The autonomous region of Andalusia is one of Spain’s most intriguing places to visit. With a rich history and culture, there’s something to discover in every corner of the region. Its province of Málaga is home to its sun-soaked Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun). It has everything you could possibly need in a holiday: world-class beaches, culture, history and beautiful nature. Planning a two-day trip to the region? The travel experts here at Plum Guide have put together this Málaga itinerary for two days, making sure to include the very best of its cities, beaches and hinterland.
Day One: Málaga City and Guadalhorce
Panorama cityscape aerial view of Malaga, Spain
Start your Málaga itinerary for two days in the capital of the province. Right at its heart is the neighbourhood of Centro Histórico, or the Old Town. This is where you’ll find all the city’s famous monuments, which date back to Moorish rule. Overlooking the Old Town is the majestic Alcazaba, a Moorish fortress built in the 11th century. Discover the various courtyards, patios, fountains and elegant gardens which offer fantastic views of the sea. For more ancient monuments, take a quick walk down the hill to the well-preserved Roman theatre. During the summer months, be sure to catch an open-air performance here.
Elsewhere in the Old Town is the Picasso museum (fun fact: he was born in the city), as well as Málaga’s Catedral de la Encarnación de Málaga. Dating as far back as the 16th century, its facade is adorned with arches, columns, pilasters and stone reliefs depicting saints. The interiors are equally as stunning, with stained-glass windows and decorated ceilings—you can even climb up the tower for 360-degree views of the city.
If you’re more into exploring the trendy, artsy neighbourhoods of a city, Soho is your go-to arts district. Once a run-down part of Málaga, the Málaga Arte Urbano Soho project (MAUS) has transformed this area into a colourful, open-air gallery for all to enjoy. Its bold street art is its defining feature, with murals created by internationally recognised graffiti artists like Obey, Faith 47 and D*Face. Walk around to discover independent local businesses, art and cultural centres, galleries and restaurants.
La Malagueta beach in Malaga, Spain
Alternatively, head to the beach to sunbathe and enjoy lunch from the chiringuitos or beach bars. The easiest beach to reach from the city is Malagueta, just a 15-minute walk along the promenade. Palm trees line the beach, providing much-needed shade. If you’re travelling with little ones, they can let off some steam at the playground or play volleyball on the courts. With a good choice of restaurants and bars along the nearby Paseo del Muelle Dos, no one will go hungry.
Another popular beach further east along the coast from Malagueta is La Caleta. Its sands stretch for one kilometre, backed by a wide promenade (you can walk all the way to Malagueta beach from here). Get the adrenaline going with windsurfing or jet skiing, or take it easy with an ice-cold cerveza on the sand.
After lunch on the beach and a siesta under a parasol, take a half-hour drive to the Guadalhorce river valley. Nicknamed ‘the garden of Málaga’, this verdant area is a wonderful place to breathe in the fresh air. Peaceful little towns like Alhaurin el Grande and Coín dot the countryside, surrounded by fertile plains and rugged mountains. This is a fantastic place to enjoy nature, with a range of outdoor activities for those who want to burn off all those beers.
One of the world’s most famous hikes is found here, the notorious Caminito del Rey trail. Once considered one of the most dangerous in the world, it’s thankfully a lot safer now, but the experience of stepping across a walkway hanging 100 metres on a sheer cliff face is still enough to make your knees wobble. If this doesn’t sound like it’s for you, perhaps a day of swimming, fishing and kayaking at the El Chorro lakes is a better option. These three turquoise lakes are tranquil places to spend the afternoon, bordered by pine and oak forests.
Back in Málaga, end the day back where you started in the Old Town. Head to Plaza de la Constitución, where you’ll find bars, cafes, restaurants and, of course, an abundance of tapas.
Day Two: Exploring Axarquia and relaxing in Nerja
View of El Salon beach in Nerja, Malaga
On your second day, head east to the lovely seaside town of Nerja, which lies in the region of Axarquia. Away from the hustle and bustle of the larger cities on the coast, Nerja is more laid-back, a typical southern Spanish town with its whitewashed buildings and cobbled streets.
It’s also suitably positioned for an adventure in the outdoors. If you’re keen to get a little active, beat the heat and set off early to explore your natural surroundings. With its soaring mountains and lush valleys, there is plenty of hiking and cycling to be done in Axarquia. One of the best walks is the Rio Chillar which takes you along a river up into the hills, where you can cool off in waterfalls and rock pools.
For something a little less taxing on the legs, descend deep underground into the Caves of Nerja, home to the world’s largest stalagmite and fascinating rock formations. The chambers form a natural amphitheatre, so if you’re lucky, you may catch a concert while you visit. From here, take a drive around the countryside to visit the little whitewashed villages that dot the region. Enjoy the views from Comares or wander the old Moorish centre of Frigiliana before heading to Cómpeta for lunch and a sip of local wine (Meson El Recreo comes highly rated).
After lunch, head back to Nerja to spend the rest of the afternoon on the beach. If you didn’t have lunch at one of the villages (or if you fancy a second lunch), one of the quintessential things to do is to enjoy espetos, which are fresh sardines seasoned with olive oil and sea salt, skewered and cooked in a pit of fresh coals. You’ll find that most chiringuitos serve this dish.
Sheltered by the Sierra de Almijara mountains, Nerja is made up of a series of sandy coves. The toughest decision you’ll have to make is choosing which one to visit. Just a 15-minute walk from the centre of town is Playa Burriana, one of Nerja’s best beaches. This wide stretch of sand has all the facilities you need, as well as opportunities for water sports like banana boats and kayaks. If you’re travelling with the family, Playa El Salón is another good option. Popular with many Spanish families, its clean and calm waters are ideal for swimming, and Nerja’s restaurants are just a short walk away. For those looking for something a little quieter, Playa de Maro is a beautiful spot tucked away under the Tejeda mountains. This unspoilt slice of paradise is surrounded by lush greenery, its crystal-clear waters inviting you in for a snorkel. We highly recommend renting a kayak to find the hidden waterfall flowing out from under the cliffs.
Balcony of Europe in Nerja town on Costa del Sol, Andalucia, Spain
Come evening, the best place to catch the sunset is the Balcon de Europa. Set into the cliffs looking out over the Mediterranean sea, this is one of the most popular spots on the Costa del Sol to watch the sun go down. You’ll often see musicians and painters here livening up the scene.
After sundown, Nerja comes alive with a buzz of activity. Enjoy fine dining at Restaurante Oliva or southern Spanish cuisine at Bakus. If you can’t resist the temptation of a night out, most activity is centred around the aptly named Plaza Tutti Frutti. There’s something for every taste in music, and you’ll occasionally find live music too. One of our favourite spots is Bar El Molino, a far cry from the touristy bars in the area. The traditional atmosphere here draws in young and old who come to see flamenco sung and performed. What better way to end your Málaga itinerary for two days?