So you have to go and pick up friends or loved ones at an airport in Spain, but you want to make a day of it. Stop off for lunch perhaps. Or see one of those tourist attractions you have always meant to visit, but never got around to seeing.

Where to go en route to and from the airport?

Well, if you are en route to Malaga, the options are many and varied.

Clearly it depends from where you are beginning your journey. For example, if you are setting off from the city of Granada, you have two choices. You can go on the inland route to Malaga airport, or you can drive down to the Costa Tropical and take the coastal road. All the time keeping the sea on your left.

But let us go to the airport one way and make the return journey, along with the recently arrived friends, via the other route.

The A92 motorway from Granada takes you inland towards Seville and Malaga. Fairly early into the journey the motorway climbs high and, on your right, is the historic town of Loja. Famous for its large number of fountains, for its historic buildings and a place that offers you elevated views of the countryside. Not far away is the pretty hamlet of Riofrio, known all over Spain and further afield for its trout farm and first class food.

Stopover at Riofrio

A good place to turn off the motorway and to visit is Antequera. The most centrally located city in all of Andalusia and a place that can boast the most religious buildings of any location in Spain. If you need to pray, perhaps that the flight you are meeting lands on time, then you have come to the right place. There is a church around every corner in Antequera.

And, not far outside of the city, is a spectacular sight that you simply must visit. The El Torcal mountain range is like something out of a movie.  There are great walks to be had via a few clearly marked and designated routes. Do take them and try not to wander off those paths. There are some seriously precarious drops when up this high. But the views are mind blowing. You can see to Malaga and beyond to the ever popular Costa del Sol coastline.

But El Torcal is a world away from sand and sea. In summer it is very hot up in the mountains and the sun will tan you quickly. When visiting in deepest winter, I have never felt colder than when trying to take in the views from the mirador located close to the visitors centre. The plant life growing out of the rocks on El Torcal was covered in ice that showed no sign of melting.

Driving long distances can be boring. Take a break at El Torcal. Stretch your legs and breath in some fresh air. After all, pretty soon, you will be breathing in kerosene at Malaga airport.

El Torcal

And, if you do arrive early or the flight is late, be aware that there is a really good museum located under the flightpath. So many people do not know it is there. Located where the original Malaga airport terminal was built, it is a quaint museum that takes you back in time to an era when flying was considered glamorous.

Old aircraft, the original emergency vehicles that raced along the tarmac when there were emergency landings and a wide array of memorabilia from the very early days of aviation in Spain; they all on view for you to see at a small cost.

So you have picked up your visitos from the airport and it is time to take the route back home that allows them to admire the Mediterranean ocean. After all, they are on holiday. Yes, they may be renting property along the Costa del Sol, at Nerja perhaps, or along the Costa Tropical; but they want to see the sea as soon as possible after landing. That is understandable.

Lunchtime at El Palo, Malaga

So why not stop off for a late lunch or for dinner at one of the most atmospheric of restaurants, El Tintero. Located just outside the vibrant city of Malaga, at El Palo, dining here ensures that you do not have to spend hours studying a menu they don’t understand. They just have to like fish and seafood. The waiters will walk between the tables bellowing out the names of the meals that have just been cooked on the open air barbecue.

I cannot think of a finer way for someone beginning their holiday than to have lunch by the Costa del Sol and then to walk along the esplanade between El Palo and Pedregalejo. Delightful.

So now that you have enjoyed a nice lunch it is time to continue your journey along the coastline towards Granada. Some in your party may wish to shop and the El Ingenio shopping centre located alongside the motorway at Velez Malaga is the perfect place to stop.

Salobreña Castle

And the final potential stopover point should be the town of Salobreña on the Costa Tropical. You cannot miss it. The castle of Salobreña stands out from far away. If your visitors are feeling fit, stroll up to the castle and admire not just that historic building, but also the charming housing that adjoins the castle.

There are bars and restaurants up there, some of which offer panoramic views towards the city of Motril and beyond to the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Salobreña has all a holidaymaker needs. Some quality properties to rent, good individual shops and wide, open beaches. Even at the height of summer there is plenty of room on the beach.

Using an airport run to see more of Spain is a great idea. You do not have to divert far from the main motorway route. You can nip off the autovia and enjoy those places you have always meant to go to but, all too often, have driven past. Wondering if you would ever have the time to get to know somewhere new.

Flying can be the most stressful part of a holiday these days. So what better way than to ensure your friends get their long awaited break off to a flying start than to make sure they see some of the sights of Spain within minutes or hours of them landing?

Then they will know they have truly arrived in one of the greatest countries in the world.

The next airport pick up article will be from San Javier airport in Murcia.

Posted by vernon
Vernon is a London born, former Fleet Street journalist and, for 25 years, a television producer for ITV, BBC, SKY & C4. In 2002 he began travelling the length and breadth of Spain. In 2005 he settled south of Granada, and is co-author of a guidebook to the 100 best tapas bars in the city and province of Granada.