Magical Mijas

Mijas is renowned as one of the most beautiful pueblos blancos (white towns) in the Andalusian province. Situated between Marbella and Málaga and high up above Fuengirola, Mijas is a beautiful picturesque typical Spanish village. When you wander through the narrow streets of Mijas you can understand what attracts people here. Despite its huge popularity with tourists, Mijas Pueblo has somehow managed to retain much of its traditional Andalusian way of life, along with all of its charm.

What a view!

What a view!

From the moment you arrive at the main plaza, Plaza de la Virgen de la Peña, across from the tourism office, you will immediately notice the donkey taxi station. Also available are donkey pulled carts and horse carriages. Needless to say, our daughter wanted to ride one of the donkeys. But you see, it’s not truly a ride, but rather a tour through some of the town’s streets, except you’re taking the tour on a donkey ride. And the worst part was, that my husband and I had no interest in riding these donkeys, so we had to put our trust in two American, sweet ladies that were going along with our daughter. Now for those of you that know me, being the most overprotective mother on Earth, this was a tough pill for me to swallow….but, hubby decided that it would be alright. And it was, our daughter had a delightful tour of Mijas riding a donkey, being guided by a total stranger, who assured me this was safe (I’ve noticed that I allow myself and my family to experience things on vacation that I would never try here at home in a million years!)

Donkey Taxi Ride

Donkey Taxi Ride

One of my favorite sites in Mijas was the Santuario de la Virgen de la Peña, (sanctuary of the Virgin of the Rock) built in 1586, a cross between a cave and a chapel carved out of the mountainside, dedicated to the patron saint of Mijas. Legend has it that the image was buried there for five centuries and unearthed by a builder whose children, who were shepherds, were brought to the spot by a dove. Nearby the chapel, lies the Mirador El Compás, viewpoint and terrace, offering phenomenal panoramic views across the Costa that form the backdrop to the shrine.

Santuario dela Virgen de la Peña

Santuario de la Virgen de la Peña

Inside of the shrine

Inside of the shrine

Mirador El Compás, viewpoint and terrace

Mirador El Compás, viewpoint and terrace.

La Plaza de la Constitución, situated in the heart of the village, is lined with artisanal shops, full of ceramics and souvenirs, as well as some cafes and bars. One of the shops we visited was Mayan Monkey Mijas (Plaza de la Constitución 421, but they recently opened another location at 15 Plaza Virgén de la Peña), the smallest chocolate factory in the world. This shop sells handmade chocolate and delicious ice cream produced in their very own factory in Mijas. We sampled a few pieces and they were mouth-watering. If you have time, they also give tours of the factory and allow you to create your own chocolate flavors. A great activity for both kids and adults. Definitely a place to checkout if you’re in the area.

La Plaza de la Constitución

La Plaza de la Constitución

Mayan Monkey Mijas Chocolate Factory on Plaza de la Constitución

Another great spot in town is Plaza de la Libertad, where you can find San Sebastián Church, a beautiful 17th century church, located on the street of the same name, Calle San Sebastián. This street has become one of the most photographed streets on the Costa del Sol, as visitors find both the church and the typical street so pretty.

San Sebastian Church on Plaza de la Libertad

San Sebastián Church on Plaza de la Libertad

Inside of San Sebastián Church

Mijas offers many shops selling beautiful and authentic Spanish souvenirs, but my favorite shop was Lo Artesano de Mijas (Plaza Libertad, 3). This tiny store had the most beautiful ceramic pottery and plates, and of course I had to add a few pieces to my collection back home.

Lo Artesano de Mijas on Plaza de la Libertad

Here are a few more photos of magical Mijas for your enjoyment.

 

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Another quaint plaza

 

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Carromato de Max, the miniatures museum , we didn’t stop in but this made for a great photo!

 

Typical Spanish souvenirs.

Typical Spanish souvenirs.

 

Calle San Sebastián

 

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Enjoying the donkey tour.

 

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Typical shop selling souvenirs.

 

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Ayuntamiento de Mijas (Town Hall)

 

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Another typical storefront.

Have you visited Mijas, and if you have, what was your favorite spot in this tiny, magical white washed town?

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Marvelous Marbella

Costa del Sol…just the name makes you want to hop on a plane and go there! I’ve had the opportunity to visit Spain several times, even lived in Madrid for a short while when I was very young. However, I had never truly ventured into the Costa del Sol. My husband and I have visited Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada and Nerja, but we had never stayed at any of the beach towns in Andalucía before.  This past summer we finally decided to visit Marbella, and we were not disappointed!

Old Town

Old Town

Marbella is typically associated with millionaire beach mansions, crowded beaches and celebrity sightings. My Marbella experience was quite different…a maze of typically Andalusian streets with palatial facades, intricate wrought-iron balconies and a series of shrines and chapels, especially the old town (Casco Antiguo). Marbella’s old white washed streets and cobbled squares are among the most beautiful on Spain’s Costa del Sol. You can spend hours just wandering through the little pedestrian streets, full of boutique shops, cafes, and gorgeous buildings with balconies full of beautiful, colorful potted plants. It’s definitely an area suited for long strolls, and as always, do not forget your camera!

We stayed at the Marriott Marbella Beach Resort, and I highly recommend this hotel, especially if you’re traveling with kids. The rooms are spacious, clean and comfortable, we actually had a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment, with a large balcony.  The outdoor area is beautiful, with several restaurants, and a very large pool with slides.  Our daughter made several friends during our stay, and we all enjoyed all of the amenities throughout the property. The resort is about a 15 minute drive into the old town, but we had a rental car and there are various parking garages in town.  The resort also provides a shuttle into the old town various times a day.

Marriott Marbella Beach Resort

Marriott Marbella Beach Resort

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Buttered pasta for Carolina, pan-fried codfish with potatoes, calamata olives, cherry tomatoes, and white wine for hubby and risotto with stracchino for me!

At the heart of the old town is Plaza de los Naranjos, very picturesque, and full of shops and restaurants.  We got caught up in the liveliness of the plaza and decided to have dinner there one night.  Big mistake…as with most main squares in these towns, the food was not great, and the service even worse.  Marbella does have a great selection of diverse amazing restaurants, but make sure you do your research, and stay away from all the tourist traps. The cosmopolitan nature of Marbella means you will encounter people from all parts of the world. Dinner at Stuzzikini, a little Italian restaurant, was amazing with great food and very friendly owners. They actually came by our table and chatted with us, telling us all about their family business! We also had another great meal at Tempora Restaurante, right around the corner.

Stuzzikini Cocina Italiana

Stuzzikini Cocina Italiana

In Marbella, as with most European cities we have visited, residents praise the quality of life.  One afternoon, I was shopping in a little jewelry store with my daughter, just as the famous “siesta” was about to start.  The store owner was practically rushing me, because he had to close up for his 4 hour rest, and then proceeded to tell me that Europeans were not like Americans in that they work to live, not live to work (not the first time I  have been told this in Europe). I realized at that moment, that these are some of the reasons why we travel abroad.  We like to experience the differences in cultures, and in Spain, that includes getting your shopping done in the morning, as they will close the town down between the hours of 1-5PM! So, we happily headed back to our hotel and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon by the gorgeous pool area. Later that evening we returned to town for some more strolling and dinner.

While staying in Marbella, it is also very easy to take day trips to the other nearby towns of Torremolinos, Mijas, Fuengirola, Benalmádena, Puerto Banús, and of course, Málaga, which has the nearest international airport.

Here are some more pictures of our Marbella trip.  Have you been to Marbella?  I’d love to hear what you enjoyed most…

Tiled bench at Parque de la Alameda

Tiled bench at Parque de la Alameda

Typical street in the old town

Typical street in the old town

Typical square in the center of old town, with the beautiful Iglesia de la Encarnación in the background

Square in the center of the old town, with the beautiful Iglesia de la Encarnación in the background

Typical souvenir shops selling Sevillana dolls and cermaics

Souvenir shops selling Sevillana dolls and ceramics

Ermita del Santo Cristo de la Vera Cruz

Ermita del Santo Cristo de la Vera Cruz

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Sevillana dresses hanging from the balconies on Plaza de los Naranjos

Beautiful potted flowers

More beautiful balconies

Dinner at Plaza de los Naranjos

Dinner at Plaza de los Naranjos

A street named after me...

A street named after me…