Fly to Málaga and transfer by coach to the four-star Hotel Ilunion Málaga, where we stay for two nights. Set in a contemporary building, the hotel is a 15-minute walk to Málaga’s promenade and old town. The hotel has a restaurant, covered outdoor pool and heated indoor pool.
Soulful Málaga has a thriving arts scene, a storied history and plenty of gastronomic choices to rival other Spanish cities. The region’s multi-faceted history can be seen in the imposing ramparts of Gibralfaro Castle and the towering turrets of Alcazaba, two magnificent Moorish fortresses with spectacular views over the harbour and old town. After breakfast our guided tour shows us the city’s highlights, such as the lively Plaza de la Constitución, the superbly preserved Roman amphitheatre and the stunning cathedral, one of the finest examples of Spanish Renaissance architecture. Picasso first saw light of day in this eclectic city and his life’s work can be seen at the excellent Picasso Museum, which we visit. Adorning the white walls of the 16th-century Palacio de Buenavista are his colourful paintings, thought-provoking sketches and much more. The rest of the day is free for you to explore. Two of the world’s most celebrated art museums have branches here: St Petersburg’s State Russian Museum and Paris’ Pompidou. Take your pick of the many tapas bars lining the smart Muello Uno promenade or follow your nose to sample different street foods as you wander.
After breakfast we transfer to Montejaque, one of the lovely pueblos blancos or whitewashed villages of Andalucía, nestled in the foothills of the Sierra de Grazalema Nature Park. You have a choice between an easy walk and a moderate one. Easy walk Duration: 2.5 hours (2.8 miles) Altitude gain: 914 feet Terrain: mule trail Moderate walk Duration: 4 hours (6.5 miles) Altitude gain: 1,328 feet Terrain: mule trail We take a short walk around the sleepy village to see its ancient homes and central square, dominated by a church set on the foundations of a mosque. The moderate walk leaves the village via a medieval mule trail that zig-zags upwards before descending into the valley, enjoying views of undulating farmlands dotted with fruit trees and, of course, the mighty cliffs of Ronda in the distance. After crossing the Rio Grande, we are rewarded with glimpses of the famous Puente Nuevo, the largest and newest of the trio of bridges spanning the 390-foot chasm that dramatically divides Ronda. We follow the gorge and walk up to the beautiful old town of Ronda. Ramblers who prefer the easier walk will enjoy a section of the route by coach without the ascent from Montejaque. After our walk, the rest of the day is free in Ronda. Why not visit the iconic bridge for breathtaking views? Another highlight is the 14th-century Mondragón Palace, once home to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. With lots of good restaurants and a classic Moorish maze of cobbled alleys, Ronda is a splendid place to explore. Our coach then takes us to Cádiz, where we stay for three nights at the four-star Senator Cádiz Hotel. Well-located in the old town, the hotel is within walking distance of many of Cádiz’s main sights, bars and shops. The seasonal rooftop pool offers excellent views over the old town and harbour.
Set on a narrow peninsula, the ancient walled city of Cádiz offers stunning vistas: incredible historic landmarks, botanical gardens and beautiful sunsets over the harbour. This morning, we have a guided tour of the old town to explore its maritime heritage and significance on the world stage. Riches from the Golden Age gifted Cádiz with five striking plazas, connected by narrow streets and featuring gems such as the Baroque-style cathedral. Grand mansions adorned by wrought-iron balconies and elaborate doors surround Plaza San Antonio, where the Spanish Constitution was proclaimed in 1812. The rest of the day is at leisure to further your discovery. Retrace the path of ancient explorers through cobbled streets fringed with traditional buildings home to shops, galleries and tapas bars. Cádiz is famous for its watchtowers, which once welcomed seafarers, and the 18th-century Torre Tavira has fantastic views of the city.
This morning we transfer to the Estrecho Nature Park, whose beautiful coastline extends from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean. Renowned for its astonishing biodiversity, the park is home to more than 1,900 species of flora and fauna, and encompasses impressive sand dunes, dense cork forests and important archaeological sites. You have a choice between an easy walk and a moderate walk. Easy walk Duration: 2 hours (3 miles) Altitude gain: 750 feet Terrain: wooden walkway, footpaths and some tarmac On our easy route, we begin on the golden-sand beach of Bolonia and follow a wooden walkway past the archaeological site of Baelo Claudia, where the remains of an ancient Roman fishing settlement were discovered. The path skirts around a green lagoon, home to birdlife such as turnstones and dunlins, and takes us to the foot of a magnificent dune over 98 feet height and 656 feet wide. The walk continues through a wooded area of oaks and Mediterranean shrubs to the Camarinal Lighthouse. Moderate walk Duration: 3.5 hours (7 miles) Altitude gain: 1,108 feet Terrain: well-maintained footpaths and concrete roads For the more active, we ascend through dense woodland to reach the Pope’s Chair, named for its chair-shaped rock formation and the area’s reverence for religion. If the stories are to be believed, there’s a tunnel from the Pope’s Chair straight to the sea! As we walk along the Sierra de la Plata, we are treated to stunning views of the countryside, mountains and the sweeping beach of Bolonia. We descend to the coast and pass a series of sandstone caves including the Cave of the Moors, a treasure trove of prehistoric cave art. We finish at the Camarinal Lighthouse, a 16th-century watchtower converted into a lighthouse.
Departing Cádiz we journey to Seville, the vibrant Andalusian capital where the Guadalquivir flows under the gaze of craggy mountains. Its magnificent Gothic cathedral, the world’s largest, is accompanied by an Arabic bell tower and sits close to another Moorish legacy, the extraordinary Alcázar. A local guide will take us on a fascinating walking tour through the old town to see its main sights. There’s free time after to lose yourself in Seville’s labyrinthine streets and smart squares lined with traditional shops and tapas bars. You may wish to visit the cathedral to see its jaw-dropping high altar or stroll through the lovely María Luisa Park to admire the stunning array of floral colours. Later we drive through undulating countryside and cross the river into the Algarve, Portugal’s finest stretch of coastline. We stay for two nights, with breakfast, at the four-star Maria Nova Lounge Hotel in the lovely whitewashed town of Tavira. Set on a quiet hillside a short walk from the town centre, the hotel has a restaurant, indoor pool, seasonal outdoor pool and top-floor bar with panoramic views over the city.
Today we drive to Praia da Luz, a charming town spread around a beautiful sandy bay on the stunning Algarve coast. After some time to explore, we have another choice between two walks along part of one of Europe’s most impressive coastlines. Easy walk Duration: 2 hours (2.5 miles) Altitude gain: 273 feet Terrain: coastal footpath Moderate walk Duration: 3 hours (5 miles) Altitude gain: 548 feet Terrain: coastal footpath Nestled in an open valley, the fine-sand beach of Porto de Mós stretches alongside the sparkling Atlantic, flanked by high cliffs. We walk up to the Atalaia Viewpoint at the western clifftop, which affords incredible views – on a clear day, you can see all the way to Sagres, the southwestern tip of Portugal. The easy route ends here, but the moderate walk continues to Ponta da Piedade. This scenic area is a haven of hidden grottos, bays and beaches, but the highlights are the enormous rock formations, sculpted over time by the ocean and amusingly named by local fishermen – there’s even one called General de Gaulle! Our walk ends in Lagos, an ancient seafaring town, whose 16th-century walls enclose a lively historic core. After your walk, you have free time to explore Lagos and weave through the handsome squares humming with the chatter of locals. Perhaps join them for snacks at the many tascas or taverns you’ll no doubt encounter. Sample a plate or two of mouthwatering petiscos, Portugal’s answer to tapas and best shared with friends, before we return to Tavira.
Transfer to the airport for your flight home.