Vida Andaluza – Things To Do!

Our guests often ask us to recommend things to do while they are staying in the house.  We’re always happy to give advice based on specific interests, in the meantime here are a few ideas that should keep you busy for at least a fortnight – enjoy!

SWIMMING

POOLS

Gaucin village pool is usually open throughout July and August.  It is behind the Bar El Hacho, which is opposite the petrol station (‘gaso’) on the main road A405.  It costs around Eu2 per person per day.  It is a 25m pool and while there is room to sit around on the grass, there is little shade and there are no beds.

gaucin pool

It is about 5 minutes’ walk from the house.

Hotel Banu Rabbah

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Hotel Banu Rabbah

Benarraba

This pool in the next village (Benarraba) – about 10 minutes’ drive away – is open to visitors from 12 noon onwards.  It is part of a simple and pleasant (municipal) hotel and costs around 4 euros per head to access (with use of beds and shades).  Until we build our pool 😊 it is the best local pool if you want a ‘pool day’.  The pool is set in a terrace with sunbeds and fixed parasols, near the restaurant and bar.  You’ll need a car (or a taxi) if you want to visit. Unless you are a keen hiker, it is too far (and too hilly) to walk.  The restaurant has outdoor seating on a terrace with lovely views, the food is good and a reservation is recommended for weekend lunches, the best tables are under the pine trees at the far side of the terrace closest to the view.

RIVER

If you want inflatable toys or beach toys and games try Teresa’s shop, diagonally opposite Unicaja Bank and Pajuelo tapas bar.  Alternatively you’ll occasionally find these in the hardware store (Ferreteria) on Calle Convento.

We really like the Genal river for swimming.  It is a 20/25 minute drive, turning right for Genalguacil just before Algatocin, and parking near the Venta San Juan and Camping Genal when you reach the bottom of the valley (via a very wiggly road!).

Look for ‘Camping Genal’ on Google maps to find the exact location.  The water is clear with plenty of tree cover along the river making the Genal experience shadier than the Guadiaro.  There are fish, dragonflies, birds and geckos – some deep pools (can get busy), and some lengths of stony shallows that are refreshingly cool in the summer months.

You can eat at Venta San Juan where the food is good, or take a picnic.  It is worth wandering along the river bank for a bit and scoping the best spot to sit.

venta san juan
Deep pools outlined in blue, shady shallows hatched in red

The Guadiaro River by El Colmenar is another great choice for river swimming.

The Guadiaro River

At El Colmenar (Gaucín’s railway station) you can park near the river where the track becomes a foot / donkey path.

el colmenar

It is a short walk downhill to the river from here.  You will arrive at an attractive and well-developed grass ‘beach’ with sunshades.  Like the Genal there are many different river experiences and it’s worth wandering along the river to scope out different locations.

BEACHES

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Bolonia beach and famous sand dunes

You are within driving distance of two coasts: the much busier (closer, approx. 40 mins) Costa del Sol, and the quieter (more distant, approx. 90 mins) Costa de la Luz, seen above.

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Beach restaurants in Bolonia

Look out for chiringuitos – beach restaurants that usual serve excellent freshly caught fish, these are part of the Spanish beach experience!

  • Costa del Sol

costa sol (2)

The Costa del Sol is on the Mediterranean Sea and has greyish coarse sand/shingle beaches.  Our favourite stretch runs from Torreguadiaro to Estepona – about 20km of beaches, about 40 minutes’ drive from the house.

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Sal y Sol Chiringuito

The Chiringuito Sal y Sol is a great place for lunch, if the beach is too busy here you can walk north by a bay or two and find plenty of space.  But most chiringuitos are good.  The sand will be baking hot, and trainers are the best footwear choice if you want to walk a distance along the beach.  We have been told you can walk for miles along this stretch of beach – we haven’t done this yet.

There isn’t much parking by Sal y Sol, you may need to go early in the day to find a spot.  If you drive north from Torreguadiaro towards Estepona there are many points at which you can turn in to park.

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Estepona Old Town

Estepona itself has paid underground parking near the beach, an old town that is worth visiting, lots of shopping, lots of beach bar/restaurants, several beaches, and a promenade that invites an evening walk.

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Evening passeo in Estepona

The town is up-and-coming, lively, authentically Spanish, and worth a visit.  The current mayor has worked hard on the floral presentation of the town – as of August 2018 it looks great!

  • Costa de la Luz
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Baelo Claudia ruins at Bolonia

This coast faces the Atlantic Ocean.  It is windier and the sea is colder, but the beaches are fine white sand – it is visually stunning, and there are lots of lovely towns to visit: Tarifa, Bolonia, Zahara de los Atunes.  Because of the wind you may get sand-blasted, and this is the coast to choose for windsurfing or kitesurfing, both are available on the beach at Tarifa.  Punta Paloma is the location of the impressive Duna de Valdevaqueros.

WALKING

Many people come to Gaucín to walk – the views and landscape are spectacular.

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The ruin on the Smugglers’ walk

You must walk up to Gaucín Castle (Castillo del Aguila) and take a camera.

Summer opening hours are:

Sunday 10am–1pm, 6–8pm
Monday Closed
Tuesday Closed
Wednesday 10am–1pm, 6–8pm
Thursday 10am–1pm, 6–8pm
Friday 10am–1pm, 6–8pm
Saturday 10am–1pm, 6–8pm

See Patrick Elvin’s books (on the coffee table in the sitting room) for local walks.  We recommend Smugglers, La Umbria, and walking around and up El Hacho (the local mountain, behind the ‘gaso’ or petrol station).

If you are keen walker, download the Wikiloc app, and you will find local walks uploaded by users:

  • matthewwolfman,
  • robertpatrickelvin,
  • Roger Collinson.

Wikiloc costs about $5 p.a., you can download a route and run the walk on GPS only.  The app beeps at you if you veer off-track.  You should obviously have a map and compass too, sunscreen and lots and lots of water!

Guided walks (paid) are available too, getting to those spectacular hard-to-find locations. There is also a walking group that ventures out most Tuesdays and Fridays. They are ‘Gaucín Walkers’ on Facebook. Southern Andalucía is famous for bird life, from swifts and swallows to vultures, eagles, storks and flamingos – bird-watching outings can also be arranged locally, subject to availability.

GYM, YOGA, PILATES

Mm-hmm, yup. There is a village gym, and classes can be arranged, subject to teachers being around at the time of your visit. Let us know if you want information.

ART – DRAWING AND PAINTING

Gaucín’s active community of artists is well-publicised. The village’s annual art fair – Art Gaucín – usually straddles the end of May and start of June, and studios can be visited at other times by appointment. If you fancy painting while on holiday then artists such as the wonderful Paddy Robinson can provide lessons for you.

HORSE-RIDING

RondaRide2017
The Ride Andalucia team out with guests in Ronda

Speak to Ride Andalucia  for all your equestrian needs while on holiday in Gaucin.  Day rides are usually available at short notice, and for all levels of ability.

SIGHTSEEING – 1 HOUR BY CAR

Ronda – not to be missed! – 40 minutes by car, see the blog post on Ronda for more information on how to get there, and where to park.

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The Puente Nuevo bridge, Ronda

White Villages of the Genal Valley – Our neighbouring villages are lovely, if a bit quieter than Gaucín.  Genalguacil is a village-come-art gallery and is worth a visit.  Benadalid and Benalauría are lovely small villages, there is a good walk between them in Patrick Elvin’s book (mentioned in ‘walking’ above).

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Genalguacil – on the other side of the Genal Valley

One of the most distant villages, Juzcar, has turned itself into a Smurf village. It is not very professional so don’t expect Disney World.

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Júzcar

See the blog post on Júzcar for more information.

Casares / Jimena de la Frontera are bigger villages (with more shops and restaurants) each within 30 minutes’ drive, and both are worth a visit.  Jimena de la Frontera has a good castle with free entry.

Caves – the Cueva de la Pileta (between Gaucin and Ronda) is a fascinating visit with important cave paintings from different periods, we will be uploading a blog post shortly.  Click here for their website, and for information on booking a tour.  Inside the cave is a constant 15 degrees centigrade all year round, good during winter rains and summer heat.  In the meantime see Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cueva_de_la_Pileta

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Sotogrande Marina

If you want coastal towns and glamour (nightlife, marinas, shopping) and markets too, then Marbella and Puerto Banus are the glitziest.  Sotogrande (above) is a luxurious enclave.  Estepona is good for people-watching and evenings out, and might appeal if Marbella bling isn’t your thing.

SIGHTSEEING – 90+ MINUTES AWAY

Don a hard hat and walk the Caminito del Rey  This 7.7km hike is made up of several parts, including some exhilarating suspended sections.

Caminito

As with other very popular activities (e.g. visiting the Alhambra) you must book your tickets in advance!

Some of the most beautiful WHITE VILLAGES (Pueblo Blanco) of Andalusia are on the doorstep, we recommend: Grazalema, Zahara de la Frontera, Olvera and Sentenil.

This is too much to do in one day, each village warrants a day in its own right, the most we’d recommend is two per day.  If you can you really should do this!  See other blog posts on Grazalema and Zahara.  The journey itself is spectacular.

Or head south to the Costa de la Luz and visit the impressive Roman ruins at Bolonia

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Baelo Claudia Bolonia

(see blog post – free entry with a European passport), the beachside town of Zahara de los Atunes, and the hilltop villages of Vejer de la Frontera (stunning and foodie heaven!) and lovely Medina Sidonia.

Malaga – has a lovely old town and lots of good art galleries and museums.

SIGHTSEEING – 2-3 HOURS AWAY (consider an overnight stay)

Cádiz – another beautiful old town, with great pescado frito (fried fish) and loads of bars and restaurants to choose from.

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Cádiz

It is a stunning city, we go for Sunday lunch, leaving around 10.30 and parking in an underground car park in the old town.  It’s great for a wander, it is our local equivalent to San Sebastian.

The almadraba – the traditional tuna catch dating back to the Phoenicians – still takes place in the late spring. All along the Costa de la Luz the most delicious tuna dishes will be top of the menu!

Sevilla – a classic Andalusian Moorish city with a fabulous Alcazar and cathedral.  Lots of great bars and restaurants.

Córdoba – as above, with a fabulous Mosque.

Granada – visit the famous Alhambra, you can catch the train from El Colmenar.  You must book tickets for the Alhambra in advance.

Jerez and Sanlucar – the home of Sherry.  Also flamenco bars and fabulous food.

Morocco – you can catch a boat from Tarifa to Tangier, have lunch in Morocco, look around the Medina, and be back in Gaucin in the late evening. We used FRS ferries from Tarifa port to Tangier Ville, you can see the medina from the port – it’s only a 10-minute walk. Don’t accidentally buy tickets to Tangier Med – this is 55km outside Tangier and you’ll need to catch a train / taxi back into town.

COOKING & EATING OUT

Businesses such as Annie B’s  in Vejer de la Frontera run day (and longer) courses in cooking and sherry/wine appreciation.  The more distant Finca Buenvino in Aracena runs longer cookery courses.

Stay home with some home-made tapas and enjoy the views of the village, Gibraltar and Africa from the terrace.  Or stock up with goodies from Bonnasim Deli on Calle Convento, or from La Posada deli on Calle Los Bancos in the village.

Or eat out at one of the many tapas bars, or excellent restaurants in the village.

SHOPPING

In Gaucin:

Ali’s Regalos – next to the farmacia – Moroccan goods at Medina prices (below).

Lanas del Rio –fine woollen goods made by weavers by the Genal river

La Posada – on the way to Ruiz Galan supermarket (see Airbnb guidebook) – fine food and wine (jamon, cheese, olives, wine, cava, sherry)

You’ll find information on supermarkets, etc., in the guidebook with our Airbnb listing.

MARKETS

The Sunday markets at Estepona and Sotogrande have been recommended to us:

Estepona: Officially called ‘Mercadill del Puerto’ in the Marina – Gifts, leather work, watches, costume jewellery, arts and crafts, presents, novelties, music CD’s and tapes. … Sunday Morning 10.00 to 15.00, park near the old bullring, eat at one of the many restaurants lining the marina basin.

Sotogrande: The ‘Mercardo Historico de Sotogrande’ (Historical Market Sotogrande) the up-market antiques and craft market takes place every Sunday morning at the Ribiera del Marlin near Sotogrande Marina. This is the one that was located by the yacht club for many years.  You’ll find it La Ribiera del Marlin, near the Marina, every Sunday: 10.00 – 14.00 hrs.  Please check details locally – we have not yet been.

Leather:

Ubrique village is world-renowned as a location for manufacturing leather goods.  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-40728150 many of the world’s most exclusive designer labels (e.g. Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Hermes, Chanel, Chloe, Loewe and Carolina Herrera) are rumoured to have their leather goods made here.  Worth a visit (you must go via Cortes de la Frontera – other roads are too rough) and there are number of shopping outlets in the town.

THINGS TO BUY IN SPAIN: 

Textiles, such as Alpujarras rugs, and mohair blankets (see Ezcaray http://www.mantasezcaray.com/) or woollen blankets from Lanas del Rio, or from the town of Grazalema.

Food & Drink – tinned fish and seafood, acorn-fed ham (e.g. Cinco Jotas – 5 J’s), cheeses, and olives.  Cava and sherry.

Ceramics – Fajalauza pottery (from near Granada)

Leather goods – see Ubrique, mentioned above.

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