It all began with a race but our trip around Andalucía was wonderful. We managed to hike in the mountains, eat some amazing food and drink wonderful wines, sherry and brandy form the region. This region has this and more to offer.
Sea to Summit
Most people have heard of adventure races but with the plethora of choices how do you know which is the best? We stumbled across Rat Race through a friend who had suggested we all do a race together. We happily signed up for the chance at an adventure with friends in Malta. Then COVID hit and we were unable to attend. As it was postponed, we then went on to look for something that better suited my partner and I and we then found the new Sea to Summit race in Andalucía Spain. This was a running/hiking race to the highest mountain in Europe outside the Alps. We love mountains and the ocean, so it seemed like the perfect mix for us.
The packing list was crazy with all the first aid kit possibilities, as well as clothing for all types of weather. Temperature fluctuations can be 20-30 degrees from the sea to the summit so you really have to pack for everything. The three-day adventure race was planned as follows. Our first day was to be the longest which ended up being 50.5km and 2650 height meters to Trevelez. The second day 19.5km and 2160 height meters to the top of Mulhacen. The final day was just 10km, which was a descent of 1180meters to Capileira. Our last night was spent in Granada.
The day before starting we were picked up from Malaga airport and transported to La Rabita. This is a small fishing village on the southern coast. This simple village was the starting point. We were only 9 people doing the race, but this was a pilot race so there was no real pictures or concrete information as yet and therefore there had not been much interest. Furthermore, the path that had been mapped out had been done two years previously and had not been tested again.
We started the race at 3am. Yes 3am! With a map uploaded on my phone we took off along a dry river bed. If anyone knows me, they know I am not the type to read a map. If I had known I needed orientation then I would have stayed with my partner. Alas, I paired myself up with a guy, a great guy, but someone who was as bad as me at directions. The rat race team were no doubt quietly laughing as they tracked our beacon going up and down in the absolute wrong direction. Nevertheless, after about 10 hours I made it to the quaint village of Travelez. I was tired and hungry and so happy to get a warm meal. Trevelez is the highest village in mainland Spain at 1476 above sea level. It is well known for cured ham, jamon serrano. If you love jamon you will get plenty of it in this region. We enjoyed the afternoon in the village then had an early night.
At 4am we starting the final hike to the top of Mulhacen at 3482m. Here we hiked together to the top, watching the sun rise over the mountains with a spectacular climb and amazing views over the Sierra Nevada. After summiting we descended to Refugio Poqueira for the night before descending to Capileira. This gorgeous village has small cobbled streets and alleyways with buildings styled to their Moorish history.
After a well-deserved lunch we travelled to Granada to settle into a nice hotel, where we could tour the city and celebrate a wonderful dinner together. The next day my partner and I started our road trip.
Our Road Trip through the Andalucía
Our first stop was in Marbella to visit friends. Marbella is very touristy but the old town is dotted with lovely cobble streets and beautifully kept buildings. We had an amazing seafood meal with tapas and great wine. It was great for one night before the next day heading to Ronda. Ronda too is touristy but an absolute must to visit. The 100 meter deep El Tajo gorge separates the old and the new town. The new bridge that joins the two sides was finished in 1793, allowing you to stroll over and enjoy both sides of the town. As one of the oldest towns in Spain it is steeped in history as it was first settled by the Celts then later occupied by the Romans and Moors.
From Ronda we travelled to Jerez de la Frontera. This town is looked over in general by tourists, making it a hidden gem. We decided to visit Jerez as we wanted to visit the Bodega Xinenez Spinola. Our most favourite brandy. It is difficult to find and perhaps another secret gem. We roamed the town, which is centred around the Cathedral, enjoyed the tapas and In the evening we ate at A Mar, which can be found on the Michelin Guide. Excellent food and wine as well as ambiance, so a much on your restaurant list.
From Jerez we travelled to the small village of Vejer de la Fronterra. I must admit I was not expecting much and to my surprise I absolutely loved it. This charming village, perched on a hilltop offers beautiful walks, views, food and much history. We also did a run around the village, which is surrounded by many windmills. The Plaza de la Espana is absolutely gorgeous, dotted with restaurants and bars. From here you can walk along the cobbled streets of this walled village.
Heading back to Malaga we decided to stay in Benahavis. This affluent area is close to Malaga airport and is located in the hills behind Malaga. The area also boosts many golf courses. We stayed in a lovely AirBnb property and dined in the nearby village of Benahavis. It is a pretty village with a tiny street packed with gourmet restaurants. We ate at Los Abanicos which served grilled fish to perfection. There are also some nice hikes in the area but with fires in the area at the time we were a little limited and instead relaxed and took in the last of the Andalusian sun.
It was only ten days but it was an amazing fun packed sport, food, wine and sherry tour of the Southern part of Spain. I look forward to visiting again.