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Hundreds of thousands of Europeans have been descending on the Costa del Sol every summer for the past three decades. There must be a reason &endash; this strip of the Spanish coast guarantees all the conveniences and tastes of your homeland, is cheap and has room for everyone. The abundance of foreign owned villas means many return year after year.
Malaga, a mix of fascinating historic value and tacky tourist clutter, is the main hub. The beach strip is a bus ride away from the old town, but it’s a charming and popular city.
Marbella is a more upmarket, historic town featuring a Moorish castle and an impressive number of ancient buildings in the charming old town. Its promenade becomes the focal point at dusk, and there are lovely beaches around Puerto Banus. The wealthy like to hide away during the winter. Various companies organise horse riding and treks into the local countryside.
Torremolinos is another lovely old fishing village, once a hangout of hippies, which is now full of holiday villas and apartment blocks. Slightly less busy than other centres, it is nonetheless popular for its unique charm.
There are endless ‘suburbs’ and little towns all along the coast, with a myriad of options for a sunny vacation, and loads of private villas for rent. The Costa del Sol is lively and busy; peace and quiet should be sought elsewhere as this is the heartbeat of Spain’s tourist industry, with plenty of entertainment and activities.
El Valle de Abdalajís has one of the most popular paragliding programmes in Europe. Ballooning is offered in Ronda; there are endless water sport options, and diving is available at Estepona and Nerja.
The outstanding feature of the Costa del Sol is its ease of access. Hundreds of charter flights arrive weekly, and it's possible to get very cheap tickets from most European cities.
Málaga is Andalucía's principal international airport, although Almería, Seville, Jerez de la Frontera and Gibraltar also receive some international flights. Málaga Airport is positioned midway between Málaga and Torremolinos, the main resort area.
You can reach both towns easily by taking the electric train that runs every thirty minutes along the coast between Málaga and Fuengirola.
Trains run from all major European cities to Madrid, where you can get a connecting service to Andalucía. Regional or cercanía trains run between the main cities, suburbs and smaller towns. High speed AVE long-distance trains link Andalucía with the other Spanish regions and many major cities, running along the coast to the Costa Blanca, Valencia and Barcelona.
For big bus trips try the Daibus service, which is cheaper than train or plane if you want to go from the Costa del Sol to Madrid and usually quite reliable. Buses leave from Marbella and take you right into Madrid in eight hours with one stopover on route.
There are also international bus companies that run services throughout Spain.
The coastal roads are perfect for people exploring Spain in their own time. The N340 Costa del Sol Road is particularly scenic and a favourite among travellers.