COSTA DEL SOL
 
LIFE, CULTURE AND NATURE


Winter residents

If in all of continental Europe there is one enclave that can guarantee the visitor nearly 3.000 hours of sun per year and an average temperature of 18ºC it is the Costa del Sol. That name (Sun Coast) was well-chosen for its extraordinarily benign, predominantly Mediterranean climate. This is one of the main drawing cards available to the province of Málaga when inviting travellers to explore its 101municipalities at any time of the year and is also one of its greatest assets for avoiding the seasonal nature of tourist traffic, which has no place here.

The fact that at this destination Old King Sol shines more than three hundred days over the course of the year goes a long way toward making the Costa del Sol offer one whose enjoyment shouldn’t and can’t be restricted exclusively to the summer months, and the continuous diversification of an internationally renowned product capable of meeting the wants and needs of the most demanding tourist at whatever time he chooses to arrive, land or disembark in this region has also contributed to this reality. 

This circumstance has not gone unnoticed by tour operators, travel agencies, airlines, and other entities involved in promoting the vacation industry who, aware of the enormous potential of this enclave for its enviable climate, have worked together to also make the Costa del Sol a world standard for winter residents.

In fact, the number of slots (landing and takeoff permits) requested by airlines operating out of the Málaga airport between the months of October and March grows each year at an exponential rate, while some of the main shipping companies are choosing more and more to include the port of this province’s capital as a port of call on their cruise liners’ winter routes, mainly through the Mediterranean Sea.

Also contributing to the increase in air routes, flights, berths and accommodations is the determined commitment of tour operators and intermediary firms, as well as a greater inclination on the part of the final consumer to make a getaway to the Costa del Sol by taking advantage of the low season, when temperatures rarely drop below 14 degrees during the day. This has caused a good number of local firms to adapt, increase and improve their products and services with respect to the winter demand, whose incessant growth has also encouraged the exploration of novel niche markets.

In the province of Málaga, unlike in other destinations, practically all hotels whether coastal or interior remain open twelve months out of the year, which is the traveller’s best guarantee for finding a lodging that fits his requirements, be it winter, summer, autumn or spring. A number of these establishments even draw up specific programmes for their winter guests, with activities that seek to adapt to the interests and profiles of what are now called low season tourists.

Nor do apartments, tourist camps or rural houses hang out the “closed” sign in the months farthest removed from the summer season. Some of these kinds of lodging probably even record a greater volume of reservations and contracts during certain periods between October and March.

One of the sectors, however, that has contributed most strongly to breaking the seasonal pattern—which is imperceptible on the Costa del Sol these days—has been residential tourism, which already accounts for almost half of the vacation industry market share. It is with good reason that a high percentage of foreigners have decided to establish their winter residences in this region, while others avail themselves of the wonderful opportunity that having a private dwelling in this enclave provides them for escaping from the excesses and inclemency of the sort of weather they suffer from in their places of origin but that in Málaga one only hears about. This is only to be expected, especially if one keeps in mind that the winter season on the Costa del Sol is as warm or warmer than summer in countless regions of the Old Continent.

It is precisely these unusual climatic conditions that are most responsible for the fact that during the winter season golf has become one of the most Costa del Sol’s most outstanding attractions, during those months that most of Europe is shivering from the cold. The province of Málaga’s numerous golf courses, which are found especially in the western district although there are now magnificent facilities of this type in all parts of its territory, not only continue their operations the year round but in some cases this activity increases in winter since this sport becomes impossible in other places. The Costa del Sol is thus also known as the “Costa del Golf”, a nickname that is fully justified by the number and quality of its courses and by the opportunities for enjoying this sporting activity under the warm sun while not far from these lands winter reigns with all its severity.

The gradual growth of the leisure, culture and sports offers, an always attractive and crowded calendar of events of all types that becomes especially impressive during the winter months and an endless number of local celebrations of various kinds, most notably folk fiestas in the more than one hundred municipalities that make up this province, have also become essential features for attracting visitors at all times of the year. 

Being a privileged witness to a music and traditional dance festival either native or international; participating in a long-standing gastronomic seminar, a fair with a characteristic Andalusian flavour, a pilgrimage of ancestral origin or in any other artistic or cultural display; attending an important congress; engaging in some kind of sports activity without having to worry about bad weather, enjoying the exclusive services offered by health resorts and thalassotherapy centres located on the Costa del Sol or getting away from the stress of everyday life by taking refuge in a health-restoring spa are just a few suggestions from an array of options as diverse as they are inexhaustible, and that should always be kept in mind by the traveller who chooses to disembark in this region whose energy does not slacken one iota with the passage of summer.

Precisely that energy to ward off the lethargy of winter, along with a multiplicity of resources, attractions and inducements capable of luring any kind of traveller, is what has allowed the Costa del Sol from the very beginning of the tourism industry to distinguish itself from other “sun and beach” destinations.

From the time the first visitors arrived in this province to benefit from its benign climate, its gentle sea and its extraordinary geographic setting down to the present day, when many tourists are opting to schedule vacations far removed in time from the tumultuous summer season and instead choosing dates when the quest for tranquillity—never tedium—becomes the main reason for packing one’s bags, winter tourism has been the other great ally of the Costa del Sol. This is a region that for more than half a century has known how to show it has much more to offer than 161 kilometres of coast that, to be sure, never ceases to receive bathers eager to enjoy its warm Mediterranean waters during all seasons.

With an unsurpassed restaurant and hospitality infrastructure that maintains its high level of services during every month of the year, a superb list of golf courses, stores and shopping centres, ports, sports installations and congress palaces and convention facilities that are open all four seasons, as well as a hotel establishment offer that each year provides lodging, all the way from the west end of the coast to the east and from the Ronda Mountains to the low plains of Antequera, to millions of travellers many of whom arrive in this region in the winter months, the Costa del Sol can boast without risk of exaggeration that at the present time it is one of the most complete and sought-after winter destinations in all of Europe. Millions of travellers in Spain find that out for themselves each year and many are those who return. In that respect as well, the Costa del Sol is unique.

DOWNLOAD "Life in Costa del Sol"(PDF).

 

Learn Spanish, the language of love (Bob Dylan)

Language tourism is as much a necessity as a tourism sector these days, although its origins go back a lot further than most of us realise. It was not unusual for wealthy families in the 18th century to send their sons and daughters abroad to learn foreign languages, and they still do it, the difference being that we can all afford it these days. It has become quite normal in our time for young people to travel abroad to learn a new language, usually to take summer courses in universities, and this has given rise to a new type of tourism that we call language tourism..
Malaga province has been to the fore of language tourism for many decades past, with students all anxious to learn or perfect their Spanish. And as the Spanish language has become the most important second language in many countries in Europe and the United States, the number of students coming here has been increasing over the years. Malaga is now the province with the highest number of language students in all of Andalusia, and one of the most popular language-learning destinations in the country.

DOWNLOAD Guide of Languages Academies in Costa del Sol (PDF)

 

Health tourism

One of the reasons for the Costa del Sol’s continuing existence as a major international tourism destination is because it has been capable of adapting to changing tourism patterns. One of these is health tourism, which goes back a long way in the province of Malaga due to the number of spa resorts of the early 20th century. This type of early health tourism failed to keep up with the changing demands of mass tourism, and more or less disappeared, leaving a number of abandoned spas around the province. In recent years, however, it has been making a comeback, and traditional spa resorts are opening once more. These days, most of the top hotels in the region offer their own thalassotherapy facilities to their clients.

Some health centres in the region have been there for many decades, as is the case of the famous Incosol Hotel and the Buchinger Clinic in Marbella. Other luxury health centres opened later, including the Meliá Costa del Sol Hotel in Torremolinos, Carratraca and the Las Dunas Hotel in Estepona

 

Natural spaces

We began this section speaking of Malaga as a small continent, and this is easily understood by a visit to the interior of the province. One could be on another continent, and not within a relatively short driving distance of the Costa del Sol. The landscape changes dramatically from place to place, and with 23 protected spaces in the province of Malaga, there is plenty for nature lovers to choose from.

Maro-Cerro Gordo, in the municipality of Nerja. This area is made up of rock formations rising high out of the water, being part of the same geological formation of the nearby Tejeda and Almijara mountain range. The result is small, deep coves, excellent for underwater diving in the crystal-clear waters. The area is, perhaps, the most rugged stretch of coastline on the southern coastline, and it will remain virgin coastline due to its designation as a protected space.

From this part of the Costa del Sol one can look north and see the Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama nature area, its 40,600 hectares of land making it the third biggest nature area in the province of Malaga. The mountain peaks here reach 2,000 metres above sea level, and are generally covered in snow throughout the winter. This is the Axarquía, and one of its most notable features is the contrast between the snowy mountaintops and the sub-tropical landscape closer to the sea.

 

Culture

The strategic location of the Costa del Sol, at the gateway to Africa and occupying a sizeable part of the extreme western Mediterranean coastline, has meant many different civilisations living here, and this in turn has made the region rich in archaeological remains. We can see this in the paintings and objects discovered in the Nerja Cave, dating back 20,000 years, and in the Tesoro Cave in Rincón de la Victoria, and in the interior of the province as well, where megalithic remains in Antequera and other places tell us that we too are passing through. 

But it was not until the arrival of the Phoenicians, who founded Malaka, as it was called, in the 8th century B.C., that we can speak of an urban community with any type of social structure. From then on, the Costa del Sol was conquered and colonised many times, each civilization leaving behind evidence of its stay. This has left us with an extraordinarily rich and diverse archaeological and architectural legacy.

Unfortunately, the most effective means of establishing a new civilisation has always been to destroy the previous, and for this reason, some of the people that visited these shores and stayed left little to show for themselves. Even so, the Phoenicians left remains of their ancient Malaka underneath the foundations of what is now the epitome of cultural modernity in the present city of Malaga, this being the Picasso Museum.

We have more solid evidence of the Roman occupation of this land, in the 1st century Roman Theatre in Malaga, in the Roman Villa in Río Verde, Marbella, in the 1st century city of Acinipo, 25 kilometres to the northwest of Ronda, where there is a very well preserved theatre, and in numerous villa remains scattered around the province. Many of these are in Antequera, where one can still see the excellent Roman Baths of Santa María.

This historical/artistic section would be incomplete without reference to some of the more interesting museums in the region, such as the Print Museum in Marbella, the Pre-Columbine Museum in Benalmádena, the Joaquín Peinado (of the so-called School of Paris) and Bullfighting museums in Ronda, the Municipal Museum in Antequera (which houses an exceptional sculpture from the Roman period, the Efebo), the Berrocal Museum in Villanueva and the new Picasso Museum in Malaga City, which houses more than 200 works of the artist. We also have the Museum of Popular Arts, the Cathedral and the Contemporary Art Centre museums in Malaga City, without forgetting about the numerous small museums in towns and villages all over the province. 

 

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