Ronda ♥♥ is beautiful and full of interesting places, as well as a logical base for further exploration of the Pueblos Blancos region. It is a white-washed city in its own right, albeit relatively big and touristy. Its spectacular topology – straddling a precipitous limestone canyon – gives it an added charm. Puente Nuevo ♥ connects the old and new Ronda 330 feet above the floor of the gorge. There is also Puente Viejo, a 16th-century pedestrian bridge with great views.
A number of historic sights are located in the older part of the town, the most interesting of which is Palacio Mondragon ♥, whose patio is decorated with Moorish tiles and plasterwork, and from whose terraces you can take in the unforgettable vista of the valley below. Also worth checking out are Baños Arabes Yacimiento Arqueológico, Casa Museo Don Bosco, Museo Lara, Casa del Rey Moro, or Casa del Gigante.
The newer town is fairly commercialized, but is home to one of the oldest bullrings in Spain (whose full name is the romantically-sounding Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Ronda), the attractive Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Merced ♥ (among other churches) and very atmospheric Plaza del Socorro ♥.
You may come across a local group of flamenco dancers at different points of the town; very emblematic of this fine place – you feel as if you are truly in Spain.
One place worthy of a specific recommendation is Pedro Romero (across the street from the bullring), with a great local menu in a bullfighting-themed tavern setting.
A couple of dozen white-washed villages of varying sizes cluster in the area roughly halfway between Seville and Costa del Sol. Although each has something that distinguishes them from their brethren, I will concede half a point to anyone who claims that they are all essentially similar. Unless you are a big fan of the stunning juxtaposition of blinding-white walls and colorful flower arrangements decorating said walls, you may feel that once you saw one of these towns, you saw them all.
Zahara de la Sierra ♥ is a frequent favorite of travelers, perched high above the sky-blue waters of the eponymous lake. You can climb up the hill to the castle ruin for the best views; if you sit down at a café table on the central square, you can imagine yourself being a local.
Grazalema, which nestles under a mountain, has breathtaking vistas of its own, and a main square with an imposing church.
Arcos de la Frontera is larger and not as cleanly white. A nice church with a bell tower sits on the main town square, but the square is given to the parked cars, negating the positive impression. As behooves a larger town, there are several minor sights in its labyrinthine old quarter.
Other top candidates for a visit to the White Villages are Olvera or Setenil de las Bodegas.
Costa del Sol
The southernmost coast of continental Europe gets 300 days of sunshine a year – hence, the name. While you are unlikely to be here for sightseeing, there is a number of places here worth exploring. Marbella holds a large Monday market while also sporting a nice walkable central area. Puerto Bañus is a vibrant and busy marina.
In the “memorable stays” category, Marriott Marbella Beach Resort (which is actually in Elviria, about 10 kilometers from Marbella – link) is a good recommendation for either an all-exclusive or an apartment-based family stay. We were here for the latter, staying in a spacious two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment. There is everything that you might need during a beach holiday right within the confines of the resort, so you don’t have to leave its grounds if you choose so, including a supermarket, a children’s playground, a beachwear shop, several bars, and a formal restaurant. You don’t even have to carry any cash with you, as everything is chargeable to the room. Of course, pools, jacuzzis, a sauna, and the beach in front of the property.