Spring is the time of year when in Latvia is also warm and the sun is pleasantly warming. However, not all days and most nights are cool, so I still want to fly somewhere else for a while. Somewhere warmer or even hotter. So a new journey begins, with the desire to… This journey begins with the first days before the flight itself. I’m finishing my Master’s thesis. It’s a almost relaxing start to May. Tension in the work of writing, but relaxation in the thought that just a few more days and I’ll be high in the air. A place where it’s never cloudy, never raining, i.e. always the best weather. What could be more pleasant?
However, the whole adventure of the next few days starts with the above facts on a rather long flight. The route map shows Riga – Malaga. It is a long flight. Here I am. I am on the plane, I have been flying for two hours and there is still more to go. I would like to sleep, I would like to eat and I would like to snooz – I just want to. I always feel like this when I haven’t really slept. And this time it was even several days. In the last 48 hours, I have managed to sleep a maximum of 5 hours. I would say that’s enough for a good mood, because I’m on the road and there are places, people and adventures yet to be seen. “Hola! España!”
At the start of the journey, I didn’t realise that by the end I would have walked about 100 kilometres. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s only 4 days of walking in very mountainous terrain. My legs are certainly not used to this kind of hiking and the mornings that follow will be full of stiffness and signs of fatigue. However, all this is a small thing that is swept away with the moment when I opened eyes and get a shower.
When I arrive to Malaga, the first confusion is how to get out of the airport to get to the rental car location shown in the pictures. Some vague instructions, a few questions to people and the problem is solved. Outside the airport we are met by a woman with a car rental company sign, which is a sign that we are in the right place. There are three of us on this trip and we decided to use a rental car for the first few days, because modern people are used to comfort and taking public transport in a foreign country is not the most desirable thing. Public transport will be used because it is easy to use and there are no difficulties in using it. From our picking up point outside the airport, the first breaths of local air are drawn in and the smell of summer is already feelable. In about 15 minutes, we’re delivered to the car rental station and we’re ready to go through the formalities to hop in the car and bring ourselves into the streets of Malaga. There are many car rental companies, we chose malagacar.com, which was recommended to us by friends who have been here before. The service was simple, convenient and fast. When choosing a car you can take two plans, the normal one where there are kilometre limits and the full package where you drive as much as you want, the main thing is to fill up your iron horse and it will fly. In the mountains, consumption ranges from 2 to 18 litres per 100 kilometres. It’s not hard to guess why. Uphill and downhill roads.
Malaga is not a big city and is divided into two parts when viewed on a map. In the middle is a kind of park where you can walk. More on that later. We take the car we got to our hotel to drop our stuff and go see the city. A 15-minute drive and we are at the hotel. We have time to check-in, so we eat a sandwich and drink one locally produced beer. The warm weather and an empty stomach are probably to blame, but after one beer I feel drunk for at least another hour. After a drink, we take a short walk to the sea, as our hotel is about 200 metres from the shore. The water is cool, but the view is magical. Warm, rain and mountains in the distance. The sandy beaches are not like in Latvia. Here in Latvia it is certainly the most beautiful, the brightest and simply the best. Just like at home. At the moment, the tourist season has not yet started in this region and the beaches are empty, but in the town centres there are plenty of people and in the evenings the tables are full with food and drink. After a short walk, we head into the hotel where we are greeted by the friendly Marco, who reminds me of my Spanish teacher in Latvia. Just like Alberto, a little chubby, smiling and very friendly. A few minutes of conversation, and instructions on how to get to our room, even at night. We can go and put our things away. Our accommodation is a hotel with only two stars, which we found out on the way to our room, because it was not important when we booked the room and we didn’t even pay attention to it. The main function of the room was the beds and a place to put things and wash. The room fulfilled this function as it had only one window – facing to the courtyard. No view, but there was no need for it on any day, as we were already early in the morning on our scheduled routes. Once we’ve put our things away, we can move on to the first sights, which are marked on the map in advance. All we have to do is walk and move our feet.
The first place to visit is the Parque de la Batería, which looks very good in pictures at the time of day, with the sea in the background and a tower in the park, beautifully lit. Of course we didn’t see the lights as it is a daytime visit. The park itself is more crowded during the high season. The park is well above sea level, although it is not far from the coast. On the way from the hotel to the park, we walk along the seafront and see the beautiful views towards the mainland and the first half-naked sun catchers.
Pictures on the way to the park, and the park itself.
Then begins a very long road to the city centre, as I mentioned before the city is divided into two parts from a bird’s eye view, if you look at the parts closer to the sea. On the first day we covered nearly 30 kilometres in total. This was unplanned but educational.
There are no easy walking routes to the centre, you have to walk along the roadside for a few kilometres. Near the park, which I don’t really want to call a park, there are new flowers and green birds that are hard to spot in the grass. The park has a good view of the city centre. An unusual bridge, the unusualness of which is unlikely to come across in the pictures.
Many kilometres behind us and we are finally in the city centre. We walk along the coastline and observe the surroundings. The beach is quite empty, but there are sporting activities every 100 metres.
In the centre, we choose the Illusion Museum as our first place to visit. We can’t make it to the others, as most museums are open from 10:00 to 18:00. We are technically at the Illusion Museum after the visiting time, but we get in. It’s a small museum, so it’s quick to get around.
We take a look at some more tourist attractions. Indoor visits are no longer available and the sun is already starting to find the most beautiful place to set.
We decide to eat. The choice is for local wine and a dish called Tapas. Local wine as wine, there are probably no wine connoisseurs among us. Speaking of Tapas. It’s delicious, but you have to eat the ones with the most unusual fillings. For example, a classic salmon Tapa will be nothing special. Time to go to the hotel. Before finding a taxi, we pop into a local shop to fill up for the next day and morning. Snacks and water. Bolt-s is active in Malaga, but unclear was the additional requirement to fill in a local ID on the app, which of course we don’t have. This was the reason why we decided to walk to the centre from the hotel part at the beginning of the day. It is easy to find a taxi in the centre. Double check online for prices. Everything matches and the taxi driver keeps to the route. Later, though, I decide to double-check the Bolt app and enter just the ID code and skip the rest. It turns out that this is enough. And I can use the app as in Latvia. Bolt taxi drivers are numerous and available. It will come in handy in the days to come. Back at the hotel, time to get some sleep as the next day is going to be a long drive in the rental car.
Sleep well and the new day arrives without a notice. We get up an hour later than planned, but there’s no rush. The first day I am not at the wheel and can use the time to sleep.
Our first destination is the farthest point of the continent, Tarifa. A small town that has historically been a strategic point. At the end of the town there is a fort that is not open to the public, a place where the ocean meets the sea. The morning weather does not tempt us. We have to look for a local shop to get some rain protection. There is a store nearby and we buy a great poncho. We wait out most of the rain in a local café, with coffee and bread, which is just a sliced bun with a slice of meat and cheese. The rain has stopped, it’s warm inside. We put on our ponchos and set off to conquer the fort. Despite the weather, everything you see is magnificent. We can’t see Africa (Morocco) yet, as the distance is about 10 kilometres, but we’ll see it later as the weather clears up. An amusing situation occurs at the crossing between the mainland and Fort Island, coming back a police car stops in front of us and the policeman ask for a photo of him. At first we think he wants to take a picture with us. We stop next to him and take a picture, then take one of him alone. The smell of water weed still comes to mind. I felt like I was going to throw up, but everything turned out fine and I didn’t. There is a harbour nearby and we take a walk along the pier. During the walk the weather starts to clear, the first rays of sun breaking through the clouds.
Sun is shining, we take a look at the castle on the shore and what’s left of it. In the distance, we can see the storm clouds that the weather forecast promised. They may be approaching Tarifa, but we are already looking for a way to the car to go to the next town.
To the next country, Gibraltar, which is administered by the UK. By the time we get to the car, the weather has become quite sunny, even hot. We drive to Gibraltar and park the car on the Spanish side. We walk in. Double passport control and we are in. They don’t check belongings here, at least for pedestrians. Before we set off on the rest of the day’s hike along the mountain roads, we go into a shop and buy what we need. An interesting sight is the traffic light that controls the flow of pedestrians and cars across the airfield. After visiting the shop and crossing the airfield, we stop for a bite to eat.
We are ready to go through the main tourist street, where you can see a few sights, but we are not focusing much on that in today’s walk. At the end of the main street we enter the Gibraltar National Museum. A couple of interesting displays and historical facts about the area and the museum is viewed.
We can take the cable car up the hill (cliff), which is the most interesting attraction in Gibraltar, and the view from the hill is magnificent. The start of Gibraltar is not very big and we are quickly at the starting point of the cable car. We go up and look surrounding.
At the top of the hill we are greeted by monkeys, which are natural inhabitants and are fed fruit by the tourists. There are warning signs about how aggressive they can be, and that they are also very good at opening bags and stealing things. We are advised to keep our bags in the front of us. The mountain expedition has started, but our plans are not to explore every road and turn, but we will get close in the end. Due to rain, the glass-floored attraction was closed, where you can see a spectacular view on the side of the mountain under your feet. Over the bushes and other obstacles, we enjoy all the spectacular views even without the glass floor. Words cannot describe the real feeling, you have to see it with your own eyes. On foot, the route feels quite fast, as we are always going uphill and then back down again. We literally walked the whole of Gibraltar, after walking up the hill itself we went to the farthest point where the lighthouse is located.
At this point the weather has cleared and the clouds in the distance never came, presumably they stayed in Tarifa. The distant mountain from Morocco is a spectacular sight. In the reflection of the sun’s rays, it looks even more impressive. The sun is again looking for a place to hide and we move our feet back to the car. A few kilometres of walking, an airfield crossing and passport checking on the British side only. We are ready to go to the hostel. I had wanted to see other places, but it is late and we will have to postpone them for another trip. The journey to the hostel has come to a successful conclusion. We can sleep, rest our legs and prepare for the equally interesting adventures of the next day.
This night passes as quickly as a single moment. I get behind the wheel and pedal to the floor to get to our next destination, the town of Ronda. A beautiful town with a wonderful panoramic view of the surrounding area. Ronda’s favourite attraction is the bridge that connects the two parts of the town, which are divided by a small gorge. It’s a big one, actually, but you’ll see others during the day that will be really huge. We see the bridge from all possible angles, both from a lazy point of view and from an active one, i.e. by exploring the paths and even abandoned buildings at the foot of the bridge.
A few more cultural attractions and we’re ready to move on. Setenil de las Bodegas has been reached. Here there are houses built into the cliffs. Not very impressive sights, but worth seeing with your own eyes. We even stopped at a local cuisine at the attraction. We also discovered that not everyone understands English, but with a minimum knowledge of Spanish and sign language, we get the desired result.
We’re fed and ready to go to the most spectacular site of the day. The Caminito del Rey is a trail that leads through the cliffs and offers breathtaking views. We are at the trail already in the afternoon, but we managed to take the individual tour, as most people come here with tour groups. The last visit is at 16:30. This fact must be taken into account to be let in, as the area is not free to visit at any time of the day. After some confusion about where to go and where the trailhead is, we have successfully found everything and are ready to go. The trail itself is about 7 kilometres in total, and we walked about 4 kilometres on the forest trail before that, as we parked the car at the dam and the café where tourists are brought back after the trail and can refuel. For the lazy, there is a parking place a bit closer to the trailhead and you won’t have to walk 4 kilometres on the forest road. The trail leads along both guaranteed paths and a platform attached to the cliff edge. It is these views that make this place so special and attractive to tourists. Along the opposite side of the hill, parallel to the trail, are the train tracks. Each kilometre offers new views, even more spectacular than the last. At the very end of the trail, there is a bridge between the rocks, a view from the middle on both sides. Between the mountains and the rocky terrain is the river, which was already light green from the dam onwards. This makes the whole picture even more beautiful. On our individual way, we overtook some groups of tourists who were visibly tired at the end of the trail. If at the beginning of the trail people were actively chatting, at the end of the trail they were quietly walking to the bus stop that took all the hikers back to the starting point. The big bus, barely going thru all the small turns, soon reached the starting point, or the northern part of the trail. Lots of walking and seeing.
We get to the car and realise that we won’t be able to see one more sight. We decide to go to our accommodation and go out to a local beachside eatery to try the local pizza and a few more drinks. Sitting in the café, we chose a corner and witnessed another amusing event. At one point I look out of the window and see a man standing at the corner with a collection of sunglasses and a bundle of hats. It is remarkable that he is standing in the dark, watching what is going on around the corner, while the walls of the café are transparent all the way down to the ground. And so we watched him disappear towards the sea. I assume that this was a theft that was successfully carried out under the cover of night. We ate our pizza, had a drink and went to sleep at the hotel 100 metres away, because the next day was going to be a very early start. Up at 5:30 at the latest. On our return from Caminito del Rey, we handed over the rental car and it was the first time we used Bolt.
On the last day, we will travel to Granada. We are going there by bus. We bought our bus tickets already in Latvia, pass control by square codes. The main thing is to keep the phone alive. Buses run regularly, but it’s matter if its express or regular. The express takes about 90 minutes, the regular almost 3 hours. Friday morning started with Bolt, bus and Granada. It’s notable that in this region things started a bit later, more people activity is closer to lunchtime and the grocery stores are only open at 9. In Granada we go into the store in the morning, so to say to refuel with snacks and drinks for the hot day. We doesn’t have a map of the sights in advance, but by typing the keywords “places of interest” into Google Maps you can see all the coolest places on the map.
The first site on our itinerary is the Monastery of La Cartuja. There we also find out some of the next sights we want to see. The monastery is not fully accessible, but there is an orange orchard in the centre and a few rooms to explore.
Let’s move on. With minimal confusion, we find the cathedral and another monastery, built in the same way as the first one, but with a bit more space to explore.
The cathedrals have huge rooms, high ceilings. Here in Granada, the cathedrals have gilded parts of the altar, but everything else is white.
After the cathedral and the monasteries, it’s time to go to Granada’s must-see, Alhambra. Alhambra is a fortress on a hill that has already been slightly damaged by the ravages of time and all kinds of invaders, as well as by an earthquake. There are a lot of tourists here, coming and going. From the top of the wall you have another magnificent view of the city.
After visiting the fortress, we still have some time to explore the city. The choice falls in favour of the Science Museum. The museum is too big for us to see it all, as our bus back to Malaga is at 20:00. We catch as much as we can. There were several things left that we wanted to see, but that’s probably for next time.
We walk briskly to the bus station for our journey to Malaga. Everything goes according to plan tomorrow, and soon we are in Malaga. We want to take a shortcut and ride Bolt scooters. It is a common practice in Latvia that you can put them (scooters) anywhere where there is a green zone on the map. But here, the green zone is where you can drive, and there are special places for parking. We didn’t know that, of course, and it was a bad experience, which we solved by zooming in the map and looking for points where you can put the scooter. Points with the letter P, but with a little blue frame, which you can’t intuitively imagine is a scooter parking point. So we put the scooters away and took a taxi to the hotel where we would spend the last night.
The last morning started easily, as it started later compared to the previous mornings. Arriving at the airport, you can see that there are a lot of travellers and it is a busy airport. If you have large luggage, 3 hours is the recommended time before your flight. With hand luggage, more than 1 hour is not necessary. That’s all. I am on the plane and I am writing the last lines of the trip description.
Till the next adventures!