If I suggested visiting the tourist Mecca of Costa del Sol in order to discover an ‘authentic’ Spanish town, you might just think I’ve lost my mind… but stick with me for a minute! If you’re looking for a genuine insight into Andalucía, Estepona is a great choice. Okay, I admit, that it is a popular holiday destination and not exactly what springs to mind when you think ‘off the beaten track’, but step back from the Blue Flag beaches and bustling promenade, and you’ll find a thriving town with a rich, artistic culture.
Estepona, situated just down the coast from Marbella, may be a tourist destination, but it is also a busy local town with a beautiful, authentic old town (known as the Centro Historico), which is home to many of its residents. While the rest of the Brits are crowding on the sand, curious travellers could spend their time exploring the cobblestone streets, lined with whitewashed buildings and geraniums. Avoid the busy bars on the promenade, and instead take a camera and discover the work of local artists on the Ruta de Murales Artisticos – or dig out a sketchbook and head to the contemporary Orchidarium.
Avoid the crowds in Estepona and you’ll discover a beautiful gem of a town, hidden in plain sight at the heart of the Costa del Sol.
Discover Spanish Street Art
If you come for nothing more than the Ruta de Murales (or ‘Route of Murals’), is enough to bring anyone with an interest in street art to the town of Estepona. The initiative, created by the local council back in 2012, invites local artists to create murals in some of the town’s less picturesque areas. Local artists, as you may be able to imagine, took up the invitation with relish. Breathtaking in scale, the Estepona murals are some of the largest in Spain, with one (Dia de Pesca by Jose Fernandez Rios) covering the sides of six apartment blocks.
With more than 45 murals in the town today, the initiative is still ongoing, and new works are regularly added. Visit the tourist office for the very latest map to discover all of the works, and spend a day (or even two) tracing these amazing works of art.
Contemporary Architecture and Natural Beauty
Whether you are into contemporary architecture or nature, the Orchidarium in Estepona is a wonderful place to explore. Part of the Botanical Park, this sci-fi-looking structure is a fascinating architectural feature in its own right. But step inside and you’ll discover a tropical bamboo forest, waterfalls and orchids, which are set in the heart of this Spanish town. There are around 1,300 different species of orchids here, the largest collection of the beautiful plant in Europe. Be sure to take your sketchbook, as you’re bound to be inspired!
Salvador Dalí in Marbella
For more art in the open, it’s worth heading down the coast to see the stunning sculptures by Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dalí on the Avenida del Mar in Marbella. A set of ten sculptures, cast in brass, depict everything from a Cosmic Elephant to scenes from classical myths, all delivered in Dalí’s uniquely surrealist style.
How to Get to Estepona
The great thing about getting off the beaten track in a holiday hotspot is that they are usually very easy to get to. The Cost del Sol, with its plethora of budget flights from the UK, is no exception. Flights to Málaga Airport take around three hours. Be warned, however: the buses and queues for taxis at the airport can get very crowded, so it’s a good idea to book a shared airport transfer to Estepona with Shuttle Direct before you leave home. Take a shuttle or private bus, and you’ll be able to chat to fellow travellers on your way to the resort and get some local, up-to-date information.
Where to Stay
Apartamentos Turísticos Casa de La Borrega – For a uniquely Andalucían experience, try the apartments at the Apartamentos Turísticos Casa de La Borrega. Set in a sixteenth-century mansion in the old part of town, close to the beach, strolling through the entrance court is like stepping back in time. The apartments are modern and equipped with air conditioning, which is very welcome if you’re visiting in the heat of the summer season. There’s free Wi-Fi throughout the property.
Mi Cortijillo Suerte – To really get away from the crowds in Estepona, try the Bed & Breakfast Mi Cortijillo Suerte. Located just outside the town, this traditional farmhouse has its own pool, and guests can enjoy a free breakfast with a view on the sunny terrace. A bit further from the beach, this property is more than three miles from the coast. There is free Wi-Fi throughout.
About Shuttle Direct
For a safe, convenient way to get from the airport to your holiday destination, book one of a range of airport transfers available with Shuttle Direct. As one of the leading providers of airport transfers across Europe and North Africa, Shuttle Direct has a number of different services to suit all needs and budgets. Shared group options include a low-cost bus service, which stops at fixed stops and has a fixed timetable, and a speedy shuttle service with less stops and more flexibility. Book online before you set off, using the online booking system. Next, you can simply relax, knowing that your trip from the airport is all sorted!