The sun-drenched Andalusian port city of Malaga has become increasingly popular over recent years thanks to its diverse offering of forward-thinking art, glittering marinas, world-class food and everything in between.
With a cultural and historical heritage to rival other top destinations in Spain, Malaga is without a doubt one of the most alluring places on the Costa Del Sol.
It also happens to be incredibly well located when it comes to day trips in the region.
Whether you’re looking for pristine beaches, Andalusian mountain towns or Moorish history, the sparsely populated areas near Malaga are filled with cultural and natural gems that are well worth leaving town for a day to see.
The ever popular Gibraltar takes about three hours to reach but the attractions there are more than worth the travel time.
The spectacular Cuevas de San Miguel are a must see on your visit, as are the Mediterranean Steps to reach the top of The Rock from where you can enjoy breathtaking panoramas and views all the way to Africa.
Calle Real is also a popular stop-off for people looking for some retail therapy where you can indulge in everything from designer to souvenir stores.
A mere hour away from busy Malaga, you’ll find the magical seaside resort of Nerja, home to everything from stunning beaches to the surreal cave networks.
One of the most beautiful and unique beach towns reachable in a day, Nerja features a mixture of sandy beaches and rocky headlands overlooking the sea that are a pleasure to explore.
What makes the coastal destination stand out however is the network of captivating, treasure island-like caves peppering its shores, which can be visited on tours or at your own leisure.
Costa del Sol’s most popular and well-known city is the sunny, beach-filled Marbella.
Before hitting the numerous beaches, be sure to spend a few hours wandering the winding, hilly streets of the Old Town.
Here you’ll find charming seafood restaurants and peaceful plazas where you can enjoy a coffee.
The nearby Puerto Banus is popular for nightlife and those seeking a little luxury although the best beaches are right by Marbella itself and include the buzzing Bounty Beach and the tranquil Playa Real de Zaragoza.
The picture-perfect whitewashed Spanish township of Frigiliana is only an hour away from Malaga and draws countless visitors a year to its cobbled streets flanked by white, terracotta-tiled houses.
The main pastime here is leisurely strolling the labyrinth of alleys and pathways stumbling across charming boutiques and cafes.
If you want to soak up some history, then head over to the ancient fortress and then spend the afternoon exploring the Mudéjar historic quarter.
The surrounding countryside here is centered on artisanal culture and fresh produce so be sure to enjoy the excellent wines, tapas and shops you’ll find in town.
Recommended tour: Half-Day Nerja and Frigiliana
A visually stunning cliffside city that is literally built on and around the dramatic El Tajo Gorge, Ronda is one of the most unique day trips from Malaga.
Filled with ornate bridges connecting different parts of the cliffs offering truly breathtaking views of the gorge below, Ronda is a favorite among photographers.
Aside from the incredible views, Ronda is also home to Spain’s oldest bullfighting ring and a collection of fascinating churches such as the Iglesia del Spiritu Santo and the Iglesia de Santa Maria La Mayor making the city the perfect mix of culture, history and nature.
Wine enthusiasts will want to visit the winery known as Bodegas La Sangre de Ronda, where you’ll have the chance to try delicious wines and learn about their role in the region.
Recommended tour: From Malaga: Day Trip to Ronda and the Pueblos Blancos
Cordoba is without question one of the most beautiful and most interesting cities in Spain thanks to its historical and religious heritage.
The eclectic mix of cultures sets it aside as decidedly more diverse than other places in the country and makes for some fascinatingly different areas of town.
The famous historic center is the Jewish Quarter, with its reputation as one of the largest World Heritage Sites on Earth.
Other unmissable sights are the 14th Century Synagogue, the Cathedral and of course the Great Mosque of Cordoba.
This monument is an incredibly significant landmark in Western Islamic culture and is home to monumental halls, gorgeous stained glass and impossibly intricate mosaics.
Antequera is widely known to be the heartland of Andalusia in terms of both location and culture.
Found in the middle of a rural plain, the city is home to stunning Moorish and Spanish architecture that is epitomized in the region’s most famous attraction, the Antequera Dolmens.
The prehistoric site is also known as the Sistine Chapel of Ancient times and is a spectacular archaeological visit.
The city itself offers mouthwatering authentic Andalusian food, a fascinating historic center and incredible views from the higher points in town.
If you want to do something a little more active, head out to the stunning landscapes of the Karst region and explore the various hiking routes in the El Torcal nature reserve.
The laid-back beach town of Tarifa is instantly charming, with many visitors allured by the bohemian surfer atmosphere and the incredibly friendly locals.
You’ll find it in the province of Cadiz and the vast expanses of white sand beaches, clear ocean and world-class seafood makes it one of the best day trips from Malaga for beach lovers.
Be sure to explore the Arabic style Old Town surrounded by still-intact medieval walls and learn about some of the town’s Moorish history.
The Andalusian capital is widely revered to be remarkably beautiful and brimming with history and culture.
Home to the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world, the Jewish Quarter of Santra Cruz, the Plaza de España and more, there is no shortage of historical attractions to keep you busy, not to mention that they’re all architectural works of genius.
Asides from this, the city’s overwhelmingly Spanish personality is instantly infectious and you can enjoy all Seville has to offer like tapas, flamenco and lively parties in the plazas usually side-by-side with charming locals.
Suggested tour: From Malaga: Full-Day Private Tour to Seville
Just under three hours away from Malaga you’ll find the gorgeous coastal city of Cadiz, known for its vivid green water, colorful fishing boats and winding cobbled streets.
The city has something for everyone, from fascinating Roman ruins and forts to eccentric tapas bars lining buzzing streets, it’s impossible not to find something to your taste in Cadiz.
Highlights include strolling along the promenade at La Caleta Beach and climbing to the top of the stunning Cadiz Cathedral to take in the sweeping views of the city.
11. Costa Tropical
Stretching out from Nerja and continuing all the way to Motril is the lesser known alternative to Costa del Sol, Costa Tropical.
With a delightfully diverse range of beaches, fishing villages and rocky cliffs, the 60km stretch of coast is an enchanting drive full of stops on the way.
The subtropical climate attracts sun-seekers and the villages attract travelers searching for a little culture, but all the destinations feel sparsely populated and tranquil.
Some of the most popular sites include the quaint fishing village of La Herradura and the picturesque whitewashed town of Salobreña.
Amongst many other things, Granada is famed for its beauty, proximity to La Sierra Nevada mountain range and its Moorish influence.
The Alhambra Palace is in fact one of the finest and most ornate palace complexes in the world that also contains the beautiful and UNESCO listed Generalife Gardens.
Other highlights in town include the attractive Arabic quarter, full of meandering streets and Moorish buildings, or the lively district of Sacromonte.
Here you’ll find buzzing plazas, live flamenco shows and even free tapas in some of the more popular squares.
Recommended tour: Guided Tour of the Alhambra from Malaga
A stone’s throw way from Spain, across the Strait of Gibraltar you’ll find one of Morocco’s most attractive cities, Tangier.
Historically a port city, it’s grown into a thriving cosmopolitan hub full of explosions of color and culture.
The vibrant souks, buzzing medinas and cafes serving some of the best coffee in the world would be enough to keep anyone entertained for weeks but it is possible to see in a day with an early departure from Malaga to Tarifa and then a short ferry.
A historic city with a significant history in bullfighting, Archidona is a charming agricultural town with a proud heritage that is nestled among beautiful olive groves and almond trees, typical to this part of the Andalusian countryside.
Backdropped by the easily reachable Sierra Gracia, the town is the perfect place to find some peace and quiet as it’s quite sleepy for most of the year.
Once a year, however, in the stunning Plaza Ochavada, things liven up for the annual feria, centered mainly on bullfights.
15. Villanueva de la Concepción
Only an hour away from the busy streets of Malaga you’ll find the impossibly beautiful rolling hills and craggy rocks of the El Torcal natural reserve where you’ll also find the tranquil farming village of Villanueva de la Concepción.
Here is without a doubt a place to come and unwind and leave behind the stresses of the city as its isolated and surrounded by gorgeous countryside.
Don’t be surprised to hear the sound of goat bells in the streets and be prepared to be invited for drinks by the locals in the many rustic bars along the main street.