A Road-Tripper’s Adventure from the Andalusian Coast in Spain to Gibraltar
A road trip to explore and savor the rich culture and
history of the Andalusian region in Spain and Gibraltar can be an exciting adventure through a colorful panoply of culture.
I set off this fall to explore the Mediterranean Coast and experience some of the most exciting coastal areas and resort destinations of the Andalusia region and Gibraltar. A mere 87-miles long with a beautiful mosaic of landscapes ranging from rugged mountains to golden, sandy beaches, Andalusia is a road-tripper’s paradise. With one day to take this journey, these distinct areas are well worth exploring and admiring.
On a drive through this southernmost region of Spain, my journey started with a visit to the cultural city of Malaga, then onto the luxurious resort area of Marbella, before reaching spectacular Gibraltar. This adventure introduced the rich cultural blend of Spanish, Moorish and Middle Eastern influences, along with other vibrant identities that make Andalusia so interesting. A real delight is the balmy climate that can turn fiery hot in some parts, but the sunny conditions outweigh any real concern. The fine weather makes travel enjoyable and a perfect getaway from the chilly conditions of northern climes.
This trip was an ideal way to discover the history and culture of the region. I was immersed in the culture, history and the people, made connections with the local scene and experienced what it is like living on the Mediterranean Sea in Spain. It was a perfect way to experience the carefree, laid-back Spanish lifestyle in a stunning setting.
Malaga – Ancient Ruins, Palaces and Art
Driving a rental car, I visited the cultural city of Malaga, which has a population of 593,000 and is the second largest city in Andalusia, after Seville. In the old town, the main attraction is the Alcazaba which includes a spectacular Moorish fortress, a Roman amphitheater, and castle overlooking the city. Nearby is the old 18th century Customs House for the Port of Malaga, which is now the Malaga Museum.
As an international arts center, Malaga is the home of many famous artists, including Pablo Picasso, who was born here. On the Plaza de la Merced, I located the museum of Picasso’s birthplace, which still remains much the same as it did when he lived there. A few minutes away is the Picasso Museum which houses a fine collection of his works.
This vibrant and exciting city is full of architectural masterpieces and features a variety of Gothic and Moorish styles from different historical periods. One of the most extraordinary structures is the towering cathedral. Its construction started during the Gothic period (16th century) with the old mosque in the Arabian city. Looking at the various architectural styles, the cathedral is currently in the Renaissance style and is still unfinished.
Before leaving, I headed to Malaga’s public beach, Playa de la Malagueta, to look around for any celebrities who might be sunbathing and enjoying the pleasures of the ocean.
Marbella – Style, Fashion, and Luxury
My next destination was just over an hour’s drive to the beautiful coastal city of Marbella with the magnificent Sierra Bianca Mountains as a backdrop. Noted for its seventeen miles of sandy beaches, this resort city is full of villas, hotels, and golf courses that are a playground for the rich and famous. Heading west of the city, the Golden Mile has some of the most exclusive nightclubs and coastal estates that lead to a marina filled with luxury yachts.
In Marbella, it’s possible to blend into the culture and assume the Spanish way of life – living life to the fullest. Its heady mix of relaxing beaches and sophisticated beach culture make the local scene very desirable. You can stroll the streets and experience the elegant restaurants and shops that lead down to the beach. Feeling like a local, I took a leisurely walk on the promenade to watch the pounding surf and look out at a few fishermen catching fish.
One of the major highlights is experiencing the gastronomy near the waterfront. Beachside restaurants, seafood shacks, and trendy beach clubs feature cocktail brunches to late night parties. These choices allow people to dine and to be seen while fashionable people saunter by.
The regional fare is paired with wonderful seaside views. Local specialties include Espetos de sardinas (sardines) that are cooked and prepared in the traditional way by being skewered and then roasted over an open flame. It is surprising to find that this dish is often prepared in an old fishing boat-turned barbeque on the beach. Another favorite is Boquerones (anchovies) which are so tasty as tapas or as an appetizer. Before they are cooked, they are usually marinated in vinegar and olive oil, and seasoned with garlic, or deep-fried in a crispy batter. A typical method of cooking ‘espeto de sardinas’ in Andalusia is smoking the fish on a beach barbecue. A simple method, but incredibly tasty!
Before leaving Marbella, I had a quick dip in the ocean and then dined on the regional fare that was paired with beautiful views of the Mediterranean.
Gibraltar – Land, Sea, and Culture Converge
From Marbella, just over an hour’s drive southward brought me to the end of Spain at La Linea. I pulled over to leave my car before crossing the border into the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar. This required walking on the tarmac of the international airport’s runway to get into the city.
Dominating the landscape is the imposing Rock of Gibraltar that rises approximately 1,400 feet above sea level. In this spectacular and strategic place, I am about to enjoy a little bit of England with the formidable Rock in sight.
Gibraltar proved ideal terrain to explore and enjoy the expansive views of the Costa del Sol. The Rock of Gibraltar is considered one of the two Pillars of Hercules; it is one of two peaks that seems to be reaching out, linking the land and sea, creating the Straits of Gibraltar. It is possible to take a cable car to the summit or to climb the Mediterranean Stairs and explore the caves and tunnels. A major spectacle is spotting the wild monkeys, which are found only in this place in Europe.
Instead, I chose a half-hour Rock guided tour by taxi to the midpoint of the Rock to view Europa Point Trinity Lighthouse and outdoor Sikorski Memorial and mosque that is now a school. From here I enjoyed the sights of Spain and Morocco, along with panoramic views of the Mediterranean and the Bay of Gibraltar leading to the Atlantic Ocean. Despite the strong gusty winds across the rugged terrain, the Rock was breathtaking.
Our guide described what it is like living in Gibraltar now and how in the past his grandfather presented the Gibraltarian flag to Jamaica when evacuating to this Caribbean Island during the Second World War.
My visit ended with some duty-free shopping and having dinner at the traditional English pub, Angry Friar, on Main Street. After seeing so much in such a short time, traditional English fish and chips seemed like a perfect way to cap off the evening before heading back to Malaga.