Notes From Gaucín welcomes Guest Blogger Julia Begbie from Vista de Carmen. Julia’s guests often ask for recommendation of things to do while they are staying in her house and has kindly provided this round up of the area’s attractions. Over time Notes From Gaucín aims to write about some of these places and activities in greater detail but Julia’s personal recommendations give a flavour of what is on offer.
Notes From Gaucín welcomes guest contributors – if you have a story to tell about Gaucín or the surrounding area, please get in touch.
Gaucín village pool is usually open throughout July and August. It is behind the Bar El Hacho, which is opposite the petrol station (‘gaso’) on the main road A405. It costs around 2 euros per person per day. It is a 25 metre pool and while there is room to sit around on the grass, there are no beds.
Hotel Banu Rabbah
This pool in the next village (Benarraba) – about 10 minutes’ drive away – is open to visitors from 12 noon onwards. It is part of a simple and pleasant (municipal) hotel and costs a few euros per head to access. It is the best local pool if you want a ‘pool day’. The pool is set in a terrace with sunbeds, and a restaurant and bar. You’ll need a car (or a taxi) if you want to visit. Unless you are a keen hiker it is too far (and too hilly) to walk.
The Guadiaro River is the best choice for river swimming, although you can also swim in the Genal. The Gaucín Ferreteria (Ironmongers/tool/ electronics shop) on Calle Convento usually sells inflatable toys. At El Colmenar (Gaucín’s railway station) you can park near the river where the track becomes a foot / donkey path. It is a short walk downhill to the river from here. We haven’t done this yet, but are told it is great fun, and that there is a zipwire here too!
Bolonia beach and famous sand dunes
You are within driving distance of two coasts: the much busier (closer, approx. 40 mins) Costa del Sol, and the quieter (more distant, approx. 90 mins) Costa de la Luz. On the beach look out for chiringuitos – beach restaurants that usual serve excellent freshly caught fish, these are part of the Spanish beach experience!
Costa del Sol
The Costa del Sol is on the Mediterranean Sea and has greyish coarse sand/shingle beaches. Our favourite stretch runs from Torreguadiaro to Estepona – about 20km of beaches, about 40 minutes’ drive from the house. The Chiringuito Sal y Sol outside Estapona is a great place for lunch, if the beach is too busy here you can walk north by a bay or two and find plenty of space. Most chiringuitos are good. The sand will be baking hot, and trainers are the best footwear choice if you want to walk a distance along the beach. We have been told you can walk for miles along this stretch of beach – we haven’t done this yet. There isn’t much parking by Sal y Sol, you may need to go early in the day to find a spot. If you drive north from Torreguadiaro towards Estepona there are many points at which you can turn in to park.
Estepona Old Town
Estepona itself has paid underground parking near the beach, an old town that is worth visiting, lots of shopping, lots of beach bar/restaurants, several beaches, and a promenade that invites an evening walk. The town is up-and-coming, and worth a visit.
COSTA DE LA LUZ
Baelo Claudia ruins at Bolonia
This coast faces the Atlantic Ocean. It is windier and the sea is colder, but the beaches are fine white sand – it is visually stunning, and there are lots of lovely towns to visit: Tarifa, Bolonia, Zahara de los Atunes. Because of the wind you may get sand-blasted, and this is the coast to choose for windsurfing or kitesurfing, both are available on the beach at Tarifa.
Many people come to Gaucín to walk – the views and landscape are spectacular. You must walk up to Gaucín Castle (Castillo del Aguila) and take a camera. Summer opening hours are:
- Sunday 10am–1pm, 6–8pm
- Monday Closed
- Tuesday Closed
- Wednesday 10am–1pm, 6–8pm
- Thursday 10am–1pm, 6–8pm
- Friday 10am–1pm, 6–8pm
- Saturday 10am–1pm, 6–8pm
See Patrick Elvin’s books for local walks (available for download on Amazon, or in the flesh at the village papeleria). We recommend Smugglers, La Umbria, Las Palas, and walking around and up El Hacho (the local mountain, behind the ‘gaso’ or petrol station).
If you are keen walker, download the Wikiloc app, and you will find local walks uploaded by users such as Matthew Wolfman, Robert Patrick Elvin and Roger Collinson. Wikiloc costs about $5 p.a., you can download a route and run the walk on GPS only. The app beeps at you if you veer off-track. You should obviously have a map and compass too, sunscreen and lots and lots of water!
Guided walks (paid) are available too, getting to those spectacular but hard-to-find locations. There is also a walking group that ventures out most Tuesdays and Fridays. They are ‘Gaucín Walkers’ on Facebook. Southern Andalucía is famous for bird life, from swifts and swallows to vultures, eagles, storks and flamingos – bird-watching outings can also be arranged locally, subject to availability.
GYM, YOGA, PILATES
Mm-hmm, yup. There is a village gym, and classes can be arranged, subject to teachers being around at the time of your visit.
ART – DRAWING AND PAINTING
Gaucín’s active community of artists is well-publicised. The village’s annual art fair – Art Gaucín – usually straddles the end of May and start of June, and studios can be visited at other times by appointment. If you fancy painting while on holiday then artists such as the wonderful Paddy Robinson can provide lessons for you.
Speak to Ride Andalucia for all your equestrian needs while on holiday in Gaucín.
COOKERY LESSONS & WINE TASTING
Businesses such as Annie B’s in Vejer de la Frontera run day (and longer) courses in cooking and sherry/wine appreciation. The more distant Finca Buenvino in Aracena runs longer cookery courses.
The markets at Estepona and Sotogrande have been recommended to us:
Estepona: Officially called ‘Mercadill del Puerto‘ in the Marina – Gifts, leather work, watches, costume jewellery, arts and crafts, presents, novelties, music CD’s and tapes. Town Market – Wednesday Morning 09.00 to 14.00 “El Rastro” is on the Avenida Puerta del Mar.
Sotogrande: The ‘Mercardo Historico de Sotogrande’ (Historical Market Sotogrande) the up-market antiques and craft market takes place every Sunday morning at the Ribiera del Marlin near Sotogrande Marina. This is the one that was located by the yacht club for many years. You’ll find it La Ribiera del Marlin, near the Marina, every Sunday: 10.00 – 14.00 hrs.
Leather – the nearby town of Ubrique is world-renowned as a location for manufacturing leather goods – many of the world’s most exclusive designer labels (e.g. Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Hermes, Chanel, Chloe, Loewe and Carolina Herrera) are rumoured to have their leather goods made here. Worth a visit (you must go via Cortes de la Frontera – other roads are too rough) and there are number of shopping outlets in the town.
THINGS TO BUY IN SPAIN
Textiles, such as Alpujarras rugs, and mohair blankets (see Ezcaray ) or woollen blankets from Lanas del Rio, or from the town of Grazalema.
Food & Drink – tinned fish and seafood, acorn-fed ham (e.g. Cinco Jotas – 5 J’s), cheeses, and olives. Cava and sherry.
Ceramics – Fajalauza pottery (from near Granada).
Leather goods – see Ubrique, mentioned above.
SIGHTSEEING – 1 HOUR BY CAR
Ronda – not to be missed! – 40 minutes by car, see the blog post on Ronda for more information on how to get there, and where to park.
White Villages of the Genal Valley – Our neighbouring villages are lovely, if a bit quieter than Gaucín. Genalguacil is a village-come-art gallery and is worth a visit. Benadalid and Benalauría are lovely small villages, there is a good walk between them in Patrick Elvin’s book (mentioned in ‘walking’ above).
One of the most distant villages, Juzcar, has turned itself into a Smurf village. It is not very professional so don’t expect Disney World.
Casares / Jimena de la Frontera are bigger villages (with more shops and restaurants) each within 30 minutes’ drive, and both are worth a visit. Jimena de la Frontera has a good castle with free entry.
Caves – the Cueva de la Pileta (between Gaucín and Ronda) is a fascinating visit with important cave paintings from different periods.
If you want coastal towns and glamour (nightlife, marinas, shopping), try Estepona, Marbella, and Sotogrande. Good for people-watching, markets too.
SIGHTSEEING – 90+ MINUTES AWAY
Don a hard hat and walk the Caminito del Rey This hike totals 7.7km and is made up of several parts, including some exhilarating suspended sections. As with other very popular activities (e.g. visiting the Alhambra) you must book your tickets in advance!
Some of the most beautiful white villages (Pueblos Blancos) of Andalusia are on the doorstep, we recommend: Grazalema, Zahara de la Frontera, and Sentenil. Together these make a good one-day road-trip. If you can you really should do this – the journey itself is spectacular!
Or head south to the Costa de la Luz and visit the impressive Roman ruins at Baelo Claudia Bolonia, the beachside town of Zahara de los Atunes, and the hilltop village of Medina Sidonia.
Malaga has a lovely old town and lots of good art galleries and museums.
SIGHTSEEING – 2-3 HOURS AWAY (consider an overnight stay)
Cádiz – another beautiful old town, with great pescado frito (fried fish) and loads of bars and restaurants to choose from. It is a stunning city – we go for Sunday lunch leaving around 10.30 and parking in an underground carpark in the old town. It’s great for a wander, it is our local equivalent to San Sebastian. The almadraba – the traditional tuna catch dating back to the Phoenicians – still takes place in the late spring. All along the Costa de la Luz the most delicious tuna dishes will be top of the menu!
Sevilla – a classic Andalusian Moorish city with a fabulous Alcazar and cathedral. Lots of great bars and restaurants.
Córdoba – as above, with a fabulous Mosque.
Granada – visit the famous Alhambra, you can catch the train from El Colmenar. You must book tickets for the Alhambra in advance.
Jerez and Sanlucar – the home of Sherry. Also flamenco bars and fabulous food.
Morocco – you can catch a boat from Tarifa to Tangier, have lunch in Morocco, look around the Medina, and be back in Gaucín in the late evening. We used FRS ferries from Tarifa port to Tangier, you can see the medina from the port – it’s only a 10-minute walk. Don’t accidentally buy tickets to Tangier Med – this is 55km outside Tangier and you’ll need to catch a train / taxi back into town.
Notes From Gaucín would like to thank Julia Begbie for this abridged version but if you would like to read this post in its’ entirety or find out more about Julia’s holiday rental, please visit Vista de Carmen for more information.
All images © Julie Begbie
Please note: The content of this blog post is the provided by a guest contributor and whilst we aim to ensure all material is as accurate as possible at the time of posting Notes From Gaucín are not responsible for the content.