The Spain Diaries: Mijas
"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." -- Pablo Picasso
While visiting Southern Spain and sunny Fuengirola -- a beachside town where a few generations of my family have played by the Mediterranean sea -- I stopped by the neighboring town of Mijas for a memorable day trip.
Nestled high in the mountains, Mijas entrances visitors with a quaint white-washed exterior typical of many Andalucian villages, while its soaring position amongst the Sierra de Mijas mountain range as well as its favorable post along the Costa Del Sol makes it a tourist's paradise.
The richest town in the area, Mijas has attracted writers and artists over the years who wander the charming streets by donkey while taking in the picturesque architecture, pretty blue flower pots, and delicious tapas.
The city is relatively easy to access from Fuengirola by bus or by a 25-minute car ride from Malaga, and I headed up to the town's center during a winding bus drive up the mountain. While public parking is available for only 1 euro at the front of the village, it can get quite crowded during the high season.
Unlike many of my other trips, I headed to Mijas with my only plan to see where the winding streets would take me. After viewing the town center, I indulged my love of history by visiting one of the city's most famous ancient churches, taking in a few views from the fortresses --- built to curb early pirating activity -- the bullfighting rink, and a few of the museums, which have preserved many of the area's special artifacts and culture.
Keep scrolling to see my top must-sees for a quick day in Mijas!
I stumbled into the town's folk museum by accident, but was quickly treated to an interesting display of farming and Spanish home life from earlier times. Located across from the church of San Sebastian, the museum offers visitors a leisurely hour or two away from the Spanish sun examining equipment and drawings while learning about famed resident Manuel Cortes, who hid there for 30 years.
Once the mayor of the Republican Mijas, Cortes was forced to go into hiding when Franco’s Facists overtook the city in 1939. He locked himself away in the house until 1969 with very little access to the outside world to avoid execution.
A trip to Mijas isn't complete without a leisurely walk around the city center, which can also be attempted by donkey or horse and cart. Stop into one of the small shops to browse the local artistry, or sit down for a quick tapas and glass of wine while taking in the city's breathtaking views. More intrepid explorers who are up for a bit of hiking can try their hand at the Red Trail of Mijas.
For those wishing to remain after hours or extend their stay, the town puts on a Flamenco show once a week on Wednesdays at noon as well as numerous festivals throughout the year.
Mijas has become an artists' haven over the years, boasting gems by local artists as well as famous Spanish icons like Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso. I spent an afternoon examining the countless ceramics and paintings that visitors can browse and purchase.
Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Rock
While Mijas certainly boasts its share of stunning churches, one of the most-visited is the Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Rock, which houses a likeness of the city's patron saint. The ancient dwelling itself is something to admire -- it was carved into the surrounding rock in 1548 and offers stunning views of the sea.
Legend has it in 1536 that a man discovered an image of the Virgin Mary and other holy objects while exploring the rock and was subsequently instructed by her to build a chapel on the site.
The Bullfighting Ring
While the Plaza de Toros has been out of commission for some time now, it's worth a visit to see a 1900s bull ring that's typical of this area. While the one in Malaga is larger, Mijas's bull fighting ring is unusual in that it was built on a rock and sports an oval shape.