There are two possible routes. The first takes the motorway west to Loja, then south to Málaga; the second heads south first, reaching the coast around Motril before turning west. The motorway route takes two hours, the scenic route about an hour longer. The distance covered is the same. Both routes are attractive but the longer route is in parts spectacular.
Santa Fé Population: 10,000. This town began as a campsite built by Ferdinand and Isabella during their final campaign against the Moorish Kingdom of Granada. It is said that the camp was built in 80 days. Here also the city surrendered to the Catholic Monarchs in November 1491. In April 1492, Queen Isabella finalised arrangements here with Columbus for his voyage of discovery — she was still residing at the camp.
The "Hells of Loja" (A few miles before Loja, the road and River Genil start to zigzag.) As you can see, we've been following the River Genil, which has carved out wild gorges at this point. Local people call this stretch of the river the "Hells of Loja" where the river breaks into rapids and waterfalls, making navigation impossible.
Loja Population: 30,000. This town sits at one end of a long river valley, which extends east back to Granada. This geographical position has made it an important stronghold from the beginning. The Moors built a large castle, which was finally taken by Ferdinand and Isabella (1488) after furious fighting. During this battle the Spanish were aided by a unit of English bowmen led by Sir Edward Woodville.
The road winds its way down the mountain, the scenery becoming ever more Mediterranean.
Costa del Sol The "Sun Coast" is one of Spain's most glamorous resort areas. winters are mild because the high mountains (as we've seen) cut off harsh winds sweeping down from the north. Subtropical plants grow in river basins along the coast. The development of resort hotels and marinas has brought many jobs to the local population, creating a "boom town" atmosphere. The high-rise hotels and apartments we'll see are a far cry from the poor, rural hamlets we've just been through.
Torremolinos Population: 3,000 and growing rapidly. This is the center of international tourism on the Costa del Sol — its access to historic Malaga adds to the appeal. Only a few years ago, this was a sleepy village; but it had a 5-mile long beach, one of the finest in the Mediterranean. With the coming of package tours, Torremolinos changed overnight: hotel-building skyrocketed; handsome young men and women charged in, looking for mates and/or paying playmates; English-speaking evangelists booked the halls, hoping to reform everyone in sight; retired Globus Reiseleiters hunkered down with rich American widows, sipping Tequilas and enjoying the screenplay unfolding around them. First, the mainstream tourists were British, living in small villas or cabins. Then came high-rises, and this made Torremolinos by far the leading foreign colony in Spain, catering to British, French, and Americans. The boutiques, bookshops, art shops, bars, and restaurants quickly became international, and urban in character. Because of the large French colony, you can find bouillabaisse (famous soup from the French Riviera) and le supermarket if you look hard enough. Many young visitors now give the resort a "Bohemian," or "Greenwich Village" aspect, with much guitar playing, frequent rock festivals, motorcycle racing, flashy sports cars, and odd-smelling cigarettes.
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