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Guide to the Costa del Sol

The Costa del Sol is Andalucia's best known stretch of coastline, famous for its seemingly endless beaches, year-round sunshine and a wealth of major tourist attractions which make it one of the Mediterranean's top holiday spots.

This 'Sunshine Coast' represents a magical 160-kilometre mixture of action-packed tourist resorts, first-class family entertainment centres and unbeatable sporting facilities. The resort towns peppered along this Southern Spanish Costa offer everything from fun-filled foam parties and cheap fish and chip joints through to the kind of glitz and glamour which only Hollywood stars and Saudi princes can afford.

For anyone seeking a "sun and sea" holiday, the Costa del Sol is unlikely to disappoint no matter what your expectations or budget. It's been a major magnet for foreign tourists since the advent of cheap charter flights in the late 1960s. The rich and famous snapped up swanky pads along Marbella's Golden Mile while ordinary folk busied themselves by turning Torremolinos into one of mainland Spain's biggest and most popular package holiday destinations.

In recent years, middle market tourism and ex-pat home buyers have contributed to the development of less high profile resort areas such as Estepona, at the western end of the Costa, and Nerja at its eastern edge. And in the middle lies Malaga with its international airport which brings millions of foreign visitors flooding to the Costa del Sol every year.

In their headlong rush to the main resort areas - with their aqua parks, water sports and irresistible array of excellent entertainment facilities - many visitors overlook the special charm of historic Malaga itself. This, the capital of the Costa del Sol and birthplace of Picasso, retains much of the traditional Andalucian charm and character which are becoming increasingly hard to find in neighbouring coastal towns.

But old-style Andalucian charm is still very much in evidence in the delightful towns and villages to be found clustered around the hillsides and mountains which dominate the unspoilt interior of this incredibly beautiful region of Spain.

The difference between Andalucia and the Costa del Sol

Foreigners often confuse Andalucia with the Costa del Sol and many visitors never venture back from the beachfront to explore the countless treasures of Spain's largest autonomous community.

The Costa del Sol is 1 of 4 Costas in Andalucia

The 8 provinces of Andalucia are:

Huelva, Seville, Cadiz, Cordoba, Malaga, Jaen, Granada and Almeria.

The region is awash with national parks, green rolling hillsides and towering mountain peaks which include Europe's most southerly ski resort - the Sierra Nevada. Whilst the Costa del Sol is mainly preoccupied with high season holidaymakers, inland Andalucia brings bird lovers and hikers from all over the world in spring and autumn.

Winter attracts skiers from other parts of Spain and many European countries. And golfers flock here all year round, drawn by the region's 60 golf courses many of which regularly host international championships.

For history and culture buffs, Andalucia offers a staggering selection of medieval villages, Moorish castles, ancient monuments and Roman remains.

From the flamenco shows of Seville to Cordoba's fabulous Moorish mosque and Granada's awesome Alhambra Palace - Andalucia really does have it all.