaga is also a great place to eat out. The Malagueños love their food and the bars and restaurants here are where the real social life takes place. Tapas, small portions of many different dishes, is an Andalusian tradition and a wonderfully inexpensive way to try a variety of local food. The best known local fare in Malaga is “pescaito frito”, an assortment of fried fish, including small sardines and red mullet, best washed down with a glass of ice cold fino at one of the many old fashioned bodegas in town.

Garden lovers won't be disappointed in Malaga either. In the centre of the city, just behind the cathedral and the historic quarter, is the beautiful Alameda Gardens and the Paseo del Parque. The park runs alongside the port. This gorgeous avenue is lined with gardens featuring gigantic palms, fragrant jasmine and exotic vegetation, as well as hidden statues, fountains and resting places. Just outside the city on the way to Antequera there are the picturesque grounds of Jardines de la Concepcion feature breathtaking greenery, ranging from lush, tropical vegetation to desert-like landscapes. There is a mansion and a botanical museum here. Numerous species of birds are attracted to the area, adding to its overall charm and beauty.

One more point of interest is the Alcazaba. This Moorish fortress, which dates back to 1057, was recently restored and now includes an impressive archaeological museum, filled with Phoenician and Arab treasures. It is perched on the hillside above the city, affording visitors a glimpse of the distant North African coast. The structure, inspired by the Alhambra in Granada, features a staggered entranceway, double-wall and a number of imposing defense towers. It houses three magnificent palaces and is surrounded by beautiful gardens and ornate fountains.