Historic Málaga and Southern Spain

By Wilderness Adventures April 15, 2015

by: Michaela Barnett

Thanks to veteran leader Michaela Barnett for being our guest-contributor! Read on to find out more about beautiful Málaga and the incredible places you’ll visit on our Spain Language program. 


Local malagueños call the cathedral of Málaga “La Manquita,” the One-Armed Lady, because the southern tower, 130 feet shorter than its twin, looks like a lopped off stub. Malagueños will eagerly tell visiting Americans why, after almost five hundred years, the cathedral remains unfinished: construction funds were donated to the patriot cause during the American Revolution to help beat Spain’s rival, Great Britain. And, in the relaxed attitude typical to Southern Spain, after five centuries they haven’t yet decided whether or not to finish it.

On the Spain Language trip, you’ll walk some of the same streets as Christopher Columbus in Sevilla, explore the Alhambra (a stunning palace complex in the ‘Pomegranate City’ of Granada) and become a modern-day link in the chain that has connected Spain and the Americas for centuries. On this side of the world, we consider 1492 to be important because it marks the encounter between the Old World and the New: “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue . . .” In Spain, the unification of two kingdoms and the final expulsion of Muslim rule from the South prompted the Spanish monarchs to fund a relatively unknown Italian explorer, known in Spanish as Cristobál Colón.

In Málaga, your home base for the summer, a twenty-minute stroll on cobblestoned sidewalks can carry you through over 2,000 years of history. From the cathedral, you can easily walk to Roman theatre remains from the 1st century where plays are still performed. Or, you can tour the Alcazaba, a stunning Moorish fortress built in the 11th century and a remnant of the Arabic cultural traditions, architecture, and language that still permeates Andalusia and Málaga today. An Islamic Empire ruled in Spain for over 700 years, from the 8th to 15th centuries, and this heritage is nowhere more apparent than in southern Spain. For a tradition that began in the 18th century, visit the Plaza de Toros where classically dressed matadors still fight bulls with swords and red capes.

On the trip, you’ll enjoy the sunshine and white sand beaches while you surf at Tarifa, the southernmost tip of Europe that divides the Atlantic and Mediterranean. No trip to Spain is complete without a visit to Barcelona, the capital of Catalunya and the cosmopolitan epicenter of Spain where you’ll stroll along Las Ramblas, visit Gaudi’s famous cathedral, and explore the narrow streets of the Gothic neighborhood.

Málaga rests on the Costa del Sol, the Sun Coast, a region of Andalusia that well deserves its name. After class, afternoons will be spent enjoying sunny beaches, visiting the famous Nerja caves, learning new salsa moves, and, of course, enjoying famous fried churros and hot chocolate! Not only can it boast of being the birthplace of iconic painter Pablo Picasso (with a museum in his childhood home) and actor Antonio Banderas, Málaga is home to a rich history, warm beaches, cuisine caught fresh from the sea, and some of the friendliest Spaniards you can ever encounter.