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?

Watching English-Language films at the Cinema in the Axarquía


Cinesur at Velez-Malaga

The only cinema regularly showing English language films in the Axarquía region is Cinesur in the El Ingenio shopping centre at Vélez-Málaga.

Address:  Avda.Juan Carlos I S/N, Vélez-Málaga.

Tel: 952 547 309 – 952 547 267 – 902 504 150.

This is an air-conditioned cinema complex featuring 12 screens and is upstairs, near the restaurant area, in the El Ingenio shopping centre.

Price: 7.50 € (4.40 € on Wednesdays, only).
Website: Cinesur

There is a discount card available at Cinesur called Tarjeta 5, which costs just 5 euros and reduces price of all shows to 5 euros.  This means there is no need to wait for a Wednesday to get a good deal (though if you do go on a Wednesday and use your Tarjeta 5 card, you will get in for 3.90 € instead of the usual 4.40 €).

Cinema entrance

Cinesur cinema was showing English language films ten years ago when I first came to Spain, but because of dwindling numbers of film-goers, Cinesur stopped showing them.  Fortunately, we have them back now – but when I went to see “EVEREST” a couple of weeks ago, there were just three of us in the cinema.

Can I just say – please support our local cinema showing original version films – because if we don’t, they will stop showing films in English.


I’ve got a special offer to encourage you to go to Cinesur at the El Ingenio centre.  (Other cinemas throughout Spain are also taking part, details HERE).

On the 3rd, 4th and 5th of November the twice-yearly “Fiesta del Cine” will be held throughout Spain, when tickets will cost just 2.90 €. First, you’ll need to register online at the official website to receive your personalised discount voucher.  Then, between the 3-5 November when you go to the cinema, take along your voucher PLUS photo ID, and your ticket will cost you just 2.90 €.

Cool, huh?

Register here: Fiesta del Cine

Other places to watch English language films:

The Cultural Centre in C/Granada, Nerja have a Cineclub showing original version films.  Check their website for details or telephone 95252 3863.

The Yelmo Cineplex at Rincón de la Victoria show the occasional English language film, but they are not usually a regular feature there.  Yelmo are, for example, showing Ed Sheeran – Live from Odeon Leicester Square on October 22nd.

This is a 16-screen cinema, open daily.
Address: Centro Comercial Rincón de la Victoria, Ctra Totalan, Málaga
Tel: 952 978 707
Website: Yelmo Cineplex

Other than that, you will have to go into Málaga city:


Address: C/ Alcazabilla 4, MÁLAGA
Tel: 952 121 031

4-screen cinema next to the Roman Amphitheatre, at the foot of the Alcazaba.

Price: 6.50 € (approx.)
Website: Cine Albeniz 


Address: Calle Alfonso Ponce de Leon 3, Plaza Mayor, MALAGA
Tel: 902 220 922
This is a 20-screen cinema complex at Plaza Mayor, the huge shopping centre near the airport.  Yelmo usually have at least a couple of the latest-release movies showing in English.

Website: Yelmo Cines

Language Options to look out for:

VOSE = Versión Original Subtitulada en Español which means Original Version Subtitled in Spanish.
**VO = Version Original means Original Version without subtitles.

You might want to look if the original version was filmed in English!
Always check the cinema’s website and/or telephone for timings, before you set off (especially if you are travelling to Málaga).

You can usually buy your tickets online or, of course, at the cinema.


Are you a film buff?  Do you mind watching films with subtitles or do they distract you?


While you’re here, you might also like to look at:

Coast, Villages or Countryside: The Inland Villages

Death in the Afternoon: The Round Cemetery at Sayalonga



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?

Cost of living in Malaga, Spain: July 2015

Cost of living in Malaga, Spain

If you are considering a move to Spain, either to purchase a property or just to rent for a couple of months, the cost of living will be very much in your mind.

Prices may be different in other parts of Spain, especially in bigger cities such as Madrid and Barcelona, so bear in mind that the prices you are reading here are applicable to the area of La Axarquía – to the east of the city of Málaga on Andalucía’s Mediterrean coast.

The kind of lifestyle you choose to embrace is also an important ingredient in the financial mix.

My family eat fresh, locally-grown seasonal produce, buy mostly Spanish-branded foods at the supermarket, and eat and drink in bars and restaurants where the locals hang out.  This has not only saved us money, but we feel has also enhanced our experience of moving abroad.   If your choice would be to only buy internationally-branded foods and eat in tourist areas then you will find costs are considerably higher.

So, whether you’ve always dreamed of moving to southern Spain or you’re just curious, here is my up-to-date cost of living report.

Village houses in El Acebuchal, Andalucia, Spain


Whether you choose to rent or buy is a matter of personal choice depending on how long you want to stay.  

My advice would be to rent for a full twelve months prior to buying so that not only will you get a good feel for the area, but also you’ll experience it through all the seasons.  This summer, Spain has been experiencing a long heatwave, but temperatures can be surprisingly chilly inside the house during the winter months.

It’s no secret that Spain has been gripped by a financial crisis over the past few years, but the signs are that things are improving.  House prices are up to 20% lower than they were in 2006/2007 and there are plenty of houses on the market for sale.   (For an idea of individual prices, search for estate agents on Google using the search terms: Axarquia, east of Malaga, or by the name of any of the villages or towns in the area including Nerja, Frigiliana, Competa, Torrox or any of the others I have written about previously on this blog).

Another key factor to bear in mind is the fluctuating currency exchange rate between your home currency and the Euro, especially if you need to transfer large amounts of money into Spain.  As I write, the exchange rate stands at an 8-year high and would give more than €1.43 for each British pound sterling (£1).  This has made a considerable difference to our income from when the rate stood around €1.08 a few years ago.

You can easily rent a lovely furnished apartment with 2-3 bedrooms, 1-2 bathrooms and a communal pool, on the coast but away from the main tourist area, for €450- €500 per month (on an 11 month contract).  If you choose somewhere further inland or nearer the city, prices will vary, but there’s no substitute for actually being here and asking around.  Lots of people know of places available for rent that will never make their way onto websites or an estate agent’s rental list.

If you are looking for somewhere to rent in the Axarquía area for a month or two, I have had dealings with, and can recommend Anubis in Torre del Mar.   Speak to Anna and tell her I sent you (and no, I won’t earn anything for saying that)!

Cepsa butane gas bottle


Electricity: For a 3 bedroom/2 bathroom detached house in the countryside with a swimming pool, we pay around €100 per month. Our consumption is generally higher in the summer than in the winter as we have air conditioning units (cooling in summer and heating in winter) plus the swimming pool pump running for 8 hours a day.  We try to use the air conditioning sparingly – preferring to open windows during early morning and late evening and make use of the ceiling fans.  Although sometimes, especially in July and August, you just have to put the air-con on!

Gas: We do not have a piped gas supply here, so we use bottles of gas.  This is a common feature throughout many areas in this part of Spain. Gas prices in Spain are strictly controlled by the government, rather than the gas companies.   A year ago, a 12.5kg bottle of Butane gas cost €17.50. They are now €14.11 (a reduction of almost 20%), with an 11kg bottle of propane gas costing a mere €12.42.  For us, one bottle lasts (on average) four weeks for two people, although this could be longer in summer (depending on how many visitors we have), for all hot water, showers and cooking on a gas hob.

Water: Because we live in the countryside, approximately five kilometres from our home village of Cómpeta,  we do not have mains water.  When we bought our house, part of the purchase cost was for a share in a local water company. We have a 14,000 litre water deposit in which to store our house water. Our water share gives us an allowance of up to 17,500 litres of water each week at reduced cost, though if we use more than this, the price rises steeply. Needless to say, we don´t use this amount of water, even allowing for swimming pool top-ups and garden irrigation in the summer months. Our water company, Patamalara, send out their bills every two months, and some of the cost depends on the amount of repairs that have been undertaken on the system. Over the past twelve months our annual water bill has amounted to €119.

IBI or Council Tax: Paid yearly to the local council. This year’s bill is €337 – the same as it has been for the past nine years.  We don’t have a rubbish collection here as we live in the countryside, so we have to take all our household waste to one of the collection centres in a local village.

Telephone: Living in a mountainous area of the countryside, Telefónica (the largest fixed phone and ADSL operator in Spain) are unable to supply us with land-line telecommunications. We therefore rely on Skype (via the internet) for most calls (which are free to other Skype users, or by using credit, if not) and have a mobile phone contract with Movistar (also owned by Telefonica) which costs €11 per month for 800 MB of data and free calls (after an initial connection charge of €0.18).

Internet: We use a wireless internet option costing €29 (inclusive of IVA tax) per month, with unlimited downloads (within reason). Speeds up to 3 Mbps.

House and Contents Insurance: Based on the re-building costs of the house, including contents, we pay €241 per annum with Linea Directa.

Peugot 308 saloon


The cost of motoring in Spain has fluctuated considerably over the past few years.

New cars which until the last year or two were relatively expensive in Spain, now cost a similar amount in euros as their UK equivalent does in sterling.  But, the currency exchange rate is €1.43 for each British pound, meaning that at present, some new cars in Spain are considerably cheaper than in the UK, though this is not true of all marques – BMW for example.

Second-hand vehicles (often with high mileage) hold their values well in Spain, making a comparable model of the same age in the UK (for example) much cheaper.

FUEL: Unleaded petrol (gasolina sin plomo) 95 Octane was €1.52 per litre last year.  It is now €1.33 at the Repsol garage in Torre del Mar.

Diesel: (gasoil) at the same garage was €1.42 per litre last year and is now €1.16.

As in most countries, branded petrol stations such as Repsol are often more expensive for petrol and diesel compared to supermarkets and hypermarkets such as Carrefour.  The cheapest fuel prices in the Axarquía area at the moment are:

Unleaded: 1.269 €/l  at BALLENOIL, Camino Higueral El, 28  Vélez-Málaga
Diesel: 1.087 €/l at EROSKI, Avenida Juan Carlos I (at the El Ingenio shopping centre) because you can get a further 2% discount by using your credit card if you use the self-service, pay-at-the-pump option.

Click HERE for an interesting interactive map displaying the current cheapest petrol/gas stations in the area.

Car tax (Impuesto vehiculos traccion mechanica) is based on fiscal horsepower (which bears no resemblance to the mechanical horsepower of the vehicle) and is a means by which the taxation is calculated. This rate of taxation differs from village to village, depending on where you live.  For our car, a Peugot 308, the cost is €51.12 per annum.

Car insurance for a two year old Peugot 308 1.6 E-HDI (with Linea Directa – the Spanish equivalent of Direct Line in the UK), for fully comprehensive cover with legal assistance included, and an excess of €150, cost €570 two years ago.  However, last year we thought we could do better.  We asked for quotes from other insurers and threatened to leave Linea Directa unless they matched the price.  After initially refusing, they eventually relented and this year our premium was €426.

ALSA bus, east of Malaga


Spain’s public transport system is relatively cheap and reliable.

Trains: Because of the mountainous terrain there are no trains running through La Axarquía, though you can catch a train from Málaga to many other Spanish cities, including Granada, Seville, Córdoba, and Madrid.  I can certainly recommend the AVE train (Spain´s equivalent of the Bullet Train) as an alternative to budget flights, with favourable prices being found in advance, online, via state-owned train operator, RENFE.

Buses: The main bus operator here is Alsina Graells (ALSA). Their website is in English, and from here you can study bus schedules and purchase tickets in advance of your trip.  There are generally plenty of buses between towns and cities, and they usually leave on time. Buses may be infrequent to remote villages in the Axarquía, with often only one bus per day or none at all at the weekend. The cost of a bus ticket with ALSA, from Nerja to Málaga, (approx. 60 kms) one way is 4.52 € or €8.18 for a return trip.

MY TIP: If you are over 65 years of age, a resident in Andalucía and registered on the Padron of your local town hall, you can apply for an Andalucía Tarjeta 65 (full information, link to download the form and address to send it to, HERE)  Once you have the card, you will not only be able to get 50% off bus fares with ALSA, but showing the card will get you a discount at many local attractions :)

Brujas - Ruta de la Tapa, Torre del Mar


Eating out: Menu del Día (menu of the day, usually at lunch time) 3 course meal, including bread and one glass of beer, wine or a bottle of water) 8 – 10 €

Evening dinner for 2: (three courses) at a mid-priced restaurant, including a glass of wine 45 €

Tapas: small beer or glass of wine including a tapa 1-2 € (depending on whether it’s a tourist area or not).

Cinema ticket (International release, Yelmo cinema, Malaga) 4.90 €

Round of GOLF (18 holes, 2 players + buggy, Baviera Golf course at La Caleta de Vélez) 100 €

Cigarettes (pack of 20, Marlboro) 4.85 €

Shopping trolley in Mercadona supermarket, Spain


This is the up-to-date Standard Grocery List I have published previously.  The first price shown in black is as it was in February 2014, with this month’s prices in RED alongside.  

For the sake of comparison, I have once again used the largest Spanish supermarket – Mercadona.

Milk (semi–skimmed UHT, own brand), 1 litre   0.60 €     0.61 €

Loaf  (white, baguette 250g)   0.45 €    0.45 €

Loaf (white, Bimbo brand, 460g 100% natural)  1.49€        1.49 €

Butter (250g, own brand)    1.25 €       1.15 €

Sugar (1kg, white)   0.93 €      0.76 €

Coffee (ground, 250g, Santa Cristina)   1.89 €       1.89 €

Eggs (12, own brand caged, medium)   1.35 €         1.20 €  (special offer)

Olive oil (1 litre, extra virgin, own brand) 3€  3.85 € (5 litres 14.50 €) (5 litres 19 €) **

Rice  (1kg, long grain, own brand)   0.71€        0.71 €

Pasta  (1kg, own brand)   0.75 €       0.85 €

Pasta  (500g, wholewheat)   0.99€       0.99 €

Tinned tuna  (6 x 80g, own brand in sunflower oil)   3.35 €       2.98 €  (special offer)

Chicken breasts (1kg, boneless, skinless, packaged))  5.80 €         5.10 €   (or bought loose at the counter 4.65 € per kg)

Pork chops (1kg, packaged)  4.75 €        4.10 € 

Beef mince (Store brand, pre-packed, 700g)   3.80 €          4.95 € (now packaged as 1kg pack)

Fish  (1kg Salmon steaks)  10.75 €          11.65 € 

Fish  (1kg Dorada, Gilt-head bream)  6.95€         7.50 € 

Apples (1kg, green, Golden Delicious)   1.85 €            1.39 € **

Oranges (loose) (1kg)   0.79 €            1.15 € (or 0.91 €  per kg if purchased as a 5.5kg bag for 4.99 €) **

Bananas (loose) (1kg)   1.39 €        1.25 € **

Potatoes (loose) (1kg)   0.89 €        0.89 € 

Lettuce (1 head, Iceberg)   0.87 €         0.49 €  (special offer)

Red Peppers (1kg, loose)    1.89 €         1.99 €  **

Green pointed “Italian” Peppers (1kg, loose)    1.99 €              0.99 €   (special offer)

Tomatoes  (1kg, loose)    1.29 €          0.79 €  (special offer)

Coca-Cola (1.5 litre bottle)  1.09 €         1 €

Water (2 litre bottle)  0.42 €         0.42 €

Domestic Beer (1 litre bottle, Cruzcampo)  1.25 €    1.37 € (now bottled as 1.1 litre)

Imported beer (6 x 25cl bottles Heineken)  3.65 €           3.15 €

Bottle wine (medium priced)  3.00 – 3.50€       3.00 – 3.50 €

Colgate toothpaste (100 ml)   1.75€          1.55 € (now packaged as 75ml)

Pantene shampoo  (300 ml)   3.00€         2.90 € (now packaged as 270ml)

Toilet rolls (pack of 6, own brand)   1.98 €           1.98 €

Washing powder (Box, 35 washes, Elena brand)   4.87 €                4.87 €

** Seasonal changes

Currency Conversion from XE €1 = 1.08 USD
0.70 GBP
1.47 AUD
1.40 CAD
1.64 NZD
13.46 ZAR


An Inspector Calls: Only this time it’s Alex Polizzi, the HOTEL Inspector

Hotel Inspector, Alex Polizzi with Karen and Sarah outside Hotel La Casa

Hotel Inspector, Alex Polizzi, with Karen and Sarah outside Hotel La Casa in Torrox pueblo. Photo: Twofour/Channel 5

Following last night’s airing of the show as the finale of the current series, I can finally reveal a secret I’ve been bursting to tell you!   Alex Polizzi, also known as “The Hotel Inspector” came calling, east of Malaga and, as someone who knows the area well, I was offered an opportunity to work with her.

The Hotel Inspector is a UK documentary television series featuring hotelier and business-woman, Alex Polizzi, in her quest to turn flagging hotels into profitable ventures. The programme usually features some of Britain’s worst-run hotels and bed-and-breakfast establishments, whose owners appear to have no idea how to run a hotel.

So why, you might ask, would the Hotel Inspector come calling in southern Spain?

The background to this particular episode evolves over several years and focuses on two British sisters who, from 2005 to 2008, transformed a dilapidated building in the charming town of Torrox in the foothills of the Sierra Almijara and Tejeda mountains, into a stylish 8-bedroomed boutique hotel.

On the face of it, whether you love mountains, beaches, the hustle and bustle of the big city or the peace and tranquility of a white-washed Andalucían town, this hotel has it all. With spectacular views of the mountains, proximity to blue-flag beaches, many interesting places to visit nearby, being only a 40 minute drive from Malaga’s vibrant city and airport and, to cap it all, the town of Torrox is officially recognised at having the best climate in Europe.

However, soon after the doors of La Casa hotel opened to guests in 2008, the global economic downturn took hold, resulting in a fall in tourism and leaving the sisters struggling financially. Despite working long hours, the situation has changed little in the intervening years, with occupancy rates still low.

The cast of characters in this particular three-act drama includes British-expat sisters, Sarah Melton and Karen Atkinson, (with a quiet, behind-the-scenes role played by Sarah’s husband, Neil); Hotel Inspector Alex Polizzi; various international journalists and bloggers from such publications as Condé Nast and The Telegraph; Andalucía-based luxury travel writer, Andrew Forbes …. oh, and Yours Truly!

Alex, Sarah and travel writer Andrew Forbes on the terrace at La Casa Hotel

Alex, Sarah and travel writer Andrew Forbes on the terrace at La Casa Hotel

ACT ONE involved one of the sisters getting in touch with the show after seeing an advert in a local English language newspaper on the lookout for expat hoteliers. After being chosen to feature in the programme, the hotel was visited by Alex Polizzi together with a camera crew, to make her assessment of how to transform the hotel’s fortunes.

It soon became apparent that La Casa was not the usual type of establishment featured on The Hotel Inspector and, in this particular case, the problem appeared to be the marketing and branding of the hotel (and the local area), rather than its service and quality.

ACT TWO began towards the end of March 2015 and featured the return of Ms Polizzi and her camera crew, together with a string of travel writers, in an attempt to market the area to them.

At the same time, the hotel was being rebranded with the launch of a new website, logo and promotional literature, plus the main players were interviewed on local radio about La Casa featuring on the Hotel Inspector show.

ACT THREE saw the sisters leading the group of journalists around some of the delights of Torrox village, as well as giving a taste of what this ideal location has to offer today’s more discerning traveller.

Our tour began in the main square of the village before moving on to the local Nevaillo olive oil factory where we were given a demonstration of how the oil is produced and bottled.

Next, we were whisked back-in-time to the 17th century hamlet of El Acebuchal – known locally as The Lost Village where, after a brief look around, we headed to the local tavern where we were treated to a sumptuous tasting-menu featuring home-made bread, tropical salads, wild boar, venison and chicken. Antonio's tavern, El Acebuchal Our final stop of the day was a guided tour of the famous caves in Nerja, discovered by five boys in 1959 and which has now become one of the most visited attractions in Spain.

After a brief rest and just enough time for a shower, our evening continued back at La Casa hotel with a delicious A La Carte dinner. The menu was extensive with a choice to suit all tastes including antipasto, prawns pil-pil, pork with mushrooms, oven-baked cod and lamb shanks followed by such delights as “icky-sticky pudding” and platters of Spanish cheeses and hams.

Of course, every step of the way, we were filmed and interviewed about what we had seen and experienced. At first this proved rather daunting, but it was amazing how quickly you got used to having a fluffy sound microphone hovering over your head and/or having a camera crew nearby.

It was an absolute delight working with Alex Polizzi who is a lovely lady and comes across just as naturally as she does on TV.  She is outgoing, very friendly and willing to pose for endless photos or exchange a few words with people who recognised her from the show.

Gaudi room at Hotel La Casa

Gaudi room at Hotel La Casa

La Casa hotel features seven individually designed double/twin rooms (mine was named Gaudi, after the famous Spanish architect) and a spacious suite with a private terrace. The en-suite rooms are comfortable and spotlessly clean with A/C for cooling or warmth, whatever the season.

There is a beautiful sun terrace with amazing views of the mountains and valley, a bistro restaurant serving delicious food and, rave reviews from people who have stayed have earned this #1 rated hotel in Torrox a Travellers’ Award on TripAdvisor for the past four years.

Early morning view from La Casa

Early morning view of the mountains from La Casa’s terrace

From 5th June, the hotel’s restaurant (also used by many people not staying as guests) will be moving to a new venue in the main square of Torrox, so if you are in the village, I’d certainly recommend a visit.

Karen and Sarah are attentive hosts, and whilst I arrived as a guest we parted as friends – testimony of which is obvious by the many people who return to stay at La Casa hotel, year after year.

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish Karen, Sarah and Neil all the best with Hotel La Casa and their new venture – the restaurant which will open shortly in Torrox village.

La Casa hotel is situated at Calle Baja, Plazuela de Barajas 3, just off the main square of Torrox village, with free parking nearby.   Telephone: (0034) 95253 5471    Website: 

Disclaimer: Whilst I stayed at the hotel as a guest of La Casa Hotel/Twofour Productions, I was not asked to write any reviews or recommendations in return. Any views expressed here are my own, and I am happy to do so because I enjoyed my stay and would genuinely recommend a visit to the hotel or restaurant.

Come and visit La Axarquía, east of Málaga – it’s the AUTHENTIC Spain you’ve been looking for!