Bullfighting tiles in Andalusia
Europe, Spain

From Málaga to Mijas • How to visit the pretty pueblo blanco in Andalusia

Málaga is one of my favourite cities in Spain, not just for its beauty and laid-back vibe, but also for its brilliant position on Andalusia’s Costa del Sol. There are plenty of tiny beach towns along the neighbouring coastline of shimmering Mediterranean Sea, and then further inland are the real gems: the pretty Pueblos Blancos, or ‘White Villages.’ Our day trip through the countryside from Málaga to Mijas Pueblo- with its enchanting whitewashed houses and tiny bullring- is what really made me fall in love with the rugged, sun-drenched countryside of Andalusia.

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How to get from Málaga to Mijas: the options

There are several ways to get from Málaga to Mijas, and which one you choose depends mostly on how much time you have, and your budget.

Public bus from Málaga to Mijas

There’s a direct bus route (the M-112), which runs from Málaga’s Estación de Autobuses four times a day. The journey takes about an hour and a half (it’s a steep uphill-and-extremely-winding road), but it’s definitely a scenic one.

Check bus timetables for the M-112 bus.

Hire a car or bike in Málaga

My boyfriend and I are regular hirers-of-mopeds in a lot of the ports we visit, and travelling from Málaga to Mijas on a hired moped was a really fun way to make the trip. Whilst it may be more expensive than catching a bus, compared to other countries car hire in Spain isn’t extortionate, gas is cheap and you have far more freedom to explore at your own pace. We’ve hired from a few different places but found that Larios Rental’s bikes were in great condition and they tended to have plenty available.

If there are too many of you to fit on a bike (or you’d just rather be in a car; I get it), check out Rentalcars.com to compare car hire rates in Málaga.

To drive from Málaga to Mijas (depending on traffic and whether you take the fast road or not), will take you between half an hour to 40 minutes.

Book a tour

If you’d rather have the comfort and convenience of having something arranged for you, you could always book onto a private tour. This Private Grand Tour takes you around the city of Málaga with a local guide, and then onwards in a private taxi to Mijas Pueblo. This is a really great option if you’ve not got a lot of time in Málaga and want to see more than you would normally manage with only one day in the city. (Particularly if there’s a small group of you.)

Mijas Plaza de Toros: The Smallest Bullring in Spain

Andalusia and the Moors of the olden days

The hilly region of Andalusia is in the southernmost part of Spain; in summer its hills and fields are blasted with intense heatwaves, forest fires are rife, and from parts of the coastline you can see the Moroccan shore just across the sparkling veil of the Mediterranean Sea. Just a few miles inland from the seaside resorts which boomed in the 70s and 80s, is a majestic landscape peppered with pretty villages oozing their Arabian heritage. (Also oozing a fair bit of olive oil. It’s kind of a big deal around these parts).

The name Andalusia actually comes from the Arab ‘Al-Andalus.’ This part of Spain and nearby Balearic Islands like Mallorca and Menorca, were under Moorish rule for centuries, and it’s evident in the architecture of towns and cities across the whole region.

What are the ‘pueblos blancos?’

In the north of the Iberian Peninsula, Christian kings and queens ruled, but the little villages in the mountains of Al-Andalus- mostly centered roughly around Cádiz in the west, and Málaga to the east- were governed by the Islamic Emirate of Granada. The beautiful city of Granada remains, as do many of the surrounding pueblos blancos, but the Moors surrendered in 1492- leaving the region to the rulers of the north.

However, the Moorish influence wasn’t just seen in the alcazabas of Granada and Málaga- though those beautiful palaces look like they’re straight out of Morocco, they are stunning– their legacy lives on in the white villages of the Andalusian hills. The tangled mazes of streets winding their way around hilltops, and the sugar-cube houses with whitewashed walls and red rooftops are characteristic of these villages, and it’s all thanks to the people who ruled hundreds of years ago.

The Moors knew that slathering slaked lime (which is basically calcium hydroxide) on the external walls of their houses would help to reflect the harsh sun in those notorious Spanish summers, keeping the rooms within as cool as a cucumber. However, the practice of whitewashing houses became even more common when diseases swept through the region. After a household had been hit with whichever was the latest epidemic, it was whitewashed to let everyone know the infection had passed through.

Before long, the pueblos blancos were permanently blanco.

Some of the bigger, more populated pueblos blancos, include Ronda- split in to two halves by a deep gorge- and pretty Frigilania. But the closest pueblo blanco to Málaga, and by far the easiest to visit, is Mijas Pueblo.

The road from Málaga to Mijas

With the luxury of a moped giving us the freedom to travel wherever we wanted whenever we wanted, we headed out of the city along the coastline to the beach town of Torremolinos. This is a holidaymaker’s paradise, with a wide sandy beach and hundreds of cafes, bars and restaurants catering to the swathes of English visitors with sun-sizzled skin in neon bathing suits. (I’m not judging; when I forget to put sun cream on, I too am an English visitor with sun-sizzled skin. It’s not a good look for me personally.) Along the main promenade, signs advertised €2 tequila shots and English fry-ups.

After breakfast by the beach and a stroll along the sand, we carried on into the dry mountains further inland. It was early September, and summer had completely parched Andalusia of every last drop of water. Riverbeds contained no rivers, the earth was nothing but a cross-hatching of shades of brown, and although the bright green fronds of pine trees still stood strong across the arid mountains of the Sierra de Mijas, higher up the pine trees were nothing but black, chargrilled skeletons.

Somehow, even after the fires had rampaged through, it was still all rather beautiful.

After some extreme bends in the road that wound upwards like a twisted plant trying to reach the sun, we made it to the pretty little village of Mijas.

We drove straight down a narrow cobblestone street lined with whitewashed shops and houses. Overhead, colourful paper lanterns were strung like fairylights zig-zagging back and forth in a fabric fiesta against the sky. An old man sat on a bench watched as we pulled into the corner of a square and I (extremely inelegantly) de-mounted from the bike, attempting to shake my hair back into shape after I’d pulled my helmet off.

I am not the type who can look sexy after having my head crammed into a tight helmet on a 30ºc day. I don’t understand how anyone can be.

What to do in Mijas Pueblo

The town may be small, but good things come in small packages, and its petiteness means that it’s extremely easy to walk around Mijas town on foot. I actually think the best thing way to explore a place like this is to just set off and see where your feet take you; and that is largely into some gorgeous plazas, up and down cobbled steps and in and out of tiny churches.

There are also some really amazing viewpoints to be found higher up in the town, so for a great view of the rest of the village, the surrounding mountains and the Costa del Sol, just head upwards.

However; if leaving your trip up to serendipity isn’t so much your style, you could always book yourself onto a walking tour of Mijas. This one lasts about one and a half hours, and is led by a local guide with extensive knowledge of the area.

And if you’re not up for walking too much (particularly if it’s the height of summer and that heat is getting a bit much), you could always book a tour of Mijas in a tuk tuk. The guides always have plenty of recommendations, as well as taking you to all the sights of the town and filling you in on everything you need to know.

The smallest bullring in Spain

The highlight of our visit to Mijas for me was the Plaza de Toros Mijas, the smallest bull ring in Spain, which I completely stumbled across. (To be fully transparent, we had done absolutely zero research ahead of our journey from Málaga to Mijas; it was really a ‘let’s see where the wind takes us’ kind of day.)

Bullfighting is a massive part of the culture and heritage of Andalusia, and almost every city or town here has a bull ring. So although going to a bullfight isn’t exactly my cup of tea (far from it), when we discovered the tiny Plaza de Toros Mijas and its even tinier museum I was intrigued.

The bull ring is simple but really, really pretty. It was built in 1900, and from its spot almost above much of Mijas, the views are incredible. The museum is really just a room, but the memorabilia on display is beautiful, from old posters and photographs to some stunningly crafted costumes which belonged to matadors long since gone. As someone who’s worked in the theatre almost my entire life, I found the beauty of these costumes astounding (and dare I say it, rather glamorous).

For €4, visitors can have a peek around the ring, as well as look inside the museum.

Check opening hours here.

Is Mijas worth visiting? Well, my one regret about visiting this mountain village is that we didn’t have more time there. So I’d say it absolutely is. If, and when, I return, I’ll be giving myself a lot more time to spend exploring this quaint Andalusian gem.

More of Andalusia:

A Surprising Semana Santa in Cádiz

How to spend a day in Málaga

Bullfighting in Spain: A Visit to the Plaza de Toros de Mijas

3 thoughts on “From Málaga to Mijas • How to visit the pretty pueblo blanco in Andalusia”

  1. I have wanted to visit Malaga since my friend moved there to teach English. Your photos are great!

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