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5 Charming Villages Around Marbella

5 Charming Villages
Around Marbella
We tend to focus so much on the coastline and the lifestyle that surrounds Marbella that it’s easy to overlook one of the other cherished gems of life here – the beautiful nature, fascinating culture and charming towns and villages of the nearby interior.

Within little more than half an hour’s drive from Marbella you will find a whole world of stunning variety opening up before you, encompassing soaring mountain ranges, wooded hills, deep green valleys and also cascading mountain streams and waterfalls tumbling into natural pools amid scenes of great natural beauty. Here eagles and vultures float on the thermals, overlooking a region that also includes lakes, dams, ancient sentinel fortresses that tell of a turbulent past, and villages dotted within agricultural land and pastoral scrubland. 

It is a world of expansive nature reserves, such as the Parque Natural de la Sierra de las Nieves, and farmland areas with ancient traditions and a very different pace of life – not to mention the wonderful variety and unique character of individual towns and villages simply made for a scenic road trip.


The classic reference point for people visiting or living on the Costa del Sol is this elegant country town, whose ancient foundations are built on a rocky outcrop with dominant views across the lush surrounding farmland and vineyards. A nearby Roman town marks the classical origins of Ronda, but the current settlement traces its origins to Moorish times, and beautiful Arabic palaces and public baths blend in with the grand mansions, elegant buildings and cathedrals of the Christian era. The old town is a delight, with the original bullring and bridge connecting the two parts of town as its highlights.
Setenil de las Bodegas

Setenil de las Bodegas

Continuing eastwards from Ronda, the road hugs the southern part of the valley, passing the exclusive private Race Resort Ascari and it heads northwest to Setenil de las Bodegas, a classic Andalusian village of whitewashed houses tightly packed together. Setenil is also unique, known for its troglodyte cave houses carved into overhanging cliffs on the edge of the village.


To get to this equally unique spot, head inland from Estepona, following mountain roads over the Sierra Bermeja and into the valleys beyond, where Júzcar lies overlooking beautiful wooded scenery. It would be a rather normal, albeit very pretty, example of a typical Andalusian mountain village, but for two things: the fact that this is an ‘artist’s village’ adorned with outdoor art, and the purple-blue colouring of its houses, thus kept after the filming of a Smurf movie. Júzcar is a pleasure that stands out for all the right reasons. 


So pretty and iconically Andalusian that it enjoys UNESCO World Heritage status, Casares is one of the most classic white villages of Andalucía, and just the place to stroll around cobbled streets, admire spectacular mountain and sea views, wander around markets and crafts shops, and enjoy a bite to eat.


Leaving out two charming villages on the edge of Marbella, Benahavis and Ojén, Istán is even more authentic and feels like a true discovery, yet it is less than 20 minutes from the downtown area. It’s perhaps the cutest of all country villages in the area, partly thanks to a spectacularly pretty natural setting at the back of La Concha Mountain, at the point where the Sierra de las Nieves natural park begins – an ideal spot for trekking and a fine example of the diversity that surrounds Marbella.