Throughout our travels in Europe, we have developed a special connection with Spain. We first visited in 2008, starting in the north in San Sebastian and making our way south, hitting Barcelona, Valencia, Granada and Sevilla. After moving to Luxembourg, we continued our Spanish explorations every few months, and held our wedding in Majorca last summer. To continue getting to know the country more intimately, we jetted off for a 5-day weekend in the famed Costa del Sol.
Top Attractions and Things to Do
Costa Del Sol Beach Hopping
We flew into Malaga and drove east along the coast, checking out the beach and mountain towns of Torrox, Nerja, Algarrobo and Torre del Mar.
After spending a couple of days exploring whitewashed towns, walking along wide beaches dotted with stands selling roasted sardines and taking in epic views from atop the seaside mountains, we drove northeast toward Granada, past the snow-capped Sierra Nevada.
Return to Granada
Coming back to Granada after a decade was special - it is one of our favorite cities in Spain due to its mix of Arabic influences, pedestrian-only maze-like old town, mountain views and Spanish-Moorish architecture. We spent our first night wandering the streets, and we spotted Rick Steves grabbing dinner. As we started traveling back in college, he inspired us with his message to try to live like a local while traveling and avoid the inauthentic tourist traps. Our first travel book was Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door, which taught us this perspective. We tried to catch him after he finished his dinner to thank him for the inspiration, but decided not to disturb him.
Hike to Alhambra
The following morning we enjoyed a sunrise view from San Nicolas square toward the Alhambra, and then walked through the valley of the Albayzin to visit the famed Arabic palace and fortress.
We spent the day walking through fragrant rose gardens, admiring multi-colored, detailed tiles and marveling at the intricate scripts and patterns covering the walls and ceilings of the palaces. We learned about the sultan and his concubines and how Isabella and Ferdinand ousted the Muslims from the area around the time of Christopher Columbus. The architecture of the palace and its surroundings completely influenced our aesthetic a decade ago, including our wedding. And, when we have a house, we plan to have a Moroccan-Spanish style throughout.
Japanese Ryokan on the Beach
After getting our fill of the Alhambra, we drove back toward the coast to Torremolinos, where we checked into a tiny beachside hotel run by a Japanese husband and wife. Rather than conforming to the beach Spanish aesthetic, the proprietors went full Japan - installing a zen garden, rooftop Japanese spa, and suite complete with tatami mats, floor seating and an amazing bathroom featuring a deep soaking tub and the Japanese spa toilets that Erin adores.
We spent the late afternoon lounging on our feather floor bed until dinner time, when we were served an in-room Japanese feast of miso roasted cod, sashimi, sushi, tea and other goodies. We finished the night off with some matcha ice cream and sunset over the sea.
Despite its reputation for being a mecca of Euro retirees and high-rise condos, the Costa del Sol is an eclectic mix of Spanish and Arabic styles and cultures. On clear days, one can see all the way to Africa. It's also the sunniest area in Europe, and you can surf and ski in the same day. If we could find the right place, the Costa del Sol would be a great place to live.
Next up, after a grueling 2-week trip to Seattle, Los Angeles and London, we will get a whole lot of chill in by hanging out in Formentera, a tiny island off of Ibiza.
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