Before the beginning of 2017, I can’t really say that I have visited Spain. Sure, I have been to Madrid (one day, in a layover before my flight to South America) and 3 days in Barcelona (unfortunately timed with the referendum for the independence of Catalonia) but this doesn’t mean that I knew much about Spain. I wasn’t even aware of how big the country is. Do you know that there is around 1000 km between Barcelona and Malaga?
This year, however, I got the chance to explore more of Costa del Sol, the South part of Spain, and I fell in love with Andalusia’s white villages. There are so many beautiful places to see in Andalusia, from Granada, with its impressive Alhambra to Itaca, with its roman ruins, from Malaga, with its great nightlife to the El Chorro, with the famous Caminito del Rey. But today I am going to tell you about my favorite white village. I have visited Mijas Pueblo quite a few times so I’ve created this complete travel guide with my recommendation on how to best explore this hidden little gem close to Malaga.
Mijas Pueblo is probably one of the most beautiful white villages Andalucia has to offer. Tucked in high, on the side of a mountain, the village offers stunning views over the Costa del Sol, from Benalmadena and Torremolinos in the East all the way to Gibraltar (on a sunny day) in the West. Sometimes you can even spot the shapes of the mountains from Morocco.
The village dates all the way back in the Bronze Age and has been inhabited by the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Moors and in the end, by the Christians. Walking on the streets of the village you will notice an amalgam of different architectural styles, especially in the lower part. Being built on the mountainside, the village is split into the upper part and the lower part, divided by the Plaza Virgen de la Peña, the main square in town.
Mijas is also famous for its burro taxis – touristy carriages pulled by donkeys. Mijas is one of the last places in Spain where donkeys are used for tourism. However, the local council has imposed a set of strict regulations to make sure the animals are very well taken care of.
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How to get to Mijas
The easiest way to get to Mijas Pueblo is by bus, from Malaga’s Central Bus Station (Estación Bus Málaga). The M-112 (see the timetable here) bus runs 7 times a day and the price of a single ticket is 2.30 euros (as per August 2017). The total travel time from Malaga to Mijas is 1 hour.
If you are based in Fuengirola then take the M-122 bus (see the timetable here) for a short 15 minutes journey to Mijas. The fare for a single ticket is 1.55 euros.
Where to stay in Mijas
If you are looking for a special getaway with your family and you want a quiet homely environment then you should consider renting a villa in Mijas. The biggest advantage of renting a villa is the privacy that it comes with. It is also a very cost effective solution when you compare it with booking hotel rooms, especially if you have a large family or you are traveling with friends.
All James Villas in the Costa del Sol are designed in a traditional Andalucian style, offering stunning views over the coast and the mountains. Each villa is modern furnished, has an outdoor terrace with a covered dining area and comes with its own private pool. All the rooms are air conditioned and benefit from Free WiFi. The villas are fully equipped with everything you need for a perfect holiday, including an outdoor barbecue where you can cook your own dinner while watching the sunset.
Where to eat
This is by far my favourite place to have tapas in Mijas. From the outside it doesn’t look much, just a café with a few seats along the side of the street. However, if you venture inside, pass by the dining hall and head towards the tiny white door in the back, you will be welcomed into the secret garden. Simple chair and small tables are set on pebbles, underneath orange and olive trees, surrounded by green shrubs.
I recommend going for the tapas and don’t miss the Grandma’s spinach croquettes or the chorizo in sweet wine sauce. To drink, you must order the homemade sangria, they make a very good one, sweet and full of fruits.
The Secret Garden is also famous for serving a delicious Argentinian steak but I didn’t try it as I went there for lunch and they only fire the barbecue in the evening, for the dinner menu.
La Bovedo Del Flamenco
If you are looking for the cutest and probably the most Instagramable coffee shop in Mijas, this is it. With vintage wrought iron chairs, blue umbrellas, red tablecloths and a white wall decorated with flower pots, La Bovedo del Flamenco is the perfect place to go for breakfast. Fun fact, this little café used to be the old village jail.
Locals are praising the friendly service and the quality of the breakfast, especially the ham and cheese tostada, their speciality.
If you fancy dinner with you a view and good cocktails then you should go to La Alcazaba. They specialise in fish dishes, sourced from the nearby sea, but their menu also offers plenty of other choices. However, due to the location and the panoramic views, expect to pay more than at another restaurant in the village.
Make sure to book in advance and request a table next to the windows.
Another excellent restaurant for tapas, Pampa Tablas Y Tapas is the perfect place for a relaxed evening, with plenty of food choices, both for meat lovers and for vegetarians. This is another restaurant that from the outside doesn’t look like something special but once you step inside you are welcomed warmly by the friendly staff, ready to take you through a journey of flavours.
The restaurant focuses on traditional Spanish cuisine and it is very popular among the locals because of the high quality of food and the affordable prices.
What to do in Mijas
Take a stroll along Muralla Gardens
The Muralla Gardens have been built on the remains of the old fortress walls and offer stunning panoramic views towards the coast. Situated in the lower part of the village, the gardens are designed to have multi-coloured flowers blooming all year round.
The Gardens are also the home of the bull ring and the San Sebastian church. Dating from as early as the 1900s, the bull ring in Mijas is unique in Spain because of its unusual oval shape. Because it was built o a rock, the arena couldn’t be made round. For the same reason there are seats only on 2 sides of the bull ring. Even if many areas of Spain have stopped bullfighting, they still happen at the arena in Mijas. The bullring is usually used for less experiences toreros to show their skills. The arena is quite small and for this reason only young bulls are used here.
Explore the Grotto of the Virgen de la Peña
The legend says that back in 1538 two children playing outside the city walls have seen a white dove, different from the others. The dove let them touch it before it flew away. The next day they had the same encounter with the dove so they told their parents who forbid them to go back to the walls, fearing something bad might happen to them. When they returned to the walls, days after, they’ve heard a voice calling them. They followed it and, besides the tower of the castle, the Virgin appeared to them, asking to be let free from the rock. The children told the story to their parents who alerted the authorities and the next day the entire village went to the tower. The father of the children started to remove the rocks and he found the statue of the virgin which stands today above the altar, in the chapel.
After years of failed plans to build a chapel in the same spot, a local priest decided to construct it himself inside the rocks, finishing it in 1682.
Virgin Mary is the patron saint of Mijas and it is celebrated each year on the 8th of September.
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Hike up to Calvario Hermitage chapel
Situated in the upper part of Mijas, a visit to the chapel of Calvario Hermitage will have you do a workout as well. The path is strenuous, uneven and rocky, going up underneath tall pine trees. Don’t attempt this short hike on a very hot day without good grip shoes and plenty of water.
However, the hike is all worth it once you arrive at the chapel and notice the panorama of the entire coast in front. The hermitage is a small chapel built in the Valencian Baroque architectural style. When I was there it was closed and I’ve heard that it’s rarely open but you might be lucky. If not, the views are worth the effort of going up.
From Calvario Hermitage there are several trails continuing towards Pico Mijas, the top of the mountain. This is considered a medium-difficult circular hike of 14,5 km (around 6 hours) with walking on top of a ridge and drop at some point, so if you’re afraid of heights take this in consideration. The views from Pico Mijas are stunning though.
The Burros of Mijas
The story of the Burros of Mijas started in the 1960s, when the first tourists arrived to the village. Back then the donkeys were used by the locals to transport wheat, fruits and vegetables in large baskets across their backs. The tourists were fascinated by this practice so besides taking photos, they started to ask the locals to let them ride the donkeys for a small tip. This amount of money was so large though, covering their daily wages, that one local men saw an opportunity and decided to start the burro taxi company.
The location of the burro taxi is the same as back in 1960, in Plaza Virgen de la Peña, the place where the buses full of tourists usually stop.
Even if the donkeys are very well taken care of and looked after the El Refugio del Burro (The Donkey Sanctuaty, a non-profit association protecting the animals), I would not recommend riding them for the simple reason that I am against touristic activities which involve animals.
Watch a free flamenco show
You are in Andalucia, which means that you’re in for a treat if you are searching for a traditional experience. Every Wednesday at noon, in Plaza Virgen de la Peña, there is a free flamenco show performed by “Artes Cordobes”.
Flamenco is a passionate art performance originated in the South of Spain and associated with the Romani people living in Andalucia. It consists of a combination of musical styles, like singing, guitar playing, vocalization, hand clapping, finger snapping and dancing. Flamenco is usually an expression of the deepest emotions using body language and facial expressions.
Visit the Wine Museum
Did you know that the region of Malaga is the oldest wine making area in Spain?
At the Mijas Museo del Vino you can find out a lot about the production of the sweet Malaga wine. The grapes used in the Malaga wine are already very high in sugar and go through a different making process than the wines in the North of Spain. After harvesting, the grapes are left outside to dry under the hot sun to reduce the moisture and concentrate the natural sugar.
Even if the Malaga wine is dark coloured, the grapes it is made from are white. The dark colour comes from the over ripening of the fruits.
At the Museo de Vino in Mijas not only you can learn about the process of making Malaga wine but you can also have a glass or two on their tiny terrace in the back. The museum organises tasting sessions and wine tours and also stocks about 250 different Spanish wines which you can buy.
Even if it is a small village, Mijas is a great shopping destination especially if you are looking for traditional handmade ceramics. Many local artists have shops in town where they sell their art and crafts, like leatherwork, linen, paintings and jewellery. If you are searching for a unique piece make sure to pass by Artesania de Espana. The owner is working together with artisan craftsmen from all over Spain to create unique ceramic pieces at the highest quality.
If you like chocolate then you have to visit the smallest chocolate factory in the world: Mayan Monkey. Besides selling their own products, you can also buy a chocolate making experience in which you learn how to make chocolate bars, truffles, figurines and many other sweet treats.
Walking on the streets of Mijas is an experience itself, with the streets going uphill and the white houses dressed in flowers. Take some time to just walk around and admire the most beautiful white village in Andalucia.
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