Close to six million tourists visit the Costa del Sol every year, with each and every resort and town from Málaga down to Sotogrande playing host to a rush of temporary inhabitants. And while they all ensure that visitors of all ages are catered for, some are obviously better equipped than others. Mijas is typical in that it displays a highly tangible tourist presence all year round, so much so that the town might often be considered to be little more than a beautiful distraction for holidaymakers heading to larger, more glamorous destinations.
With its donkey-drawn carriages stationed around the main square like some Spanish take on a Blackpool beach, and more gift shops than you could shake a cheap plastic castanet at, Mijas can appear – at first glance – to be a caricature of the classic whitewashed pueblo. No bad thing by any stretch of the imagination – the town’s picture postcard setting and beautiful views certainly make the hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention – but Mijas has much more to it than breathtaking vistas, leather shops and ornamental evidence of authentic Spanish culture. There’s something highly real underneath…
Perched this high up between sharply jagged mountains and the plunging plains below, Mijas does well to keep its balance. Not just in a literal sense – although some of the architectural construction of the sugar-cube houses has to be seen to be believed – but in a cultural sense too. Mijas strikes just the right balance between tourist destination and functionality. Located just inland from Fuengirola, the town is highly accessible and amazingly picturesque, proving particularly popular with older tourists and homebuyers. This is not hard to see why; the laid-back beauty of the town, coupled with the sublime climate and the breathtaking views, creates an atmosphere that is best accompanied with a rich glass of Rioja, a dusky horizon of the same colour and the relaxing orchestral sounds of the local wildlife, calling time on another day.
The steep and winding climb to Mijas occurs over a short distance, yet a lot changes in those two kilometres or so. Most noticeably, the rip and hustle of the coast fades to a distant hum, while the roadside dust gives way to a rockier makeup as you ascend the side of one of the Costa del Sol’s numerous peaks. Upon entering Mijas, the blinding whiteness of the alabaster-pale buildings is a striking sight, especially when the searing sun is at its highest. Cafés, bars, restaurants and gift shops scream for your attention, yet it is the authentic beauty of the shrine, which is perched on its own rocky pedestal, that first draws the eye.
Gorgeous views of the coastline can be enjoyed from pretty much every vantage point in town, with the other-worldly silence of the mountainside proving a pretty effective sound barrier. Mijas’ location makes it a favoured weekend retreat for many locals from Fuengirola and Marbella, while the short drive to the airport makes it an appealing destination for the expat seeking a peaceful spot in which to purchase that dream home in the sun.