Estepona is white against the sparkling Mediterranean, and is backed by Gibraltar on the horizon. Behind the Rock you can see the African mountains. In such a place, you are guaranteed beautiful views.
Estepona was probably built by Phoenicians, but little is known of that time. We do know that Muslim Estepona was conquered by Spain in 1457, and the castle destroyed. The king of Spain had the castle rebuilt to protect the coast from pirates, and you can still see the walls in Castillo Street. A 22-meter-high tower, today a clock tower, was also built to watch for pirates.
Though it lacks history, Estepona’s favorite story is “The Bride’s Leap,” in which an unwilling bride put on her most beautiful jewels and clothes and leaped to her death from Punta de la Doncella, near the harbor lighthouse, while the wedding party watched in horror.
The promenade down the seaside is surrounded by palm trees and flowers, and recently won a national award for its beauty. The Muslims called Estepona “Salduba” and described it as a paradise of abundant delights. And the townspeople here are determined to maintain that beauty. Each year the town center undergoes a new whitewash. Windows and shutters are fixed, wrought iron painted, and everything made ready for the summer’s tourists. Below the town at the seashore, you can find other colors, both above and below the 21.5 kilometers of sea that fronts this place.
Estepona is also a homely place, and its regular fishmarket at the harbor is a kaleidoscope of brill, lobster, squid, octopus, red mullet, and silvery sardines. It can be more fun than you’d expect to watch the auction and wonder at the variety of seafood that comes through here.
Most of the buildings of Estepona are at least a century old. The town’s streets are a Medieval maze, filled with side streets, squares, and wrought-iron patios. But it was only recently that Estepona turned to tourism to make money, and even today their economy is based more on farming and fishing than it is on visitors. You can see mules and donkeys tethered outside many a town house, where the owners have brought in fresh produce from their farms to sell at market or to use in their own homes. And every evening, while tourists and young people are going to bars and restaurants, a steady stream of farm animals are promenading back home to the farm, a reminder of whence the wealth of Estepona springs. As if that weren’t enough, a statue of a farmer and another of a fisherman stand on the promenade, a monument to the town’s foundation.
You can find wonderful and authentic souvenirs in Estepona, because craftsmen here still stitch trappings for the mules and donkeys, and baskets, woodwork, lace, embroidery, and wrought iron are all made here by hand.
Road to Nowhere
Outside Estepona you’ll find a mountain road being built to Ronda; right now it climbs fifteen kilometers through thick woods and past springs, uphill to Penas Blanca. It leads absolutely nowhere right now, but it makes for a gorgeous, if strenuous, hike. If you know where to go, you can find the 300-year-old Abies Pinsapo silver fir trees, a protected species that only grow in a couple of other spots in the world. Icona, the arm of the Spanish government involved in preserving nature, has created a walk to the pines, and there’s a nearby refuge where hikers can barbecue — carefully! — or picnic beneath the trees. And at the summit of the mountain, you can see most of the Costa del Sol, the villages around Ronda, Gibraltar, and the African mountains.