According to the latest data issued by local authorities, Spain's Southern city of Malaga is officially one of the most popular destinations in Europe, having hosted over 14 million guests alone last year, the highest number since records began.
Interestingly enough, it is one of a handful of destinations in Europe tourists continue flocking into irrespective of season: while visits to Ibiza, Santorini, Croatia and the like plummet in the off-season, Malaga's remain relatively stable, with most hotels staying open due to high demand.
If you're an American who's not at all familiar with Europe's traditional vacation hotspots, you may be wondering what is it about this Malaga place that has got travelers so hooked well into the peak of winter.
Here are 5 reasons why:
Europe's Hottest Coastal Destination
Malaga is a historical city straddling the Mediterranean coast of Spain, part of Andalusia, one of the country's most distinct autonomous provinces.
Andalusia is best known for two things: having been influenced by North Africa and being an open furnace.
Due to its geographical proximity to the neighboring continent – at its closest point, Andalusia is separated from Africa by only 8 miles – it is incredibly warmer than most of Europe.
As for Malaga specifically, let's just put it this way: you don't want to visit in July when it's 120 degrees out or higher.
In winter, however, temperatures are a pleasant 70 degrees during the day, decreasing to a moderately chilly 47 in the evenings, and as Malaga enjoys over 300 sunny days in a calendar year, you'll still be getting that boost of vitamin D you so desperately need.
In other words, this is officially the hottest major coastal city in Europe.
While we wouldn't recommend swimming in the Med around this time, as the waters are usually colder up until April, you're free to live your best life wearing short shorts and eating heladitos down the palm-lined boardwalk.
The Culture Is Ancient
We know the main appeal of Europe for Americans is the continent's accumulated centuries of History, and you'll be thrilled to know Malaga is a culture hotspot of the first order, being the birthplace of Picasso and home to structures dating as far as the Roman period.
Malaga's greatest architectural achievements date back to the Moorish period: the Moorish were Muslim conquerors from North Africa who colonized large swathes of Spain between the 8th and 15th centuries, exerting great influence on the local way of life and city-building.
Malaga was one of their most prized assets, and they bestowed upon it monumental Islamic fortresses, Moroccan-style courtyards, and lush-green tropical gardens.
These exist alongside far older Roman-era landmarks, such as a well-preserved 1st-century theater.
As for newer buildings, the most noteworthy are the 19th-century Plaza de Toros, flanked by towering residential buildings – this is possibly Malaga's most widely-recognized attraction – and Malaga's very own Centre Pompidou, a branch of the one in Paris, famous for its colorful cubic shape.
Memorable Day Trips
Winters in these parts are perfect for sightseeing, as it is neither too warm nor too cold to put on your comfiest walking shoes and stroll cobbled Old Towns with origins lost to time.
If you're looking for some diversity and would like to see the region beyond Malaga, options are plentiful:
You can visit Spain's most iconic, and arguably most beautiful bridge in the clifftop settlement of Ronda, go for a leisurely stroll in Marbella, an upscale resort destination in summer, and a quaint coastal town in winter, or bear witness to the greatest fortress in the country: Granada's Alhambra.
Alternatively, a day trip to picturesque Fuengirola, a short 30-minute drive from central Malaga, will take you to winding cobbled streets lined by centuries-old, whitewashed houses, or if you're keen on Muslim Spain, the great mosque in Cordoba is not something you want to miss.
Andalusia is a surprisingly vast territory, but the good thing about Malaga is that it boasts the best connectivity in the area, and all of these spots are not farther than a 1.5-hour train ride.
To top it off, you can find train tickets for as cheap as $12 traveling within the province.
Malaga Is Relatively Affordable As A Winter Sun Spot
Expanding on the topic of affordability, Malaga is one of the cheapest winter sun getaways across the pond: staying in the Casco Viejo, or Old Town, the most historically relevant and Bohemian part of the city, you can find shared accommodation for as cheap as $30 per night.
A private room in a local guesthouse such as Casa de la Mercedes costs $82 this winter, or if you're the luxury type, the beautiful Soho Boutique Castillo de Santa Catalina, on the laid-back coastal stretch of Este, only a mile from the downtown area, has overnight rates starting from $292.
Additionally, food is remarkably inexpensive, especially if you're not actively looking to splurge on fine dining.
Getting a quick bite to eat at a traditional tapas bar costs around $6, while a more elaborate lunch will set you back – if we can even say that – by roughly $21 per meal.
As Budget Your Trip reports, travelers spend on average $153 in Malaga per day, though for budget-conscious visitors, daily expenses can drop to a mere $65, or approximately the equivalent to $455 for the entire week.
Malaga hosts nonstop flights from the United States, but these are typically available over the warmer months only.
The quickest and least complicated way to get to Malaga from the United States is flying into Madrid or Barcelona and then taking an intra-Spain flight or train to Malaga.
Airfares within Spain are dirt cheap – some seats are sold for a negligible ten bucks or less – and all in all, a late winter sunny escapade to culture-packed Malaga won't weigh heavy on your wallet.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com
Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.