Photos from 35,000 feet: Axarquía coast and inland


Love flying 9

I love flying and whenever possible I’ll jump at the chance of a window seat. It’s fascinating to see the land below from a totally unique perspective and particularly if you know the area well, at ground level.

Last Thursday lunchtime I flew back to the UK to see friends and family for a few days. As is often the case, my plane took off from Málaga airport and headed out to sea before banking left to cross back over the coast of the Axarquía. From my window seat on the right-hand side of the plane, I had a bird’s-eye view, and the best and clearest view I have ever had.

Caleta harbour and Torre del Mar

We crossed the coast over Benajarafe, giving me a great view of the harbour and marina at Caleta de Vélez with Algarrobo Costa just above (and slightly to the right in the photo) and Torre del Mar below.

Torrox point

From the wider angle, you can also see the point of land sticking out which is where the lighthouse is at Torrox Costa, with the start of Nerja beyond.

Velez-Malaga and Torre del Mar

As we continued to fly inland, Vélez-Málaga came into view and, if you look closely, you can just about see the motorway (Autovía del Mediterraneo) cutting across the landscape before Torre del Mar begins.


The white mountain village of Cómpeta was instantly recognisable, as the tops of the mountains above the village suffered and remain scarred by the devastating fire last summer.  

Mount Maroma, highest mountain in Málaga

We flew directly over the bare, pointless peak of La Maroma, the highest mountain in Málaga province – standing at an impressive 2065m (or 6775ft), and dominating the skyline of the Axarquía.  You can clearly see the village of Canillas de Aceituno in the lee of La Maroma (towards the bottom right of the photograph).

Lake Bermejales

And finally, after flying over Mount Maroma, we left the Axarquía region where the distinctive shape of the reservoir of Lake Bermejales came into view, and the town towards the bottom left of the photo is Alhama de Granada.

So, are you a window or an aisle seat person?  Do you enjoy flying or is it just a means of getting from A to B?  Let me know, won’t you?

You might also enjoy:

Photos from 35,000 feet: Approaching Málaga

 Taking the fast train (AVE) from Málaga to Madrid

Coast, Villages or Countryside of the Axarquía: The open Countryside


Almijara mountains, east of Málaga

As we have discovered previously,  everyday life can be very different, depending on your choice of location within the Axarquía. Let’s assume there are broadly three main area choices – the coastal zone (la costa), the inland villages (los pueblos) and the open countryside (known locally as “el campo”), giving plenty of opportunity to choose the landscape that best suits your needs.

Each area has its devotees and all offer advantages.

In this series of articles entitled “Coast, Villages or Countryside” we are exploring each in turn, to give you a flavour of what you can realistically expect in the various landscapes.  We have looked at the coastal areas and the inland villages, so now we will consider what holidays, or more permanent life, is like in the countryside.

The Countryside or El Campo

Almond trees in blossom in Andalucía

The only way to refer to the open countryside around here is “el campo”, which will be understood by all Spaniards and most foreign residents.

Throughout the Axarquía region, to the east of the city of Málaga, there is almost no flat land (other than near the coast), so the countryside will be either hilly or mountainous.  Most people live on the slopes of hills and valleys which run eventually to the sea.  This means that from lots of places you can find country houses and villas offering stunning views down the valleys to the Mediterranean Sea in one direction, and back inland towards lofty mountain peaks in the other.

The altitude above sea level will have an effect on average temperature and the kind of plants that can be grown in gardens.  Anything up to 500 or 600 metres above sea level still gives Mediterranean weather all year round, and a whole range of citrus trees and avocados can be grown, together with the typical long-established crops of olives, grapes and almond trees.  Indeed, these latter three crops can be grown at higher altitudes in areas with quite cold winter weather, as it is very high summer temperatures that is needed for successful fruiting.

Many country houses come with substantial land attached, often ranging from 2,500 square metres to 10,000 square metres or more. This gives plenty of opportunity for growing your own vegetables, or a range of fruit trees and plants, which cannot easily be grown in more northern climates.

The available land area means that most campo houses have plenty of parking space as well as their own private swimming pool, which you would not have in a village house, or would likely have to share in a coastal apartment or development.

You might also find that house prices are generally a bit lower than on the coast, but this is not always the case.

Country houses might be the traditional cortijo or finca, or a more modern house often referred to as a villa.  If you are considering buying a holiday home in the countryside, you might need to think about getting someone to look after your land and pool in your absence.

Much of the countryside in the Axarquía region is terraced, and apart from the grapes, almonds and olives you will increasingly see avocados and mangoes being grown, due to the sub-tropical climate.  In January and February, the pink almond blossom is spectacular and, as the year progresses, the wildflowers are pretty special too.

The countryside around the Axarquía is largely unspoiled with large areas of protected natural park land. You will see age-old traditions such as grapes being hand-picked, and men with long sticks whacking the olive trees for their fruit. There is no mechanisation here due to the terrain, so you can still see bullocks ploughing the fields, and mules carrying their loads.

As far as services go, there are no postal deliveries in the campo, so we have a post box at the Post Office in the village, as well as having to take all of our rubbish to the waste disposal and recycling bins.  There are no landline telephones because of the mountainous landscape, but don’t worry, mobile phones, satellite TV and wifi internet are available.  I’ve mentioned in my Cost of Living in Spain reports that we don’t have piped gas in this area, but bottles of butane and propane gas can be easily and cheaply purchased from a variety of outlets.

Living in the countryside means that you will enjoy a virtually noise-free existence except for maybe the distant bleating of goats, which are kept in pens around the hills, and can be heard over several kilometres.  True peace and quiet are the norm here, as are the usually clear skies which, at night, give spectacular views of more stars than you ever thought possible.  If you have not been used to seeing the stars, satellites tracking across the skies, or the Milky Way without light pollution, then you are in for a real treat.

Milky Way over my house!

As you travel away from the coast and into the campo you will notice that there are dozens of white houses scattered about the hillsides, each far enough away from the neighbours to maintain peace but near enough, usually, to be able to keep in contact as much as you wish to.  In our experience there seems to be an understanding between neighbouring households that in the event that help is needed, for example if you suffer vehicle trouble, there is a reciprocal offer of assistance always available.

At first sight you might wonder how all these houses are reached but closer inspection shows that tracks have been cut across the landscape.  It has to be said that these tracks vary in quality, some being well surfaced in tarmac or concrete, some being compacted stony earth but still easy to drive on, and others which are quite rough – and for these, you would probably need a 4-wheel drive vehicle.

typical track in the countryside

It will be obvious that should you choose one of these country houses, you will need access to a vehicle because to reach the necessities of life always involves a drive, but that usually gives an opportunity to have a look at a different landscape, visit a favourite tapas bar and drop off your rubbish or collect your post whilst you are out.

We have chosen to live in the countryside for the past ten years, and have discovered that the simple joy of looking after a sub-tropical garden, picking fresh lemons, limes and oranges, together with the fabulous birds and insects we see is enough to convince us that, for the time being at least, we have made the best choice for us.  We can, and frequently do, travel the few kilometres to the closest villages or the coast to have a change of outlook, but how we love to return to the tranquillity that the Axarquían countryside offers.

Lunch on the terraceHow evocative does a beautiful summer afternoon sound, spent with friends having lunch on your terrace, with many kilometres of open land in front of you and the ever-sparkling Mediterranean Sea at the bottom of what seems like your very own valley?

Of course, countryside implies wildlife, and you will likely see kestrels, hoopoes, buzzards, bee-eaters as well as foxes, various lizards and praying mantis amongst many other strange creatures you might never even identify.  As we are driving to the village or down to the coast along the winding mountain roads, we regularly come across herds of goats, moving from one pasture to another.  Many expats who live here permanently will tell you about stray dogs turning up on their doorsteps.  We hadn’t been here long when our little “campo dog” appeared, ready to adopt us! But, what joy and love he brought with him.

Lucero - our campo dog

So, there you have it – the choice is yours –  coast, villages or countryside.  Best of all,  come to this little patch of paradise, east of Málaga, away from the high-rise developments and spend some time in all the locations on offer.  Why limit yourself to just one type of landscape when there is so much to offer? 

If you were tempted to come back for longer or even to come and live here permanently,  my suggestion would be to rent a place first for a few months and get around to see as much as possible.   Once you have spent sunny, warm autumn and winter days when you know that in northern Europe there is wind, rain and damp greyness, you will know just how fortunate we are to be living in such a special place as La Axarquía.

Which would be YOUR choice: Coast, Villages or Countryside?

La Axarquía – Leoni Benabú airport at El Trapiche


Everyone knows about Málaga’s international airport, but how many of you have ever heard of La Axarquía-Leoni Benabú Airport (World Airport Code: LEAX)?

Within the heart of the Axarquía region, there is a private airfield near to the hamlet of El Trapiche, a district on the western edge of Vélez-Málaga, which is home to the Royal Aero Club of Málaga.

I’d thought about paying a visit for a while, but when we rocked up at the airport to find out more information, we couldn’t have hoped for a better reception from one of the instructors, Ignacio Gil, who really went out of his way to show us around.

Control Tower at El Trapiche airport

Ignacio, who speaks very good English, told us that the airport’s runway is 1100 metres long and used by light aircraft only. He proudly invited us to jump into his car and took us across to see some of the 81 hangars on site, housing 75 aircraft.  There is also a maintenance facility, clubhouse and flying school.

We were able to see small aircraft taking off and landing.

Pleasure flights (or aerial baptism as it says on the leaflet!) can be arranged for €120 for 30 minutes or €195 for one hour. Why not give one a try? Make sure to say that Marianne from East of Málaga blog sent you!

Can you see the aircraft about to land (on the far right of the photo), just below the village of Comares?

Can you see the aircraft about to land (on the far right of the photo), just below the village of Comares?

Where to find La Axarquía-Leoni Benabú Airport:

About a thirty minute drive east of the city of Málaga, along the A7-E15 Autovía del Mediterraneo to km 272,  take the exit signposted A 356 towards Vélez-Málaga, La Viñuela, Colmenar and Zafarraya.  Stay on the A356, by-passing the town of Vélez-Málaga and, after about 7 kilometres, turn left at the junction signed towards El Trapiche and Triana.  Approximately one kilometre further, there is a small sign on the left pointing to the airport.

Only a few hundred metres along this little road, you will find the Royal Aero Club of Malaga.


Tel: +34 95250 7377
Instructor: Ignacio Gil – mobile telephone: +34 695260656


You might also be interested to visit:

The Buddhist Stupa of the eastern Costa del Sol



Looking along the coast, east of Málaga.

Looking along the coast, east of Málaga.

I receive a lot of messages from East of Málaga readers, either on the blog or over at my Facebook page.  It seems that many folks think I know pretty much everything there is to know about Spain!!  It’s absolutely not true, of course, but I have lived here in the Axarquía region, to the east of Málaga city for almost ten years, so I guess I do know a few things.

Anyway, one of the most common questions I get asked is about the Cost of Living in Spain, and in particular in Málaga province – and this is a subject I have written several articles about.

However, another frequently asked question is about where is the best place to rent or buy a house.  This week I received the following message:

“We’re all booked for 10 day holiday to Cómpeta in October, viewing properties in Malaga, Torre del Mar and Cómpeta. So this week I’m searching the internet and organising viewings. My problem is we can’t decide where to buy – countryside, city or seaside! I was hoping for some guidance.”

It’s a valid question – so let’s see what I can do to help.

View across to the coast, east of Málaga, in autumnAs you might imagine, life can be very different, depending on your choice of location. Worth bearing in mind from the start is that almost all of the Axarquía region, and Andalucía in general, is mountainous with beautiful valleys running down from the inland sierras to the coastal fringe, giving plenty of opportunity to choose the landscape that best suits your needs.

Even though it’s an over-simplification, but let´s say, for the sake of argument that there are three main choices of area – the coastal zone (la costa), the inland villages (los pueblos) and the open countryside (known locally as “el campo”). Each has its devotees and all offer advantages.

In this series of articles entitled “Coast, Villages or Countryside” I will explore each in turn, to give you a flavour of what you can realistically expect in the various landscapes. Who knows, I might even get around to writing about what it’s like to live in the city of Málaga, too!

The Coast

View across La Herradura Bay

First, let’s look at what is perhaps the most obvious choice for many, and particularly for first-time visitors, the coast.   It would probably be more accurate to describe it as the coastal fringe, as many of the hills plunge right down to the sea with wider, flatter areas in between, where valleys run down to the coast.

In times gone by, most coastal villages and towns were fishing communities, given that the Mediterranean Sea provides a plentiful and varied supply of fish and sea food.  Fortunately this tradition continues today, with a substantial fishing fleet at the port of Málaga as well as in nearby Caleta de Vélez, situated between Torre del Mar and Nerja.

Fishing boats in Caleta harbour

As a result, all of the coastal areas have a large number of chiringuitos, which are beachside restaurants, often constructed right on the beach. Chiringuitos always offer a great range of fish and seafood on their menus, which would typically include fried pieces of cod (bacalao) in a lovely light batter, Dorada (gilt-head bream) cooked to perfection over a wood fire, as well as the local Málaga speciality of sardines (espetos de sardines).  Don´t be put off by those dreadful tinned sardines they sell in Britain – these are the real deal –  skewered on bamboo spikes and cooked next to a blazing wood fire. You might also like to try Rosada a la plancha, which is a succulent grilled fish, often flavoured with garlic.  Absolutely delicious and one of my favourites!

Making paella at Ayo´s restaurant, Nerja

Chiringuitos are also the place to try out the world-famous paella. Everyone knows of this flavoursome Spanish dish which, even though it originated in Valencia, is cooked to perfection all along the coast of the Axarquía.  Even though most people will have heard of paella, dishes do vary from one place to another, some leaning towards chicken or pork as the base meat, but mostly on the coast you can expect plenty of fish, large prawns (gambas) and shellfish.  I’ve never had one I didn’t like!

There are bars and cafés on nearly every corner in towns and villages, in fact all along the eastern Costa del Sol you will never be far from a bar. Fortunately, bars and cafés as well as tapas bars and chiringuitos, are largely interchangeable. It´s unusual to find people going into a bar merely to drink.  Beer, wine, fino sherry or coffee are just one part of the combined eating and drinking culture, and luckily the Spanish and most long-term residents seem to have this well-balanced. It is rare to see things get out of hand.

Head for the beach

A typical “snap-shot” view almost anywhere along this relaxed coastline is likely to be of the sparkling Mediterranean Sea, rarely more than gently rolling waves, sandy shores with plenty to do, sun beds for hire with the usual sun-shades in all the tourist areas, many wonderful places to eat freshly-prepared food of consistently high quality and a climate which is reputed to be the best in Europe.

Talking of climate, something that you might not have thought of when you are considering where to visit or live is that the temperature can differ by a few degrees from the coastal areas to some of the inland villages. This is not surprising really, given that some of the villages in Andalucía are situated more than 700 metres above sea level, but it might be an influencing factor to your decision about where to live or visit if you knew that a particular village was colder in the winter or hotter in the summer than the coast.

El Ingenio Centro Comercial

El Ingenio shopping centre, near Torre del Mar

No matter whether you spend your time at the coast or inland it is as well to know that the major supermarkets are usually situated along the coastal area.  Both Spanish and German chains are represented, for example with Eroski,  Mercadona and Supersol from Spain, as well as Aldi and Lidl from Germany, each one having their own appeal.

As well as supermarkets there is a larger range of shops near the coast than elsewhere and substantial indoor shopping centres are available on the outskirts of Torre del Mar and at Rincón de la Victoria, with cinemas  and other entertainment options at each location. The Axarquía’s only Carrefour supermarket can be found at the shopping centre at Rincón de la Victoria.

Atarazanas market, Malaga

Atarazanas market, Malaga

On the topic of shopping and extra facilities, you should not overlook the provincial capital city, Málaga, also on the coast. There is the recently refurbished city market, Mercado Central de Atarazanas, as well as large branches of the Spanish departmental store, El Corte Inglés.  Naturally, the city is also home to a fantastic range of tapas bars, sporting facilities, art galleries and entertainment.

One thing you should be aware of is that although May to October is the main holiday season, the seaside in this part of the world can, and often does, provide really warm sunny days all year round – in fact, around 320 of them!.   We enjoy lovely sunny days in January and February, although the weather is not quite as dependable around this time of year.  A common feature during the winter months, not only on the coast but also inland, might be to have a couple of days with rain and some wind, after which the weather reverts to clear sunny days once again.

Tree-lined walkway, La Arana

The main beach resorts east of Málaga are much more low-key than some on the western Costa del Sol,  but make no mistake, they each have their charms, and are worthy of a visit, though they do still tend to get crowded in July and August.

Have a look on a local map and you will see Rincón de la Victoria, Torre del Mar (which is very popular with Spanish tourists), and Torrox Costa, a lovely smaller town (very popular with Germans).  Near to the easterly limit of Málaga province is the delightful town of Nerja, with few high-rise buildings, still retaining its quaint narrow streets in the centre, and popular with British holiday makers.

Entrance to Balcon de Europa, Nerja, Spain

Balcon de Europa, Nerja

Fortunately, all the towns and villages along the coastal strip are easy to travel between, due to two excellent and largely uncongested roads running roughly parallel with each other – the N340 coastal road, and the wonderfully named Autovía del Mediterraneo, which is the motorway. Each of these roads connect the coastal region of the Axarquía direct to Málaga and the airport.  If you don´t have a car available to you, there is a frequent (an inexpensive) bus service run by a company called ALSA, to get you back and forth if you choose.

Another thing to bear in mind about the coastal areas is that the land is flat. As I mentioned at the start of this article, the Axarquía is generally a mountainous area with beautiful valleys running down from the inland mountains to the coast. By the sea, there are lovely flat promenades and public gardens along many of the coastal towns and villages, which might be important to you if you have any problems with mobility.

Looking towards Torre del Mar

Family holidays or a place to live, along a beautiful coastline, without rowdyism, with great facilities and fabulous food – East of Málaga is as good as it gets.

Next time I’ll look at the inland villages in more detail.

Which area do YOU prefer – coast, villages or countryside?

Frigiliana: Beautiful white village

Frigiliana, Spain

I shared this photo on my Facebook page yesterday, of the stunning white village of Frigiliana and it went VIRAL!

Many of you don’t have Facebook – so I thought you might like to see it here, too.

Other posts about Frigiliana:

Looking across to Frigiliana

A Peep-Show for 20 cents?  I know just the place!

Celebrating the “Malaga Blues”