There's a lot more to the province of Malaga than the over-developed Costa del Sol and the bustling airport town that everyone flies through on their way to coastal Andalucia. Just 30 minutes inland, you can gawp at the lunar limestone rockstacks of the Torcal range, then visit craft shops and prehistoric dolmens in the little-visited town of Antequera. Or head northwest to explore the breathtaking gorge of El Chorro, with its vertiginous 'royal footpath', and the azure lakes nearby which come alive with birdlife every spring. The idyllic mountain scenery around Riogordo and Colmenar is belatedly beginning to hit tourists' radars, with some lovely rural retreats to base yourselves in.
It's also a well-known mecca for golfers, with over 50 world-class courses and one of the best climates in Europe (over 300 days of sunshine per year). And there are plenty of sandy beaches, not all of them overrun with Irish pubs and sunburned Brits; we warmed to the city-centre beaches of Marbella and Malaga, predictably crowded in summer but perfect in the off-season for late-morning jogs after a night on the town. Finally, don't overlook Malaga itself: hunkered around a huge Renaissance cathedral, its old town offers first-rate tapas, museums and nightlife, while the busy working port adds a seam of grit and local colour, making it an appealing city break in its own right. Or, for a more boutique version of the same (marinas and fashion boutiques), head to Marbella for the weekend with the Andalucian jetset.
Alongside this mix, we've included the Unesco-listed town of Cordoba, 150km north of Malaga, in this region. With its world-famous Mezquita mosque-cathedral and its under-rated Roman relics, it's a worthwhile stopover on any journey between Seville, Granada or Malaga.