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?

Malaga hosts the Spanish cycle race – La Vuelta

Riders in La Vuelta, Spain

Málaga province has been experiencing the passion, emotion and excitement of La Vuelta a España (the Spanish equivalent of the Tour de France) during the first four days of the famous cycle race, before it moves on to other parts of Spain.

The time trials began last Saturday in Marbella, before the race pushed off with Stage 2 from Alhaurin de la Torre, finishing the day at the world’s most infamous walkway, the Caminito del Rey.

Stage 3 brought La Vuelta riders to the east of Málaga, yesterday, through spectacular mountains before heading down to the coast and turning west towards the finishing line in Málaga city.

Road closures meant spectators being in position more than an hour before the riders came through, but fold-up chairs, beach umbrellas offering shade from the hot sun and a cool-box full of cold drinks made the wait all the more pleasant.

Looking towards Torre del Mar

Having decided to watch the race pass by at the start of the sprint section, just west of Torre del Mar, we were hoping to catch a glimpse of Tour de France winner, Chris Froome, riding for Team Sky.

We had stunning views of the mountains and the road back towards Torre del Mar.

First sight of La Vuelta riders

Soon enough, motorcycle outriders started appearing and roaring past, first one then another. Surely they must be coming by now? The time of the riders’ scheduled arrival came and went, when suddenly, a helicopter appeared.

They’re here!

The first six riders sprint towards Malaga

The leading group consisted of just six riders and the few people standing outside the Go Karting track on the N340a near to Almayate, started waving chequered flags, clapping and cheering.

Only just over a minute later came the main body of cyclists known as “the peloton”.

Would I be able to spot Chris Froome?

HAwatch my video and have a guess!! (HINT: it takes 50 seconds)

The support vehicles follow closely behind

The peloton streamed by and, it was all over in moments.

Following closely behind were the many support vehicles vying for position and pipping their horns.  At one stage, I thought I might end up filming a pile-up of vehicles!

All that was left was to collect the water bottles that had been discarded by the riders as they passed.

Did you notice one come whizzing my way (at 11 seconds) during the video? Yes, it hit me on the ankle!

Discarded water bottles from La Vuelta riders

Anyone want a used water bottle?

Torrox: Let me take you to Funky Town

Umbrellas in Torrox pueblo

You might not think of one of Andalucía’s famous white villages as being “FUNKY”, and neither did I, until yesterday morning when I went into Plaza de la Constitución in Torrox pueblo on an errand.


A passing plane as seen through the Torrox umbrellas

Shadows from the umbrellas in Torrox, Andalucia

There are hundreds of umbrellas, in six different colours, hanging from discreet wires all around the square.


To give much needed shade, as well as making the town (even more) attractive to visitors!

Amused by the Torrox umbrellas

Multi-coloured umbrellas in Torrox pueblo, Andalucia, Spain

They certain made ME smile :)

How cool/funky/quirky is this, huh?  Let me know what YOU think ….

PHEW! It’s sweltering in Spain, with record high temperatures

Weather forecast for this weekend in southern Spain

Spain has been gripped by a heatwave over the past week with record temperatures, and it looks as though the heat will continue over the next few days.

Last night we got home from seeing friends at almost midnight, and it was still 31C outside – so there was nothing for it, other than to jump into the pool to try to cool down!

Head for the beach

I guess it’s a perfect time to head to the beach.  See you there!

How do YOU deal with the heat during the night?

Community: It’s all about pulling together and sharing

Fire by the roadside, Competa You might remember that towards the end of June last year, we had a large wildfire on the outskirts of my home village of Cómpeta.  This event prompted me to write an article about what we should do about fire prevention and self protection in the event of a wildfire.

Yesterday afternoon, I was on my way home from Málaga when, just before the turn off to my house, I spotted a large plume of smoke, not far away.  Instead of turning towards my home, I carried on up the road towards Cómpeta, and only about 750 metres further on came across a burning hillside.

It was quite surreal as there was no-one else around, yet clearly it appeared that the fire had been burning for at least some minutes as the whole hillside looked to be alight.

I drove past the fire, turned the car around and pulled to the side of the road to call the emergency services (the number to call in Europe is 112) to give the exact location of the fire.

There was nothing else I could do, and I didn’t want my car being in the way of the emergency services, so I took this short video (only about 7 seconds) and then headed home to spread the word.

The fire is not only by the side of the road, but look at the flare-up near the top right of the frame.

After only a couple of minutes I had posted on Twitter and onto my own East of Málaga Facebook page, where I know that lots of local people follow me.  Within no time at all, that post had reached 6,000 people and had been shared 40 times – with lots of comments tagging others to let them know.

THAT’S THE POWER OF COMMUNITY and I am very proud of the community that has grown up around my East of Málaga blog.  

So I’d like to say a great big THANK YOU to each and every one of you and, to those who don’t follow my Facebook page , I’d like to invite you to “Like” the page, click on “Get Notifications” and join in with the community.  

I usually post a couple of times a day, and share many more photos over there.

C7 fire helicopter over Competa

C7 fire helicopter carrying water to douse the fire

As for the fire – well, I went back a couple hours later – after the helicopter had left, and the fire appeared to be largely out, though the fire fighters were still there, doing their job.  

Well done, guys and THANK YOU!

The fire is out, but the fire-engine is still near the untouched house

The fire is out, but the fire-engine is still near the untouched house

Fire fighters on the smouldering land, checking for flames

Fire fighters on the smouldering land, checking for flames

What’s YOUR experience of a community all pulling together for the good of others?