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The white villages of Andalucia

No visit to Spain is complete without a tour of the Pueblos Blancos, or white villages of Andalucia in the south of the country.

Situated within easy driving distance of the Costa del Sol, the Pueblos Blancos in Malaga province give visitors a true taste of Spain, just a short trip from the coast. Between the Atlantic coast to the west and the Ronda Mountains to the east are a cluster of some of Andalucía's most beautiful mountain villages.

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You can book excursions around the white villages of Andalucia, or hire a car and go it alone. Mijas-Pueblo, Istan, Ronda and Benahavis are all within easy reach of Marbella, Fuengirola and Puerto Banus, and visitors can enjoy the Andalucian countryside while travelling inland to these rural towns and villages.

Istan was originally a Moorish settlement, which survived the Christian Reconquest, largely because it was some distance away from the coast. After the Reconquest, the Moors were banished from coastal towns and villages to stop them communicating with sympathisers in North Africa.

Istan lies below the Sierra Blanca and just a fifteen minute drive from Marbella. The winding road up to Istan, is not for the faint-hearted, and the best time to go is Spring or early Autumn, before the heat of summer and the winter rains. Visitors can enjoy stunning views of the coast and down to reservoir.

Istán is a Mecca for walkers, hikers and cyclists, particularly in winter and spring. The town sits beside the Presa de la Concepción Dam which was built in 1972 to provide water to all the towns on the Costa del Sol. Explore the village on foot, and take your time to walk around the steep cobbled streets, leading to the main Church Square, and enjoy some tapas at one of the local hostelries dotted around the village centre.

Ojén is situated 10km inland from Marbella, and attracts visitors of all ages to its quaint shops, lively cafés and excellent restaurants. The village lies between Sierra Blanca and Sierra Alpujata, below the Juanar Nature Park, which is a great place of natural beauty and home to the famous ´La Concha´ mountain, which can be viewed from the coast.

Mijas Pueblo is perched precariously above the lively town of Fuengirola on the eastern end of the Costa del Sol, and is one of the most charming mountain villages in southern Spain. Just a 15 minute car ride from the coast, Mijas Pueblo is famous for its donkeys, its churches and its narrow cobbled streets, this village offers stunning views over the coast and clusters of whitewashed houses which seem to cling to the side of the mountain.

Visitors can enjoy shops, bars and quaint cafés and plenty of colourful gardens. The main Mijas Bullring is one of the oldest in Spain and one of only a few oval-shaped bullrings. A visitor centre is situated in the main arena and for a few euros you can look around the actual bullring. If you are looking to buy some souvenirs, ceramics, leather goods and jewellery are recommended. If you want to explore the village without any effort on your part, take a horse and carriage ride or a donkey trip around the narrow streets.

Benahavis was founded by the Moors at the end of the 11th Century, and has evolved into a stylish village, which is now known as the gastronomic capital of the Costa del Sol. Retaining much of its original charm, Benahavis derives its name from the times of the Moors.

The village is just 9km inland from the San Pedro/Estepona divide, and it offers plenty of attractions to visitors.

The Castle in Benahavis was built before the village existed, and it played a strategic position in the various battles between the Moorish kings of Andalucia, as it was situated high above the coastline and provided an excellent vantage point.

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